Herbal medicine is widely used for the prevention and treatment of diseases worldwide including Palestine and may require long term usage. The level of some heavy metals and microbial contaminants in some of these medicinal plants consumed by Palestinians were studied in order to evaluate their quality.
The level of metals including: Zinc, Cadmium, Lead and Copper were quantified by Atomic absorption spectroscopy (AAS). Moreover, the bacterial and fungal contaminations were tested for some of the selected plants in Palestine. The procedures of microbial and elemental testing of the plants followed USP.
The result of the heavy metals testing showed that copper and cadmium were above the allowable limits in all the tested plants. Zinc metal was above the allowable limit in 78.9% of the tested samples. The microbiological results of the tested plants showed that 63.2% of the tested plants were contaminated by bacteria and 89.5% were contaminated by yeast.
Herbal medicine used in the Palestinian markets doesn’t meet the international requirement for heavy metal and microbiological limits. Therefore, urgent action has to be taken by the responsible authorities including the Ministry of health to implement importation and registration requirements and perform regular quality checks of sold and imported herbal medicines. Pharmacists as expert professionals must take an active role in selling and advising consumers about the quality and efficacy of the sold plants.