Fitoterapia 129, 401-414 (2018)
This article reviews and develops a perspective for the meaning of authenticity in the context of quality assessment of botanical materials and the challenges associated with discerning adulterations vs. contaminations vs. impurities. Authentic botanicals are by definition non-adulterated, a mutually exclusive relationship that is confirmed through the application of a multilayered set of analytical methods designed to validate the (chemo)taxonomic identity of a botanical and certify that it is devoid of any adulteration. In practice, the ever-increasing sophistication in the process of intentional adulteration, as well as the growing number of botanicals entering the market, altogether necessitate a constant adaptation and reinforcement of authentication methods with new approaches, especially new technologies. This article summarizes the set of analytical methods - classical and contemporary - that can be employed in the authentication of botanicals. Particular emphasis is placed on the application of untargeted metabolomics and chemometrics. An NMR-based untargeted metabolomic model is proposed as a rapid, systematic, and complementary screening for the discrimination of authentic vs. potentially adulterated botanicals. Such analytical model can help advance the evaluation of botanical integrity in natural product research.