Herbal remedies can kill, says an Australian forensic pathologist, who warns against the "false perception" they are "safer than manufactured medicines".
Background: Herbal remedies, most often used without any prescription, are a multi-billion dollar business.
The new study: A University of Adelaide forensic pathologist has sounded a worldwide
warning on the potential lethal dangers of herbal medicines. The study by Professor Roger Byard published in the US-based Journal of
Forensic Sciences outlines the highly toxic nature of many herbal
substances, which a large percentage of users worldwide mistakenly
believe are safe.
"Herbal medicines are frequently mixed with standard drugs,
presumably to make them more effective," Prof Byard said."This
can also have devastating results.''
"There’s a false perception that herbal remedies are safer than
manufactured medicines, when in fact, many contain potentially lethal
concentrations of arsenic, mercury and lead."
may cause serious illnesses, exacerbate pre-existing health problems or
result in death, particularly if taken in excess or injected rather than
ingested," he said in a statement released by the university.
Byard said there could also be fatal consequences when some herbal
medicines interact with prescription drugs.
“As access to such
products is largely unrestricted and many people do not tell their
doctor they are taking herbal medicines for fear of ridicule, their
contribution to death may not be fully appreciated during a standard
An analysis of 251 Asian herbal products found at
stores in the United States identified arsenic in 36 of the products,
mercury in 35 and lead in 24.
In one documented case, a
five-year-old boy who had ingested 63 grams of “Tibetan herbal vitamins”
over a period of four years was diagnosed with lead poisoning.
case involved a young boy with cancer of the retina whose parents
resorted to a traditional Indian remedy that caused arsenic poisoning.
Studies related to elemental speciation in herbal medicines
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