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Liquid chromatography coupled with diode array detector and electrospray ionization mass spectrometry was developed for the qualitative and quantitative comparison of the main constituents in Saussurea laniceps (SL) and S. medusa (SM), two species of plants used under the name "Xuelianhua" in traditional Tibetan medicine. A method validation including linearity, limit of detection, precision and recovery was performed. The results showed that a good linearity with R<sup>2</sup> > 0.99 was achieved, and the limit of detection of the quantified constituents was reported to be between 0.8 and 3.3 ng. The relative standard deviation value was below 3.82% for repeatability, and recovery studies for the quantified compounds were found to be within the range 90.92-103.12%. The unique properties of the present method were evaluated by analyzing twelve related herbal samples including five S. laniceps samples and seven S. medusa samples. Twenty-two compounds including phenolic acids, cumarins, lignanoids and flavonoids were identified by online ESI-MS and by comparison with literature data and standard compounds, and seven of them were quantified by LC-DAD simultaneously. The results demonstrated that the common constituents in the two herbs were protocatechuic acid, syringoside, chlorogenic acid, isoquercitroside, 1,5-dicaffeoylquinic acid, apigenin 7-O-Îø-d-glucoside, chrysoeriol 7-O-Îø-d-glucoside, acacetin 7-O-Îø-d-glucoside, apigenin and chrysoeriol. In the present study, it was found that the characteristic constituents were umbelliferone, scopoletin and their glucosides in S. laniceps, as well as arctiin and arctigenin in S. medusa. It was feasible to choose these characteristic compounds for the quality evaluation as well as chemical authentication of the two related herbs. The results also support discrimination between the two species when using them in folk medicine.