Herbal list aims to prevent poisonings

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 March, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 March, 1996, 12:00am

A list of commonly used Chinese herbs will be available in the summer in an effort to prevent further poisonings, Secretary for Health and Welfare Katherine Fok Lo Shiu-ching said yesterday.

She said the Health Department was investigating three cases where people were admitted to hospital after eating gwai kuo , a toxic Chinese herb which should be used externally to ease swelling.

One patient was treated and discharged. Two women, aged 39 and 68, suffering from diarrhoea, vomiting and numbness in their limbs after eating toxic gwai kuo , remain in fair condition in Tuen Mun hospital.

'At present there is no law to control Chinese medicine and herbs,' said Mrs Fok. 'We have a list of the herbs. But it will be further reviewed and updated by the preparatory committee on Chinese medicine. A new list providing detailed ingredients, dosage and effectiveness of each herb will be available in June or July.' A simple list would also be prepared for the public.

But Mrs Fok said no toxic Chinese herbs would be banned.

Two sub-committees have been formed to examine Chinese herbs and practitioners who must soon be registered.

Committee member Dr Yeung Hin-wing said the standard of the Chinese medicine dispensers should be raised.

'In Hong Kong, if the dispensers were professional enough, the problem [of herb poisoning] would not reach the consumers,' Dr Yeung said.

There was a general misconception that all Chinese medicines were mild and could be consumed for long periods.

There are 5,767 Chinese medicinal materials listed in the Chinese Herbal Medicines Dictionary. About one-third are available in Hong Kong.