Medicine in the US today is as polarized as our politics, and just as full of talking points and bald faced lies. I find it infuriating and frustrating. Today I read a hit piece attacking naturopathic doctors. It claimed that we push herbs that contain aristolochic acid (AA). AA is a known carcinogen in the bladder and kidneys, and a new study suggests that it's causing a lot of liver cancer too. It really ticks me off when headlines say we push people to take poison. Not so. We are here to guard against such mistakes.
Chinese herbal products have often been found to contain toxins, and to be mis-labeled or not labeled at all. Herbs containing AA can be found in Chinese weight loss formulas, among other places Here in the good old US we may complain about the shady politics in the FDA, but at some level they really are trying to protect us. They're doing better than the Chinese authorities, far as I can tell.
There's been an incredible increase in the wealth of the Chinese middle class in the last 25 years. Suddenly people have jobs, cars, and disposable income. They are eating more sugar than they ever have before, and they are getting fat, even getting diabetes. The Chinese are looking more and more like US.
Combine their new obesity, disposable income, and good supply of poorly regulated herbal products, and you can understand why the Chinese are getting cancer from AA. Lots of other people in Asia, like the Taiwanese, are having the same problem.
We've known about AA for a long time. The FDA issued a warning about it in 2001 which is when it came onto a lot of people's radar.
If you would like to know if an herbal formula or a supplement is safe to take, there is no one better to consult than a naturopath. We study on which herbs are useful and which are dangerous.
It is true that the vast majority of herbal products are not very well tested. You have to do the research to find out which ones are good, or ask a naturopath. Some companies have excellent quality assurance standards, and some do not. If you are going to take a product, you want to know if it contains what it says on the label. You also want to know that it does not contain anything toxic. Third party testing of products is expensive and most companies don't do it. If you buy the cheapest herbs you can get, you are probably choosing the ones that haven't been checked. Just so you know.
The people who are dedicated to the project of smearing alternative medicine don't know much about it, but that doesn't slow them down. It has become disgustingly normal, especially online, to just say whatever you want as if it were true, and keep saying it until the dimwitted come to believe you.
Don't let them brainwash you. Keep your wits sharp. Gather information and challenge your own assumptions. There is disinformation on all sides, and medicine is as rich a medium for BS as politics.
Just because something is natural does not make it safe. Just because something is herbal does not make it dangerous. If you're going to experiment with herbs, do your research--or get some help from someone who has. And don't buy imported herbs online. Please.