Skeptic News: MHRA warns of contaminated TCM


The MHRA is advising consumers not to use the products specified due to concerns about possible side effects due to reported contamination with lead and mercury.

The products are:

  • [W.S.] Tian Ma Toutong Wan
  • Shi Hu Ye Guang Wan (Ye Guang Wan)
  • Nai Chang Ming Yan Pills (Ming Yan Pills)
  • [Fung Shing Pai] Tian-Ma Wan
  • Bak Foong Pills

The above products are promoted as dealing with headaches, improving vision, relieving arthritic symptoms and menstrual symptoms.

The MHRA issued this warning in response the Hong Kong Department of Health warning consumers not to purchase or use specific batches of these products after they were found to contain excessive levels of lead or mercury.

Ingestion of excessive amounts of heavy metals such as lead or mercury poses serious health risks because the metals may accumulate in vital organs of the body. Children are most susceptible to the toxic effects. Shi Hu Ye Guang Wan (Ye Guang Wan) is also known to contain Antelope Horn (Cornu Saigae Tataricae), Bak Foong contains Deer’s Antler and Tian Ma Toutong Wan contains Aconitum carmichaeli root-prep (Aconitum is prohibited for internal use in the UK under SI 2130). Batches of [W.S.] Tian Ma Toutong Wan, Shi Hu Ye Guang Wan (Ye Guang Wan), Nai Chang Ming Yan Pills (Ming Yan Pills) and [Fung Shing Pai] Tian-Ma Wan were found to contain lead.

Contamination of Traditional Chinese Medicines is regrettably common with a combination of high demand, lax regulation and poor processing conditions likely to be the blame. Though it is not uncommon for TCM companies and practitioners to lace their remedies with drugs that are known to have an active effect.

The MHRA has stated:

Consumers should be aware that whilst specific batches were found to be contaminated, the unregulated nature of the unlicensed herbal remedies market means that no batches have been assessed by the MHRA for quality and safety purposes and it is not possible to be certain that other batches are not similarly affected. All of the products are available via the internet so consumers are advised to be cautious.

The toxic effects of lead include abdominal pain, anaemia, changes in blood pressure, reproductive disorders such as miscarriage, weakness, concentration problems, weight loss, insomnia, dizziness, and kidney and brain damage. The toxic effects of mercury include irritability, tremors, memory loss, insomnia, concentration problems, and kidney and brain damage.

If  you have used one of the products mentioned above, or any other TCM, and experienced these or other side effects please contact your GP.

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