Medicinal plants are used throughout the world, and the regulations defining their proper use, such as identification of the correct species and verification of the presence, purity and concentration of the required chemical compounds, are widely recognized. Herbal medicines are made from vegetal drugs, the processed products of medicinal species. These processed materials present a number of challenges in terms of botanical identification, and according to the World Health Organization (WHO), the use of incorrect species is a threat to consumer safety. The samples used in this study consisted of the dried leaves, flowers and roots of 257 samples from 8 distinct species approved by the WHO for the production of medicinal herbs and sold in Brazilian markets. Identification of the samples in this study using DNA barcoding (matK, rbcL and ITS2 regions) revealed that the level of substitutions may be as high as 71%. Using qualitative and quantitative chemical analyses, this study identified situations in which the correct species was being sold, but the chemical compounds were not present. Even more troubling, some samples identified as substitutions using DNA barcoding contained the chemical compounds from the correct species at the minimum required concentration. This last situation may lead to the use of unknown species or species whose safety for human consumption remains unknown. This study concludes that DNA barcoding should be used in a complementary manner for species identification with chemical analyses to detect and quantify the required chemical compounds, thus improving the quality of this class of medicines.