• morphological and microscopic studies;
  • authentication;
  • Toxic and Potent Chinese Materia Medica (T/PCMM);
  • Semen Hyoscyami;
  • Semen Euphorbiae;
  • Semen Strychni


Toxic and Potent Chinese Materia Medica (T/PCMM) are being used more and more in the treatment of various diseases. In view of their toxic side effects and to ensure their safe use, accurate and reliable authentication is indispensable. However, identifying characteristics of T/PCMM are seldom reported, even though modern microscopy can provide ample, unique identifying characteristics from cells found in transverse sections and powders. In particular, no systematic authentication studies on seed T/PCMM have been conducted. In the course of our study on 31 T/PCMM originating from plants, animals, minerals, and secreta, an accurate and convenient method, based on microscopic techniques, has been developed and reported for the authentication of animal T/PCMM. The present study deals with detailed investigations on three species of seed T/PCMM, namely Semen Hyoscyami (Hyoscyamus niger L.), Semen Euphorbiae (Euphorbia lathyris L.), and Semen Strychni (Strychnos nux-vomica L.). The macroscopic characters are here described in detail, and the microscopic characters were conclusively determined by common and polarized light microscopy. Results showed that these three T/PCMM can be easily identified by the present method even when powdered and combined. Thus, the microscopic method is applicable for authentication of the earlier three T/PCMM, and the morphological and microscopic characteristics described here are proposed as parameters to establish the authenticity of these three T/PCMM. Microsc. Res. Tech., 2008. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.