Heavy metal content and health risk assessment of commonly patronized herbal medicinal preparations from the Kumasi metropolis of Ghana

  • Frank Adusei-Mensah
  • David Kofi Essumang
  • Richard Osei Agjei
  • Jussi Kauhanen
  • Carina Tikkanen-Kaukanen
  • Martins EkorEmail author
Research Article



To address the question of whether users of herbal products (HPs) are exposed to harmful contaminants, we evaluated six HPs mostly patronized in Kumasi for heavy metal contamination and assessed the health risk associated with their use. This study is one of the first safety evaluation studies on finished multiherbal products in the region.


Three antimalarial, two antidiabetic and one antihypertensive HPs were selected after a mini-survey and coded randomly as HP A-F. The HPs were acid digested for quantitative analysis of heavy metals using Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometer. Hg quantification was carried out using cold vapour atomic absorption spectroscopy.


The cancer risk estimation values for the carcinogenic metals ranged between 1.54 × 10−9 to 3.73 × 10−4 and were all within acceptable limits. The non-cancer health risk evaluation revealed that, some of the products pose health risk to consumers. The estimated daily intake (EDI) for As in HPF was 2.48 × 10−4 mg/kg/day compared to the reference limit of 1.67 × 10−4 mg/kg/day. HPF also had high hazard index (HI) of 5.70 (HI >1) in children as compared to 1.68 (HI >1) in adults showing a 3.4 folds increase in the health risk among the former.


The six polyherbal products exhibited carcinogenic risk within acceptable limits. Although, the non-carcinogenic risk assessment of products HPA to HPE suggests safety, this can only be ascertained after further characterization of their health risks in detailed chronic toxicity studies. The high HI for product HPF suggests health risk for consumers of this product.


Cancer risk Estimated daily intake Exposure Hazard index Hazard quotient Heavy metals Herbal medicinal products Risk assessment 



The authors acknowledge Mr. Isaac Tabiri Henneh and Joseph Acqua-Mills of the Department of Pharmacology, School of Medical Sciences, and University of Cape Coast, Ghana for their enormous and selfless contributions towards this project.


This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest in carrying out any part of this work.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Frank Adusei-Mensah
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • David Kofi Essumang
    • 4
  • Richard Osei Agjei
    • 5
  • Jussi Kauhanen
    • 3
  • Carina Tikkanen-Kaukanen
    • 6
  • Martins Ekor
    • 7
    Email author
  1. 1.School of Pharmacy, Faculty of Health SciencesUniversity of Eastern FinlandKuopioFinland
  2. 2.School of Public HealthTexila American UniversityGeorgetownGuyana
  3. 3.Institute of Public Health and Clinical Nutrition, School of MedicineUniversity of Eastern FinlandKuopioFinland
  4. 4.Department of Chemistry, School of Physical SciencesUniversity of Cape CoastCape CoastGhana
  5. 5.Department of ChemistryThe University of Eastern FinlandJoensuu CampusFinland
  6. 6.Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science and Ruralia InstituteUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  7. 7.Department of Pharmacology, School of Medical SciencesUniversity of Cape CoastCape CoastGhana

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