TCM medicinal plant apparently causes cancer

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Medicinal plants from traditional Chinese medicine cause cancer

In Taiwan, more people suffer from upper urinary tract tumors than anywhere else in the world. Scientists have now discovered the cause of the frequency of this cancer: It is a medicinal plant used in traditional Chinese medicine for natural medicine, which has long been banned in Germany due to its toxic effects.

Aristolochic acid can cause upper urinary tract cancer Between 1997 and 2003, a third of the Taiwanese population took Aristolochia products. They are obtained from the so-called "Common Easter Luzei" (Aristolochia clematitis) and related plants that have long been considered medicinal plants. Scientists are now reporting in the science magazine "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences" that the aristolochic acid contained in the plants and the preparations made from them are carcinogenic. It promotes tumors of the upper urinary tract, which include the bladder, kidney pelvis and ureters Kidney damage that can even lead to kidney failure, the scientists report that chronic kidney disease is also unusually common in Taiwan.

As part of the study, an international team of researchers led by Chung-Hsin Chen from the National Taiwan University Hospital in Taipei examined 151 tumors of the upper urinary tract using genetic analysis. The special gene signature of the tumors, which were caused by aristolochic acid, could be detected in 60 percent of the cases. This special feature has already been identified in the so-called Balkan nephropathy. Many rural kidney diseases and tumors of the upper urinary tract occurred conspicuously in rural regions of several Southeast European countries. The phenomenon was described as early as the 1950s, but the cause was only clarified much later. The weed Aristolochia clematitis is widespread in these regions and got into locally processed and consumed cereals.

The researchers report that the distribution of cancer forms caused by Aristolochia preparations in Taiwan is significantly different from that of other countries. It is striking that in Taiwan 35 percent of tumors occur in the ureter or kidney pelvis instead of the bladder. This is only the case for ten percent of patients worldwide. In addition, an above-average number of women fell ill in Taiwan. They also received Aristolochia supplements more often than men.

Carcinogenic effects of aristolochic acid known since 2009 Plants containing aristolochic acid are said to help against many ailments. They are therefore prescribed for depression, asthma, constipation, rheumatism, tetanus, menstrual disorders and syphilis. However, the effect has not been scientifically proven. As early as 2009, doctors from the National University of Taiwan described in the journal of the National Cancer Institute that taking herbs with aristolochic acids increased the risk of tumors in the genitourinary tract.

The researchers evaluated the health insurance data of almost 4,600 patients with abdominal cancer who contracted the tumor again within five years. They also determined whether those affected had taken herbs with aristolochic acids. The researchers demonstrated that the more herbs they took, the higher the risk of cancer. There was a clear dose-response relationship. In Germany, such drugs have been banned for a long time. The ban was enforced in Taiwan and China in 2003. (ag)

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Image: Kurt Stueber, Wikipedia

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