[Document] Herbs that harm

A farmer from the Miao minority sprays pesticide on his pseudo-ginseng field.

A farmer from the Miao minority sprays pesticide on his pseudo-ginseng field.

© Simon Lim / Greenpeace

A big thank you for all your support. It’s allowed us to expand our food safety campaign from supermarket vegetables, to tea leaves, and now to Chinese medicine.

Chinese Herbs – Elixir of health or Pesticide cocktail ?

Herbs that Harm

We’ve been able to alert people around the globe to the dangers of poisoned Chinese medicine, and this has helped to pressure government departments and companies to make changes so that our food and medicines are safe and healthy.

We have released two reports on pesticide residues found on popular Chinese medicines; they showed that 82% of medicines that we bought in Hong Kong, mainland China, North America and several European cities tested positive for toxic pesticide residues. Many also contained a whole cocktail of pesticides, including many banned chemicals, and at concentrations that far exceeded EU regulations. These medicines were made by some famous brands including Tongrentang and Yunnan Baiyao.

We also sent an investigation team to several Chinese medicine farms on the mainland. We found out that none of them had been given any training or technical guidance from either the government or Chinese medicine companies.  They had no idea that the pesticides they were using were banned or that there are many natural and harmless alternatives to the highly toxic pesticides they were using.

Media here in Hong Kong and across the world picked up this story—on the mainland more than 1,000 reports were written on our campaign.  Every single report called on people to support clean and safe Chinese medicine. Each one added a little bit more to our strength, helping us to put pressure on Chinese medicine companies to use less poisonous pesticides and to push the government to solve this problem and tighten supervision.

How does poisoned Chinese medicine get into our shops?


Over the past few years, we’ve exposed how supermarket fruit and vegetables, tea leaves and now Chinese medicine are contaminated with pesticides. Our goal is to get government and companies to eliminate pesticide residues from source. The only way we can be sure that our food is safe and to protect our environment from pesticide pollution is to use ecological farming methods. 

We have already moved on to the next stage of this campaign and are checking more kinds of food that we have in our homes. We hope you will stay with us and continue to support this important campaign.