Folk MedicineJump to updated information on Burmese products Lead has been found in some traditional (folk) medicines used by East Indian, Indian, Middle Eastern, West Asian, and Hispanic cultures. Traditional medicines can contain herbs, minerals, metals, or animal products. Lead and other heavy metals are put into certain folk medicines on purpose because these metals are thought to be useful in treating some ailments. Sometimes lead accidentally gets into the folk medicine during grinding, coloring, or other methods of preparation. People selling a remedy may not know whether it contains lead. You cannot tell by looking at or tasting a medicine whether it contains lead. Consuming even small amounts of lead can be harmful. There is no safe blood lead level. Lead poisoning from folk remedies can cause illness and even death. What to do if you or your child may have taken a medication that contains lead
See your health care provider. He or she can perform a blood test to see whether you have been exposed to lead and if so recommend treatment options. Most adults and children with elevated blood lead levels do not have any symptoms. As blood lead levels increase, so does lead’s effects on health. How to tell if herbal medicines or folk medicines contain lead
You only can tell for sure by having the medicine tested in a laboratory. If you have reason to suspect that you may have consumed lead in a folk remedy, see a health care provider for a blood test. Which folk medicines are known to contain lead
Lead has been found in powders and tablets given for arthritis, infertility, upset stomach, menstrual cramps, colic and other illnesses. Greta and Azarcon (also known as alarcon, coral, luiga, maria luisa, or rueda) are Hispanic traditional remedies taken for an upset stomach (empacho), constipation, diarrhea, vomiting, and used on teething babies. Greta and Azarcon are both fine orange powders that have a lead content as high as 90%. Ghasard, an Indian folk remedy, has also been found to contain lead. It is a brown powder used as a tonic. Ba-baw-san is a Chinese herbal remedy that contains lead. It is used to treat colic pain or to pacify young children. UPDATE: Daw Tway is a digestive aid used in Thailand and Myanmar (Burma). Analysis of Daw Tway samples showed them to contain as much as 970 parts per million (ppm) of lead. The Daw Tway samples also contained high arsenic levels, as great as 7,100 ppm. Additional information about Daw Tway is available on the Indiana State Department of Health Web site: http://www.in.gov/isdh/files/Arsenic_and_Lead_Poisoning.pdf [PDF, 108KB] Other folk remedies that may contain lead are listed at: http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/CaseManagement/caseManage_appendixes.htm.