Epidemiological studies over the past decades have documented the importance of trace elements in human health and disease. Prompted by this development the pharmaceutical companies have been marketing as general tonics a variety of formulations containing combinations of different trace element contents.
The importance of herbal medicines in the health care system of the larger section of the worldsâ€™ population, the developing countries, is also an undeniable fact. They form and inseparable part of the traditional systems of medicine and in many cases bridge the gap between the availability of and demand for modern medicine.
Thirty eight indigenous medicinal plants, which are used in the traditional system of medicine (Unani) Practiced in Pakistan, were investigated as potential natural sources of trace elements. The medicinal plant samples we analyzed for calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium and zinc.
Calculated on the basic of lg dry plant sample, the trace element concentrations ranged between 0.967 to 104.126mg for calcium; 0.0004 to 0.024mg for copper; 0.028 to 0.881mg for iron; 0.0845 to 9.86 mg for magnesium; 0.002 to 0.072mg for manganese; 3.287 to 89.114mg for potassium; 0.124 to 12.30 mg for sodium, and , 0.0005 to 0.0317 mg for zinc.
Twelve pharmaceutical multimineral formulations, marketed in Pakistan by various manufacturers, were also selected for determining their calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium and zinc contents. As compared to the trace element contents indicated on the products, labels, the results of the present work were generally on the higher side for calcium and magnesium but in contrast were lower for iron, although nearly of the same magnitude as comparable labeled contents, were somewhat lower. The results for potassium were for the most part consistent with the labeled contents. The possible reason for the variations are discussed.
The effects of trace element contents of four medicinal plants and a multimineral pharmaceutical product were studied on rabbit serum after oral administration of calculated doses. The concentrations of calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium and zinc in the serum were measured as a function of time. The pattern of change in the trace element levels in the serum suggests that though present in much weaker concentrations the naturally occurring trace elements of plant origin compare favorably with those contained in the pharmaceutical formulation. Pending further studies in human subjects the results of this study are suggestive of the usefulness of plant derived trace elements.