Diet & Nutrition

Herbal medicines found to contain toxic pesticides

A shocking new study has found heavy metals in amongst other toxic additives to be present in herbal medicines sold across Australia.

By Katie Skelly
In news sure to incite a medicine cupboard clean-out, liver damage and kidney failure may occur as a result from herbal medicines found to contain toxic pesticides, chemicals and heavy metals, a new study has found.
The review, conducted by researchers at the University of Adelaide and published in the Medical Journal of Australia found Australia’s regulation of these remedies to be frighteningly lax, suggesting that the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) require independent testing of herbal medicines before they can be purchased by consumers.
“Toxic side effects of herbal medicines used in traditional societies have typically not been reported, and this is often cited in favour of their safety,” lead author and pathology professor Roger Byard said.
“However, the lack of systematic observation has meant that even serious adverse reactions, such as the kidney failure and liver damage caused by some plant species, have gone unrecognised until recently.”
The study found tertiary educated women under 35-years-old to be most likely to seek and use herbal medicines.
Researchers also discovered that, worryingly, more than half of the near 70 per cent of Australians who use herbal products aren’t informing their doctors at the assumption of them being harmless, co-author and pharmacology lecturer Ian Musgrave said.
“Some people believe that because herbal medicines derive from natural products that they are not drugs, but they are, and they have the potential to cause harm or to interact harmfully with prescription medications.”
In one instance, the review looked at the herbal remedies from Taiwan over a one-year period. Of those tested, 24% were found to contain prescription medicines.
Other pharmaceuticals detected in herbal medicines include steroids, antibiotics, antihistamines, and psychoactive drugs.
"We feel it would be appropriate for the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) to require manufacturers to have samples independently tested before placing them on the market," Professor Byard says.
"Legal action should be considered in cases of non-compliance, and preparations containing illegal substances should be banned."
Always consult your healthcare professional before taking medications.