Document Type


Publication Date




The COVID-19 pandemic was associated with an increased global use of traditional medicines, including Ayurvedic herbal preparations. Due to their growing demand, their processed nature, and the complexity of the global supply chain, there is an increased risk of adulteration in these products.


The objective of this study was to assess the use of DNA barcoding for species identification in herbal supplements on the US market associated with the Ayurvedic treatment of respiratory symptoms.


A total of 54 commercial products containing Ayurvedic herbs were tested with four DNA barcoding regions (i.e., rbcL, matK, ITS2, and mini-ITS2) using two composite samples per product. Nine categories of herbs were targeted: amla, ashwagandha, cinnamon, ginger, guduchi, tribulus, tulsi, turmeric, and vacha.


At least one species was identified in 64.8% of products and the expected species was detected in 38.9% of products. Undeclared plant species, including other Ayurvedic herbs, rice, and pepper, were detected in 19 products, and fungal species were identified in 12 products. The presence of undeclared plant species may be a result of intentional substitution or contamination during harvest or processing, while fungal DNA was likely associated with the plant material or the growing environment. The greatest sequencing success (42.6–46.3%) was obtained with the matK and rbcL primers.


The results of this study indicate that a combination of genetic loci should be used for DNA barcoding of herbal supplements. Due to the limitations of DNA barcoding in identification of these products, future research should incorporate chemical characterization techniques.


This is the accepted version of the following article:

Harris CM, Kim DY, Jordan CR, Miranda MI, Hellberg RS. DNA barcoding of herbal supplements on the US commercial market associated with the purported treatment of COVID-19. Phytochemical Analysis. 2023; 1-14.

which has been published in final form at [Link to final article]. This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.

This scholarship is part of the Chapman University COVID-19 Archives.

Peer Reviewed




Available for download on Wednesday, January 15, 2025