Chinese Herbal Medicines Are Often Mislabelled

Ever tried a traditional Chinese medicine for your cold? You might want to question what’s really in that “natural extract”. Nearly 80% of Chinese patent medicines are mislabelled, a new study from the University of Guelph has found.

Scientists at the uni worked with Chinese researchers to examine 20 extracts and 47 Chinese traditional medicines. Specifically, they tested for Lonicerae japonicae Flos, aka, East Asian Honeysuckle. The dried leaves and flowers of this plant are used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat coughs, headaches, fevers and sore throats.

The researchers used a new DNA barcoding technique to test traditional Chinese medicines and extracts that allegedly contained this Honeysuckle plant. They found that the contents of the medicines matched the ingredients listed on the labels in only 17% of the extracts and 22% of the Chinese traditional medicines.

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“We found significant adulteration in these products; people are not getting what they are paying for,” said study co-author Professor Steve Newmaster. “Too often this is the case with natural health products. But now we have found a way to effectively test these medicines using this new technique. Consumers will know what they are putting in their bodies.”

Newmaster is now planning to use this special DNA technique to test other prods. Stay tuned.

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