Scientists continue to question Chinese herbals

Related tags Pharmaceutical drug Medicine Traditional chinese medicine

Ingredients in Chinese herbal medicines may vary widely depending
on the manufacturer, said scientists speaking at a conference this
week. This could have implications for the safety and efficacy of
the medication, they suggest.

Ingredients in Chinese herbal medicines may vary widely depending on the manufacturer, said scientists speaking at a conference this week.

A study by researchers from the University of Bradford revealed that Chinese products marketed in the UK under the same name often contained very different herbs.

It is commonly assumed that each traditional Chinese herbal formula will include the same ingredients, but in practice manufacturers are choosing to add and removeingredients, said the researchers at the British Pharmaceutical Conference.

The Bradford team compared packs of Gui Pi, a popular remedy used to treat a wide range of common conditions including menstrual difficulties, poor appetite, insomnia and fatigue, obtained from eight differentproviders. They found considerable variations between products in both the appearances of the medicine and the labelling. Information on product indicationsand recommended dosage was also inconsistent.

Mary Samuel, senior researcher on the project at theUniversity of Bradford, said: "Because little is known about the actions of these herbs, it is impossible to say exactly how important this is. However, from theperspective of western medicine the variation seems unacceptable."

"In theory, because the contents are different, you might expect the various products to have different effects on the body. Also, if, in a 'worst case scenario', some ingredients are toxic, then it follows that some formulations could be more toxic than others, andconsequently present a greater danger to the patient,"​ she added.

Chinese herbal medicines are readily available in the UK from Chinese medicine shops and via mail order and the Internet. The products are not subject to current medicines licensing legislation. In recent years there has been concern about the safety of several products.

"We have highlighted a potentially serious issue and now plan further investigation into the significance of these findings with regard to safety and efficacy,"​ said Colin Wright, a colleague on the project.

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