In Chinese herbal medicine, one of the biggest challenges is to identify the correct species of each herb. In the dried form, many herbs look, taste, and smell alike, making identification difficult. One problem that arises for herb buyers is that unethical suppliers substitute inexpensive herbs in place of expensive or hard-to-obtain herbs.
While misrepresented identity in this case results only in over-priced product and ineffective therapeutic results, other mistaken identities can lead to serious harm. Visual inspection of the herbs offers some assurance; however, there is no guarantee that what you are buying is authentic, especially if the end product you are examining is a tablet or a capsule.
The one guarantee of authenticity is to use a laboratory test known as Thin Layer Chromatography (TLC). This is a test that identifies the unique component makeup of each substance examined, a chemical fingerprint which guarantees authenticity. While most of the industry continues to rely on visual inspection,
Shenheng must pass TLC test to ensure authenticity, thus avoiding misidentification and lethal accidents.
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