February 9, 2010

AUSTRALIA: Herbal medicines can kill, warns researcher

. SYDNEY, NSW / The Sydney Morning Herald / Life & Style / Wellbeing / February 9, 2010 By Nick Miller SOME popular herbal medicines can be dangerous, even lethal, contrary to the perception that they are a safe alternative to conventional medicine, says a University of Adelaide researcher. Roger Byard, a forensic pathologist (left), reviewed the risks of herbal medicines in last month's Journal of Forensic Sciences. He said herbal products had been found to contain potentially lethal levels of arsenic, mercury and lead. Even if not contaminated, some herbs posed such risks as liver failure, haemorrhage or heart failure. Many common herbs could cause severe side-effects when used with conventional medicine, such as negating the effect of the blood-thinning agent warfarin or making epileptic seizures more frequent. Professor Byard said his interest in the area was sparked by the 2006 death of a young South Australian man who had injected chan su, a traditional Chinese herbal remedy that contains toxic toad venom. The National Herbalists Association of Australia is lobbying for a registration scheme, which would cement uniform standards of training and education across the country. More than 50 per cent of Australians report using herbal or complementary medicines.[rc] Copyright © 2010. Fairfax Digital