Monitoring heavy metals, residual agricultural chemicals and sulfites in traditional herbal decoctions

Asian traditional herbal preparations are frequently considered for the contamination with undeclared toxic or hazardous substances. The aim of this study was to determine the toxic heavy metals, pesticides and sulfur dioxide in decoctions that is a common form of final utilisation in Korea. A total of 155 decoctions composed of multi-ingredient traditional herbs were randomly sampled from Seoul in Korea between 2013 and 2014. For each decoction, the concentrations of four heavy metals (arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury), 33 pesticides and sulfur dioxide were analysed using chromatography/nitrogen phosphorous detector (GC/NPD), gas chromatography/micro electron capture detector (GC/?ECD), and Monier-Williams method respectively. One hundred fifty-two of One hundred fifty-five decoctions (98.1%) contained one of three heavy metals (96.1% for As, 97.4% for Cd, and 90.3% for Pb, 0.0% for Hg). Their average concentrations (77.0?±?79.7 ug/kg for As, 20.4?±?23.7 ug/kg for Cd, and 68.8?±?76.5 ug/kg for Pb) were approximately 20% of the maximum allowable limits of vegetable or ginseng beverage described in the Korean Food Standard Codex while their 95th percentile concentrations were below than the guideline for them. None of 33 pesticides was detected in 155 decoction samples, and only one sample showed over limit of detection for residual sulfites. The authors concluded that this study support that the contained status of toxic heavy metals, pesticides and sulfur dioxide in herbal decoctions are currently within safe level in Korea, and provide a reference data for the further studies focused on the safety herbal preparations.

Authors: Yu IS, Lee JS, Kim SD, Kim YH, Park HW, Ryu HJ, Lee JH, Lee JM, Jung K, Na C, Joung JY, Son CG. ;Full Source: BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2017 Mar 14;17(1):154. doi: 10.1186/s12906-017-1646-y. ;