How to test substances at home
Some people might not have access to analytical services such as the ones we provide at Kykeon Analytics, and yet they may be interested in knowing what is in their sample, whether it is herbal or fungal material, purified isolates or synthetic substances of different kinds.
Here are the main techniques a non-chemist can use at home to try and identify, at least tentatively, what is in their sample:
This is the most commonly used technique for tentative identification. A small amount of a substance is put in a ceramic plate or other chemical-resistant container, to which a drop or two of a specific reagent is added. The color of the reaction will vary depending on what substance is being tested, and by knowing which color certain substances react with that particular reagent, you can potentially identify the sample at hand.
- Cheap (a few cents per test)
- Very fast results (reactions are immediate or may take just a few minutes)
- Several false positives possible (using multiple reagent helps diminish this disadvantage)
- Not very useful to identify minor adulteration or complex mixtures
- Some substances have less unique reactions (or no reaction at all) compared to others, so effectiveness of identification with this method isn´t the same for all substances.
To know what color a certain substance turns with a specific reagent, please check the links below:
- Test Drugs reagent app
- Reagent reactions video database
- Colorimetric reagent thread
- Reagents interpretation flow chart
There are several reagent suppliers worldwide. We do not sell reagents and have no business affiliation with any. Nevertheless below are some of the reagent suppliers we are aware of. Worldwide shipping might be available in some of these shops:
TLC (Thin Layer Chromatography)
TLC is an analysis method that works by separating substances based on their polarity (difference in electric charge in different parts of a molecule).Depending on the relative distance a substance travels in a TLC plate, you can potentially identify it. Also very importantly, you can separate the different components of a complex mixture, so if your substance is adulterated you can potentially see how many different compounds it contains and identify them.
- Can separate complex mixture in individual components so you can detect adulteration that isn´t visible in simple reagent reactions
- Can help identify or rule out the presence of toxic compounds in a plant extract or sample of interest.
- Can potentially be used even for semi-quantification if you have a reference standard of the substance you want to test- Very little material needed to test
- Must use specific solvents (usually sold with TLC kits)
- More expensive than only reagent tests (TLC kits cost 100-200$ per 60 tests, or 2-3$ per test approx)
- Slightly more involved preparation compared to the simple reagent method
- Harder to interpret results if you don´t have a reference standard of the substance you are tentatively trying to identify
How it works and help with result interpretation
TLC megathread (contains a video showing the process, images, instructions, links to help interpret results etc). You can also contact us if you need help interpreting results
Suppliers of TLC kits
Lab testing services
While this is not testing at home, below you can find links to some of the organizations or services that you can mail a sample to and get your sample analysed.