Background: Herbal distillates have been used as beverages, for flavoring, or as phytomedicines in many countries for a long time. Recently, the occurrence of blindness after drinking herbal distillates has created concerns in Iran. The aim of this study was to determine the concentrations of methanol in herbal distillates produced in Iran.
Methods: Eighty-four most commonly used herbal distillates purchased from herbal distillate factories were analyzed for methanol contents by gas chromatography and flame ionization detection, with ethanol as internal standard.
Results: In 15 herbal distillates, the methanol concentration was below the limit of quantitation. The methanol concentrations in all samples ranged from 43 to 277 mg/L. Forty-five samples contained methanol in excess of the Iranian standard. The maximum concentration was found in an herbal distillate of Mentha piperita (factory E) (277±12), and the minimum in a distillate of Carum carvi (factory B) (42.6 ± 0.5).
Conclusions: Since the 45 Iranian herbal distillates containing methanol levels were beyond the legal limits according to the Iranian standard, it seems necessary to monitor the amount of methanol and give a warning to watch out for the latent risk problem of methanol uptake, and establish a definitive relationship between the degree of intoxication observed and the accumulation of methanol in the blood.
The authors are thankful to the Vice Chancellor of Research, Mashhad University of Medical Sciences and Iran National Science Foundation (INSF) for financial support.
Author contributions: All the authors have accepted responsibility for the entire content of this submitted manuscript and approved submission.
Research funding: None declared.
Employment or leadership: None declared.
Honorarium: None declared.
Competing interests: The funding organization(s) played no role in the study design; in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data; in the writing of the report; or in the decision to submit the report for publication.
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