Low-molecular-weight phytochemicals have health benefits and reduce the risk of diseases, but the mechanisms underlying their activities have remained elusive because of the lack of a methodology that can easily visualize the exact behavior of such small molecules. Recently, we developed an in situ label-free imaging technique, called mass spectrometry imaging, for visualizing spatially-resolved biotransformations based on simultaneous mapping of the major bioactive green tea polyphenol and its phase II metabolites. In addition, we established a mass spectrometry-based metabolic profiling technique capable of evaluating the bioactivities of diverse green tea extracts, which contain multiple phytochemicals, by focusing on their compositional balances. This methodology allowed us to simultaneously evaluate the relative contributions of the multiple compounds present in a multicomponent system to its bioactivity. This review highlights small molecule-sensing techniques for visualizing the complex behaviors of herbal components and linking such information to an enhanced understanding of the functionalities of multicomponent medicinal herbs.
!!!All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes