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Caution against Chinese herb suspected to be contaminated
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     The Department of Health (DH) today (July 22) advised people who have purchased a Chinese herb called Rhizoma Atractylodis (a) from a licensed Chinese herbal medicine retailer in Sheung Wan, Wing Woo Hing (éM), not to consume the herb as it was suspected to be contaminated.

     DH has been informed by Queen Mary Hospital of a suspected case of poisoning involving a 79-year-old woman, who has a history of taking a self-prepared herbal decoction.

     The lady developed symptoms suggestive of atropine and scopolamine poisoning including slurring of speech, dizziness, generalised weakness and clumsiness 45 minutes after taking herbal decoction on July 11. The herbs bought from the Chinese herbal medicine retailer were for eczema. Urine test performed by the laboratory detected tropane alkaloids (atropine, scopolamine and anisodamine) which further confirmed the clinical suspicion.

     Her symptoms subsided shortly after admission and she was discharged on July 12.

     DH's investigation today at the retailer revealed that one of the herbs in the formula of the patient known as Rhizoma Atractylodis contained unknown plants as impurities.  Similar contamination of Rhizoma Atractylodis were reported in the literatures.  It was suspected that these impurities might contain tropane alkaloids which caused the intoxication.

     Urgent confirmatory chemical testing on the herbal specimens is being carried out.  Source tracing of Rhizoma Atractylodis is underway. DH has also seized all stocks of Rhizoma Atractylodis from the retailer for futher analysis. Investigation continues.

     Rhizoma Atractylodis is a commonly used herb and does not contain tropane alkaloids.  The herb itself is not toxic.

     As a precaution, members of the public who have purchased Rhizoma Atractylodis from the involved retailer are advised to stop using it and seek advice from their attending Chinese medicine practitioners.

Ends/Thursday, July 22, 2010
Issued at HKT 21:32

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