Frankincense resins are extensively used as natural remedies in regions ranging from North Africa to China. Triterpenoid metabolites from frankincense exhibit notable anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor properties. In the present paper, without the use of an isolation process, the fragmentation rules and NMR spectral characteristics of triterpenoid metabolites in frankincense are summarized through a coupling method using high performance liquid chromatography-diode array detection/electrospray ionization tandem mass spectrometry (HPLC-DAD/ESI-MS(n)) combined with HPLC-nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) experiments. Based on this groundwork, a coupling strategy for the comprehensive metabolic profiling of active triterpenoid metabolites from enriched fractions of frankincense was developed. The proposed strategy may serve as a method for the holistic screening of bioactive metabolites in complex TCM samples.
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