This paper provides a review of the most recent works in machine olfaction as applied to the identification of Chinese Herbal Medicines (CHMs). Due to the wide variety of CHMs, the complexity of growing sources and the diverse specifications of herb components, the quality control of CHMs is a challenging issue. Much research has demonstrated that an electronic nose (E-nose) as an advanced machine olfaction system, can overcome this challenge through identification of the complex odors of CHMs. E-nose technology, with better usability, high sensitivity, real-time detection and non-destructive features has shown better performance in comparison with other analytical techniques such as gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS). Although there has been immense development of E-nose techniques in other applications, there are limited reports on the application of E-noses for the quality control of CHMs. The aim of current study is to review practical implementation and advantages of E-noses for robust and effective odor identification of CHMs. It covers the use of E-nose technology to study the effects of growing regions, identification methods, production procedures and storage time on CHMs. Moreover, the challenges and applications of E-nose for CHM identification are investigated. Based on the advancement in E-nose technology, odor may become a new quantitative index for quality control of CHMs and drug discovery. It was also found that more research could be done in the area of odor standardization and odor reproduction for remote sensing.
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