Bloomberg Businessweek

The Dark Side of Chinese Medicine

Officials are alarmed over a $13 billion market in herbal injectables
Many traditional-remedy injectables haven’t gone through strict clinical trials

Early on a snowy winter morning in January 2012, Wu Xiaoliang, a 37-year-old farmer, stopped by his local doctor for a headache remedy. At a small clinic near his village outside Quzhou, in eastern China, he received two injections made from traditional Chinese herbs. Hours later, villagers saw him struggling to prop himself up on his moped as he drove home. By noon, he was dead.

What killed Wu was later described in an autopsy report as a “drug allergy.” But doctors couldn’t pinpoint what he was allergic to, because the shots he was given contained dozens, if not hundreds, of different compounds extracted from two herbs.

For centuries, Chinese have bought plant and animal parts from herbalist clinics—everything from simple ginseng to slices

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