New 2D LC–MS Analytical Method Unveils the Secrets of Ancient Chinese Herbal Formula HGWD


A comprehensive analytical approach utilizing online two-dimensional liquid chromatography coupled with hybrid linear ion trap orbital trap mass spectrometry, has enabled the in-depth analysis of Huangqi Guizhi Wuwu decoction, identifying 170 chemical constituents and offering insights into its complex chemical composition and potential therapeutic properties.

Huangqi Guizhi Wuwu decoction (HGWD), a classical Chinese herbal formula with a history spanning thousands of years, has intrigued scientists and herbalists alike. In an innovative study conducted at the State Key Laboratory of Quality Research in Chinese Medicine, Institute of Chinese Medical Sciences at the University of Macau, researchers have unveiled a comprehensive strategy to decode the intricate chemical composition of HGWD (1).

chinese food therapy, traditional chinese herbal medicine | Image Credit: © uckyo -

chinese food therapy, traditional chinese herbal medicine | Image Credit: © uckyo -

HGWD combines herbs such as Astragalus membranaceus (Huangqi), Cinnamomum cassia (Guizhi), Zingiber officinale (Shengjiang), Paeonia lactiflora (Bai Shao), and Glycyrrhiza uralensis (Zhi Gancao) to create a potent mixture with diverse potential health benefits. HGWD is traditionally used to relieve pain and muscle tension, support the immune system, aid digestion, enhance blood circulation, and reduce inflammation. While these effects have been recognized in traditional medicine for centuries, ongoing scientific research seeks to unravel the precise mechanisms of action and to validate its therapeutic applications.

HGWD's unique combination of herbs represents a holistic approach to health and wellness, aligning with the principles of traditional Chinese medicine. Each component contributes to the formula's overall effects, making it a potential remedy for a range of conditions. Understanding the complex chemistry and physiological interactions of HGWD may unlock new therapeutic avenues and provide valuable insights into the integration of traditional herbal remedies with modern healthcare practices.

The study, published in the journal Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, presents an advanced approach that combines online two-dimensional hydrophilic interaction and reversed-phase liquid chromatography with hybrid linear ion trap-orbital trap mass spectrometry (online HILIC × RP-ESI/HRMS/MSn).

HGWD is a traditional Chinese medicinal formula composed of several herbs, each contributing a unique set of compounds to the mixture. Understanding the chemical composition of such herbal formulas is crucial for optimizing their therapeutic effects and ensuring their safety.

To achieve this, the researchers employed a dual-column chromatography setup using an XBridge amide column and an Accucore C18 column. They also fine-tuned the analytical process with assistant technologies such as trap columns and online dilution, reducing analyte loss and enhancing system resolution.

High-resolution orbital trap mass spectrometry and MSn fragment data from a hybrid linear ion trap (LTQ) were used to determine accurate mass and gather structural information for the compounds. In total, the study identified or tentatively characterized 170 chemical constituents present in HGWD, examining both positive and negative ion modes.

The results of this study offer a glimpse into the complex chemical makeup of HGWD, revealing its therapeutic potential. Understanding the precise composition of this formula may pave the way for enhanced formulations and improved healthcare outcomes.

This article was written with the help of artificial intelligence and has been edited to ensure accuracy and clarity. You can read more about our policy for using AI here.


(1) Jiang, M.; Hua, S.; Zou, L.; Wang, Y.; Li, P. Comprehensive Online Two-Dimensional Liquid Chromatography Coupled to Hybrid Linear Ion Trap Orbitrap Mass Spectrometry with Optimized Dilution and Modulation for Analysis of Huangqi Guizhi Wuwu Decoction. Anal. Bioanal. Chem. 2023, 1–12. DOI: 10.1007/s00216-023-04915-0

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