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Forensic Sci Int. 2000 Nov 13;114(2):89-95.

Metal concentrations in plants and urine from patients treated with traditional remedies.

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  • 1Toxicology Unit, Department of Chemical Pathology, South African Institute for Medical Research, University of the Witwatersrand Medical School, 7 York Rd., Parktown 2193, Gauteng, South Africa.


A number of traditional South African herbal remedies which are associated with morbidity and mortality were analysed for selenium, manganese, copper, lead, zinc and mercury content. Few showed high levels of toxic metals, but in these the concentrations were sufficiently high as to cause concern since there is no quality control on the production of these remedies, which are the accepted form of medication for over 80% of the population. Urine samples, obtained from 65 patients admitted to hospital following treatment with a traditional herbal remedy were also analysed for metals. Only a small number of the patients had abnormally high levels of metal excretion. These data suggest that, in contrast to experience with traditional Chinese and Indian preparations, metal contamination from plants seems not to be a problem in traditional South African remedies.

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