Research: SHAW and colleagues, M

Listed in Issue 36


SHAW and colleagues, Medical Toxicology Unit, Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital Trust, London, UK write that the Medical Toxicology Unit (MTU) at Guys' Hospital has been evaluating the toxicological problems associated with the use of traditional and herbal remedies and dietary supplements.



Assessments were performed by evaluating reports to the National Poisons Information Service London (NPISL), which supplies emergency information to medical professionals. Relevant telephone enquiries to NPISL were identified and further case details obtained through follow-up questionnaire, clinical consultation, toxicological analysis of samples from patients and/or products and botanical identification of plant material.


Of 1297 symptomatic enquiries evaluated, there was a possible/confirmed association in 785 cases. Case series were identified substantiating previous reports, including liver problems following the use of Chinese herbal medicines used for skin disorders, allergic reactions to royal jelly and propolis and heavy metal poisoning from remedies from the Indian subcontinent.



Shaw D et al. Traditional remedies and food supplements. A 5-year toxicological study (1991-1995). Drug Saf 17(5): 342-56. Nov 1997.


Sadly, it is the relatively small number of adverse reactions occurring to herbal medicines and nutritional supplements which often get headlined in the television and print media and which ultimately could lead to many of our most cherished medicines becoming controlled or available only on prescription. It is important that practitioners and consumers not be complacent about adverse reactions, but also remain vigilant to protect the free availability of nutritional and herbal supplements.

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