Basics Of Pharmacy: Crude Drug Adulteration

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Crude Drug Adulteration

Crude drugs are unprocessed natural drugs that are used for different treatment purposes. As we know that crude drugs are obtained from natural sources so these can easily be adulterated. The crude drug adulteration may be intentionally or unintentionally, whatever the reason may be, the adulteration is not good ethically and scientifically as well.


The term adulteration is defined as,

The process in which crude drugs are mixed intentionally or unintentionally with some other same looking substances which may contain less or inferior quality constituents is known as adulteration or crude drug adulteration.

In simple words adding impurities in crude drugs is known as adulteration or the addition of undesired substances in crude drugs is known as adulteration.

The crude drug adulteration may be harmful because the undesired effects may appear due to the addition of undesired substances.

Types Of Adulteration

Adulteration may be of the following two types,

  • Unintentional Adulteration

  • Intentional Adulteration

Unintentional Adulteration

As the name indicates intentions are not involved in this type of adulteration and this type of adulteration may occur because of following reasons,

  • Confusion Of Names

  • Lack Of Plant Source Knowledge

  • Non Availability Of Authentic Plant

  • Similar Morphology

  • Careless Collection

Confusion Of Names

  • Unintentional adulteration may occur due to the confusion of plant or herb names in which similar names may be used for different herbs or plants with little difference. So in place of one plant or herb others can be supplied.


  • The term Parpatta is used for Fumaria parviflora.

  • Parpadam is used for Mollugo pentaphylla.

  • Due to similarity in name,these can be exchanged in usage or supply.

Lack Of Plant Source Knowledge

  • Crude drug adulteration may also occur due to a lack of knowledge about the true source of the required herb or plant and due to this knowledge gap, the undesired plant or herb can easily be adulterated to the original plant or herb.


  • The true and original source of ‘Nagakesar’ is Mesua ferrea.In the market, the original drug is adulterated with ‘Calophyllum inophyllum’ flowers which are easily available in plain areas and original Nagakesar is present in forests.

  •  People having sufficient plant and herb knowledge can easily identify this type of adulteration because the original flower has two cell ovaries and the adulterated one has a single cell ovary. 

Non Availability Of Authentic Plant

  • Unintentional adulteration may also occur due to a lack of or unavailability of original or authentic plants.


  • Hypericum Perforatum is available in European countries and in Asian countries it is rare but the species H patulum is sold in Asian countries in the name of Hypericum Perforatum.

Similar Morphology

  • Unintentional adulteration may also occur due to similar plant or herb morphology.

Careless Collection

  • Unintentional adulteration may also occur due to carelessness during the collection of plants or herbs.


  • Parmelia perlata is adulterated with other species like P. perforata.

Intentional Adulteration

Intentional adulteration is the adulteration of crude drugs due to someone intention and may be done by the following,

  • Adulteration By Manufactured Substances

  • Substitutions By Inferior Varieties

  • Substitutions By Exhausted Drugs

  • Substitutions By Inferior Natural Substances

  • Use Of Vegetative Parts

  • Addition Of Toxic Materials

  • Adulteration By Powders

  • Adulteration By Synthetic Materials

Adulteration By Manufactured Substances

  • Adulteration by using manufactured substances is the type of intentional adulteration in which the original crude drug is adulterated by the use of artificially manufactured substances that look physically the same as original drugs.


  • Ergot from Portugal was adulterated with a doughy mass of flour,coloured with ink which looks the same as ergot.

  • Coffee berries are adulterated with compressed chicory.

  • Yellow colour is applied to the paraffin wax and is substituted for the beeswax.

  • Artificial sugar is used for honey.

Substitutions By Inferior Varieties

  • It is the type of adulteration in which low-quality drugs are added to the original crude drugs. The low or inferior quality drug substances have the same morphology and drug constituents as the original drug substance but have inferior quality.


  • Mangosteen fruit for bael fruit.

  • Arabian senna for senna

  • Ginger is adulterated with African ginger.

Substitutions By Exhausted Drugs

  • Substitution by exhausted drugs is the type of adulteration in which crude drugs or constituents of the crude drugs are adulterated with the drugs which are already exhausted means from which active constituents are removed and are reused again for removing the constituents.

  • This type of adulteration is used for those substances which retain their original shape after usage or which can easily be coloured to look the same as the original.


  • After extraction of rose petals, these are again coloured with artificial dyes for adulteration and reuse.

Substitutions By Inferior Natural Substances

  • In this type of adulteration, the substitution is done with substances that are morphologically similar to the original product but it has different chemical constituents and different therapeutic effects.


  • Substitution of Ailanthus leaves for belladonna.

  • Substitution of Ailanthus leaves for senna.

  • Kernel of Peach for almond.

  • Oil extracted from the peach kernel is substituted for almond oil.

  • For beeswax, the substitution of Japanese wax is done.

Use Of Vegetative Parts

  • Crude drug adulteration may also occur due to the international addition of vegetative parts of the Same plant in an extra-large amount along with the desired plant or crude drug.

  • The vegetative parts may be added during collection to increase the weight and to earn more money.


  • Lichens with cinchona.

  • A large number of stems in lobelia.

Addition Of Toxic Materials

  • As the name indicates, in this type of adulteration the toxic substances are used to adulterate the original drug.


  • Stones are used in liquorice roots.

  • Limestone is used in asafetida.

  • Manganese dioxide in cochineal black grains.

Adulteration By Powders

  • Powered drugs are often adulterated and adulterants used for this adulteration are also in the form of powders.


  • Brick powder for barks.

  • Powered olive stone for powder pepper or liquorice.

Adulteration By Synthetic Materials

  • It is a type of intentional adulteration in which synthetic pharmaceutical substances are used to adulterate the original drug for getting the same therapeutic effects.


  • Citral is used to adulterate lemon oil.

  • Benzyl benzoate is used to adulterate the balsam of Peru.

Important Topics

Classification Of Crude Drugs

Ginger And Its Constituents

Clove And Its Constituents

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