Traditional chinese medicine toxicology

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  • Traditional Chinese medicine has become increasingly popular in the US and other Western countries, and has remained extremely popular in China and Hong Kong.[1]
  • Although generally marketed as "natural" and "herbal" in nature, many contain contaminants in the form of heavy metals or conventional western medications.[1]
    • Studies have found, among others, cadmium, cobalt, copper, iron, manganese, nickel, lead, zinc, and mercury in traditional Chinese medicines[1][2]

Common Toxic Herbs

Aconitine Group

These are the most common group of herbals[1]

  • Activates sodium channels → cardiac and neurotoxicity
  • Paresthesias, nausea/vomiting, arrhythmias, hypotension

Podophyllin Group

  • Neurotoxicity (convulsion + coma)

Anticholinergic group

  • Tachy arrythmia + altered mental status

Digoxin-like agents

  • Tachy arrhythmia
  • Heart Blocks

See Also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Kam PC1, Liew S. Traditional Chinese herbal medicine and anaesthesia. Anaesthesia. 2002 Nov;57(11):1083-9.
  2. Chan K. Some aspects of toxic contaminants in herbal medicines. Chemosphere. 2003 Sep;52(9):1361-71.