Four Traditional Chinese Medicines (TCM) sold online have been found to contain lead and mercury and can cause anaemia and brain damage, according to the UK medicines regulator.
But despite the warning, the agency noted: “There is no evidence that these products are available on the UK market but they could have been purchased over the internet or by people travelling to Hong Kong.”
The products that were making menstrual discomfort, arthritis, headache and eye health claims, “were found to contain excessive levels of mercury or lead.”
The UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said Hong Kong authorities had issued a recall on the products - Bak Foong Pills, Fung Shing Paij Tian-Ma Wan, Nai Chang Ming Yan and Shi Hu Ye Guang Wan.
Side effects for lead poisoning include abdominal pain, anaemia, changes in blood pressure, reproductive disorders such as miscarriage, weakness, concentration problems, weight loss, insomnia, dizziness, kidney and brain damage.
Mercury poisoning can lead to irritability, tremors, memory loss, insomnia, concentration problems, kidney and brain damage.
“The Traditional Herbal Registration scheme has been implemented to ensure patients can buy over-the-counter herbal medicines that they know have met quality and safety standards,” said MHRA head of herbal policy, Richard Woodfield, who warned anyone consuming the products to seek medical advice.
“If people think they have suffered a side effect to a herbal medicine, they can report it to us via our Yellow Card Scheme.”