MHRA warns of the dangers of taking unlicensed herbal medicines containing aconite

All herbal safety warnings and alerts

16 April 2013

The MHRA has recently become aware that an  unlicensed herbal product, Zheng tian wan, containing Aconite, a prescription only medicine, is being marketed and prescribed by Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners for the treatment migraine.

Aconite (also known as monkshood) and herbal products containing this ingredient can cause serious and potentially fatal adverse reactions if consumed. 

Zheng tian wan is manufactured by the Shenzhen 999 Chinese Medicine Investment & Development Co., Ltd.

Aconite image

The product is said to include prepared Aconite. In TCM, Aconitum rootstocks are processed by soaking or boiling them in water in order to hydrolyse the aconite alkaloids into their less toxic, aconine derivatives. Toxicity can, however, result when such processes are not controlled or the final product is not quality checked appropriately. Cases of cardio toxicity resulting from the ingestion of badly prepared Aconitum species used in TCM have been reported from Hong Kong.

Possible side effects
Since 1999, the MHRA has received 3 reports of adverse reactions suspected to be associated with products containing aconite. Two of the cases involved TCM products containing multiple ingredients. The first patient experienced palpitations, aches and pains with shortness of breath and generally felt unwell but recovered after stopping the TCM product. The second patient developed kidney problems and required dialysis and the third patient actually prepared a tincture from the herbs and developed dizziness, nausea the feeling of pins and needles in their face, lips, arms and legs. They were admitted to hospital but recovered after stopping the aconite product.

Reporting side effects
If you have taken this product and think you may be experiencing side-effects, please contact your doctor for advice. Take this information with you to help your doctor understand the situation. Please also help us gather more information on this issue by submitting a Yellow Card report.

Page last modified: 17 April 2013