One in five herbal remedies unapproved

Unapproved herbal remedies sold in pharmacies and health food stores are exposing Australians to a “potentially hazardous” mix of ingredients, an SA study shows.
Almost one in five “traditional medicines” sold in Australia are not approved by the TGA, University of Adelaide researchers found, in an audit of products claiming to treat arthritis, flu, gastrointestinal upset, stress or premenstrual syndrome.
But even TGA-approved remedies carried risks: 60% contained ingredient concentrations that were substantially different from those sanctioned.
“This high level of non-compliance on labelling alone is disturbing,” researchers wrote in the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine.
“As the safety of herbal medicines is assessed by the TGA based on the concentrations in the licence, these disparities are concerning, as purchasers may be exposed to potentially hazardous concentrations of materials, or be at higher risk of overdose.”
Herbal medicines expert Dr Jon Wardle (PhD) said the situation was “dangerous”.
He described a recent case in Australia where a man incurred severe liver damage after taking a Chinese herbal medicine in which the concentration of just one herb differed from that approved.
“Most people think these products are safe because they’re natural. They think they can take herbal medicine willy-nilly, but that’s just not a valid assumption,” said Dr Wardle, a naturopath and NHMRC research scholar at the University of Queensland.
He stressed that products listed on the Australian Register of Therapeutics Goods were generally safe, provided the actual ingredient concentrations matched that which had been approved.
Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine 2014; online.

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