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  • 1 Instituto de Pesquisas Energéticas e Nucleares, IPEN-CNEN/SP, Avenida Professor Lineu Prestes 2242, São Paulo, SP CEP 05508-000, Brazil
  • 2 Faculdade de Ciências Farmacêuticas, Universidade de São Paulo, Avenida Professor Lineu Prestes, 580, São Paulo, SP CEP 05508-000, Brazil
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In Brazil, the use of herbal medicines is very popular due to its immense flora, cultural aspects and to the popular belief that herbs, which are of natural origin, are safe and without undesirable side effects. Aside from that public interest in natural therapies, the use of herbal medicines has increased expressively due to the high cost of synthetic medicines. In this study, elemental compositions of herbal medicines from the species Ginseng, Ginkgo biloba, Centella asiatica, Mulberry and Aloe vera supplied by different suppliers were evaluated by neutron activation analysis. The concentrations of As, Ba, Br, Ca, Cl, Co, Cr, Cs, Fe, Hf, K, Mg, Mn, Na, Rb, Sb, Sc, Th, Zn and some lanthanides were determined in these samples. Comparisons made between the results indicated differences in their elemental contents depending on the plant species, origins of the samples and the age of the leaves. The results also showed that the herbal medicines contain elements such as Ca, Co, K, Fe, Mg and Zn known as essential to humans and for treatment and prevention of diseases. Toxic elements such as Hg, Cd and Cu were not detected. Elements As and Sb were detected in some samples but at very low concentrations at the μg kg−1 levels. Herbal medicine results were also compared to literature values. Biological certified reference material was analyzed for quality control of the analytical results.