Medicinal plant extract causes liver cancer

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After all, not everything that is natural is good, a new study concludes that aristolochic acid, an extract from a group of medicinal plants, is one of the causes of liver cancer.

There are those who claim that herbal medicines are natural products and therefore are good for health. But you have to evaluate what a natural product is. Is he the opposite of a chemist? Natural products are also chemicals. Therefore, medicinal herbs are chemicals and may have toxic effects on health. It was a team of scientists from Singapore and Taiwan who published this week a scientific article in the journal Science Translational Medicine, which concluded that aristolochic acid – extracted from aristlecchia, climbing plants – is also linked to liver cancer.

Aristolochic acid is a compound of plants of the genus Aristolochia, as well as Asarum. Around the world, about 100 plant species contain this acid, says study coordinator Steve Rozen of the Duke University School of Medicine in the United States and the National University of Singapore. Steve Rozen also shows us three species present in Portugal that have aristolochic acid: Aristolochia baetica, Aristolochia paucinervis and Aristolochia pistolochia.

However, the toxic effects of this acid have been increasingly visible. In the 1990s, in Belgium, about 1,800 women took some weight-loss pills, and these tablets contained extracts from the root of a plant in the aristocracy family, so about 100 of these women were eventually hospitalized in Brussels with kidney failure and need hemodialysis.

But there are more cases, for example, in the Balkans, it was realized that the aristolochias, which grow on the fields spontaneously, contaminated wheat-based foods. The origin of the endemic Balkan nephropathy disease was discovered, affecting only rural communities in Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania and Serbia.

Health officials are aware of the danger of this acid and in 2001 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned of the carcinogenic risk of this acid. The World Health Organization also considered it carcinogenic. Its use as a medicinal herb has been banned in Europe and the United States since 2001, and in Asian countries such as Taiwan and Japan since 2003.

In the year 2013, two scientific articles, also in Science Translational Medicine, indicated that this acid causes cancer of the urinary tract. In addition, by identifying the tags (molecular signature) that aristolochic acid leaves on the DNA molecule, it has also been found to cause cancer of the kidneys and liver.

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