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PhytoAuthent – Molecular authentication of complex herbal food supplements for safety and efficacy (completed)

A look into a herbal pharmacy in Romania. Photo: Anca Raclariu.

The Norwegian-Romanian collaborative research project PhytoAuthent applies DNA barcoding and metabarcoding to complex herbal food supplements with the objective of evaluating the efficacy and efficiency of barcoding as a novel authentication method for these products.

Recent studies in the field of DNA barcoding of herbal supplements have highlighted widespread species substitution, adulteration and the use of unlabeled fillers. These studies have also launched a discussion about the suitability of DNA barcoding for authentication of herbal supplements. In Europe less is known about the fidelity of herbal food supplement labeling, but the status quo could be similar to that in the United States. Monitoring and authentication of herbals in Europe is further complicated as enforcement of national and European legislation differs from country to country. 

In this collaborative project, we aim to cover all major aspects concerning herbal food supplements from the legal framework to manufacturing processes and suppliers, and from consumers to safety issues and authentication. The aim is to gather information and test, develop and apply innovative molecular analysis methodologies for plant identification in herbal products, in real life case scenarios and in cooperation with local stakeholders in the herbal pharmaceutical industry.

Inspecting a chip loading density map before starting the Ion Torrent PGM sequencer. Photo: Eckart Stolle, CC-BY.

The project investigates species discrimination and authentication using high-throughput sequencing in several complexes in which substitution has far-reaching significance. The goal is to develop accurate high-throughput DNA barcoding for species-level identification and authentication of herbal supplements.


This project is funded by the Norway - Romania EEA Research Programme operated by MECS-ANCSI PO under the EEA Financial Mechanism 2009-2014, Project Contract No. 2SEE/2014.

Published Dec. 4, 2015 10:33 AM - Last modified Jan. 14, 2021 8:49 PM