Saturday, 11 June 2011

Branching out

I have commented before on the use of herbal medicine, and how the public have this view that because the products are “natural”, they are innocuous and safe. This view is reinforced if you visit any herbalist shop or website where a very one sided view is presented, without any mention of the potential risks.

The herb itself can however be potentially toxic and two particular examples are ephedra and aristolochia. Add to this the fact that contamination with pesticides and heavy metals is not uncommon. Also some herbal products have been found to contain modern pharmaceuticals, presumably added deliberately. Drugs found have included NSAIDs, steroids and amphetamines. If that is not enough there may also be biological contamination. These problems seem to be more prevalent in Chinese Herbalism.

These significant and serious safety concerns resulted in the EU law requiring herbal products to be tested for safety and purity, which came into force in April in the UK despite initial reluctance from the British government.

This law has been misrepresented as a ban by the herbalists but it is nothing of the sort. Herbalists can see that being forced by law to provide safe pure products is going to be difficult and one enterprising chinese herbalist has decided to branch out into other areas of business. It seems to me though that this is yet another area where contamination might be a problem for customers.

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