Some herbs used as alternative remedies contain potential carcinogens. Linking a tumor to a causative herbal remedy can be difficult.


Criteria for implicating an herb as the cause of a malignancy:

(1) chronic exposure to an herb containing a potential carcinogen, especially if in high doses

(2) diagnosis of a tumor associated with the potential carcinogen

(3) exclusion of other causes for the neoplasm



• The carcinogen may be associated with a named herb, or it may be present as an adulterant or contaminant.

Potential Carcinogen

Possible Source


Aconus calamus (calamus oil)

aristolochic acids

Aristolochis species

phorbol diesters

Croton tiglium


Sassafras albidum

pyrrolidizidine alkaloids

Symphtum officinale, other


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