Assay of free ferulic acid and total ferulic acid for quality assessment of Angelica sinensis

Guang Hua Lu, Kelvin Chan*, Kelvin S Y LEUNG, Chi Leung Chan, Zhongzhen ZHAO, Zhi Hong JIANG

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

102 Citations (Scopus)


Activity of Chinese Danggui (DG), the processed root of Angelica sinensis (Oliv.) Diels, is linked to the ferulic acid content but the stability of ferulic acid during extraction for medicinal use is not known. The stabilities of ferulic acid and coniferyl ferulate were evaluated in the extracts of DG using a variety of extraction solvents. These included various combinations and proportions of methanol, water, formic acid, 1 M aqueous hydrochloric acid and 2% sodium hydrogen carbonate (NaHCO3) in water. Coniferyl ferulate was found liable to hydrolyze into ferulic acid in neutral, strongly acidic and basic solvents, where heat and water could facilitate this hydrolysis. However, the hydrolysis was relatively resisted in weakly organic acid. Based on the stability evaluation, two new terms, namely: free ferulic acid and total ferulic acid, were suggested and defined. Free ferulic acid refers to the natural content of ferulic acid in herbs. Total ferulic acid means the sum of free ferulic acid plus the amount of related hydrolyzed components. Meanwhile, the high-performance liquid chromatographic (HPLC) method was developed to assay free ferulic acid and total ferulic acid in DG using methanol-formic acid (95:5) and methanol-2% NaHCO3 in water (95:5) as extraction solvents, respectively. Ten DG samples were investigated on their contents of free and total ferulic acid. The results indicated that the amount variety of free ferulic acid was larger than that of their counterparts, and the ratio of total ferulic acid to free ferulic acid was 4.07 ± 2.73 (mean ± SD, n = 10). The chemical assay of DG using total ferulic acid content would be a better choice to assess the herbal quality and was recommended.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209-219
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Chromatography A
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 18 Mar 2005

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Organic Chemistry

User-Defined Keywords

  • Angelica sinensis
  • Coniferyl ferulate
  • Ferulic acid
  • HPLC
  • Pharmaceutical analysis


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