Uptake of pharmaceuticals by plants grown under hydroponic conditions and natural occurring plant species: A review

Sci Total Environ. 2018 Sep 15:636:477-486. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.04.297. Epub 2018 Apr 27.


Sizeable amount of research has been conducted on the possible uptake of pharmaceuticals by plants from contaminated soil and water used for irrigation of crops. In most cases, pharmaceuticals are taken by roots and translocated into various tissues by transpiration and diffusion. Due to the plant uptake, the occurrence of pharmaceuticals in food sources such as vegetables is a public concern. Few review papers focusing on the uptake of pharmaceuticals, in particular antibiotics, and their translocation in plant tissues have been published. In the current review paper, the work conducted on the uptake of pharmaceuticals belonging to different therapeutic groups such as antibiotics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, β-blockers and antiepileptics is reviewed. Such work includes the occurrence of pharmaceuticals in plants, translocation once taken by plants, toxicity studies as well as implications and future studies. Furthermore, the advantages and drawbacks associated with the detection and uptake of these pharmaceuticals by plants are discussed. In addition, the physico-chemical properties that could influence the plant uptake of pharmaceuticals are deliberated.

Keywords: Pharmaceuticals; Plant uptake; Toxicity; Translocation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biological Transport
  • Crops, Agricultural / metabolism*
  • Hydroponics*
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / metabolism*
  • Plant Roots
  • Vegetables
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / metabolism*


  • Pharmaceutical Preparations
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical