Biological Trace Element Research

, Volume 187, Issue 1, pp 307–315 | Cite as

The Safety Assessment of Toxic Metals in Commonly Used Pharmaceutical Herbal Products and Traditional Herbs for Infants in Jordanian Market

  • Ala A. AlhusbanEmail author
  • Samah A. Ata
  • Sawsan A. Shraim


The objective of this study was to assess the levels of contamination by toxic metals (Pb, Al, Ni, Cd and As) that may be present in 25 infant pharmaceutical herbal products and 15 traditional herbs in Jordan. Both products and medicinal herbs are currently prescribed by paediatricians. They are available as over-the-counter medicines and are sold the in herbal market, ensuring easy accessibility for parents. Inductively coupled plasma-optical emission spectroscopy (ICP-OES), with limit of detections (LODs) of 0.10, 1.00, 0.20, 0.15 and 2.00−1 for Pb, Al, Ni, Cd and As respectively, was employed to measure the levels of toxic metals in the samples. Pb, Al and Ni were detected in 88, 76 and 4% of the analysed samples of pharmaceutical herbal products and in 93, 87 and 13% of the analysed samples of traditional herbs, respectively. Neither Cd or As were detected in all analysed samples. The data obtained were subsequently compared by referral to the acceptable limits of toxic heavy metals according to World Health Organisation (WHO) standards. Largely, the results showed acceptable toxic metal levels in the finished pharmaceutical products and the traditional medicinal herbs for infants. One exception to this was Persian Thyme (Satureja thymbra) with Pb content of 41.18−1. Also, the daily intake of detected metals through pharmaceutical herbal products was found to be lower than the daily tolerable intake limit set by the regulatory bodies, except of 8% of products that exceeded the tolerable daily intake of Pb set by US FDA, as compared to traditional medicinal herbs, where the tolerable daily intake for Pb, Al and Ni were exceeded in 40, 60 and 8% of the analysed herbs, respectively. The results obtained revealed that the excessive use of medicinal plants as alternative medicine should be used with caution keeping in mind the safety factor in infants.


Infant Herbal products Toxic metals Risk assessment Safety assessment ICP-OES 


  1. 1.
    Tongesayi T, Tongesayi S (2014) The new inconvenient truth: global contamination of food by chemical pollutants, particularly heavy metals and metalloids. In: Chemistry of food, food supplements, and food contact materials: from production to plate, vol 1159. ACS publications, pp 15–40. doi:
  2. 2.
    Järup L (2003) Hazards of heavy metal contamination. Br Med Bull 68(1):167–182. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Abadin H, Ashizawa A, Stevens Y, Llados F, Diamond G, Sage G, Citra M, Quinones A, Bosch S, Swarts S (2007) Toxicological profile for lead; Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry: Atlanta, GA, USAGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    ATSDR (2008) Toxicological profile for aluminum. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health ServicesGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Zatta P, Alfrey AC (1997) Aluminium toxicity in infants’ health and disease. World Scientific, USAGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Sipahi H, Eken A, Aydın A, Şahin G, Baydar T (2014) Safety assessment of essential and toxic metals in infant formulas. Turkish J Pediatr 56 (4):385–391Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Sunderman Jr FW (1993) Biological monitoring of nickel in humans. Scandinavian journal of work, environment & health 19:34–38Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Gad SC (2007) Toxicology of the gastrointestinal tract. CRC Press., USAGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Crews HM, Owen LM, Langford N, Fairweather-Tait SJ, Fox TE, Hubbard L, Phillips D (2000) Use of the stable isotope 106 Cd for studying dietary cadmium absorption in humans. Toxicol Lett 112:201–207. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Calabrese EJ (1986) Age and susceptibility to toxic substances. J. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Rebelo FM, Caldas ED (2016) Arsenic, lead, mercury and cadmium: toxicity, levels in breast milk and the risks for breastfed infants. Environ Res 151:671–688. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    García-Esquinas E, Pérez-Gómez B, Fernández MA, Pérez-Meixeira AM, Gil E, de Paz C, Iriso A, Sanz JC, Astray J, Cisneros M (2011) Mercury, lead and cadmium in human milk in relation to diet, lifestyle habits and sociodemographic variables in Madrid (Spain). Chemosphere 85(2):268–276. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Tyler CR, Allan AM (2014) The effects of arsenic exposure on neurological and cognitive dysfunction in human and rodent studies: a review. Curr Environ Health Rep 1(2):132–147. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Bellinger DC, Adams HF (2001) Environmental pollutant exposures and children’s cognitive abilities. Environmental effects on cognitive abilities. Psychology Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Windham B (2009) Effects of toxic metals on learning ability and behavior. Scholar
  16. 16.
    IARC (2018) International Agency for Research on Cancer. Classified by the IARC Monographs. IARC. Accessed 28/3 2018Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Bondy SC (2014) Prolonged exposure to low levels of aluminum leads to changes associated with brain aging and neurodegeneration. Toxicology 315:1–7. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Dórea JG (2015) Exposure to mercury and aluminum in early life: developmental vulnerability as a modifying factor in neurologic and immunologic effects. Int J Environ Res Public Health 12(2):1295–1313. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Annan K, Kojo AI, Cindy A, Samuel A-N, Tunkumgnen BM (2010) Profile of heavy metals in some medicinal plants from Ghana commonly used as components of herbal formulations. Pharm Res 2(1):41–44. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    WHO (2000) General guidelines for methodologies on research and evaluation of traditional medicine. World Health Organization, Scholar
  21. 21.
    Kowalski A, Frankowski M (2015) Levels and potential health risks of mercury in prescription, non-prescription medicines and dietary supplements in Poland. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol 73(1):396–400. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Barnes PM, Bloom B, Nahin RL (2008) Complementary and alternative medicine use among adults and children; United States, 2007. US DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Center for Health StatisticsGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Du Y, Wolf I-K, Zhuang W, Bodemann S, Knöss W, Knopf H (2014) Use of herbal medicinal products among children and adolescents in Germany. BMC Complement Altern Med 14(1):218. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Başgel S, Erdemoğlu S (2006) Determination of mineral and trace elements in some medicinal herbs and their infusions consumed in Turkey. Sci Total Environ 359(1):82–89. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Athar M, Vohora SB (1995) Heavy metals and environment. New Age International, New DelhiGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    EPA (2018) Electronic Code of Federal Regulations List of Toxic pollutants Environmental Protection Agency 2018Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Baye H, Hymete A (2010) Lead and cadmium accumulation in medicinal plants collected from environmentally different sites. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 84(2):197–201. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    WHO (1999) WHO monographs on selected medicinal plants, vol 2. World Health Organization, GenevaGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Abou-Arab A, Abou Donia M (2000) Heavy metals in Egyptian spices and medicinal plants and the effect of processing on their levels. J Agric Food Chem 48(6):2300–2304. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Mirosławski J, Paukszto A (2017) Determination of the cadmium, chromium, nickel, and lead ions relays in selected polish medicinal plants and their infusion. Biol Trace Elem Res 182(1):147–151. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Kalny P, Fijałek Z, Daszczuk A, Ostapczuk P (2007) Determination of selected microelements in polish herbs and their infusions. Sci Total Environ 381(1):99–104. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Queralt I, Ovejero M, Carvalho M, Marques A, Llabres J (2005) Quantitative determination of essential and trace element content of medicinal plants and their infusions by XRF and ICP techniques. X-Ray Spectrom 34(3):213–217. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Arpadjan S, Celik G, Taşkesen S, Güçer Ş (2008) Arsenic, cadmium and lead in medicinal herbs and their fractionation. Food Chem Toxicol 46(8):2871–2875. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Tokalıoğlu Ş (2012) Determination of trace elements in commonly consumed medicinal herbs by ICP-MS and multivariate analysis. Food Chem 134(4):2504–2508CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Özcan MM, Ünver A, Uçar T, Arslan D (2008) Mineral content of some herbs and herbal teas by infusion and decoction. Food Chem 106(3):1120–1127. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Somer G, ÜNLÜ AN (2007) The effect of acid digestion on the recoveries of trace elements: recommended policies for the elimination of losses. Turk J Chem 30(6):745–753Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Uddin AH, Khalid RS, Alaama M, Abdualkader AM, Kasmuri A, Abbas S (2016) Comparative study of three digestion methods for elemental analysis in traditional medicine products using atomic absorption spectrometry. J Anal Sci Technol 7(1):6. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Qing-hua Y, Qing W, Xiao-qin M (2012) Determination of major and trace elements in six herbal drugs for relieving heat and toxicity by ICP-AES with microwave digestion. J Saudi Chem Soc 16(3):287–290. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Korfali SI, Mroueh M, Al-Zein M, Salem R (2013) Metal concentration in commonly used medicinal herbs and infusion by Lebanese population: health impact. J Food Res 2(2):70. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Siriangkhawut W, Sittichan P, Ponhong K, Chantiratikul P (2017) Quality assessment of trace Cd and Pb contaminants in Thai herbal medicines using ultrasound-assisted digestion prior to flame atomic absorption spectrometry. J Food Drug Anal 25(4):960–967. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    WHO (2007) WHO guidelines for assessing quality of herbal medicines with reference to contaminants and residues. World Health OrganizationGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Maghrabi IA (2014) Determination of some mineral and heavy metals in Saudi Arabia popular herbal drugs using modern techniques. Afr J Pharm Pharmacol 8(39):1000–1005. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Dghaim R, Al Khatib S, Rasool H, Ali Khan M (2015) Determination of heavy metals concentration in traditional herbs commonly consumed in the United Arab Emirates. J Environ Public Health 2015:1–6. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    Heavy Metals: Analysis and Limits in Herbal Dietary Supplements (2009). American Herbal Products Association Available from: http://wwwnaturalhealthresearchorg/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/09_1214_AHPA_Heavy-Metals-White-Paper-Revised pdf (accessed Apr 29, 2015)Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    Joint, FAO (2011), WHO safety evaluation of certain contaminants in food: prepared by the Seventy-second meeting of the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA). In: Safety evaluation of certain contaminants in food: prepared by the Seventy-second meeting of the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA),Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ala A. Alhusban
    • 1
    Email author
  • Samah A. Ata
    • 1
  • Sawsan A. Shraim
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Pharmacy, Faculty of PharmacyAl-Zaytoonah University of JordanAmmanJordan

Personalised recommendations