Cancer sufferer died after organ failure after taking herbal remedy
Cancer sufferer died following multiple organ failure after taking herbalist’s remedy which included mistletoe
- Haydn Owen Jones used remedy including mistletoe, yarrow and lily of the valley
- The father was also receiving third course of treatment for bone marrow cancer
A cancer sufferer died following multiple organ failure after he took a herbalist’s remedy that included mistletoe.
Retired electrician Haydn Owen Jones had been receiving a third course of treatment for bone marrow cancer when he turned to a herbalist where close to his home in Abergele, Conwy county.
Alongside two chemotherapy drugs and a steroid, the father-of-one started using a remedy which included mistletoe, yarrow and lily of the valley.
And days later he fell ill with a fever, swelling and a rash.
At first Mr Jones was treated for sepsis but he never recovered as his liver function deteriorated.
Coroner Kate Robertson concluded that it was probable the mix of cancer drugs and the alternative therapy proved deadly to him.
Retired electrician Haydn Owen Jones had been receiving a third course of treatment for bone marrow cancer when he turned to a herbalist
Alongside two chemotherapy drugs and a steroid, the father-of-one started using a remedy which included mistletoe, yarrow and lily of the valley
She said it was ‘likely a rare reaction occurred resulting in his death’.
Mr Jones had previously beaten cancer twice having been diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2014 – but when it returned a third time he contacted a herbalist for help.
Potentially poisonous elements in remedy
Mistletoe may seem festive – but the parasitic plant can be harmful, with the plants, leaves and stems all being toxic.
The plant contains Phoratoxin and Viscotoxin – both of which are poisonous when ingested.
While a more severe reaction is caused from eating the berries than the leaves, possible symptoms can include nausea, heart problems and fever.
Echinacea – which is used in remedies to combat colds – has a risk of causing allergic reactions.
This can include life-threatening anaphylactic shock, according to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.
Yarrow, which is often made into a tea or added to salads, contains the toxin thujone – which is also found in absinthe.
It also contains essential oils that cause the death of reproductive cells, as well as bleeding and other complications in the testicles of rodents.
Lily of the Valley may look innocent but its flowers and red berries are toxic if eaten.
It contains cardiac glycosides which are gastrointestinal irritants which could be harmful or even fatal.
Cat’s claw can also cause dizziness,, headaches and vomiting if taken in high doses.
The tropical vine can stimulate the immune system and may also affect blood pressure and clotting.
His oncologist Dr Earnest Heartin told the inquest that he found out about the herbal remedy only when talking to his patient’s family.
The mix also included the plants cat’s claw and echinacea alongside corn silk.
Mr Heartin said he could not be certain whether it played a part in Mr Jones’ death – but he always advises against taking herbal remedies while undergoing chemotherapy.
Ms Robertson said this advice was ‘at odds’ with a leaflet patients are also given, telling them to check with their doctor if they take alternative remedies.
Charlotte Haig, of Betsi Cadwaladr health board’s medicine advice team, said herbal medicines were not well regulated and advised against taking them during chemotherapy.
She said that when herbal and conventional medicines were used together there was potential for ‘some of these herbs to have an effect on the liver function’.
She said echinacea could affect enzymes which clear the body of drugs and increase the potential for toxicity.
The coroner called for advice on leaflets given to chemotherapy patients about herbal medicines to be clearer.
Scientists have warned that millions of people could be risking their health by taking herbal remedies and prescription drugs at the same time.
Statins, warfarin and other common drugs can interact with health supplements, producing dangerous side effects or reducing the drugs’ life- saving powers.
Herbal treatments such as St John’s wort, ginseng and chamomile are taken by an estimated one in four UK adults who buy them, without a prescription, at health food shops or online.
But doctors say that while they are seen as harmless health boosters, if taken alongside powerful medication the combination can be extremely dangerous. They warn of ‘life-threatening adverse drug events, prolonged hospitalisation and loss of life’.
Cancer patients have seen their drugs stop working after drinking ginseng energy drinks, transplant patients’ new kidneys have been rejected after taking chamomile, and people with HIV have seen the virus levels in their blood soar after taking ginkgo supplements.
People who take blood-thinning warfarin drugs for heart problems have been treated for major internal bleeding after using St John’s wort and other herbal medicines such as sage, goji juice or chamomile.
And the millions of people who take cholesterol-busting statins risk severe muscle pain if they drink green tea.
The study’s authors, from the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa, said the dangers were grossly under-reported because people often did not realise the herbal remedies were to blame.
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