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That’s Probably Not Good For You: Chinese “Medicinal” Herbs Packed With Pesticides

If you're the kind of person taking honeysuckle for a cold, you probably don't also want a mouthful of pesticide residue along with it, and we don't blame you.

Chinese Herbs

OK, folks, it looks like it’s officially time to stop flushing your hard-earned cash down the drain on herbal supplements and traditional remedies. Not only are Chinese medicinal herbs not medicine, they may actually contain unlisted ingredients — like, oh, kind of a lot of pesticides — that can be hazardous to your health. A recent report by Greenpeace found that of 36 samples of herbs like chrysanthemum, rosebud and honeysuckle taken in Europe and North America contained residues from three or more kinds of pesticides that exceeded accepted safe levels set by the European Union.

Greenpeace conducted tests on herbal remedies in seven countries, including the United States, finding that many of the sampled herbs contained a cocktail of pesticides that boggles the mind. A sample of honeysuckle from Germany, for example, was contaminated with residues from no less than 26 pesticides. Almost half of the samples, which are just a tiny representation of an herbal export business worth $2.3 billion to China in 2011, were contaminated with pesticides rated highly or extremely dangerous by the World Health Organization.

You can read the full report from Greenpeace here. Since these doses are still fairly small, it’s hard to tell what health effects they could have. It is, however, safe to assume that folks who are likely to take honeysuckle for a cold would also be fairly twitchy about ingesting a dose of thiophanate-methyl along with it. And rightly so, we think.

Look, what you do with your own money and how you choose to look after your own health is, of course, your business. But this is one more reason to be pretty careful about claims made by medicine-like things — like supplements, vitamins, and herbal remedies — that are under no onus to back up the claims they make to health benefits. For vitamins, we know there can be too much of a good thing, while this report shows that herbal remedies aren’t always the ‘return to nature’ solution they may claim to be.

(via Greenpeace, The Guardian, image via flickr)

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