Electronic Journal of Polish Agricultural Universities (EJPAU) founded by all Polish Agriculture Universities presents original papers and review articles relevant to all aspects of agricultural sciences. It is target for persons working both in science and industry,regulatory agencies or teaching in agricultural sector. Covered by IFIS Publishing (Food Science and Technology Abstracts), ELSEVIER Science - Food Science and Technology Program, CAS USA (Chemical Abstracts), CABI Publishing UK and ALPSP (Association of Learned and Professional Society Publisher - full membership). Presented in the Master List of Thomson ISI.
Volume 8
Issue 3
Veterinary Medicine
Available Online: http://www.ejpau.media.pl/volume8/issue3/art-22.html


Bożena Króliczewska1, Wojciech Zawadzki2
1 Department of Animal Physiology, Wrocław University of Environmental and Life Sciences, Poland
2 Department of Animal Physiology and Biostructure, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Wrocław University of Environmental and Life Sciences, Poland



One-day old 120 Hubbard HI-Y male broiler chickens were assigned to four groups of 30 each and fed either a basal diet (control) or a basal diet supplemented with 5, 10 and 15 g per kg of diet (wt/wt) of ground root of skullcap. After three and six weeks of the experiment, blood samples from ten birds in each group were taken from v. jugularis. In the blood serum, calcium (Ca), inorganic phosphorus (P), magnesium (Mg) and iron (Fe) levels were measured. The essential differences in the concentration of calcium and iron in the blood serum were shown in growing chicken broilers. The highest Fe concentration was observed in the group fed the highest amount of ground skullcap root (15 g /per kg of diet) in the 42nd day of birds’ life. The concentration of iron increased in relation to the control group by approximately 32 %. Moreover, in the 42nd day of birds’ life, inorganic P and Mg concentration were not found.

Key words: broiler chickens, skullcap root, calcium, inorganic phosphorus, magnesium, iron.


Numerous plants, first of all herbs, have a positive influence on the wholesomeness of birds and productive results. The state of birds’ health depends, among other things, on proper feeding. Applying plants (to poultry feeding), rich in active substances and having beneficial effects on the organisms, e.g. increasing health and immunity, showing antioxidative properties and regulating digestion processes, has been offered as an alternative for antibiotic growth promoters. It is connected with a tendency to increase productivity, and also with environmental protection and satisfying consumers’ needs concerning safe food [5, 17].

The addition of herbs has a positive influence on some physiological indicators, egg production and quality as well as carcass and meat of hens and broiler chickens [5, 11, 13, 19]. Moreover, including natural additions into the chickens’ diet, such as plants, is connected with their influence on the increase of absorption of mineral components, which are necessary for the organism [7]. Mineral components, e.g. calcium and phosphorus, enter the composition of tissues and body fluids, fulfilling the body-building function. Furthermore, they participate in the maintenance of homeostasis, pH, activating enzymes, vitamins and blood activity [9]. However, the effect of the substances included in plants on the organism is still unknown, therefore it is necessary to undertake this type of research.

The skullcap root (Scutellaria baicalensis Georgi) is a little-known plant in Poland, but grows perfectly well in our climate. The skullcap root is well-known and widely applied in China and Japan. It has a particularly high content of flavonoids, which serve as modifiers of inflammatory processes, e.g. against bacterial infections as well as having antiviral, antitumor and antioxidative properties, and lipid preventive and hepatoprotecive effects [2, 4, 6, 20]. The therapeutic activity of the root is connected with the presence of flavonoids, out of which the most important are: baicalin, bajcalein and wogonside. The quantity of these compounds in this plant is exceptionally large, on average 15-20 % of flavones are found in roots, 12-17 % in baicalin, and 3-4 % in wogonside [12, 18]. Few studies have been conducted on the application of this plant in animal feeding. A beneficial effect of the skullcap root was found on selected hematological and biochemical parameters in growing chickens [11].

The objective of this study has been to evaluate the effect of the skullcap root on the level of calcium, inorganic phosphorus, magnesium and iron in the blood serum of broiler chickens.


One-day old 120 Hubbard HI-Y male broiler chickens were assigned to 4 groups of 30 each. The birds were fed either a control basal diet (Table1) or a basal diet with the addition of 5, 10 or 15 g of ground dried root of skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis Radix) per kg of diet. Starter diets were fed from 1st to 14th day of life, grower diets from 15th to 42nd day of life. First, small amounts of basal diets were mixed with the respective amount of the ground dried skullcap root, and then a larger amount of basal diet until the total amount of the respective diets was homogeneously mixed. The chemical analysis of the skullcap root was performed by means of a high-performance fluid chromatography method (HPLC) in the Department of Fruit, Vegetables and Grain Technology of Agricultural University of Wrocław. Flavones were extracted with 80 % ethanol from the dried root of skullcap. The composition of S. baicalensis extract was determined by HPLC. In 1 g of the root, the content of 12.09 % of baicalin and 1.5 % of wogonoside was confirmed.

After three and six weeks of the experiment, blood samples were taken from v. jugularis from ten birds of each group. Blood serum was separated by centrifugation at 2000g for 10 min. at room temperature. In sera, the levels of calcium (Ca) and inorganic phosphorus (P) were analyzed by means of colorimetric methods, with the application of commercial analytical kits (Biochemtest, (POCH, Gliwice), but as for magnesium (Mg) and iron (Fe) – with the application of BioSystems kits (BioSystems S.A., Barcelona, Spain).

Table 1. Composition of basal diets for broilers g/kg DM




Soybean meal
Meat meal
Plant oil
Calcium carbonate
Dicalcium phosphate
Vitamin-mineral premix *



*Vitamin-mineral premix provided per kg of diet: vit. A 10 000 IU,
vit. D3 2500 IU, mg: vit. E 35, panthothenic acid 10, B1 3, B 2 7, B12 0.01, niacin 25, folic acid 1.5, choline 950,K 1, biotin 0.15, Mn 60, Zn 50, Fe 40, Cu 6.0, Se 0.15.

All data were analyzed by one-way ANOVA (STATISTICA, 1997) to test the effects of the dietary treatments at the significant level of P < 0.05 and P < 0.01. All data were expressed as means ± SD.


The essential differences in calcium concentration in the blood serum have been shown in growing broiler chickens. In the 21st day of birds’ life, lower Ca concentrations in groups supplemented with skullcap root were measured. They were in the range from 2.19 (10 g) to 2.39 mmol/l (15 g), (Table 2). However, in the 42nd day of the experiment, the concentration of this element increased in the experimental groups, and it remained at the level from 1.92 to 2.35 mmol/l. In the control group, Ca was at the level of 1.94 mmol/l, and it was statistically different compared to groups fed higher amounts of the ground skullcap root (10 g and 15 g), (Table 3). Similar statistical differences in calcium concentration were observed in other studies, e.g. in calves after feeding them a mixture consisting of a 20 % water herbs extract (nettle, tutsan, lemon balm, camomile, marigold, small plantain), which was added to milk [3] or when a mineral- herbal mixture in the amount of 3.5% per kg of diet was applied as a supplement to the nutritive fodder [14]. The addition of 30 g herb mixture per kg diet for piglets did not change calcium concentration in the blood serum [8]. All the results obtained in the present study for Ca content were included in the range of physiological data for broiler chickens recommended by Krasnodębska-Depta and Koncicki [10].

Table 2. Content of Ca, P, Mg and Fe in blood serum of broiler chickens on 21st day of age (n=10)


Groups, mean ± SD


5 g

10 g

15 g

Ca [mmol/l]





P inorg. [mmol/l]

1.47 ± 0.21Aa

1.94 ± 0.30Bb

1.81 ± 0.44Aa

2.20 ± 0.41Bb

Mg [mmol/l]

0.64 ± 0.14

0.71 ± 0.08

0.69 ± 0.15

0.65 ± 0.17

Fe [µmol/l]

24.8 ± 6.33

27.95 ± 3.14

21.95 ± 5.32

26.48 ± 8.91

A, B – significant differences at P < 0.01; a, b – significant differences at P < 0.05

The presented studies have shown that with the growing of chicken broilers, the content of inorganic phosphorus increased in the blood serum of 21-day old broiler chickens, both in the control group and in groups fed the fodder with the skullcap root addition. Yet, on the 42nd day of birds’ life, no statistically significant differences were observed in inorganic P concentration between groups (Table 3). Calcium and phosphorus play an important role in the structure and metabolism of the bone. Ca constitutes approximately 2% of body weight; 99% of the whole quantity of Ca in the organism is located in the skeleton, the rest in body fluids and soft tissues. However, phosphorus is a component of many important enzymes; it participates in the metabolism of carbohydrates and enters the composition of various nucleotides of nucleic acids and some lipids. It also plays an important role in energy cumulating [1, 16]. In the present examinations, the supplement of the skullcap root to the feed did not have a disadvantageous influence on the level of these two macroelements, being so significant for the bird’s organism. Szymeczko et al. [17] reported no significant influence of purple coneflower (Echinacea angustifolia) extract in the amount of 500 mg per 1l of water on the level of Ca and P in blood serum of chickens.

Table 3. Content of Ca, P, Mg and Fe in blood serum of broiler chickens on 42nd day of age (n=10)


Groups, mean ± SD


5 g

10 g

15 g

Ca [mmol/l]

1.94 ± 0.13Aa

1.92 ± 0.12Aa

2.35 ± 0.35Bb

2.16 ± 0.17Bb

P inorg. [mmol/l]

2.11 ± 0.57

2.06 ± 0.47

1.98 ± 0.89

2.20 ± 0.52

Mg [mmol/l]

0.71 ± 0.27

0.65 ± 0.12

0.72 ±0.13

0.62 ± 0.05

Fe [µmol/l]

18.63 ± 1.94Aa

26.80 ± 9.51Ab

25.48 ± 6.57Bb

27.68 ± 8.37Bb

A, B – significant differences at P < 0.01; a, b – significant differences at P < 0.05

Similarly, no differences were noted in Mg concentration in the blood serum. It was shaped at the level of 0.64 mmol/l in the control group on 21st day of birds’ life, while in groups fed the supplement of the skullcap root – from 0.65 to 0.71 mmol/l (Table 2). On the 42nd day of chicken broiler breeding, a similar level was formed and it oscillated between 0.62 and 0.72 mmol/l. The activity of magnesium is strictly coupled with calcium and phosphorus. Approximately 60% of relatively easily convertible Mg occurs in bones, whereas only 40 % – in soft tissues. The presence of Mg greatly influences the functions of the organism in body fluids, i.e. it is the activator of many enzymes, e.g. phosphatases, oxidizes. Mg participates in the co-operating process with thiamine, takes part in phoshorylation process, and it is necessary in the synthesis of protein as well as in the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats [9]. Other authors found statistical differences in Mg concentration in piglets after feeding them a herb mixture in the amount of 30 g per kg of diet. [8].

Substantial changes were not found in iron concentration in the blood serum of 3-week old chickens in each dietary group. The level of Fe in the control group amounted to 24.8 µmol/ l, however in groups with the skullcap root addition it was in the range from 21.95 to 27.95 µmol/ l (Table 2). Considerably higher Fe level, however, was confirmed in 6th week of life of birds fed in all groups the addition of the skullcap root (25.48 – 27.68 µmol/ l). Particularly the highest concentration, in relation to the control group, was noted in case of the highest quantity (15 g / per kg of diet) of the root added to the feed (Table 3). Iron concentration increased in relation to the control group by approximately 32 %. Iron is an important component of hemoglobin, occurring in red blood cells in cytochromes, present in catalases and peroxidases. The lack of iron causes anemia in birds. Biologically active substances present in herbs most often co-operate with one another, and provided they are properly matched they demonstrate an advantageous influence on the animals’ organism. [13]. Similar results were reported by Grela et al. after the addition of 30g herb mixture per kg of diet for piglets – iron concentration in blood serum increased after this addition [8]. Demonstrating a higher level of iron in groups fed the addition of the skullcap root could prove a little better absorption of this element from the alimentary tract as well as reduced secretion from the organism caused by biologically active factors present in the skullcap root.


The results of the present study demonstrate that the addition of the ground root of Scutellaria baicalensis Georgi to chicken broilers essentially changed the level of calcium and iron in relation to the control group in the blood serum in 6th week of the birds’ life. This dependence was not observed for the remaining mineral elements. It is worth highlighting that the optimal supplying of animals with micro and macronutrients can be performed when respecting their content in the feed and their bioavailability in the organism.


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Bożena Króliczewska
Department of Animal Physiology,
Wrocław University of Environmental and Life Sciences, Poland
C. K. Norwida 31, 50-375 Wrocław, Poland
Phone: (+4871) 32 05 437
email: bozena.kroliczewska@up.wroc.pl

Wojciech Zawadzki
Department of Animal Physiology and Biostructure, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Wrocław University of Environmental and Life Sciences, Poland
C.K. Norwida 31
50-375 Wrocław
Phone: +48 71 320 5401
email: wojciech.zawadzki@up.wroc.pl

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