DNA analysis can reveal Traditional Chinese Medicine ingredients

Homeopathy bugs me more than most alternative medicines because it’s at one extreme. It’s a “treatment” with no active ingredients. Proponents may claim there are still active ingredients, but any are removed during the process of creating the homeopathic remedies. At the opposite extreme we have TCM (traditional Chinese medicine). What are the ingredients in that? Who knows. One serious problem with TCM is that many of the ingredients that go into these “medicines” remain a mystery, and you have no idea what you are consuming. The other problem is that the nonsense, superstitious, and pseudoscientific thinking behind the “special properties” of the specific ingredients mean we have people killing rhinos for their horns, tigers for their penis (actually many species for their penis), bears for their bile (which is extracted through a permanent hole in a living bear’s abdomen), and all sorts of other charming ingredients with no medicinal value (snake oil, sea horses, turtle’s plastrons etc). While TCM carries the same risks as alternative medicines like homeopathy in that they are an alternative to real medicine (great if you want an alternative to health), they also may contain unknown ingredients that could damage your body, and they can do damage to ecosystems and biodiversity.

So, how exactly do you find find out what’s in TCM? Science!

In Australia, TCM is often seized by customs at airports. A team of researchers got their hands on 28 TCM remedies from customs and set about discovering what the mystery ingredients were. Some of the powders and pills did have labelled ingredients, but were they accurate? In order to identify what animals and plants had been used as ingredients, the scientists sequenced ribosomal RNA and plastid genes from the 15 TCMs that had enough high-quality DNA. What they found was alarming, but perhaps not all that surprising for some. The mystery ingredients included toxic plants and endangered animals.

The team found plant ingredients that are highly toxic outside of a narrow range of dosage, yet the concentrations are not labelled on the TCM packaging, so there is no way to know how much you are taking. Some of the identified plant ingredients are banned in many countries due to their toxicity. From just those 15 TCMs, the researchers also found toad, sheep, cow, deer, antelope, water buffalo, and bear ingredients, many not listed on the labels. The analysis revealed Asian black bear (Ursus thibetanus), which is classed as a “vulnerable” species under CITES, and the saiga (Saiga tatarica), classed as “critically endangered”.

This is mostly bad news and old news. But the good news is that these researchers argue the techniques used to analyse the TCMs are accurate, cost-effective, and should be used for other alternative medicines that use ingredients from organisms. I seriously doubt the ability to identify mystery ingredients in TCMs will directly stop poachers murdering rhinos, or people continuously draining the gallbladder of a living bear. But these analyses are a great step in the legal battle against TCM and its controversial ingredients. Refusing to list the illegal ingredients on the label isn’t enough now. When TCMs are seized and analysed, and if the authorities can trace the items back to their creators, then legal action can be taken. This is something I hope we see a lot more of.

Posted on April 14, 2012, in Alternative medicine, Science and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 23 Comments.

  1. Peter you blatantly and rather -lets say- unscientifically, contradict yourself here, by first saying homoeopathy has “no active ingredients” and then go onto say “TCM carries the same risks as alternative medicines like homeopathy in that they … also may contain unknown ingredients that could damage your body”. I am not going to bother with discussing how you think TCM and homoeopathy are similar alternative “treatments” and so should be lumped together here with obvious lack of knowledge about homoeopathy, but if you do think homoepathy has no active ingredients, then how can you – in the same article – say that homoeopathy contains unknown ingredients that can damage a body. According to you, if homoepathy has no active ingredients, your worst result is that taking it would have no benefit, rather different than from injesting medicines containing unlabelled bear’s bile.
    And if your major concern is people’s health as you declare, then maybe you should note that more many, many,more people die from Adverse Drug reactions per year caused by pharmaceutical drugs than by taking homoeopathic medicines. So if you want an alternative to health, by all mean continue your rigid thinking. And I myself have taken many medically labelled homoeopathic medicines, and they have worked – despite the nocebo effect. However, I personally do not agree with injury to animals and I cannot comment on the efficacy of TCM, but do know in Homoeopathy all medicines are stringltly tested through doubly blind studies with no injury to animals. And lastly just for your information I myself am a qualified Geneticist and Biochemist.

  2. I was recommended this website by my cousin. I am now not positive whether this publish is written by him as no one else know such detailed approximately my difficulty.

    You’re incredible! Thanks!

  3. Hey There. I discovered your blog the use of msn. That is
    a really neatly written article. I’ll make sure to bookmark it and come back to learn more of your
    helpful information. Thanks for the post. I’ll definitely return.

  4. Heya i am for the first time here. I found this board and I
    find It truly useful & it helped me out much. I hope to
    give something back and aid others like you helped me.

  5. Howdy would you mind sharing which blog platform you’re using?
    I’m planning to start my own blog in the near future but I’m having a hard time making a decision between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal.

    The reason I ask is because your design seems different then most blogs and
    I’m looking for something completely unique. P.S Sorry for being
    off-topic but I had to ask!

  6. I’m not sure where you are getting your information, but good topic.
    I needs to spend some time learning much
    more or understanding more. Thanks for excellent info I was looking for this info for my
    mission.

  7. hello!,I like your writing so much! percentage we keep in touch extra about your article on
    AOL? I require a specialist on this area to resolve my problem.
    May be that is you! Looking ahead to peer you.

  8. I truly love your site.. Excellent colors & theme.
    Did you develop this site yourself? Please reply back as I’m planning to create my very own blog
    and would love to learn where you got this from or just what the theme is named.
    Many thanks!

  9. There’s certainly a lot to know about this topic. I love all the points you have made.

  10. My brother recommended I would possibly like this web site.
    He was entirely right. This submit actually made my day.
    You can not believe just how a lot time I had spent for this information!
    Thanks!

  11. Excellent blog here! Also your website loads up very fast!
    What host are you using? Can I get your affiliate link to your host?
    I wish my site loaded up as fast as yours lol

  12. Greetings from Colorado! I’m bored to tears at work so I decided
    to check out your blog on my iphone during lunch break.
    I really like the info you present here and can’t wait to take a look
    when I get home. I’m surprised at how quick your blog
    loaded on my mobile .. I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G ..

    Anyways, amazing site!

  13. Yes! Finally something about paydal loans.

  14. Thanks for sharing such a pleasant opinion, article is fastidious, thats why
    i have read it fully

    • Hmm it appears like your blog ate my first comment (it was extremely long) so
      I guess I’ll just sum it up what I wrote and say,
      I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog. I as well am an aspiring blog
      blogger but I’m still new to everything. Do you have any recommendations for first-time blog writers?
      I’d certainly appreciate it.

    • If you desire to obtain a good deal from this post then you have to apply these methods to your won weblog.

    • I just couldn’t depart your website before suggesting that I extremely loved
      the standard info a person provide for your guests?

      Is gonna be again often in order to investigate cross-check new posts

    • Hello! I understand this is sort of off-topic however I
      had to ask. Does managing a well-established blog like yours
      require a large amount of work? I’m completely new to writing a blog but I do write in my journal every day.
      I’d like to start a blog so I will be able to share my own experience and feelings
      online. Please let me know if you have any suggestions or tips for
      new aspiring blog owners. Thankyou!

    • I read this article fully about the comparison of most
      up-to-date and earlier technologies, it’s amazing
      article.

  15. Hi there! This is my 1st comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout
    out and tell you I really enjoy reading through your blog
    posts. Can you suggest any other blogs/websites/forums that
    deal with the same topics? Appreciate it!

  16. Whats up tis is somewhat of off topic but I was
    wondering iff blogs use WYSIWYG editors or if you have
    tto manually code with HTML. I’m starting
    a blog soon but have no coding expertise so I wanted to gett advice from
    someone with experience. Any help would be enormously appreciated!

  17. Whole grain breads, cereals and pastas have high amounts of thiamin. When our body p – H ( becomes
    more and more acidic it starts to set up defense mechanisms
    to keep the damaging acid from entering our vital organs.
    Blueberries Chock filled with anti-oxidants and also phytoflavinoids,
    Blueberries are also high in potassium as well as
    ascorbic acid.

  1. Pingback: April | Pearltrees

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 61 other followers

%d bloggers like this: