Moulds and mycotoxins in herb tea and medicinal plants

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The level of toxigenic moulds and mycotoxins were analyzed in 62 samples of medicinal plant material and 11 herbal tea samples. The most predominant fungi detected were: Aspergillus, Penicillium, Mucor, Rhizopus, Absidia, Alternaria, Cladosporium and Trichoderma. Aspergillus flavus, a known producer of the aflatoxin mycotoxin, was present in 11 or 18% of the 62 medicinal plant samples and in 1 or 9% of the herbal tea samples. The medicinal plant samples, contaminated with A. flavus were also analyzed for the mycotoxins aflatoxin, ochratoxin and zearalenone; ochratoxin was found in one of the 7 samples analyzed. This study suggests that medicinal plant material and possibly herbal teas, if stored improperly allowing for mould growth, should be analyzed for mould and mycotoxin prior to use.

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