Introduction Herbal supplements are important and widely used health care choices but also pose a global challenge in quality and safety. The lack of regulations and less stringent value chains, for example, result in adulterations with undeclared synthetic substances. The extent and nature of this issue has been unknown in the Middle East.
Besides, analytical methods for easy implementation in laboratories without sophisticated instrumentations and limited resources are always in demand, particularly in developing countries. To the best of our knowledge, all proposed methodologies to date focused on identifying one class of synthetic adulterants, such as erectile dysfunction drugs  and anti-obesity drugs . This project aimed to develop and validate a simple, rapid, robust, specific, reliable and cost-effective qualitative and quantitative HPTLC method.
Materials and Methods 40 samples were collected from pharmacies and herbal shops in Iraq, including those promoted for slimming and sexual enhancements. During method development, several steps were optimised, including the choice of stationary phase, mobile phase, samples extraction, injection volumes, detection and derivatisation.
Ethanol solvent system with silica gel as stationary phase was selected. It enabled a good separation of all reference standards (i.e., R F value ranged from 0.10 to 0.76, and injection volumes varied from 2 to 20 μl).
Results and Discussions The developed method was validated for specificity, precision, repeatability, and linearity. The limit of detection (148-1378μg), the limit of quantification (450-4176μg), and the regression coefficient was calculated. Out of the samples analysed, 48% (n=19) contained one adulterant; among these, 15% (n=6) contained two adulterants. [Figure 1] shows the percentage of adulterants identified in herbal supplements promoted for slimming and sexual enhancements (n=40).
Conclusions The use of supplements promoted for slimming and sexual enhancement could impose a health risk to the consumers due to common adulterations in such products. The method developed enables a efficient one-step detection of common adulterants.