Chinese Medicinal Plants Authentication Centre (CMPAC)

What is CMPAC?

The Chinese Medicinal Plants Authentication Centre (CMPAC) at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew offers an authentication service for the wide and increasing range of Chinese herbs currently available on the international market.

The aim of the service is to encourage:

  • safer Chinese Herbal Medicine (CHM) in the West, hence protection for patients
  • a scientific platform for the development of herbal quality assurance regulations
  • responsible CHM trading and manufacturing
  • improved professional standing of CHM in the West
  • a training resource for CHM colleges
  • conservation of Chinese medicinal plants

CMPAC is not a regulatory body controlling the availability of herbs on the market; instead CMPAC aims to provide an independent, not-for-profit scientific service for a wide range of users.

What kind of service do we offer?

CMPAC identifies and, where possible, evaluates the quality of Chinese medicinal herbs. This is carried out using CMPAC's purpose-built materia medica collections, currently totalling over 1500 accessions. These samples represent authentic drugs with corresponding herbarium specimens, collected by CMPAC staff from living plants in China. These unique reference materials are coupled with Kew's state-of-the-art laboratory facilities to deliver a high quality service, based on replicable techniques.

Test methods used may comprise one or more of the following:

  • Organoleptic tests (gross morphology, taste, fracture, smell)
  • Microscopic examination
  • Chemical analysis (chemical fingerprinting using one or more of the following techniques:
    • Thin Layer Chromatography (TLC)
    • High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC)
    • Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS)
    • Liquid Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (LC-MS/MS)
  • DNA finger-printing

All testing takes place on-site at Kew using specialists in the fields of plant taxonomy and pharmacognosy, with particular emphasis given to anatomical, chemical and molecular techniques.

How much material do you need to send us for analysis?

Usually 20-30g is sufficient.

What kind of medicinal preparations can we handle?

Aware of the many different forms in which CHM remedies may be presented, we accept samples in all forms:

  • dried herbs (crude)
  • dried herbs (processed/Yin Pian)
  • extracts: powders, tablets, tinctures
  • single or multi-ingredient preparations (patent or non-patent)

Recent research

For a review of current work, please download this paper:
Leon, Christine and Lin Yu-Lin. (2009). Herbal substitutes and other botanical challenges: an update from Kew. RCHM Journal 6(2): 5-12.

Examples of recent research by CMPAC:

Christine Leon, Michael F. Fay, Martyn Rix. 2009. 637. Fritillaria yuminensis. Curtis's Botanical Magazine 26(1-2): 21-32. Download PDF

Kite, G.C., Veitch, N.C., Boalch, M.E., Lewis, G.P., Leon, C.J., Simmonds, M.S.J. (2009). Flavonol tetraglycosides from fruits of Styphnolobium japonicum (Leguminosae) and the authentication of Fructus Sophorae and Flos Sophorae. Phytochemistry 70:785-794

Edwards, S.; Leon, C. 2007. Isotrema manshuriense: Aristolochiaceae. Curtis's Botanical Magazine 24(2): 86-92. Abstract

Farah, M.H., Olsson, S., Bate, J., Lindquist, M., Edwards, R., Simmonds, M.S.J., Leon, C., de Boer, H.J., Thulin, M. 2006. Botanical nomenclature in pharmacovigilance and a recommendation for standardisation. Drug Safety 29(11): 1023-1029. Abstract.

Leon, C.J., Simmonds, M.S.J., Lin, Y.L., Zhang, B. & Chen, S. (2006). Authenticating Chinese medicinal plants on the UK market: Issues, needs and developments. Drug Safety 29(4): 347-347. Abstract

Howes, M.-J., Simmonds, M.S.J. & Kite, G.C. (2004). Evaluation of the quality of sandalwood essential oils by gas chromatography- mass spectrometry. Journal of Chromatography A 1028: 307-312. Abstract

Kite, G.C., M.J.R. Howes, C.J. Leon, M.S.J. Simmonds (2003) Liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry of malonyl-ginsenosides in the authentication of ginseng. Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry 17(3): 238-244 Abstract

Kite, G.C., M.A. Yule, C.J. Leon, M.S.J. Simmonds (2002) Detecting aristolochic acids in herbal remedies by liquid chromatography/serial mass spectrometry. Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry 16(6): 585-590 Abstract


Our authentication/quality control reports may include:

  • Herbal identifications with plant names provided in Latin and Pin Yin
  • Presence/absence data for specified toxins (e.g. aristolochic acids, aconitine alkaloids, psoralens)
  • Detection of herbal processing procedures
  • Other specialist services: e.g. investigation and identification of rare, substitute, fake, confused or adulterated herbs
  • Technical and non-technical interpretation of results.


CMPAC offers a totally independent and confidential service.

How much will it cost?

Authentication/quality tests are available. Discounts are available for 3 or more equivalent samples undergoing simultaneous testing. Costs might be waived if a method is under development and/or permission is granted to use the results (anonymously if requested) for scientific publications.


Coptis chinensis in the field

CMPAC's main collaborator in China is the Institute of Medicinal Plant Development (IMPLAD), Beijing. Their expertise in all aspects of materia medica from collection to processing ensures the CMPAC reference collections are both accurate and representative.

Creation of plant reference collections involves:

  • harvesting from the field (16 Chinese provinces visited to date)
  • creation of cross-referenced herbarium specimens
  • drug processing (creation of materia medica)
  • verification of herbarium specimens (using experts in the Kew Herbarium)
  • curation and storage in a controlled-environment of crude and prepared materia medica

How do I contact CMPAC?

Call, email or write to Christine Leon, Head, Chinese Medicinal Plants Authentication Centre, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 3AE.

Fax: +44 (0)20 8332 3717     Email:

Christine will be happy to discuss any request informally in order to provide a service for your particular needs. All conversations/discussions take place in confidence.

Useful links

Return to Economic Botany