Many believe that taking traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) will do a lot of good but they may be doing just the opposite. A group of researchers from University of Adelaide, Murdoch University and Curtin University reveal the shocking truth.

In a study published in Nature Scientific Reports the researchers have identified snow leopard DNA, arsenic, Viagra and other illegal substances present in the medicines. They considered 26 traditional Chinese medicines that are widely available and used in Australia. Almost 90 percent of them were not fit for consumption.

These TCMs are sold in Australian markets, mostly Adelaide, for general wellness and flu treatments. The researchers stated in the study that they used heavy metal testing, toxicology and DNA sequencing to screen the composition of the medicines.

“The most concerning finding was snow leopard DNA (snow leopards are an endangered species), which was detected in one medicine,” Professor Michael Bunce and Dr Ian Musgrave, co-authors of the study said, reports Huffington Post Australia.

Out of the 26 medicines, 14 have no listing and are not meant for commercial purpose. The rest 12 are listed by Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). The unlisted substances in the drugs range from illegal stimulants ephedrine, steroids and paracetamol to sildenafil, an active ingredient found in Viagra.

“DNA from pit viper, frog, rat, cat and dog was also detected in several medicines,” the Chinese medicine study reveals, reports SBS.

More than 50 percent of the medicines contained alarmingly high levels of toxic metals including cadmium, lead and arsenic. Four of the 26 medicines had heavy metal dosage at least 10 times the permitted regulatory limit set by TGA Australia. One medicine contained a substance used in rat poison and a very low dosage of strychnine, a performance-enhancing drug.

Anticoagulant medicine Warfarin, used to slow down blood clotting process, was also found. Warfarin should be taken under strict medical supervision.

“Such findings are not only of concern to the consumer, but also flag the need for detailed auditing of herbal preparations prior to evaluation in clinical trials,” the authors said.

They also added that manufacturers of TCMs were exploiting the system and also criticised the regulation process for not being accountable and stringent enough. Next year, the researchers plan to test 300 traditional Chinese medicines widely-used in Australia.

However, the Federation of Chinese Medicine Society of Australia warned against over-regulation of the medicines as it would unnecessarily burden the industry and the professionals in it.

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