Supercritical fluid chromatography–a technical overview and its applications in medicinal plant analysis: an update covering 2012–2018
Medicinal plants with complex matrices are endowed with a wide scope of biological activities. The separation, quantification, characterization and purification of bioactive components from herbal medicine extracts have always challenged analysts. Fortunately, the advancement of various emerging techniques has provided potent support for improving the method selectivity, sensitivity and run speeds in medicinal plant analyses. In recent years, the advent of new-generation supercritical fluid chromatography (SFC) instruments and a wide diversity of column chemistries, coupled with the intrinsic technical features of SFC, have made it an alternative and prominent analytical platform in the medicinal plant research area. This work aims to give a comprehensive overview of the fundamentals, technical advancement and investigating parameters of SFC in combination with three prevalent detectors. Moreover, the latest research progress of SFC applications in medicinal plant analyses is illuminated, with focus on herbal medicine-related SFC papers on the analytical and preparative scale that were published during the period of 2012 to December 2018. The most relevant applications were classified based on the constituents to be analysed. As for the respective research cases, analytical protocols and data processing strategies were provided, along with the indicated restrictions or superiority of the method; thus, the current status of SFC in medicinal plant analysis was presented.