Beware, herbal products may not really be herbal

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Herbal beauty enhancement creams being sold in some markets in Sharjah are banned by law and may pose serious health risks.

By Afkar Abdullah/principal Correspondent

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Published: Mon 26 Jan 2015, 12:43 AM

Last updated: Wed 11 Jan 2023, 2:43 PM

Some herbal products being sold in a shop in Al Ghurair market in Rolla, Sharjah. — KT photo by M. Sajjad used for illustrative purpose only

Sharjah — Banned and unapproved herbal medicines for sexual enhancement, hair growth and treating chronic illnesses such as diabetes and blood pressure are being sold in stores in Rolla and some other parts of Sharjah, Khaleej Times can reveal.

Last week, KT Senior Photographer Sajjad Mohammed, who was on the lookout for pictures to go with this report, was attacked by three Afghan vendors of herbal medicines.

The shops hire middlemen to stop passersby and convince them to buy products such as breast-enhancement creams and lip-enhancing ointments.

Such herbal products are also sold by door-to-door saleswomen.

When KT visited one such shop, vendors said these products have no side effects as they are 100 per cent herbal.

Many people can be seen buying these products that are banned by the Sharjah Municipality and the Ministry of Health (MoH). Some customers said they are not aware that these medicines are banned and pose health hazards. “How would we know? Awareness campaigns need to be launched to educate the public about the danger of these medicines,” a customer, Umm Abdullah, said.

Mudassir A., a salesman at a herbal and beauty outlet in Rolla, said many women buy herbal products from their shop and later discover that they are not effective. “Yet, they return and buy other products.”

Sharjah resident Raya Habib said she was shopping in Rolla market when a woman stopped her and spent 45 minutes talking to her about the effectiveness of creams for breast enhancement and hair growth. “I bought a cream from her despite my initial reluctance. After I used it, my skin got infected and I had to go to a doctor, who chided me for using such products as they can even cause cancer.”

44 herbal products seized

A senior official at the Market Control Section at the municipality said they confiscated 44 sexual stimulants, weight loss products, breast-enhancement creams and other such beauty enhancement products from herbal shops and mobile vendors recently. The seized items, he said, were not registered with the MoH and did not conform to health regulations.

Herbal mixtures were found being mixed in shops without obtaining the required licence from the authorities concerned.

Director of Health Department at Sharjah Municipality Rasha Al Qasimi said the shops were penalised based on the municipality’s regulations.

Herbal mixtures are prohibited by law. Herbal shops should only sell raw materials and oils of herbs. She urged the public to avoid using or buying these anonymous products which, she said, were being sold by unlicensed shops. “Such outlets are under no health control and pose health hazards to users as they are unsafe and might trigger serious health damage,” she warned.

Inspection campaigns

Al Qasimi said the Public Health Division will continue with its inspection and monitoring campaigns, and urged the public to report “these illicit trading institutions” to them.

An official from the Consumer Protection section at the Sharjah Government Economic Development Department pointed out that the section recently intensified inspection to force companies, outlets and factories dealing with cosmetic goods to confine themselves to the business activities mentioned in their licences.

The decision also mandates them to print the name of the product, its place of manufacture and its expiry date using permanent ink.

Manufacturers are also required to register the products with the MoH and maintain a record of its validity certificates attested by the UAE embassy in the country of origin.

Dr Amin Hussein Al Amiri, Assistant Undersecretary for Public Health Policy and Licensing and Vice-Chairman of the Medical Licensing Committee, said “Any product not registered with the MoH is banned. The municipalities need to keep a tab on the products being sold by the outlets.”

Herbal stores will not be allowed to prepare any drug without approval of the official bodies concerned, he said, warning that stores selling herbs will not be allowed to display the word “medicine” on their signboards.

Girl hospitalised after consuming herbal pills

Dr Safia Al Khaja, Deputy Technical Director of Al Qasimi Hospital, said that recently, a three-year-old Arab girl was admitted to the ICU after she swallowed herbal pills meant for burning calories and reducing fat.

Her family said she swallowed three pills which she found on a table. A leaflet inside the tablet packet said it contained a herbal combination, but when analysed, a lot of chemical agents were found in its ingredients. —

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