In the early 1990s researchers linked an epidemic of kidney disease among Belgium women to herbal medicines being dispensed at a weight loss clinic. They discovered at the time that aristolochic acid (AA), which is part of a group of plants called birthwort or Dutchman’s pipe was causing the kidney problems. Since that outbreak AA has been banned for medicinal use in the U.S. as well as several other countries. Scientists at King’s College London have recently reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine that millions of people, especially in Asia are still being exposed to it. The authors suggest that because there is such a large availability of AA on the internet, holes in regulation throughout the world need to be addressed. “The globalization of the distribution of these substances makes it very difficult to control,” said Graham Lord, the director of of the National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centre in London. He urges anyone taking herbal medicines in general to be cautious – new information regarding the risks and benefits of ingredients become available all the time. Lord added, “There are a lot of ingredients in the remedies that can change over time because they are complex. You need to check each time.” It’s also a good idea to talk with your doctor before taking an herbal medicine…..  Time Healthland   3/21/13


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