Biological Trace Element Research

, Volume 156, Issue 1–3, pp 288–297 | Cite as

Toxic Element Profiles in Selected Medicinal Plants Growing on Serpentines in Bulgaria

  • Dolja PavlovaEmail author
  • Irina Karadjova


Populations of medicinal plants growing on serpentines and their respective soils were analyzed for Fe, Ni, Mn, Cr, Co, Cd, Cu, Zn, and Pb using inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectrometry. Aqua regia extraction and 0.43 M acetic acid extraction were used for the quantification of pseudototal and bioavailable fractions, respectively, of elements in soil and nitric acid digestion for determination of total element content in plants. Screening was performed to (1) document levels of toxic metals in herbs extensively used in preparation of products and standardized extracts, (2) compare accumulation abilities of ferns and seed plants, and (3) estimate correlations between metal content in plants and their soils. The toxic element content of plants varied from site to site on a large scale. The concentrations of Fe and Ni were elevated while those of Cu, Zn, and Pb were close to average values usually found in plants. The highest concentrations for almost all elements were measured in both Teucrium species. Specific differences in metal accumulation between ferns and seed plants were not recorded. The investigated species are not hyperaccumulators but can accumulate toxic elements, in some cases exceeding permissible levels proposed by the World Health Organization and European Pharmacopoeia. The harvesting of medicinal plants from serpentines could be hazardous to humans.


Medicinal plants Serpentine Toxic metals Bulgaria 



The research was realized within Project TK-02/39/2009 supported by the National Research Fund at the Ministry of Education Youth and Science in Sofia, Bulgaria. Both anonymous reviewers provided useful suggestions and comments to improve the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Botany, Faculty of BiologyUniversity of SofiaSofiaBulgaria
  2. 2.Department of Analytical Chemistry, Faculty of Chemistry and PharmacyUniversity of SofiaSofiaBulgaria

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