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Commercial herbal medicines used as African traditional medicines: Ngoma Herbal Tonic Immune Booster interferes with a rapid urine drug screening test

M.E. Mothibe
E Osuch
C.P. Kahler-Venter


Background. The prevalent use of African traditional medicine by the general public has been reported. With commercialisation and marketing, some of the herbal medicines (HMs) used are readily available over the counter, most of them promoted as immune boosters. These commercial HMs have not been taken through clinical trials and other tests that would validate their composition and safety, and other properties such as their effect on laboratory diagnostic tests.

Objective. To investigate the cross-reactivity of selected HMs with commonly tested drugs of abuse (DoA) using a qualitative rapid urinalysis assay.

Methods. The six HMs selected were bought from local pharmacies. A rapid urinalysis screening test was performed with the Instant View Multi-Drug of Abuse Test kit from Labstix Diagnostics. Drug-free urine (DFU) was pooled from samples donated by healthy volunteers. Urine samples that had tested positive for DoA were obtained from a pharmacology laboratory. Aliquots of the urine samples were spiked with the HMs in neat and diluted form, and tested at various time intervals.

Results. The results for the DFU samples spiked with the HMs remained negative. There were no significant changes in pH or specific gravity of the samples. The results of samples that had tested positive for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) were not altered by five of the HMs when spiked at 40% v/v. The HM Ngoma Herbal Tonic Immune Booster caused false-negative results for the THC test.

Conclusion. An important finding is that the herbal mixture Ngoma Herbal Tonic Immune Booster caused false-negative results for the cannabinoid screening test. It adds to the list of substances that may be potential adulterants of urine for screening tests.

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eISSN: 2078-5135
print ISSN: 0256-9574