News / Health

Herbal Medicines Linked to Kidney Disease

Natural remedies from a family of herbs called Aristolochia have been linked to kidney disease and cancer, according to British researchers. (Photo by Carsten Niehaus)
Natural remedies from a family of herbs called Aristolochia have been linked to kidney disease and cancer, according to British researchers. (Photo by Carsten Niehaus)
Art Chimes
Scientists in Britain have pulled together previous studies about an ingredient in some herbal medicines that can cause severe kidney disease and cancer.

The research is a wake-up call to users of some traditional remedies and to governments that could regulate use of the herbs.

In the early 1990s, an epidemic of kidney disease broke out in Belgium among young women who had been treated with Chinese herbal medicines at a weight-loss clinic. The herbs come from a family called Aristolochia. They are used to treat skin conditions, joint pain and other symptoms.

Graham Lord of Kings College London says the ailment was traced to aristolochic acid, an ingredient in some of the herbs.

“It binds to DNA and causes kidney disease," Lord says. "It causes cancer in areas where it’s most concentrated, which probably explains why the cancers are mostly focused around the urinary tract and the kidney.”

Lord is the lead author of a new paper describing the kidney disease, now known as aristolochic acid neuropathy (AAN), and suggesting standardized diagnosis and treatment protocols.

Herbs containing aristolochic acid are banned from Europe and the United States, and the resulting form of kidney disease is now mostly found elsewhere.

“Import bans, working with the herbal practitioners that in the past have used this drug, can be extraordinarily effective,” Lord says.

In places where use of these herbs is common, cases of AAN persist.

“In Chinese Taiwan, there’s epidemiological surveys suggesting that tens if not hundreds of thousands of people have been exposed to this particular herb,” says Lord, who acknowledges it’s hard to know how many people are actually getting kidney disease from these herbs. A definitive diagnosis requires advanced testing to differentiate from other kinds of kidney disease.

In his review of two decades of published medical literature, Lord found reports of the disease in Europe, North America and Asia. But nothing in other areas of the world where herbal medicines are widely used.

“That’s probably because we’ve not looked in a systematic manner," he says. "It would surprise me if there wasn’t an incidence of this disease in Africa and in South America as well.”

Treatment of AAN usually requires dialysis or even kidney transplant. Lord says it’s important to identify kidney disease caused by aristolochic acid, so doctors can monitor the patient for cancer, which is more likely than with other causes of kidney failure.

You May Like

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: vivekdhungav from: mumbai
April 02, 2013 1:17 PM
Do whatever you can do to get cure kidney disease because I believe you cannot enjoy your life having such severe

disease.If you are really interested in curing it read this book on site http://www.thebooksworld.com/the-kidney-disease-

solution/

Regards,
Vivek Dhungav.


by: John Simms from: Louisville, KY.
March 21, 2013 11:03 AM
When herbs have drug like qualities they can cause drug like diseases. All the more reason to avoid them.


by: Alex Newell from: Bedford
March 20, 2013 3:02 PM
This is a rather sketchy and shallow article and functions only to alarm people. The herb in question is rare and not used except for a small number of Chinese Herbalists and there is no comparison as noted by a commenter here of the much higher toxicity of so many well known drugs at every local Pharmacy


by: Andrew from: UK
March 20, 2013 5:42 AM
We have just learned today that statins, prescribed by doctors, are causing kidney damage.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid