Selection of chemical markers is crucial for the quality control of herbal medicines, including authentication of genuine species, harvesting the best quality raw materials, evaluation of post-harvesting handling, assessment of intermediates and finished products, and detection of harmful or toxic ingredients. Ideal chemical markers should be the therapeutic components of herbal medicines. However, for most herbal medicines, the therapeutic components have not been fully elucidated or easily monitored. Bioactive, characteristic, main, synergistic, correlative, toxic and general components may be selected. This article reviews the effective use of chemical markers in the quality control of herbal medicines including the selection criteria considering the roles and physicochemical factors which may affect the effective use of chemical markers.