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)
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

36 people are confirmed dead, but some 270 remain trapped on board More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends 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.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid