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Last month Ying Wu, a Chinese herbal medicine practitioner from Essex, pleaded guilty to charges of supplying a banned substance to a client who later went on to develop cancer.
The substance in question, aristolochic acid, has been used in traditional medicines for thousands of years. However within the last decade it has been identified as a carcinogen and banned.
Concerns about the potential toxicity of herbal medicines have been growing over the decades. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has been linked to liver failure on several occasions and surveys of Ayurveda medicines have found up to 20% contain dangerous levels of heavy metals. In another study, up to 3% of herbal preparations to combat erectile dysfunction were found to have been contaminated with toxic levels of prescription drugs.
Serious concerns have also been raised about food supplements with a variety of studies showing that high doses of vitamins and minerals may cause liver damage and cancer.
In order to tackle these two areas of concern, a raft of EU legislation has been passed with the aim of protecting the public and allowing consumers to select the healthcare of their choice. (more…)