Listed in Issue 236


LEVINE and COLLEAGUES,  (1)Department of Medical Toxicology, Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center, Phoenix,  AZ, USA. examined the prevalence of heavy metal contaminants sold at Yerberia stores in the southwest USA.


Complementary and alternative medications, including the use of herbal medications, have become quite popular in the USA. Yerberias are found throughout the southwest and specialize in selling Hispanic herbal products. The products sold in these stores are not regulated by any governmental agency.


Previous reports have found Ayurvedic medications contain high levels of lead, mercury, and arsenic. The primary purpose of this study is to examine the prevalence of heavy metal contaminants sold at Yerberia stores in the southwest. Yerberias in the Phoenix, Arizona area were identified via search of an on-line search engine using the words "Yerberia Phoenix." Every second store was selected, and products were purchased using a standard script. The products were subsequently analyzed for mercury, lead, and arsenic.


The main outcome is the prevalence of heavy metal content in over-the-counter ‘cold’ medications purchased at a Yerberia. Twenty-two samples were purchased. One product contained pure camphor (2-camphone) and was subsequently not further analyzed. Of the 21 samples analyzed, lead was found in 4/21 (19.4 %). Arsenic and mercury were in 1/21 (4.8 %) each. Because two samples contained two heavy metals, the total prevalence of heavy metals was 4/21 (19.4).


Heavy metal contaminants are commonly encountered in over-the-counter herbal "cold" medications purchased at Yerberias in the southwest.


Levine M(1), Mihalic J, Ruha AM, French RN, Brooks DE. Heavy metal contaminants in yerberia shop products.  J Med Toxicol. ;9(1): 21-4. doi: 10.1007/s13181-012-0231-5. Mar 2013.

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