Chinese Herbal Medicines - Are They Safe?

As a practitioner I am always concerned about the safety and efficacy of the products I use and prescribe. Your health is my priority, and I only stock and dispense products that I can feel confident are free from contamination.

I was recently alarmed to read a study in Nature Scientific Reports  (also reported on the ABC website here ) that found that many of the prepared Chinese herbs tested were found to be contaminated with undeclared ingredients including plants and animals, pharmaceutical agents and heavy metals.

Some of the samples are medicines listed with the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). The TGA is tasked with ensuring that medical goods used in Australia are safe and fit for purpose. Monitoring and compliance are undertaken by importers and manufacturers of herbal products, not by the TGA itself, meaning that it can be difficult to ensure safety of a product once it has been approved.

The products tested in the study were sourced from grocery stores as well as practitioners, and it is not stated which products were tested. I understand the TGA is investigating this issue, and I will continue to only use products whose upmost safety can be guaranteed.

The granulated herbal medicines that I prescribe are manufactured in Taiwan to strict standards of quality control in all stages of production including soil conditions, planting, harvesting and processing. Each batch of granulated herbs produced is issued with a Certificate of Analysis that lists heavy metals and microbes to the nearest parts per million, and I am confident in their quality and safety.

As a practitioner and a consumer I am deeply concerned about the source and safety of the products I use and the food I feed my family. This unfortunate finding reminds us that we must remain diligent, stay informed and strive to reduce our exposure to chemicals, toxins and bacteria that are harmful to our health.