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Tuesday, 10 April 2012 13:22

How safe are Herbal or Natural remedies?

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Herbal remedy blamed for high cancer rate in Taiwan: study

A toxic ingredient in a popular herbal remedy is linked to more than half of all cases of urinary tract cancer in Taiwan where use of traditional medicine is widespread, said a US study Monday.-

Aristolochic acid (AA) is a potent human carcinogen that is found naturally in Aristolochia plants, an ingredient common in botanical Asian remedies for aiding weight loss, easing joint pain and improving stomach ailments- Medical Express.

The herb has Aristolochia is used in treatment of certain forms of acute arthritis, gout, and edema . It has been also used to promote easy child birth and expulsion of placenta. However, scientists warn that it carries serious risks of causing kidney disease and urinary cancers.
In a recent researche it has been found that it can interact with a person's DNA and form unique biomarkers of exposure, as well as creating signals within tumor suppressing genes that indicate the carcinogen has been ingested.

The findings published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggest that, “In Taiwan, where previous research has shown about one-third of the population has taken AA in recent years, rates of urinary tract and kidney cancer are about four times higher than in Western countries where use is less common”..

"It is a rare tumor and Taiwan has the highest incidence of any country in the world," said lead author Arthur Grollman of the department of pharmacological sciences at Stony Brook University in New York.
"The fact that Taiwan had the highest incidence both of cancer and this renal disease -- that was our clue that something was going on there," Grollman told AFP.

The research was based on 151 patients with urinary tract cancer, of whom 60 percent showed specific mutations linked to the herbal remedy.
In particular, after being ingested the acid forms a unique kind of lesion in the renal cortex, and also gives rise to a particular mutational signature in the TP53 tumor suppressing gene, said the study.

Awareness is needed
"This has been used by every culture in the world from the earliest written record," said Grollman.
Signs of harm have emerged in recent decades, and the acid is blamed for causing a kidney disease called Balkan endemic nephropathy, first described in 1956, that afflicted rural farmers in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania and Serbia.
The villagers were found to be baking seeds from a weed called Aristolochia clematitis in their bread.
In the 1990s, a group of Belgian women reported sudden late stage kidney failure after taking a weight loss drug that contained AA. And even though many countries have taken steps to warn of the risks, the ingredient is difficult to control and still finds its way into products via the Internet, said Grollman, adding that most of the AA products currently being used in Taiwan are made in China.
"Many countries ban it but it is always available on the Internet. And in fact you can't ban it in the United States. You can only ban its importation." The US Food and Drug Administration warned of the risks of aristolochic acid in 2001 after two patients developed serious Kidney disease after using botanical products containing it.

Does Herbal or Natural means Safe?
"Natural is not necessarily safe, nor is long-term usage," said Grollman.

While many of us believe that "herbal" is synonymous with "safe", herbal remedies can in fact be deadly, says Tammy Cohen in a published article at The Telegraph

Richard Woodfield of the MHRA agress and suggest "Avoid unlicensed herbal remedies, particularly those sold on the internet and steer clear of anything claiming to be "100% safe" or "safe because it's natural". Like any other drugs, herbs can have side effects. Look for the THR(Traditional Herbal Register) or PL(Product Licence) standard on the label and consult with your doctor if taking any prescription medicine."in published article at The telegraph.


News source: Medical Express-
More information: Paper: Aristolochic acid-associated urothelial carcinoma in Taiwan by Chung-Hsin Chen et al. PNAShttp://www.pnas.or … 109.abstract  (c) 2012 AFP
Ref:  Just how safe are herbal medicines? - The Telegraph


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Read 10848 times Last modified on Tuesday, 10 April 2012 13:53


  • Comment Link  Vimal Patel Thursday, 12 April 2012 15:02 posted by Vimal Patel

    Anything can be toxic when taken out of context, even water! What may be toxic to one is just what the doctor ordered for another. This article points to the underlying issue that we are looking for quick fixes be they natural or synthetic, herbal or medicinal. As health professionals we need to help the public understand as well as our colleagues that each person has a unique set of biochemical individuality. Solutions come from understanding the imbalances and then helping to guide a patient to their unique balance. Side effects are likely to occur without professional guidance. No compound, natural or synthetic works on it own in a vacuum from other compounds or bio-chemistry. Lets not forget to look at herbs and studies within the larger context of how, when, why and what.

  • Comment Link Dr Bhushan Bhavsar Thursday, 12 April 2012 14:59 posted by Dr Bhushan Bhavsar

    Good discussion started.
    Herbal Remedies does not have side effect is no longer a belief.
    Accurate dosage of herbs is always required for therapeutic effects.
    Any herb given in more quantity is always toxic.

    Regarding Cancer, anything that causes irritation causes Cancer.
    Aristolochia plant is acidic in nature and is excreted through urine. So, increased intake can cause irritation to the UT and MAY cause CA.
    But we should be always aware that all the herbs doesn't have similar effect. Herbs were introduced in ancient times to reduce the diseases and not as cause of disease.

  • Comment Link drarvindjain Sadhuvedantmunijain Thursday, 12 April 2012 14:51 posted by drarvindjain Sadhuvedantmunijain

    please think , the herbs are not dangerous in any way. some medicines are strictly prohibited to other and also in our diets. like GHEE AND HONEY, UDAD DAAL WITH FISH is also dangerous. please ignore such concepts. herbs must be pure and take accordingly prescribed in books. and applied also in such way that they will be help ful to you.

  • Comment Link Peter Wednesday, 11 April 2012 17:54 posted by Peter

    Plants produce a wide variety of bioactive substances in order to deter consumption by animals. While many common food crops have been bred to reduce unpleasant effects on humans, herbs are generally in their natural state. Contrary to popular belief, there is no reason to assume that a herb is safe. Indeed, since many herbs are used as drugs (to affect human physiology) one would expect many of them to be toxic if given at a sufficient dose. Unfortunately, herbal remedies are generally not subjected to safety studies.

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