A liquid chromatography–time-of-flight mass spectrometric (LC-TOFMS) method has been developed for analysis of components in Qifu decoction (QFD), a traditional Chinese medical formula consisting of Radix Astragali and Acontium carmichaeli, and in rat plasma after oral administration. Based on accurate mass measurements within 3 ppm error for each molecular ion and subsequent fragment ions of TOFMS, as well as matching of empirical molecular formulae with those of published components in the in-house chemical library, a total of 44 major components including 21 diterpenoid alkaloids, 12 flavonoids and 11 saponins were identified in QFD. After oral administration of QFD, 22 components in rat plasma were detected and identified by comparing and contrasting the constituents measured in QFD with those in the plasma samples. The results provided valuable chemical information for further pharmacology and active mechanism research on QFD. LC-TOFMS was also applied for the comparison of relative peak area of major active components between QFD and the single herb extracts. The concentration ratios of major saponins detected in the crude herb Radix Astragali were found to be different from those in QFD. The experimental data indicated that the decocting process could result in differences in the amounts of active components. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.