Beware the effects of Chinese herbal remedies

Chinese herbal remedies
Photo credit: Silvija Seres

Ever since I found out about the potential hazards of using Chinese herbal remedies, I have warned people against using them. My mother died of liver cancer. Although I cannot say that it was due to the Chinese herbs, the fact that the one she had used in the past was later banned due to its liver toxicity, it makes one stop and think.

I have seen a rise in the number of these Chinese complementary shops on the high streets of Britain, even in small towns and villages. I don’t know if they are in any way regulated by the Health Authority. I have seen many people come and go in those shops and I wonder if their doctors are aware of this. There may be interactions between traditional medicines and the Chinese herbal remedies. I don’t know if the general public is aware of that.

Studies have shown that people spend a lot of money of complementary medicine, most of this on vitamins and supplements. But the fact that the number of Chinese herbal shops are increasing suggests that they are seeing a lot of clients as well. But are people getting their money’s worth? Or, are they simply throwing away a lot of money for ineffective and potentially hazardous therapies?

Scientists recently presented data on studies of complementary medicines for arthritic conditions and found that most were ineffective. While it did not state that these agents did not help specific people anecdotally, it did warn them that some may have serious side effects while not showing any studied effectiveness. It should be taken with a grain of salt. But the fact that the article specifically named some Chinese herbs as ineffective and others as having serious side effects only reiterates my point about using Chinese herbal products for the treatment of any condition.

Those who wish to pursue these alternative medicines should make their own doctors aware of their intentions and ask their advice on it. It is not good enough to simply ask questions of the complementary medicine practitioners because they will strive to present only the positive aspects of complementary medicine. It is in their best interest to do so.


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