Herbal remedies and clinical biochemistry

Ann Clin Biochem 2003;40:489-507
© 2003 Association for Clinical Biochemistry


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Cathryn M Corns

Clinical Biochemistry Department, Southend Hospital, Westcliff-on-Sea SS0 0RY, UK

The use of herbal products in the UK is increasing, and over-the-counterherbal supplements are perceived by the public as ‘safe’ and’harmless’. Although the majority of them are safe, some herbalmedicines carry risks. Heavy metal contamination, adulterationwith Western pharmaceuticals and inclusion of prohibited animaland plant ingredients are regularly reported in ethnic medicines.Other herbs are hepato- or nephrotoxic and some interact withprescription medicines. Doctors should be made aware of theneed to take a herbal as well as a drug history, and the clinicallaboratory has a role in helping understanding of how herbalproducts may affect laboratory tests and in suggesting relevantlines of investigation in patients whose symptoms may be linkedto the use of herbal products.

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