Lead poisoning caused by contaminated Cordyceps, a Chinese herbal medicine: two case reports

Sci Total Environ. 1996 Apr 5;182(1-3):193-5. doi: 10.1016/0048-9697(96)05054-1.


Two cases of lead poisoning, caused by the Chinese herbal medicine Cordyceps, were reported to the Department of Health in a laboratory-based blood lead surveillance program. Such unusual cases of lead poisoning have not been previously reported. These two patients took Cordyceps herbal medicine for treatment of underlying diseases. Loss of appetite and anemic signs of lead poisoning were manifested in one patient with a blood lead level of 130 microg/dl, while the other patient was asymptomatic with a blood lead level of 46 microg/dl. The lead content in the Cordyceps powder was found to be as high as 20 000 ppm. After cessation of intake in the asymptomatic patient, and cessation of intake and treatment with chelating agents in the symptomatic patient, the blood lead levels returned to normal range. This report raises concerns about lead poisoning from unusual herbal medicine worldwide.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / poisoning*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lead Poisoning / blood
  • Lead Poisoning / etiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged


  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal