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Traditional Chinese Medicine: Daring or dangerous

Today’s food and medicine industries are losing trust with consumers who regrettably are misled by TV an endless queue of utterly unqualified food and health gurus who promulgate pure unadulterated nonsense as to the shortcomings of modern food and medicine and the wonders of specific foods and traditional medicinal remedies. Let’s start with food remedies. Manuka honey is a honey produced from the pollen of Manuka trees. It is reported to contain an active ingredient MTG (methylglyoxal), which apparently has approved beneficial effects when its highly purified form is used as an adjuvant in skin wound healing[1]. Putting it in your porridge is no good! In fact, the available governmental data is that for every kilo of honey produced from the New Zealand Manuka tree, an amazing 7 kilos is sold worldwide. So when you buy Manuka honey (usually 6-9 times the price of regular honey) there is a 6 in 7 chance you are being conned (a probability of 86%). But of course if you really want to challenge your beliefs in the gurus, can I recommend you read my Hunza blog (July 22nd, 2014) and if you still believe in the wonders of Hunza water[2]you can get a great deal on Amazon[3]: ”Crystal Energy "Hunza Water" Buy 2, Get 1 Free!” Only $87.50 a pair!!

Turning to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the humorous side evaporates in light of the very disturbing findings on TCM by a consortium of Australian researchers[4]. They examined 26 TCMs using state of the art analytical equipment and their results can be considered in three areas

1.     The GENOMIC analysis: Sophisticated DNA analysis showed that many samples contained traces of animal species such as dog, cat (including Snow Leopard, an endangered species), frog, rodent, viper, and cow. In addition, many banned plant species were detected: Asarum or wild ginger is a source of Aristolochic Acid, a potent carcinogen; Ephedra, notorious for its use in slimming products where it is purported to act through increased cardiac output; Apocynum or Dogbane/Indian hemp which is poisonous with severe effects on the cardiac system.
2.     The DRUG analysis: Many drugs were detected which have no origins in TCM. These include the antibiotic amoxicillin; the anti-clotting agent, warfarin; ephedrine used to treat asthma and hay fever and drugs used to treat anxiety in veterinary practices.
3.     The CHEMICAL analysis: Arsenic, lead and cadmium at levels well in excess of food grade permitted maxima were widely detected. Multiple drug adulterants were also detected. One TCM had 10 times the permitted maximum levels of the poisonous compound arsenic.
Conclusion: Anyone who thinks that the word “traditional” or the accepted centuries old therapeutic use of a product in the absence of proof of purpose constitutes a vote in safety is quite simply naïve. It is precisely because modern food and medicines are so tightly regulated that they are totally safe to use and where necessary, proven to FDA standards to be effective. This paper raises very serious concerns not just about safety but about fraud. The idea that Snow Leopard was detectable in some samples is ecologically horrific. This beautiful species is the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.


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