Composition and bioaccessibility of traditional medicines from China, Ghana and India
Traditional Medicines (TM) refer to indigenous medicines that are available in a range of cultures. From ancient times, humans developed TM for health care prior to the development of western medicine. TM remains popular today in both developing and developed countries, due to their availability without doctor’s prescription, and moderate expense. TM can contain essential or non-essential elements. Essential elements are needed for human health, however these elements can be toxic if present in the body in high doses. In contrast, non-essential elements are not needed by the body and can be toxic at smaller concentrations. Consumption of TM with elevated trace element concentrations can affect consumers, sometimes causing death. This study reviewed the prevalence of TM use, and cases of poisoning by metals or metalloids following TM consumption, and forms of TM contamination and adulteration. Concentrations of essential and non-essential elements in Ayurvedic Medicines (AM) from India, and traditional medicines from Ghana (GTM) and China (CTM) are reported, and potential risks to the health of consumers are evaluated. Of 101 samples analysed, mean concentrations of Cu in AM, GTM and CTM were 4 mg/kg-45 mg/kg. Elemental concentrations in selected AM, GTM and CTM were compared with maximum allowable concentrations to establish whether their concentrations were within allowable health limits ie. limits that is not detrimental to the health of the exposed population. The regulatory limits of USEPA (mg/kg) for essential elements are V=0.007, Cr=0.003, Mn=0.14, Cu=0.04, Fe=0.07, Ni=0.02, Zn=0.3 and non-essential elements As=0.005, Ba=0.2. Investigation of dominant inorganic minerals in the TM, in conjunction with simulated gastrointestinal tract bioaccessibility studies, allow prediction of potential threats that oral consumption of these TM can pose to consumers. Minerals identified include hematite, cassiterite and whewellite. Bioaccessibility in gastric phase was generally higher than intestinal phase. For instance, As was 80% in the gastric phase and 44% in the intestinal phase. The research revealed potential risks associated with TM consumption. There is the need for national regulatory institutions to strengthen quality control and enforcement on TM in order to demonstrate their integrity and ensure consumer protection of these medicines wherever they are consumed.