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Study links herbal remedy birthwort to centuries of kidney failure, cancers

Filed April 10th, 2012 Laurie

A new study is linking the use of the herbal remedy birthwort to centuries of kidney disease, kidney failure, and cancer.

According to a USA Today report on research from Stony Brook University, the birthwort plant contains a dangerous toxin that targets the kidneys. The team at SBU found a “genetic signature” in people who were diagnosed with cancer or kidney failure that could have only been caused by the plant that has been used for ages as an herbal remedy.

Birthwort,sometimes called Dutchman’s pipes, is believed by some to cure kidney stones, snakebites, and to heal wounds, according to the USA Today report. Use of it as a medicine dates back to 300 B.C.

It is still widely used today in Taiwan and the same researchers believe it is likely the cause of its “sky-high” rate of kidney disease. SBU researchers have released initial findings from their study in the journal Kidney International. They plan to release updates with more detailed findings – including information on birthwort’s link to kidney disease in Taiwan – in future reports.

There have been previous studies which believe birthwort has toxic properties for the kidneys. A recent scare in 2000 was caused by women in Belgium attending a weight-loss clinic who were given birthwort. Nearly five percent of the women attending the clinic eventually suffered kidney failure.

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