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

Photogallery South Africa Bans Travelers From Ebola-stricken Countries

South Africans returning from affected West African countries will be thoroughly screened, required to fill out medical questionnaire, health minister says More

Multimedia UN Launches ‘Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years’ in Iraq

Move aims to help thousands of Iraqi religious minorities who fled their homes as Kurdish, Iraqi government forces battle Sunni insurgents More

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

IT specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about disease 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.
Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbasi
X
Scott Stearns
August 21, 2014 9:20 PM
The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid