The chinese continue to live in ignorance taking chinese herbs and marketing them to the USA and europe proclaiming cures by enhancing chi. What people dont realize is many of these herbs contain dangerous amounts of toxic products.. In Sacramento, an acupuncturist was sold the wrong Chinese herb for a tea meant to help her arthritis. She wound up in a coma and, when she woke up, her hands and legs were partially paralyzed. In Novato, a woman swallowed some capsules of an imported herbal cold medicine and got so sick that doctors thought she had leukemia. And in San Diego, a 2-year-old baby was hospitalized with seizures after taking an Asian patent medicine, contaminated with a potentially deadly chemical. After hearing numerous stories like these, state officials warn that, while imported herbal remedies can offer real benefits, they can also be toxic. The California Department of Health has found dozens of imported products contaminated with lead, mercury, arsenic or dangerous chemicals. And it has identified cases in which mishandled or mislabeled ingredients led to life-threatening injuries and deaths. "These medicines are coming into the U.S. as food products and, by and large, food products are not tested," said Richard Ko, a pharmacologist for the state health department, who has spearheaded a campaign to detect contaminated imports. "There needs to be a change in the law in how we regulate these herbal products." In recent years, Asian remedies have rapidly gained popularity in the United States, both inside and out of the Asian community. But, because the products are billed as natural, consumers may not realize they need to treat them with caution. "People assume that, because herbs are natural, they're safe," said Kerry Hartsough of the California Department of Consumer Affairs, which licenses acupuncturists, who must be trained in herbal medicine. "There are a lot of things in nature that can be deadly." Overseas mass production. Traditionally, Asian medicine has been practiced by herbalists who mix each remedy individually from raw herbs. But such medicines have become so popular, they are now being mass produced in foreign factories -- and this has resulted in new types of contamination problems. In some cases, health experts have found that herbs used safely in teas for hundreds of years become dangerous when manufactured into pills and powders. In others, they have identified pollutants or drugs which in the United States could only be sold by prescription, which have been added to products in factories. Finally, some herbs wind up being dangerous simply because they are misidentified. Last summer, for instance, a 61-year-old Sacramento acupuncturist was partially paralyzed after drinking an herbal tea to help her arthritis. She had been sold the wrong herb. Instead of taking the harmless flowering plant, Clematis Chinesis, she drank a poisonous herb that is used as an ointment to treat genital warts. The two plants look nearly identical. Ko believes most imported herbs and medicines are safe. The problem for customers is that there is no easy way to identify the contaminated ones. Under the current regulatory process, when products arrive in the United States there is no routine, quality control testing to verify their labeled contents. "It's a big problem," said Yvonne Lau, president of the Oakland-based Mayway Herb Co., which became so concerned about the uneven quality of herbs being exported from China that it contracted with a Hong Kong university to conduct purity checks on products it imports. "If someone gets sick, it gives Chinese medicine a ban name," she said. Fatal mixture In a few cases, injuries have resulted from mistakes made in the United States, because people are not required to have any training to dispense herbal Medicines. In 1994, a 25-year-old San Francisco woman died after drinking a medicinal tea mixture purchased at an herb store to help her sustain a pregnancy. The woman, who wanted to avoid another miscarriage, began vomiting immediately after drinking the tea and died within two and a half hours. Ko and other state toxicologists analyzed the tea. They found that when laboratory rats were given components of the brew, they died in as little as two and a half minutes. Ultimately, they learned that an herb store clerk had inadvertently put a wrong ingredient in the woman's tea mixture -- a highly poisonous toad venom used in small doses in skin ointments. Cases like this have resulted in a call for stricter standards on who can handle the most dangerous types of herbs. "I'm very uncomfortable that people can prescribe a full line of Chinese formulas without any training," said Lloyd Wright, a Palo Alto acupuncturist who sat on the state Acupuncture Board for five years. "You're asking for trouble eventually." Contaminated imports The state has also documented dozens of cases in which products were contaminated with toxics before importation from Asia. In the case of the San Diego toddler, for instance, a product whose label claimed it would treat vomiting and fever in infants turned out to be contaminated with borneol, a highly toxic chemical that can cause liver or kidney damage or death. The child survived. Two years ago, the California health department analyzed 260 Asian patent medicines, products that contain premixed combinations of herbs pressed into pills or capsules. Investigators discovered toxic ingredients in nearly a third of the products. Twenty-four contained high levels of lead, 35 contained the poisonous heavy metal mercury and 36 were contaminated with arsenic. Additionally, 17 products were spiked with pharmaceutical drugs. One even had measurable amounts of the poison strychnine. Ansenpunaw tablets, imported from China and advertised as "a brain tonic and sedative medicine," contained 1,000 times more mercury than U.S. standards deem safe for consumption. Another product, "Double Dragon Pills," which listed such ingredients as cow's bone glue and sea horse, had 30 times more lead than is considered acceptable. Lau said her company has had to reject some raw herbs grown in China because they were contaminated in the farming process. "China has a lot of industry and a lot of pollution," she said. "If your herb field is right next to a factory, the plants just suck up the pollution." Drugs in your herbs. In several cases, foreign manufacturers have been caught adding pharmaceutical drugs to supposedly natural products exported to the United States. A Novato woman sued the distributors of a common Chinese cold formula after she came close to dying of a blood disease that health investigators believe she got from the product. Connie Hirschmugl said in Marin County Superior Court that she got sick after taking the popular Chinese cold remedy Zhong Gan Ling in 1996. She wound up in the hospital with so few white blood cells that doctors thought she had leukemia. Hirschmugl was near death for two days, but later recovered completely. The health department's Ko tested the Zhong Gan Ling she had taken and says he found it had been spiked with a pain reliever banned in the United States because of its risk of causing just such a blood disorder. And last month, the federal Food and Drug Administration stopped the importation of five products purporting to be natural remedies for diabetics, after a Marin County man suffered episodes of low blood sugar while using one of them. An investigation revealed the Chinese products had been spiked with a prescription drug. "All these things should be regulated," said Dr. Kevin Kobalter, a Marin endocrinologist who discovered the illegal diabetes drugs when his patient started having problems. "We need to know what's in them and know it's pure."