Phillip Minton M.D.

Herbal Aristolochic Acid Raises Risk of Bladder Cancer

In cancer on December 2, 2012 at 9:04 pm

It is my role as a physician to counsel patients on both the potential risks and benefits of both conventional medical and surgical therapies as well as those in herbal and dietary therapy. I most often write on the surprising benefits of healthy foods and herbal remedies. However, there are downside risks as well. We need to remain vigilant as to both the good and bad of natural medical therapies.

In this regard, a recent study from Taiwan points to the possible risks inherent in the use of a widely-utilized TCM herb, fang chi. The herb contains an abundance of aristolochic acid, and has been linked in that study to increased rates of kidney disease and bladder cancer. The study is small, and surely further research will enlighten us to the true magnitude of this effect.

Meanwhile, let’s remain cognizant of the fact that “natural” remedies are not inherently beneficial just because they are not man-made. They may be harmful. Or, as is the case with many pharmaceuticals, have both beneficial and detrimental effects.

http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/04/03/1119920109.full.pdf

http://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/ntp/roc/twelfth/profiles/AristolochicAcids.pdf

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