Uptake of Cd, Pb, and Ni by Origanum syriacum produced in Lebanon

  • Razan Dbaibo
  • Isam BashourEmail author
  • Shady Hamadeh
  • Imad Toufeili
Original Paper


Trace metals are found naturally in soil. However, the increase in industrial and agricultural polluting activities has increased trace metal contamination and raised high concerns in the public health sector. The study was conducted on Origanum syriacum, one of the most consumed herbs in the Middle East, and was divided into three parts. (1) Pot experiment: to study the effect of Cd, Pb, or Ni levels in soil on their uptake by O. syriacum. (2) Field samples: collected from major agricultural regions in Lebanon to analyze Cd, Pb, and Ni concentrations in soil and leaves. (3) Sale outlets samples: to measure the levels of Cd, Pb, and Ni in O. syriacum tissues in the market. Results showed that there was a positive correlation between levels of Cd, Pb, and Ni in soil and those in O. syriacum tissues. None of the field samples contained Pb or Ni that exceeded the maximum allowable limits (MAL). Three samples collected from heavily poultry-manured soil contained Cd higher than the MAL. Samples collected from sale outlets did not exceed the MAL for Ni but two exceeded the MAL for Cd and one for Pb. Trace metal contamination is not a major concern in O. syriacum produced in Lebanon. Only one mixture sample from a sale outlet was higher in Pb than the MAL and three samples from heavily manured fields exceeded the MAL for Cd.


Zaatar Thyme Trace metal Heavy metal Environmental pollutants 



American Herbal Products Association


Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry


American University of Beirut


Body weight


Diethylenetriaminepentaacetic acid




European Food Safety Authority


Environmental Protection Agency


Food and Agricultural Organization


Food and Drug Administration




Joint Expert Committee for Food Additives


Maximum allowable limits


Middle East and North Africa


Trace Elements






World Health Organization





Thanks go to Ms. Rania Shatila, Laboratory Manager, and the KAS CRSL staff for their assistance in using the atomic absorption spectrophotometer (AAS) for elemental analysis.


  1. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). (2005). Toxicological profile for nickel. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service.
  2. American Herbal Products Association (AHPA). (2009). Heavy metals: Analysis and limits in herbal dietary supplements. AHPA.
  3. Bashour, I., & Sayegh, A. (2007). Methods of analysis for soils of arid and semi-arid regions. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.Google Scholar
  4. Benton Jones, J., Jr. (2001). Laboratory guide for conducting soil tests and plant analysis. Boca Raton: CRC Press. Scholar
  5. CODEX. (2009). CODEX general standard for contaminants and toxins in food and feed (CODEX STAN 193-1995).
  6. European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). (2015). Scientific opinion on the risks to public health related to the presence of nickel in food and drinking water. EFSA Journal, 13(2), 4002.Google Scholar
  7. Ezeabara, C. A., Okanume, O. E., Emeka, A. N., Okeke, C. U., & Mbaekwe, E. I. (2014). Heavy metal contamination of herbal drugs: Implication for human health—A review. International Journal of Tropical Disease and Health, 4(10), 1044–1058.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Irshad, M., Malik, A. H., Shaukat, S., Mushtaq, S., & Ashraf, M. (2013). Characterization of heavy metals in livestock manures. Polish Journal of Environmental Studies, 22(4), 1257–1262.Google Scholar
  9. Kabata-Pendias, A. (2001). Trace elements in soils and plants. Boca Raton: CRC Press.Google Scholar
  10. Kassaify, Z., Gerges, D. D., Jaber, L. S., Hamadeh, S. K., Aoun Saliba, N., Talhouk, S. N., et al. (2008). Bioactivity of Origanum syriacum essential oil against Candida albicans. Journal of Herbs, Spices and Medicinal Plants, 14(3–4), 185–187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Lindsay, W. L., & Norvell, W. A. (1978). Development of DTPA soil test for zinc, iron, manganese, and copper. Soil Science Society of America Journal, 42, 421–428.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Lukas, B., Schmiderer, C., Franz, C., & Novak, J. (2009). Composition of essential oil compounds from different Syrian populations of Origanum syriacum L. (Lamiaceae). Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 57(4), 1362–1365.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Lydakis-Simantiris, N., Fabian, M., & Skoula, M. (2016). Cultivation of medicinal and aromatic plants in heavy metal contaminated soils. Global Nest Journal, 18(630), 630–642.Google Scholar
  14. Mama’s Lebanese Kitchen. (2011). Zaatar recipe: Wild thyme herbal mix.
  15. Naser, H. M., Sultana, S., Mahmud, N. U., Gomes, R., & Noor, S. (2011). Heavy metal levels in vegetables with growth stage and plant species variations. Bangladesh Journal of Agricultural Research, 36, 563–574.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Nordberg, G., Bernard, A., Diamond, G., Duffus, J. H., Illing, P., Nordberg, M., et al. (2018). Risk assessment of effects of cadmium on human health (IUPAC Technical Report). Pure and Applied Chemistry, 90(4), 755–808.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Schoeters, G., Den Hond, E., Zuurbier, M., Naginiene, R., Hazel, P., Stilianakis, N., et al. (2006). Cadmium and children: Exposure and health effects. Acta Paediatrica, 95, 50–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Smolders, E. (2001). Cadmium uptake by plants. International Journal of Occupational Medicine and Environmental Health, 14(2), 177–183.Google Scholar
  19. Su, C. (2014). A review on heavy metal contamination in the soil worldwide: Situation, impact and remediation techniques. Environmental Skeptics and Critics, 3, 24–38.Google Scholar
  20. Tchounwou, P. B., Yedjou, C. G., Patlolla, A. K., & Sutton, D. J. (2012). Heavy metal toxicity and the environment. Molecular, Clinical and Environmental Toxicology, 101, 133–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. World Health Organization. (2007). WHO guidelines for assessing quality of herbal medicines with reference to contaminants and residues. World Health Organization.

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Razan Dbaibo
    • 1
  • Isam Bashour
    • 1
    Email author
  • Shady Hamadeh
    • 1
  • Imad Toufeili
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Agriculture, Faculty of Agricultural and Food SciencesAmerican University of BeirutBeirutLebanon
  2. 2.Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences, Faculty of Agricultural and Food SciencesAmerican University of BeirutBeirutLebanon

Personalised recommendations