Nat Prod Sci.  2022 Dec;28(4):168-180. 10.20307/nps.2022.28.4.168.

Quantitative Analysis and Enantiomeric Separation of Ephedra Alkaloids in Ma Huang Related Products by HPLC-DAD and UPLC-MS/MS

  • 1Center for Advanced Analysis, National Institute of Food and Drug Safety Evaluation, Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, Osong Health Technology Administration Complex, 187 Osongsaengmyeong2-ro, Osongeup, Heungdeok-gu, Cheongju-si, Chungcheongbuk-do 363-700, Republic of Korea


Ephedra is a genus of the Ephedraceae family and is found in temperate regions, such as Central Asia and Europe. Among the various ephedra species, Ma Huang (Ephedra herb) is derived from the aerial parts of Ephedra sinica Stapf, Ephedra equisetina Bunge, and Ephedra intermedia Schrenk & C.A. Mey. Ma Huang contains various ephedra alkaloids, including (-)-ephedrine, (+)-pseudoephedrine, (-)-norephedrine, (+)-norpseudoephedrine, (-)-methylephedrine, and (+)-methylpseudoephedrine, which are found naturally as single enantiomers, although they can be prepared as racemates. Although the use of Ma Huang in foods is prohibited in Korea, products containing Ma Huang can be imported, and so it is necessary to develop a suitable analytical technique for the detection of Ma Huang in foods. Herein, we report the development of analytical methods for the detection of ephedra alkaloids in products containing Ma Huang. Following sample purification by solid phase extraction, quantitative analysis was performed using ultra-performance liquid chromatography-triple quadrupole mass spectrometry (UPLC-MS/MS). Additionally, the enantiomers were successfully separated using HPLC-DAD. We successfully analyzed various food samples, where the ephedra alkaloids were qualitatively and quantitatively determined, and the enantiomers were separated. It is expected that these methods may contribute toward preventing the distribution of illegal products containing Ma Huang.


Ma Huang; ephedra alkaloids; UPLC-MS/MS; HPLC-DAD; enantiomeric separation
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