Fractionation analysis and health risk assessment of heavy metals in six traditional Chinese medicines

  • Guanjun Nan
  • Xianxin Meng
  • Ning Song
  • Zhengzheng Liu
  • Yu Liu
  • Guangde YangEmail author
Research Article


Traditional Chinese medicines (TCMs) are widely used to treat various diseases in China and some countries, and TCM products are becoming increasingly available and popular worldwide. But TCMs are facing the challenge of heavy metal pollution. In this work, we examined the total contents and fractionations of Pb, Cd, Hg, and Cu in six TCMs (Angelicae Sinensis Radix (ASR), Chuanxiong Rhizoma (CR), Polygonati Rhizoma (PR), Astragali Radix (AR), Carthami Flos (CF), and Paeoniae Radix Rubra (PRR)) and evaluated the health risk of four heavy metals in these TCMs. The results showed that Cd, Pb, and Cu contents were considerably high and the amount of Cd in six TCMs, Pb in CR, ASR, AR, and CF, and Hg in ASR, PR, and PRR exceeded the limit values. The predominant fractions of Pb, Cd, and Cu were exchangeable and carbonate fractions in six TCMs; Hg mainly existed in organic and residual fractions. The average daily intake dose (ADD) and target hazard quotient (THQ) of Pb based on total content and total THQ of four heavy metals based on bioaccessible fractions in AR and PRR exceeded the safety guideline. These results indicated that the potential health risk could occur by taking these TCMs.


Heavy metals Fractionation analysis Health risk Traditional Chinese medicines 


Funding information

The research was financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 81373368 and 81973240).

Supplementary material

11356_2019_7558_MOESM1_ESM.docx (16 kb)
ESM (DOCX 16 kb)


  1. Alvarez EA, Mochon MC, Jimenez Sanchez JC, Ternero Rodriguez M (2002) Heavy metal extractable forms in sludge from wastewater treatment plants. Chemosphere 47:765–775. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Annan K, Dickson RA, Amponsah IK, Nooni IK (2013) The heavy metal contents of some selected medicinal plants sampled from different geographical locations. Pharm Res 5:103–108. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Arpadjan S, Celik G, Taskesen S, Gucer S (2008) Arsenic, cadmium and lead in medicinal herbs and their fractionation. Food Chem Toxicol 46:2871–2875. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bolan NS, Adriano DC, Mahimairaja S (2004) Distribution and bioavailability of trace elements in livestock and poultry manure by-products. Crit Rev Environ Sci Technol 34:291–338. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bolan S et al (2016) Speciation and bioavailability of lead in complementary medicines. Sci Total Environ 539:304–312. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bolan S, Kunhikrishnan A, Chowdhury S, Seshadri B, Naidu R, Ok YS (2017a) Comparative analysis of speciation and bioaccessibility of arsenic in rice grains and complementary medicines. Chemosphere 182:433–440. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bolan S, Kunhikrishnan A, Seshadri B, Choppala G, Naidu R, Bolan NS, Ok YS, Zhang M, Li CG, Li F, Noller B, Kirkham MB (2017b) Sources, distribution, bioavailability, toxicity, and risk assessment of heavy metal(loid)s in complementary medicines. Environ Int 108:103–118. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chinese Pharmacopoeia Committee (2015) Chinese Pharmacopoeia. China medicinal science and technology press. Beijing, ChinaGoogle Scholar
  9. Codex (1995) Joint Food and Agricultural Organisation/World Health Organisation (FAO/WHO) Expert Committee on Food Additives. Codex general standard for contaminants and toxins in food and feed, viewed 12 March 2014. 193e.pdf
  10. Dai QX, Ae N, Suzuki T, Rajkumar M, Fukunaga S, Fujitake N (2011) Assessment of potentially reactive pools of aluminum in Andisols using a five-step sequential extraction procedure. Soil Sci Plant Nutr 57:500–507. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Escudero LB, Maniero MA, Agostini E, Smichowski PN (2016) Biological substrates: green alternatives in trace elemental preconcentration and speciation analysis. Trac-Trend Anal Chem 80:531–546. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Filipiak-Szok A, Kurzawa M, Szlyk E (2015) Determination of toxic metals by ICP-MS in Asiatic and European medicinal plants and dietary supplements. J Trace Elem Med Biol 30:54–58. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Finžgar N, Tlustoš P, Leštan D (2007) Relationship of soil properties to fractionation, bioavailability and mobility of lead and zinc in soil. Plant Soil Environ 53:225–238. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hallenbeck WH (1993) Quantitative risk assessment for environmental and occupational health, 2nd edn. CRC Press, Boca RatonCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hsu LC, Liu YT, Tzou YM (2015) Comparison of the spectroscopic speciation and chemical fractionation of chromium in contaminated paddy soils. J Hazard Mater 296:230–238. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Huang WL, Bai Z, Jiao J, Yuan H, Bao Z, Chen S, Ding M, Liang Zet al. (2019) Distribution and chemical forms of cadmium in Coptis chinensis Franch. Determined by laser ablation ICP-MS, cell fractionation, and sequential extraction. Ecotoxicol Environ Saf 171:894–903. doi: CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Jeske-Kaczanowska A, Gworek B (2016) A comparative study of sequential extraction methods for identification of trace elements fractions (Cr, Ni, Pb, Cd) in urban soils from several parks. Przem Chem 95:412–419Google Scholar
  18. KavitaVerma, Pandey J (2019) Heavy metal accumulation in surface sediments of the Ganga River (India): speciation, fractionation, toxicity, and risk assessment. Environ Monit Assess 191:414. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kim D, Kim B, Yun E, Kim J, Chae Y, Park S (2013) Statistical quality control of total ash, acid-insoluble ash, loss on drying, and hazardous heavy metals contained in the component medicinal herbs of “Ssanghwatang”, a widely used oriental formula in Korea. J Nat Med-Tokyo 67:27–35. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kohzadi S, Shahmoradi B, Ghaderi E, Loqmani H, Maleki A (2019) Concentration, source, and potential human health risk of heavy metals in the commonly consumed medicinal plants. Biol Trace Elem Res 187:41–50. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Leung AY (2006) Traditional toxicity documentation of Chinese materia medica - an overview. Toxicol Pathol 34:319–326. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Li ZJ, Yue QY, Ni H, Gao BY (2011) Fractionation and potential risk of heavy metals in surface sediment of Nansi Lake, China. Desalin Water Treat 32:10–18. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Li HM, Qian X, Hu W, Wang YL, Gao HL (2013) Chemical speciation and human health risk of trace metals in urban street dusts from a metropolitan city, Nanjing, SE China. Sci Total Environ 456:212–221. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Li YY, Wang HB, Wang HJ, Yin F, Yang XY, Hu YJ (2014) Heavy metal pollution in vegetables grown in the vicinity of a multi-metal mining area in Gejiu, China: total concentrations, speciation analysis, and health risk. Environ Sci Pollut R 21:12569–12582. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Li J, Wang YB, Yang HF, Yu PX, Tang YY (2018) Five heavy metals accumulation and health risk in a traditional Chinese medicine Cortex Moutan collected from different sites in China. Hum Ecol Risk Assess 24:2288–2298. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Liu LH, Zhang Y, Yun ZJ, He B, Zhang QH, Hu LG, Jiang GB (2018) Speciation and bioaccessibility of arsenic in traditional Chinese medicines and assessment of its potential health risk. Sci Total Environ 619:1088–1097. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Luo JM, Ye YJ, Gao ZY, Wang YJ, Wang WF (2016) Trace element (Pb, Cd, and As) contamination in the sediments and organisms in Zhalong wetland, Northeastern China. Soil Sediment Contam 25:395–407. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Luo JY, Liu H, Gu SY, Wu JJ, Yang MH (2018) Speciation analysis of trace mercury and arsenic in 31 kinds of animal drugs and discussion about the limit standards. Acta Pharm Sin 53:1879–1886. Chinese) CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. MCPRC (Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China) (2005) Green standards of medicinal plants and preparations for foreign trade and economy vol WM/T 2–2004. MCPRC, BeijingGoogle Scholar
  30. Mester Z, Cremisini C, Ghiara E, Morabito R (1998) Comparison of two sequential extraction procedures for metal fractionation in sediment samples. Anal Chim Acta 359:133–142. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Nagarajan S, Sivaji K, Krishnaswamy S, Pemiah B, Rajan KS, Krishnan UM, Sethuraman S (2014) Safety and toxicity issues associated with lead-based traditional herbo-metallic preparations. J Ethnopharmacol 151:1–11. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Nemati K, Abu Bakar NK, Abas MR, Sobhanzadeh E (2011) Speciation of heavy metals by modified BCR sequential extraction procedure in different depths of sediments from Sungai Buloh, Selangor, Malaysia. J Hazard Mater 192:402–410. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Niazi NK, Singh B, Shah P (2011) Arsenic speciation and phytoavailability in contaminated soils using a sequential extraction procedure and XANES spectroscopy. Environ Sci Technol 45:7135–7142. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Ogunbanjo O, Onawumi O, Gbadamosi M, Ogunlana A, Anselm O (2016) Chemical speciation of some heavy metals and human health risk assessment in soil around two municipal dumpsites in Sagamu, Ogun state, Nigeria. Chem Speciat Bioavailab 28:142–151. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Okoro HK, Jimoh HA (2016) Speciation and determination of priority metals in sediments of Oyun River, Ilorin, Kwara, Nigeria. B Chem Soc Ethiopia 30:199–208. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Sah D, Verma PK, Kandikonda MK, Lakhani A (2019) Chemical fractionation, bioavailability, and health risks of heavy metals in fine particulate matter at a site in the Indo-Gangetic Plain, India. Environ Sci Pollut Res Int 26:19749–19762. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Saha N, Zaman MR (2013) Evaluation of possible health risks of heavy metals by consumption of foodstuffs available in the central market of Rajshahi City, Bangladesh. Environ Monit Assess 185:3867–3878. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Sungur A, Soylak M, Yilmaz S, Ozcan H (2016) Heavy metal mobility and potential availability in animal manure: using a sequential extraction procedure. J Mater Cycles Waste 18:563–572. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Templeton Douglas M, Ariese F, Cornelis R, Danielsson L-G, Muntau H, van Leeuwen Herman P, Lobinski R (2000) Guidelines for terms related to chemical speciation and fractionation of elements. Definitions, structural aspects, and methodological approaches (IUPAC recommendations 2000) vol 72. doi: CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Tessier A, Campbell PGC, Bisson M (1979) Sequential extraction procedure for the speciation of particulate. Trace-Metals Anal Chem 51:844-851. doi: CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Tokalioglu S, Kartal S, Elci L (2000) Determination of heavy metals and their speciation in lake sediments by flame atomic absorption spectrometry after a four-stage sequential extraction procedure. Anal Chim Acta 413:33–40. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. US EPA (1992) Guidelines for exposure assessment. United States Environmental Protection Agency, Fed Regist 57(104):22888-22938Google Scholar
  43. US EPA (2009) Risk-based concentration table. United States Environmental Protection Agency, Washington DC, PhiladelphiaGoogle Scholar
  44. Wang XL, Sato T, Xing BS, Tao S (2005) Health risks of heavy metals to the general public in Tianjin, China via consumption of vegetables and fish. Sci Total Environ 350:28–37. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Wang HS et al (2013) In vitro estimation of exposure of Hong Kong residents to mercury and methylmercury via consumption of market fishes. J Hazard Mater 15:387–393. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Wang L, Peng X, Fu H, Huang C, Li Y, Liu Z (2019a) Recent advances in the development of electrochemical aptasensors for detection of heavy metals in food. Biosens Bioelectron 147:111777. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Wang ZZ, Wang HB, Wang HJ, Li QC, Li Y (2019b) Heavy metal pollution and potential health risks of commercially available Chinese herbal medicines. Sci Total Environ 653:748–757. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Xu P, Sun CX, Ye XZ, Xiao WD, Zhang Q, Wang Q (2016) The effect of biochar and crop straws on heavy metal bioavailability and plant accumulation in a Cd and Pb polluted soil. Ecotox Environ Safe 132:94–100. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Yang GD, Xu J, Zheng J, Xu X, Wang W, Xu L, Chen G, Fu Fet al. (2009) Speciation analysis of arsenic in Mya arenaria Linnaeus and shrimp with capillary electrophoresis-inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. Talanta 78:471–476. doi: CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Yang GD, Zheng JP, Chen L, Lin Q, Zhao YQ, Wu YN, Fu FF (2012) Speciation analysis and characterisation of arsenic in lavers collected from coastal waters of Fujian, South-Eastern China. Food Chem 132:1480–1485. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Yi GH, Peng PH (2007) Absorption and accumulation characteristics of the rhizome of genuine Chinese medicine material Ligusticum chuanxiong Hort. Produced in Sichuan province to heavy metals in soil. J Anhui Agric Sci 35:10744–10745 (in Chinese) Google Scholar
  52. Yu I-S, Lee JS, Kim SD, Kim YH, Park HW, Ryu HJ, Lee JH, Lee JM, Jung K, Na C, Joung JY, Son CGet al. (2017) Monitoring heavy metals, residual agricultural chemicals and sulfites in traditional herbal decoctions. BMC Complement Altern Med 17:154-159. doi:
  53. Zhang TH, Shan XQ, Li FL (1998) Comparison of two sequential extraction procedures for speciation analysis of metals in soils and plant availability. Commun Soil Sci Plan 29:1023–1034. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Zhang JH, Wider B, Shang HC, Li XM, Ernst E (2012) Quality of herbal medicines: challenges and solutions. Complement Ther Med 20:100–106. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Zhou L, Wang S, Hao Q, Kang L, Kang C, Yang J, Yang W, Jiang J, Huang LQ, Guo L et al (2018) Bioaccessibility and risk assessment of heavy metals, and analysis of arsenic speciation in Cordyceps sinensis. Chin Med 13:40. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Zhu FK, Wang XJ, Fan WX, Qu L, Qiao MY, Yao SW (2013) Assessment of potential health risk for arsenic and heavy metals in some herbal flowers and their infusions consumed in China. Environ Monit Assess 185:3909–3916. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Zimmerman AJ, Weindorf DC (2010) Heavy metal and trace metal analysis in soil by sequential extraction: a review of procedures. Int J Anal Chem 2010:387803. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Zuo TT, Li YL, He HZ, Jin HY, Zhang L, Sun L, Gao F, Wang Q, Shen YJ, Ma SC, He LCet al. (2019) Refined assessment of heavy metal-associated health risk due to the consumption of traditional animal medicines in humans. Environ Monit Assess 191:171-112. doi:

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PharmacyXi’an Jiaotong UniversityXi’anChina

Personalised recommendations