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Contaminants or Ingredients Tables

By Lorenzo Puertas

The following table presents naturally occurring chemicals in Chinese herbs, mistakenly assumed to be contaminants.

1,2,4-trimethoxy-5-(1-propenyl)-benzene (Asarone) Shui Chang Pu / Acorus Rhizome / Acorus calamus L., rhizoma
5-(hydroxymethyl)-2-furancarboxaldehyde (HMF) Shu Di Huang / Cooked Rehmannia / Rehmannia glutinosa, preparata and many other herbs. This is a decomposition product of carbohydrates and is formed during cooking or heat sterilization of food. It has been identified in a wide variety of heat-processed foods including milk, fruit juices, and honey.
Arsenic Xiong Huang / Realgar, Sulfide of Arsenic / As2S In this form, arsenic is only mildly toxic. Standard dosage is from 0.15 ≠ 0.6g in pills or powders, and it can be used topically in small amounts. If calcined, As2S oxidizes to become highly toxic As2SO3
Berberine Huang Lian / Coptis Rhizome / Coptis chinensis, C. deltoidea, C. omeiensis, C. teetoides, rhizomae. Also found in Goldenseal / Hydrastis canadensis, Oregon grape / Berberis aquifolium, Barberry / Berberis vulgaris, and Tree Turmeric / Berberis aristata. Berberine-containing plants are used in virtually all traditional medical systems.
Benzaldehyde Xing Ren / Bitter almond, apricot seed / Prunus armeniaca, semen. This herb contains amygdalin which hydrolizes into benzaldehyde and hydrocyanic acid. Benzaldehyde and its precursors are also found in Virginia Prune Bark and Wild Cherry Bark.
Benzoic Acid An Xi Xiang / Benzoin / Styrax benzoin, Styrax tonkinensis. Also found in Bai Dou Kou / Cardamon / Ammomum cardamom, fructus; Mei Gui Hua / Rose / Rosa Rugosa.
Benzyl Benzoate Ylang Ylang / Cananga odorata, flos. (Indonesia and SE Asia). This plant is one of the natural sources of Benzyl benzoate, an aromatic liquid used as a fixative and solvent in the manufacture of flavorings and perfume. It is also used in modern medicine in the treatment of certain skin conditions including head lice, scabies.
Beta-eudesmol Cang Zhu / Atractylodes Rhizome / Atractylodis lancea, A. chinensis, rhizoma; also found in Celery seeds / Apium graveolens, semen
Borneol Bing Pian / Borneol / Dryobalanops aromatica; Blumea balsamifera.
Bornyl acetate Zhang Nao / Camphor Crystals / Cinnamomum camphora.
Camphor Zhang Nao / Camphor Crystals / Cinnamomum camphora.
Creosol Found in Anise / Umbelliferae pimpinella and in the Bark of Birch trees / B. pubescens. B. verrucosa. This chemical was detected only in two products made in Thailand and labeled in Thai.
Dehydrocostus Lactone Chuan Mu Xiang / Aucklandia / Jurinea souliei.
Ephedrine Ma Huang / Ephedra Herb / Ephedra sinensis, herba.
Erythrocentaurin Long Dan Cao / Gentiana Root / Gentiana longdancao, radix; Also found in Centaurium erythraea L.; C. umbellatum and other herbs in the family Gentianaceae.
Eudesmol Hou Po / Magnolia Bark / Magnoliae officinalis, cortex.
Eugenol Hou Po / Magnolia Bark / Magnoliae officinalis, cortex, also found in Zhang Nao / Camphor Crystals / Cinnamomum camphora.
Hinesol Cang Zhu / Atractylodes Rhizome / Atractylodis lancea, A. chinensis, rhizoma.
Isoborneol Bing Pian / Borneol / Dryobalanops aromatica; Blumea balsamifera; also in Zhang Nao / Camphor Crystals / Cinnamomum camphora.
Isobornyl acetate Zhang Nao / Camphor Crystals / Cinnamomum camphora
Lead Qian Dan / Red Lead Oxide / Minium This herb is usually external application, and in very small doses internally, for short periods of time. Patent formulas with high levels of lead probably contain Qian Dan as an ingredient. Those with low levels may contain lead that has been leached from the soil by herbs.
Magnolol Hou Po / Magnolia Bark / Magnoliae officinalis, cortex
Menthol Bo He / Mint / Menthae haplocalycis, herba
Mercury sulfide Zhu Sha / Cinnabar / Cinnabaris
Methyl salicylate Found in the bark of many species of birch trees includin B. pubescens. B. verrucosa; also in bridewort / Spiraea salicifolia; some roses.
Osthole Du Huo / Jiang Huo / Angelica Root / Angelica pubescens, rhizoma
Psuedoephedrine Ma Huang / Ephedra Herb / Ephedra sinensis
Pulegone Bo He / Mint / Menthae haplocalycis, herba
Strychnine Ma Qian Zi / Nux-vomica Fruit / Strychnos nux-vomica L., fructus Small doses of strychnine excite the central nervous system, promote blood circulation, and increase breathing rate. Larger doses paralyze the muscles. Dose for the fruit is less than 1g / day orally. Serious toxicity has been recorded with use of over 50 mg of this fruit. This herb should always be used with caution.
This is a representative list of chemicals found in Chinese products tested by the California FDB, including every chemical found in more than one product tested. It does not include all of the chemical constituents of herbs reported in the 1997-98 Compendium of Asian Patent Medicines.

The following table includes chemicals that are in fact contaminants that may cause problems for patients.

Acetaminophen Acetaminophen is a popular analgesic sold as Tylenol and other OTC brands. Though it is a very popular drug, acetaminophen is a nephrotoxin, implicated in thousands of hospitalizations each year. Found in three (3) products. Gan Mao Qing Capsules made by Bai Yun Shan Pharm. Factory, Guang Zhou, China; and Saridon made by F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd. Basel, Switzerland. The third product is unknown at this time.
Aminopyrine Aminopyrine is an analgesic that is no longer used in the United States because of reported toxicity and deaths. Found in one (1) product.
Arsenic A heavy metal used as an ingredient, but also appearing as an unintended contaminant in some products. Like other heavy metals, arsenic can be absorbed from the soil by certain herbs. Laboratory testing of raw materials and finished herbal products is the only way to guarantee formulas that are free of heavy metals.
Chlorpheniramine Chlorpheniramine is an antihistamine which may cause serious CNS depression when it is combined with other CNS depressants. It should also not be used with MAO inhibiting drugs or herbs. Found in three (3) products. Gan Mao Qing Capsules made by Bai Yun Shan Pharm. Factory, Guang Zhou, China; Pe Min Kan Wan made by United Pharmaceutical Manufactory, Fushan ,China; and Zhong Gan Ling made by the Meizhou City Pharm. Manufactory, Guangdong, China
Chlorzoxazone Analgesic that acts on the CNS for relief of acute musculoskeletal pain. Serious hepatocellular toxicity has been seen ≠ rarely - in patients taking this drug. This drug was detected in one (1) product, Chih Shih Ton, a patent medicine for the relief of back pain.
Lead Lead in different concentrations was found in many of the patent formulas tested by the FDB. In those formulas with lead over 20 ppm, the lead may be due to the use of Qian Dan / Red Lead Oxide as an ingredient. Those formulas with low levels of lead may be cases of herbs leaching lead from mineral-rich soil.
Phenacetin Phenacetin has been used since the 19th century as an analgesic. Like acetaminophen, it is derived from coal tar. Because of incidences of nephrotoxicity when taken over long periods, phenacetin is no longer available in the U.S. Found in two (2) products. Cogent 20 made by Natural Plan Research Institute, China; and Huang Lien Shang Ching Pien Tientsin Drug Manufactory, Tientsin, China
Phenylbutazone Phenylbutazone is a Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug, (NSAID), known to have higher rates of severe organ toxicity than other NSAIDs. Phenylbutazone is also well known to have a much higher risk of causing irreversible bone marrow suppression than any other NSAID. This drug is no longer used in the United States. Found in one (1) product. Chihshihton made by Chung Ching Dispensary Ltd., Taiwan
Piperazine A crystalline powder used in the treatment of ascariasis and enterobiasis. Found in two (2) products. Anthelin unknown manufacturer, and Siu Pork Si Tai Tung Hong, Bankok, Thailand
This list includes representative contaminants from Category B (naturally occurring) and Category C (deliberate adulterants, such as pharmaceuticals).


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