Planta Med 2017; 83(12/13): 1085-1096
DOI: 10.1055/s-0043-108122
Natural Product Chemistry and Analytical Studies
Original Papers
Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart · New York

NIR Spectroscopy of Actaea racemosa L. rhizome – En Route to Fast and Low-Cost Quality Assessment[*]

Marian Bittner1, **, Andrea Krähmer2, **, Regina Schenk3, Andreas Springer4, Gennadi Gudi2, Matthias F. Melzig1
  • 1Pharmaceutical Biology, Institute of Pharmacy, Freie Universität, Berlin, Germany
  • 2Institute for Ecological Chemistry, Plant Analysis and Stored Product Protection, Federal Research Centre for Cultivated Plants, Julius Kühn-Institute, Berlin, Germany
  • 3Albrecht Daniel Thaer-Institute of Agricultural and Horticultural Sciences, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany
  • 4Core Facility BioSupraMol, Institute of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Freie Universität, Berlin, Germany
Further Information

Publication History

received 27 January 2017
revised 17 March 2017

accepted 28 March 2017

Publication Date:
12 April 2017 (eFirst)


Rhizomes of Actaea racemosa L. (formerly Cimicifuga racemosa) gained increasing interest as a plant-derived drug due to its hormone-like activity and the absence of estrogenic activity. According to the Current Good Manufacturing Practices guidelines and pharmacopeial standards, quality assessment of herbal starting materials includes tests on identity and substitution, as well as quantification of secondary metabolites, usually by HPTLC and LC methods. To reduce the laboratory effort, we investigated near-infrared spectroscopy for rapid species authentication and quantification of metabolites of interest.

Near-infrared spectroscopy analysis is carried out directly on the milled raw plant material. Spectra were correlated with reference data of polyphenols and triterpene glycosides determined by LC/diode array detection and LC/evaporative light scattering detection, respectively. Quantification models were built and validated by cross-validation procedures. Clone plants, derived by vegetative propagation, and plants of a collection from different geographical origins cultivated in Berlin were analysed together with mixed batches from wild harvests purchased at wholesalers.

Generally, good to excellent correlations were found for the overall content of polyphenols with coefficients of determination of R2 > 0.93. For individual polyphenols such as fukinolic acid, only models containing clone plants succeeded (R2 > 0.92). For the total content of triterpene glycosides, results were generally worse in comparison to polyphenols and were observed only for the mixed batches (R2 = 0.93).

Next to quantitative analysis, near-infrared spectroscopy was proven as a rapid alternative to other, more laborious methods for species authentication. Near-infrared spectroscopy was able to distinguish different Actaea spp. such as the North American Actaea cordifolia and the Asian Actaea cimicifuga, Actaea dahurica, Actaea heracleifolia, and Actaea simplex.

* Dedicated to Professor Dr. Max Wichtl in recognition of his outstanding contribution to pharmacognosy research.

** These two authors contributed equally to this study.

Supporting information