Mutagenic Potential of the Condiments, Ginger and Turmeric
Since the early work of Kihlman and Levan (1949) which demonstrated that caffeine induces chromosomal alterations in plants, other reports are available to show that food additives, edible fats, insecticides etc. could be mutagenic (Sax and Sax 1968 , Hollaender 1971 , Kihlman et al. 1974 . The present work was under taken to study the mutagenic effects, if any of ginger and turmeric which have been used as condiments in culinary preparations from time immemmorial. Ginger is obtained from the
... izomes of the ginger plant (Zingiber officinale) which contain starch, gums, an oleoresin gingerin and an essential oil which imparts the aroma. The tubers of Curcuma longa form the turmeric. Ginger is used in culinary pre parations for flavouring beverages such as ginger-ale and ginger-beer and occasional ly in medicines. Materials and methods Extracts of fresh rhizomes of ginger and turmeric were prepared by crushing the rhizomes in a mortar. The extract thus obtained was diluted to desired con centrations, using distilled water. Germinating bulbs of Allium cepa were placed in vials containing the required concentrations of the extract so that the roots were immersed in the extract. Test experiments showed that concentrations of the extracts of ginger and turmeric, above 4%, were toxic and hence the effects of 4%, 2%, 1 and 0.5% solutions of the extract were studied. Growing roots of onion were treated for five hours. After treatment the roots were washed in distilled water and fixed a 3:1 solution of alcohol and acetic acid. Cytological studies were conducted, using hematoxylin stain. Roots fixed from the same bulbs before treatment served as controls. Observations Effects of extracts of ginger Control materials of Allium cepa (2n=16) showed normal divisions in root tip cells though abnormalities were encountered occasionally. In the samples treated with 4% concentrations of the extract, chromosome breakages were observed in large frequencies (Fig. 1) . C-mitosis was observed in 2% and 4% concentrations of the extract (Table 1) .