Chinese Herbs have a Long History of Benefit and Safety, however when using substances as medicine one should consider standard practices and be informed
This report is
now several years old and major changes have been made in the industry.
Everything on the shelf is consider safe and reliable. and have proven
to be effective. For example Minor
Bupleurum Formula (Sho-saiko-to)
Liver Kampo or its traditional Chinese name Xiao Chai Hu tang. which
is undergoing FDA approved clinical trials for liver cancer
(Sho-saiko-to) Liver Kampo or its traditional Chinese name Xiao Chai Hu tang. which is undergoing FDA approved clinical trials for liver cancer
Patented Herbal Formulas
1. Diabetes Hypoglucose Capsules
(sold by Chinese Angel
Health Care Products of Santa Monica, Calif.)
2. Pearl Hypoglycemic Capsules
(imported by Sino
American Health Products Inc., o f Torrance ,Calif.)
Tong yitang Diabetes
Angel Pearl Hypoglycemic Capsules and
4. Tongyitang Diabetes Angel Hypoglycemic Capsules
(sold by Sino American)
29, 2000 NEW YORK (Reuters Health)
The GAO said that the FDA had made its
17, 2000 PONTIAC, Michigan (AP)
Herbs can hurt instead of heal
By Erin McCormick OF THE EXAMINER STAFF
Sunday, March 12, 2000
In Sacramento, an acupuncturist was sold the wrong Chinese herb for
a tea meant to help her arthritis. She wound up in a coma and, when she woke up,
her hands and legs were partially paralyzed.
In Novato, a woman swallowed some capsules of an imported herbal
cold medicine and got so sick that doctors thought she had leukemia.
And in San Diego, a 2-year-old baby was hospitalized with seizures
after taking an Asian patent medicine, contaminated with a potentially deadly
After hearing numerous stories like these, state officials warn
that, while imported herbal remedies can offer real benefits, they can also be
The California Department of Health has found dozens of
imported products contaminated with lead, mercury, arsenic or dangerous
chemicals. And it has identified cases in which mishandled or mislabeled
ingredients led to life-threatening injuries and deaths.
"These medicines are coming into the U.S. as food products and,
by and large, food products are not tested," said Richard Ko, a
pharmacologist for the state health department, who has spearheaded a campaign
to detect contaminated imports. "There needs to be a change in the law in
how we regulate these herbal products."
In recent years, Asian remedies have rapidly gained popularity in
the United States, both inside and out of the Asian community. But, because the
products are billed as natural, consumers may not realize they need to treat
them with caution.
"People assume that, because herbs are natural, they're
safe," said Kerry Hartsough of the California Department of Consumer
Affairs, which licenses acupuncturists, who must be trained in herbal medicine.
"There are a lot of things in nature that can be deadly." Overseas
Traditionally, Asian medicine has been practiced by herbalists who
mix each remedy individually from raw herbs. But such medicines have become so
popular, they are now being mass produced in foreign factories -- and this has
resulted in new types of contamination problems.
In some cases, health experts have found that herbs used safely in
teas for hundreds of years become dangerous when manufactured into pills and
powders. In others, they have identified pollutants or drugs which in the United
States could only be sold by prescription, which have been added to
products in factories. Finally, some herbs wind up being dangerous
simply because they are misidentified.
Last summer, for instance, a 61-year-old Sacramento acupuncturist
was partially paralyzed after drinking an herbal tea to help her arthritis. She
had been sold the wrong herb. Instead of taking the harmless flowering plant,
Clematis Chinesis, she drank a poisonous herb that is used as an ointment to
treat genital warts. The two plants look nearly
Ko believes most imported herbs and medicines are safe. The problem
for customers is that there is no easy way to identify the contaminated ones.
Under the current regulatory process, when products arrive in the
United States there is no routine, quality control testing to verify their
"It's a big problem," said Yvonne Lau, president of the
Oakland-based Mayway Herb Co., which became so concerned about the uneven
quality of herbs being exported from China that it contracted with a Hong Kong
university to conduct purity checks on products it imports.
"If someone gets sick, it gives Chinese medicine a ban
name," she said. Fatal mixture In a few cases, injuries have resulted from
mistakes made in the United States, because people are not required to have any
training to dispense herbal Medicines.
In 1994, a 25-year-old San Francisco woman died after drinking a
medicinal tea mixture purchased at an herb store to help her sustain a
pregnancy. The woman, who wanted to avoid another miscarriage, began vomiting
immediately after drinking the tea and died within two and a half hours.
Ko and other state toxicologists analyzed the tea. They found that
when laboratory rats were given components of the brew, they died in as little
as two and a half minutes.
Ultimately, they learned that an herb store clerk had
inadvertently put a wrong ingredient in the woman's tea mixture -- a
highly poisonous toad venom used in small doses in skin ointments.
Cases like this have resulted in a call for stricter standards on
who can handle the most dangerous types of herbs.
"I'm very uncomfortable that people can prescribe a full line
of Chinese formulas without any training," said Lloyd Wright, a Palo Alto
acupuncturist who sat on the state Acupuncture Board for five years.
"You're asking for trouble eventually."
The state has also documented dozens of cases in which products were
contaminated with toxics before importation from Asia.
In the case of the San Diego toddler, for instance, a product whose
label claimed it would treat vomiting and fever in infants turned out to be
contaminated with borneol, a highly toxic chemical that can cause liver or
kidney damage or death. The child survived.
Two years ago, the California health department analyzed 260 Asian
patent medicines, products that contain premixed combinations of herbs pressed
into pills or capsules.
Investigators discovered toxic ingredients in nearly a third of the
products. Twenty-four contained high levels of lead, 35 contained the poisonous
heavy metal mercury and 36 were contaminated with arsenic. Additionally, 17
products were spiked with pharmaceutical drugs. One even had measurable amounts
of the poison strychnine.
Ansenpunaw tablets, imported from China and advertised as "a brain tonic and
sedative medicine," contained 1,000 times more mercury than U.S. standards
deem safe for consumption. Another product, "Double
Dragon Pills," which listed such ingredients as cow's
bone glue and sea horse, had 30 times more lead than is considered acceptable.
Lau said her company has had to reject some raw herbs grown in China because
they were contaminated in the farming process.
"China has a lot of industry and a lot of pollution,"
she said. "If your herb field is right next to a factory, the plants
just suck up the pollution." Drugs in your herbs. In several cases, foreign
manufacturers have been caught adding pharmaceutical drugs to supposedly natural
products exported to the United States.
A Novato woman sued the distributors of a common Chinese cold
formula after she came close to dying of a blood disease that health
investigators believe she got from the product.
Connie Hirschmugl said in Marin County Superior Court that she got
sick after taking the popular Chinese cold remedy Zhong Gan Ling in 1996. She
wound up in the hospital with so few white blood cells that doctors thought she
Hirschmugl was near death for two days, but later recovered
The health department's Ko tested the Zhong
Gan Ling she had taken and says he found it had been spiked
with a pain reliever banned in the United States because of its risk of causing
just such a blood disorder.
And last month, the federal Food and Drug Administration stopped the
importation of five products purporting to be natural remedies for diabetics,
after a Marin County man suffered episodes of low blood sugar while using one of
them. An investigation revealed the Chinese products had been spiked with a
"All these things should be regulated," said Dr. Kevin
Kobalter, a Marin endocrinologist who discovered the illegal diabetes drugs when
his patient started having problems. "We need to know what's in them and
know it's pure."
Ed Kasper L.Ac, Acupuncturist & Herbalist
417 Laurent St. Santa Cruz, CA 95060
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