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10/26/2017 12:30 EDT | Updated 10/26/2017 12:30 EDT

Canadians Cautioned Not To Seek Out Banned Chinese Medicine Linked To Liver Cancer

The herbal compound can still be found online.

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Traditional chinese medicine herbs and remedies in jars.

A leading expert is reminding Canadians not to self-prescribe after a new study found that an herbal compound used in Traditional Chinese Medicine may cause liver cancers.

Aristolochic acid which has previously been linked to kidney failure and cancers of the urinary tract still has widespread exposure throughout Asia and traces of the compound were found in 4.8 per cent of liver cancers in North America, according to the October study published in Science Translational Medicine.

Don't try to be self-doctoring. Consult with a specialist.Dr. Cedric Cheung

Canadians must be cautious to only take medicines that come from a reliable source, Dr. Cedric Cheung, the national president of the Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture Association of Canada, and the vice-president of the World Federation of Acupuncture-Moxibustion Societies, told HuffPost Canada.

"If it comes from a reliable source, it should be safe. If not, anything can be dangerous, including western medication," Cheung said.

"Don't try to be self-doctoring. Consult with a specialist."

Use of aristolochic acid is restricted in Canada and other countries. But it is still available on the internet and "in alternate formulations," the authors wrote in the study.