There are serious safety concerns regarding traditional Chinese herbal therapy. Chinese herbal medicine traditionally uses treatments that are now recognized as potentially dangerous, such as mercury, arsenic, lead, licorice, and the herb Aristolochia. In Hong Kong, poisoning caused by the herb aconite (used in numerous Chinese herbal formulas) was sufficiently widespread that public health authorities felt it necessary to launch an information campaign to combat the problem.
Besides toxicity caused by Chinese herbs, other problems have been caused by adulteration of herbal products with unlisted ingredients. For example, the Chinese herbal formula PC-SPES, used for prostate cancer, turned out to contain three pharmaceutical drugs—diethylstilbestrol (DES), warfarin (Coumadin), and indomethacin. In another episode, eight out of 11 Chinese herbal creams sold in the United Kingdom for the treatment of eczema were found to contain strong pharmaceutical steroids.
For these reasons, take precautions before trying Chinese medicine and make sure that you talk to your doctor before taking any herbs.
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