Determination of non-toxic and potentially toxic elements concentration and antioxidant capacity in selected natural and essential oils with high market values

<p>Natural oils (NOs) and essential oils (EOs) are widely used in the food and beverage, medical, aromatherapy and cosmetic industries, but little is known about their elemental composition or antioxidant ability. Microwave-assisted acid digestion and inductively coupled plasma-optical emission spectroscopy were used to determine the non-toxic elements (Al, Ca, Cu, Fe, K, Mg, Na, Se and Zn) and potentially toxic elements (As, Cr, Cd, Mn, Ni and Pb) concentrations in 13 selected NOs and EOs. The per cent recoveries of laboratory-fortified blanks analysed for quality control were 94–110%. The elemental concentrations varied widely in NO and EO samples, as demonstrated by the large standard deviation obtained for some elements. The average levels of non-toxic elements (Al (14.5 ± 3.7 μg/g); Ca (278 ± 138 μg/g); Cu (7 ± 14 μg/g); Fe (16 ± 5 μg/g); K (36 ± 31 μg/g); Mg (56 ± 27 μg/g); Na (266 ± 277 μg/g); Se (0.7 ± 0.3 μg/g) and Zn (6.1 ± 2.6 μg/g)) were determined in NOs and EOs. Comparatively, low levels of potentially toxic elements (As (0.1 ± 0.2 μg/g); Cd (0.1 ± 0.0 μg/g); Cr (0.2 ± 0.1 μg/g); Mn (0.8 ± 0.1 μg/g); Ni (4.5 ± 2.2 μg/g); and Pb (0.3 ± 0.2 μg/g)) were obtained in the oils. Principal component analysis (PCA) revealed that the first two principal components explained 100% of the variability in the elemental concentrations. Na, Ca, Mg and K were the main contributors to PCA. Non-toxic element pairs were strongly correlated (<i>R</i><sup>2</sup> > 0.9440) indicating a common source in these oils, but toxic element pairs were poorly correlated. Although toxic element concentrations were low, routine monitoring in oils is recommended. The antioxidant ability of NOs and EOs to potentially reduce free radicals, which are often involved in several degenerative diseases, such as ageing, stroke, diabetes and cancers was determined by DPPH (2,2-di(4-<i>tert</i>-octylphenyl)-1-picrylhydrazyl) free radical scavenging assay and ultraviolet-visible spectroscopy. Jasmine, castor and tea tree lemon oils were the best antioxidants. The oils in this study have the potential to replace artificial antioxidants used in foods, cosmetics and other products.</p>