Ginsenosides, which contain one triterpene and one or more sugar moieties, are the major bioactive compounds of ginseng. The aim of this study was to develop and optimize a specific and reliable ultra-performance liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (UPLC-MS/MS) method for the analysis of twelve different resources of ginseng. The six marker compounds of ginsenoside Rb1
, ginsenoside Rb2
, ginsenoside Rc, ginsenoside Rd, ginsenoside Re, and ginsenoside Rg1
, as well as an internal standard, were separated by a reversed-phase C-18 column with a gradient elution of water and methanol-acetonitrile. The multiple-reaction monitoring (MRM) mode was used to quantify and identify twelve market products. The results demonstrated that not only is the logarithm of its partition coefficient (cLog P; octanol-water partition coefficient) one of the factors, but also the number of sugars, position of sugars, and position of the hydroxyl groups are involved in the complicated separation factors for the analytes in the analytical system. If the amount of ginsenoside Rb1
was higher than 40 mg/g, then the species might be Panax quinquefolius,
based on the results of the marker ginsenoside contents of various varieties. In summary, this study provides a rapid and precise analytical method for identifying the various ginsenosides from different species, geographic environments, and cultivation cultures.
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