Assessment for the presence of aflatoxins and heavy metals in commercially available herbal medicines.
It is estimated that about 70-80% of the world's population relies on non-conventional medicine, mainly of herbal origin. The idea that just because herbal medicine products come from natural sources they are completely safe is dangerously false; they are sometimes contaminated either intentionally or unintentionally in a variety of ways with toxic heavy metals, pesticide residues and microbes which impose serious health risks to consumers. It is therefore critical to screen herbal medicine for heavy metals and aflatoxins in order to ensure that they are safe for use. The purpose of this study was to assess for the presence of heavy metals and aflatoxins and thus determine the safety of commercially available herbal medicine in the Kenyan market since it is gaining popularity especially in the treatment of chronic illnesses. It was a laboratory based analytical study. Nine samples were obtained by convenient sampling of herbal medicine from a herbal shop and screening was carried out using Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy for heavy metals and Thin Layer Chromatography for aflatoxins. The results obtained were be fed into an Excel package for Data analysis and presented in the form of tables, histograms and pie charts. From the results none ofthe samples were contaminated with aflatoxins, cadmium or copper. A significant percentage (66.7%) of the samples was contaminated with negligible amounts of lead. These findings showed that commercially available herbal medicines lack toxic levels of heavy metals and aflatoxins. Further research is required on a larger sample size which will be a clear reflection on the prevalence of the contaminants in herbal medicine in Kenya and ascertain for sure that these remedies are safe for use.