SINGAPORE: A 23-year ban on Corydalis yanhusuo is set to be lifted on Jun 1 this year, after which it can be imported and sold in Singapore.
Senior Minister of State for Health Chee Hong Tat announced this at a Chinese New Year celebration lunch on Sunday (Feb 25) organised by the Singapore Chinese Medicines and Health Products Merchant Association.
Corydalis yanhusuo contains tetrahydropalmatine (THP), a natural substance that raised concerns in 1994 when overseas reports emerged that it could harm the liver when consumed.
As a precaution, the Ministry of Health (MOH) banned it from 1995.
However, Corydalis yanhusuo has painkilling and sedative effects that are not completely replaceable by other herbs. The Health Science Authority (HSA) then conducted an extensive review of the safety of the herb and other herbs that contain THP.
According to Mr Zhu Wen Jun, Medicinal Section Officer of the Singapore Chinese Medicines and Health Products Merchant Association, there are 82 formulations commonly used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that contain Corydalis yanhusuo. These can be administered in the form of a herbal compound, or as tablets or capsules.
"While HSA’s review indicated that there are no major safety concerns when THP containing herbs are used appropriately, there is some evidence of an association between high levels of THP and liver toxicity in the scientific literature," the HSA press release said.
After two years of rigorous review, the HSA has recommended a daily intake limit of 19mg.
To further allay concerns, there will be additional safeguards implemented, such as cautionary labelling on the products.
"HSA will continue to monitor the situation closely for any occurrence of adverse reactions and update the public on any developments where necessary. Consumers should be aware that as with any other health product, the effects of Chinese Proprietary Medicine (CPM) and herbs may vary from one individual to another," HSA said in its press release.
It added that individuals with liver disease should avoid using CPM or herbs containing THP.
"All consumers are advised to consult a medical professional or TCM practitioner if they are unsure whether CPM or herbs containing THP are suitable for their use."