Endangered Animals and Toxins Found in Chinese Medicines
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is an integral part of Chinese cultural heritage. It has been around for almost 3,000 years and has trickled into the western world in the last few decades. People here in America and abroad look for alternative medicine and often turn to TCM, fueling a multimillion dollar industry. However, one disturbing thing that some non-natives probably don’t know when consuming these products is that they may not be getting the healing they seek but instead are consuming dangerous plant toxins, carcinogens, and critically endangered animals.
In a recent study researchers at Murdoch University in Australia for the first time used a second-generation DNA sequencing method on TCM that was seized at the Australian border. They tested a mix of 15 products including herbal teas, powders, tablets, flakes, and capsules and what they found was quite shocking. Some of the items showed DNA of the critically endangered Asiatic Black bear, the Saiga antelope, and some rhinoceros. In addition, many of the items were mislabeled, for example, one “medicine” was labeled 100% Saiga Antelope when the pills were actually made of goats and sheep DNA.
According to the report published by the Library of Science “in 78 percent of samples, animal DNA was identified that had not been clearly labeled on the packaging (in either English or Chinese).” Such a discovery is a breakthrough, because it makes tracking illegal animal trading easier.”
Moreover, some of these medicines contained types of plants that contain toxic chemicals known to cause kidney problems and cancer of the urinary tract. ”These plants contain chemicals which can be toxic if the wrong dosage is taken, but none of them actually listed concentrations on the packaging,” said research leader Dr Mike Bunce.
China is not exactly known for animal rights and welfare and some of the ways that they kill the earth’s most vulnerable creatures is horrifically inhumane, painful, and just downright cruel. Bear gallbladders can cost more than 3,000 in Asia, using their bile for medical purposes. It is thought to be a successful treatment for fever, liver disease, convulsions, diabetes, and heart disease. Bear farms in Asia are currently holding 12,000 bears captive in tiny metal cages where they are unable to move, lay flat on the ground, or hibernate. An untrained vet or farmer sticks a tube into their gallbladder as the fluid is drained up to three times a day to keep the wound from closing up. These bears spend a lifetime of pain and suffering all for TCM. The market for bear gallbladders is on the rise and the humane society says all five species of Asian bears are at risk for poaching. To help end bear farms visit this website and sign the appeal.
Rhino horns are illegal to poach and distribute. Since much of the Chinese culture believes that rhino horns have healing properties, the animal’s populations have dwindled. Gunmen hunt down the rhinos, shoot them with sedative darts knocking them unconscious, and then use machetes, saws, or knives to remove their horns. Once the rhino awakes from its drug-induced sleep, it is left with a painful gaping wound that leads to a slow death or a painful uncomfortable life. According to the World Wildlife Fund, there has been a large increase in these rhino attacks over the last few years. In 2010, 443 incidents of rhino attacks were recorded compared to 17 in 2007. Mostly all of this poaching is occurring in South Africa for the high Asian demand in their products and medicines.
There has been absolutely no clinical evidence that any of these endangered animal products cure or treat illnesses and it is highly unethical to purchase or take part in these kinds of ancient folklore practices.
Although rare, TCM containing endangered animals has been able to slip under the radar and bypass the Food and Drug administration as food supplements in the U.S. despite adverse reactions and legality concerns of the products. With this new method of DNA technology now scientists will have a tool to prove the contents and ingredients of these “medicines’ and hopefully will be phased out in the future.
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