Vol.3, No.9, 542-544 (2011)
opyright © 2011 SciRes. Openly accessible at http://www.scirp.org/journal/HEALTH/
Trace element content of ginger and sage medicinal
plants from Algeria
Zohra Lamari*, Rachid Larbi, Benaouda Yagoubi
COMENA/Research Nuclear Center of Draria, NUR Reactor Division, Draria, Algeria; *Corresponding Author: zohralamari@yahoo.fr
Received 14 January 2010; revised 5 February 2010; accepted 10 March 2010.
Instrumental Neutron Activation Analysis has
been used to make a multi-elemental determi-
nation in the Zingiber officinalis and Salvia offi-
cinalis, plants used in traditional medicine
therapy in Algeria and in most countries. The
concentrations of five elements Co, Cr, Sc, Sb
and Rb have been determined by long irradia-
tion time with 2.7E13 n·cm2·s1 thermal flux us-
ing a NUR Algerian Reactor. All these elements
are present at trace levels. Their implications in
Human health are herein discussed. The quality
control of the measurements have been evalu-
ated by analysing a HAY (V-10) IAEA-Standard
reference material.
Keywords: Medicinal Plants; Trace El ement;
Biological Effects; INAA
Sage and ginger are folk medicinal plants adminis-
tered in many ways in several countries for their virtues.
Partly as food additives as well as treatments for a lot of
diseases. In the forms of infusion, in liquid or dry ex-
tracts, sage has been used to treat inflammations of mu-
cous membranes such as pharyngitis caused by a viral
infection [1]. In asso ciation with other plants it has been
used to cure lesions caused by labial herpes [2]. One (01)
g per day sage in the form of extract would be advanta-
geous for the illness known as Alzheimers. It has also
been used for calming the agitation of patients [3]. Some
authors reported that the administering of dried sage
sheets made it possible to improve memory, good hu-
mour and reduce anxiety [4] in patients, as well. Sage as
a dry aqueous extract in the proportion of 440 mg per
day or an infusion of 4.5 g per day also has had an anti
sudorific action [5]. Another study reportedly concern-
ing 30 women showed that an extract containing sage
and alfalfa relieved the hot flashes of menopause [6].
Observations in the laboratory has shown the antibacte-
rial and antiviral properties of sage [7,8]. We attributed
these anti inflammatory and neuroprotectrice effects to
its rosmarinic acid content [5,9]. Other of its organic
compounds such as cafeic acid, confer an antioxidant
action. Ginger was one of the first Eastern spices to be
consumed in Europe. Its rhizome is rich in minerals but
its low concentration of sodi um will adap t it perfectly to
a regime without salt. It will aid in digestion and will act
against motion sickness, tran sport pain as well as nausea
and the vomiting related to pregnancy. In addition, the
antioxidants which it contains would intervene in the
prevention of the cardiovascular diseases and certain
cancers. This plant can be consumed fresh, in powder
form or crystallized in sugar.
The objective of this work is to evaluate the mineral
composition of these plants which would be a great ad-
vantage in human health. Although the classification of
the elements is rather difficult, some authors classify the
elements as: essential; probably essential; and toxic
[10-14]. The elements known as essential are: Co, Cr, Sc
and Rb which play a big role in the constitution and
maintenance of good health. However, these elements
can be toxic to the body when large amounts are taken
[15]. Because of this potential danger, administered
doses are recommended by several international organi-
zations such as FAO, WHO and the United States Na-
tional Research Council [1 0,16].
2.1. Medicinal Plants Collection
Sage was collected from the Algerian national bo-
tanical garden (Jardin d’Essai El-Hamma) in Algiers.
Ginger was purchased in the fresh form of rhizome from
a local herbalist. Each plant was washed in de-mineral-
ized water, then the sheets of sage and the roots of the
ginger were dried using an IR lamp for one week. The
dried samples were then ground into fine powder in an
automatic agate mortar.
Z. Lamari et al. / Health 3 (2011) 542-544
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. Openly accessible at http://www.scirp.org/journal/HEALTH/
2.2. Elemental Determination by INAA
The powdered samples of ginger roots and sheets of
sage were individually packed in polyethylene pastilles
of twelve 12 mm diameters. These samples were treated
in association with certified standards (IAEA-SL-1,
IAEA-SOIL-7). Respectively, a lake sediment and a soil,
then irradiated in a NUR research reactor. For the INAA
analysis process, one irradiation sheme was carried out a
long irradiation time. Between 100 to 200 mg of samples
were weighed, put in aluminum capsules and irradiated
in the thermal column of NUR Reactor. Together with
standard reference materials, for six (06) hours with
2.7E13 n·cm2·s–1 thermal flux and 2.13E12 n·cm–2·s–1
epithermal flux. After decaying for fifteen (15) days
these samples were removed to appropriate containers
and counted for ten (10) hours and four (04) hours, re-
spectively for the samples and standards using a high
rate spectroscopy system.
A HpGe detector having a 10% relative efficiency and
a FWHM of 2.0 KeV for the 60Co 1332.5 keV gamma
ray line were used for the counting system. The meas-
urements for both samples and standards were repeated
after two weeks. The accuracy of the measurements has
been evaluated by analizing the biological reference ma-
terial AIEA-V-10 (Hay).
Table 1 shows the average concentration of five ele-
ments analized in the dried rhizome of ginger and dried
sheets of sage. These concentrations were reported with
standard deviations. Figure 1 shows the typical gamma
spectrum obtained for Zingiber officinalis and Salvia
The quality control of the measurement was estab-
lished from the results of analizing AIEA-V-10 (Hay)
standard reference material and as shown in Table 2.
For most of the elements the best agreement between
the measured values and the certified values was ob-
tained. Except for the cobalt, the certified value is a
double of the measured value. The elements f ound in th e
dried plants were: Co, Cr, Sb, Sc and Rb. All were pre-
sent at trace levels. The Co and Cr are essential compo-
nents for men and animals. The importance of cobalt is
that the components vitamin B12 and chromium are
known to be involved in glucose metabolism. It is a
beneficial nutrient but it can be Carcinogenic. That de-
pends on its amount and its chemical form [18]. A Federal
Table 1. Average elemental concentrations and standard de-
viations (µg/g) of the Zingiber officinalis and Salvia officinalis.
Element Zingiber Officina le Salvia Officinalis
Co 0.480 ± 0.045 0.845 ± 0.081
Cr 0.57 ± 0.12 1.67 ± 0.35
Sc 0.099 ± 0.012 0.520 ± 0.065
Sb 0.0240 ± 0.0025 0.107 ± 0.013
Rb 3.12 ± 0.27 6.430 ± 0.567
Table 2. Average elemental concentrations and standard de-
viations (µg/g) of the IAEA-certified material V10 (HAY).
V10 (Hay Powder)
Element Measured value Reported value [17]
Co 0.067 ± 0.007 0.13 ± 0.015
Cr 4.06 ± 1.15 6.5 ± 0.75
Sc 0.012 ± 0.002 0.014 ± 1.5 E-4
Rb 8.48 ± 0.82 7.6 ± 0.25
Sb *
*No reported value.
Figure 1. Typical long-lived spectrum induced by thermal neutrons for the Zingiber officinalis.
Z. Lamari et al. / Health 3 (2011) 542-544
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. Openly accessible at http://www.scirp.org/journal/HEALTH/
agency in the USA has prepared the toxicological profile
Although there are no reported physiological effects
of Rb; its accumulation in the body system could be det-
rimental to health [20]. The Sc is a rare element wh ich in
small quantities tends to accumulate in the liver when it
is absorbed. The antimony is naturally found in the en-
vironment and is used in medicine therapy for parasitic
infections, but persons who have taken too much of
these medicines will have health problems which will
make them more conscious of the dangers of this ele-
The INAA represen ts a good techn ique for analysis of
biological samples and determining trace elements. The
potentiel curative action of these herbs is linked to their
organic and mineral composition. Sage and ginger have
been used many times in Algeria in traditional medicine
therapy. They can be an excellent natural source of min-
eral trace elements intervening in physiological regula-
tions, but they sh ould be admin istered with pr ecaution to
avoid the bioaccumulation of these same elements
whose presence can be dangerous in maintaining good
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