A large number of people across the globe use herbal medicines in the treatment of their ailments but the finding of a new research shows a long-term use of such medicines may not be always safe.
The scientists from Baylor College of Medicine and Stony Brook University in the United States have found evidence showing that the plant Aristolochia used to prevent several illnesses like the pain to eczema, may cause cancer and kidney failure.
In the study first published online on April 25, the authors said other herbs that have been used for a long time may also have toxic and/or carcinogenic compounds.
“It is prudent to assume that many herbs may contain toxic or carcinogenic substances that can cause subsequent health problems for humans” the Baylor College of Medicine article quoted the study authors as saying.
The authors remark that eight million people were exposed to herbals containing Aristolochia in Taiwan between 1997 and 2003.
Studies of patients with renal failure and cancer in Taiwan and China show that tens of millions of people in those countries are at risk of the side effect.
According to a Wikipedia article, the use of Aristolochic in Chinese medicine goes back to 5th century AD. The plant species are also known as birthwort, found mentioned in ancient Greek and Roman medical texts.
They were being used to treat things such as asthma, hiccups, spasms, pains, and expulsion of afterbirth.
The study authors Dr. Donald M. Marcus and Dr. Arthur P. Grollman also disagree with the World Health Organization’s endorsement of the use of traditional herbal remedies on the premise that traditional medicine is of proven quality, according to Baylor College of Medicine article.