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Can Bak Kut Teh Herbal Soup Cause Liver Damage?!

Did an Australian study show that Bak Kut Teh herbal soup can cause liver damage?!

Take a look at what the study showed, and what the facts really are!

Updated @ 2023-11-24 : Refreshed after claims went viral again
Originally posted @ 2022-07-15


Study : Bak Kut Teh Herbal Soup Can Cause Liver Damage!

Australian scientists caused a ruckus in 2022 when their study alleged that the Asian herbal soup called Bak Kut Teh can cause liver damage.

The media excitedly jumped on it, with alarming titles to draw attention (and drive traffic?) :

Adelaide Now : Adelaide forensic expert issues safety warning over liver failure soup

ABC : Bak kut teh herbal soup may cause liver damage and interact with medication, study finds

Medical Xpress : Popular Malaysian soup can cause liver damage when mixed with medication

The Epoch Times : University Professor Warns of Risks Caused by Popular Chinese Soup

Says : Australian Researchers Find Bak Kut Teh Can Cause Liver Damage When Taken With Medicine

Recommended : Viral Video Proves Japanese Food Is Radioactive?!


Truth : Study Does Not Show Bak Kut Teh Causing Liver Damage!

Despite the alarming titles, there is no need to panic… because the study does NOT show the herbal soup causing any liver damage.

Here is a quick summary for those who just need to know the basics :

  1. It was a laboratory study, which means the results may not translate into actual effect in a living human being.
  2. What we eat is digested and broken down, so our body absorbs the nutrients and not the actual food. Hence, the study does not accurately replicate what happens in our body.
  3. They didn’t test bak kut teh… they only tested four soup bases used to make bak kut teh.
  4. The soup concentrations were unspecified, so it is unknown if the doses are equivalent to what our livers are subjected to after a meal.
  5. They did not test drug interactions, so it is amazing how so many media outlets claimed that the study showed that bak kut teh may interact with medication!

In short, this study does not show that bak kut teh causes liver damage. Neither does it show bak kut teh causing drug interactions of any kind.

I understand Professor Byard’s concerns about the “unknown” contents of these soup base preparations. Certain traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and Chinese herbal medicine (CHM) have been associated with acute liver failure.

However, that isn’t so much a “bak kut teh” problem, but rather a problem with traditional Chinese medicine or Chinese herbal medicine.

For those who are interested in the details, please scroll down to the next section.


Why Study Does Not Show Bak Kut Teh Causing Liver Damage

Let’s start with the basics, and work our way through the Australian study.

Fact #1 : Study Was Conducted By Australian Scientists

First, the study was conducted by University of Adelaide and University of Melbourne scientists – Susan M. Britza, Rachael Farrington, Ian F. Musgrave, Craig Aboltins and Roger W. Byard.

It was published in the journal Forensic Science, Medicine and Pathology, and you can read the study here.

Fact #2 : It Was A Laboratory Study

It is important to note that this was an in-vitro study – a laboratory study, not a clinical study.

In-vitro studies are important, but they cannot be extrapolated to make any conclusion about what actually happens in a human body.

For example, in-vitro studies have shown that hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin have an inhibitory effect on the SARS-CoV-2 virus; but once tested in actual human beings – they were shown to have no clinical benefit.

In other words – what happens in a test tube, may not happen in an actual human being.

Read more : Did Study Show Pfizer Vaccine Altering Liver DNA In 6 Hours?!

Fact #3 : What We Eat Is Not What Our Body Absorbs

There is one big problem with doing in-vitro tests on food – what we eat is not what our body absorbs.

Food gets digested, and broken down into nutrients that are absorbed in our intestines. Even simple sugar gets broken down into glucose, fructose, galactose, maltose, sucrose, etc.

So soaking liver cells in a bak kut teh soup would most definitely not reflect what our liver cells actually experience after a bak kut teh meal.

In short, this study does not replicate what happens in our liver when we eat bak kut teh.

Fact #4 : There Are Many Types Of Bak Kut Teh

Bak Kut Teh is not so much a “herbal soup” as it is a pork soup dish. The name “bak kut teh” literally means “meat bone tea” in the Hokkien dialect, but there is no tea in it.

It is usually just a dish of pork ribs simmered for hours in a broth of common herbs and spices like star anise, cinnamon, cloves, dong quai, fennel seeds and garlic.

But there are many variants of bak kut teh. In Malaysia and Singapore where bak kut teh is most popular, there are at least four main “styles” :

  • Teochew style : light in colour, with more pepper and garlic
  • Hokkien style : darker and more fragrant, thanks to a variety of herbs and soy sauce
  • Cantonese style : includes medicinal herbs for a stronger flavoured soup
  • Klang style : a thick and sticky gravy, like a stew

On top of that, there are also chicken and beef versions of bak kut teh. Muslims, for example, love the chicken version, which is colloquially called chi kut teh, chi being short for chicken.

And the Malaysian town of Melaka serves a delicious beef bak kut teh, which is based on a unique black pepper soup with red fermented bean curd.

Fact #5 : They Tested Four Soup Bases

The Australian team were somewhat aware of the wide variety of bak kut teh soup bases. They tested four varieties :

  • Formulation 1 : Dried hawthorn
  • Formulation 2 : Goji berries, ginseng, bark, and dried mushrooms
  • Formulation 3 : Polygonatum odoratum, ligusticum chuanxiong, codonopsis pilosula, cinnamomum cassia, angelica sinensis, illicium verum, piper nigrum, and Eugenia caryophyllata
  • Formulation 4 : Spices, pepper and salt

It is important to note that instead of preparing bak kut teh like you and I would – with meat, vegetables, bean curd slices, etc., the researchers tested soups that were created only using the ingredients listed above.

In short, they did not actually test bak kut teh… they tested soups made from the ingredients above.

Fact #6 : Soup Concentration Was Unspecified

To prepare the four soups for testing, researchers added a sachet of each soup mix to boiling water (of unspecified quantity) for 5 minutes.

The concentration of each soup base was unspecified. They only listed the dilution factor. As such, it is quite impossible to draw any sort of conclusion from the results.

As any toxicologist will tell you – the dose makes the poison. This is why the concentration of any substance is critical in any study. Even water and oxygen – essential to human life to be sure – is toxic at high doses.

Fact #7 : Soups Were Prepared In 5 Minutes

It is important to point out that the soups the researchers used were prepared in just 5 minutes. Bak kut teh is usually prepared by simmering the meat in the soup for hours.

It would have been a good idea to prepare the soup bases like real bak kut teh soup, because boiling the soup for several hours could potentially break down toxins present in its ingredients.

In fact, it would have been better for the researchers to just buy real bak kut teh, instead of resorting to their soup bases prepared in just 5 minutes.

Fact #8 : They Tested Using HepG2 Liver Cancer Cells

It is also important to note that the researchers tested the soup bases by adding them to HepG2 cell cultures, not normal liver cells.

HepG2 is a hepatoblastoma (a type of liver cancer) cell line that was obtained from a 15 year-old boy suffering from liver cancer in 1975.

Now, there is nothing wrong with that – HepG2 is commonly used to test cytotoxicity of substances. Still, it must still be pointed out that HepG2 is not the same thing as normal liver cells.

In-vitro studies based on these cells should not be used to draw any conclusion, only used to drive further research.

Differences HepG2 Cells Normal Liver Cells
Cell Size 12-19 µm 15 µm
Cell Shape Polygonal Cube
Nuclei Single large nuclei
with 3-7 nucleoli
Two or more nuclei
Mitochondrial Content Low High
Smooth Endoplasmic Reticulum Poorly Developed High
No. of Chromosomes 50-60 46
DNA Content 7.5 pg ~6 pg
Genome Stability Unstable Stable

Fact #9 : Spices, Pepper + Salt Did Worst In Their Tests

What I found most interesting in their results was the fact that the most “toxic” soup was Formulation 4, which consisted of nothing more than spices, pepper and salt.

Formulation 4 showed the most significant toxicity to the HepG2 cell line with approximately 83% cell death before dilution (p < 0.0001) and persistent toxicity even with dilution 1:10 (15% ± 3.7, p = 0.023) and 1:1000 (14% ± 3.8, p = 0.024)

Well, that’s gonna worry fans of Kentucky Fried Chicken, which boasts 11 herbs and spices, including pepper and salt!

Jokes aside, this result suggest that common spices, pepper and salt are more toxic to HepG2 liver cells than the more fanciful bak kut teh preparations!

Fact #10 : They Did Not Test Drug Interactions

I’m not sure how this study touches on drug interaction, since they didn’t test the soup bases with common hepatotoxic drugs like paracetamol to see if there is a synergistic effect.

No matter how you slice and dice this study’s results, they tell us nothing about any possible interaction with other herbs / drugs.

Yet so many media outlets made the startling claim that the study showed that bak kut teh may interact with medication! Nowhere in the study does it say that!

It appears that most of these journalists probably did not even bother to read the study, and perhaps only paraphrased what other people were writing.


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Dr. Adrian Wong has been writing about tech and science since 1997, even publishing a book with Prentice Hall called Breaking Through The BIOS Barrier (ISBN 978-0131455368) while in medical school.

He continues to devote countless hours every day writing about tech, medicine and science, in his pursuit of facts in a post-truth world.


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Did US + UK Create COVID-19 As Bioweapon?!

Did the US and UK governments create COVID-19 as part of a coronavirus bioweapon project since 1965?!

Take a look at the viral claim, and find out what the facts really are!


Claim : US + UK Created COVID-19 As Bioweapon!

People are sharing TikTok, YouTube and Rumble videos of David E. Martin at International COVID Summit III, explaining how the US and UK governments allegedly developed the coronavirus as a bioweapon since discovering it in 1965.

Some are sharing it as evidence that COVID-19 was created as a bioweapon, while pro-CCP netizens and the Chinese 50 Cent Army (wumao, 五毛) are sharing it as evidence that the COVID-19 was created by the West, not China!

“This [covid] is an act of biological and chemical warfare perpetrated on the human race” Dr David Martin International Covid Summit, European Parliament:

COVID was First Isolated in 1965. Pfizer’s First Spike Protein Patent was filed in 1990. That’s Also When They Found Out That Vaccines For COVID Can’t Work. – Dr David Martin International COVID Summit III – European Parliament, Brussels 05.04.2023

Folks – listen to this to understand where covid came from.

Finally, we know the true culprit that created and caused the Covid-19 pandemic which killed millions, so who is the evil of the world today…..China or the USA?

Recommended : COVID vaccines have 1000X death rate than safe limit?!


No Evidence US + UK Created COVID-19 As Bio-Weapon!

This appears to be yet another example of FAKE NEWS circulating on WhatsApp and social media platforms like TikTok and Twitter, and here are the reasons why!

Fact #1 : It Was From International COVID Summit III

The viral video clip above is from the International COVID Summit III, which appears to be a private conference organised by COVID-19 conspiracy theorists and anti-vaccination activists:

Held in the Anna Lindh room of the European Parliament, it was not an official EU or European Parliament event, and had only 5 MEPs attend as “co-hosting members” of the event.

You can read all about the ICS3 in my earlier article, Why International COVID Summit III Criticised Vaccine!

Fact #2 : Coronavirus Was First Isolated In 1930s

David Martin said that the first coronavirus as a model of a pathogen was isolated in 1965. Well, I have no idea what he meant by “as a model of a pathogen”, but that’s wrong on several counts.

  • first coronavirus sample (IBV) was isolated in 1930s
  • second coronavirus sample (MHV) was isolated in 1947
  • third coronavirus sample (B814) was isolated in 1961
  • fourth coronavirus sample (229-E) was isolated in 1966
  • all four virus samples were determined to be from same group, and named “coronavirus” in 1967

The first known sample of a coronavirus was isolated and identified as a virus in 1933. That virus was called infectious bronchitis virus (IBV) in 1936, but later renamed as Avian coronavirus.

The second sample of a coronavirus was discovered in 1947. At that time, it was also not known as a coronavirus, but called mouse hepatitis virus (MHV). It would later be renamed as Murine coronavirus.

In 1961, a sample was isolated from a British schoolboy who was suffering from the common cold. That sample, designated as B814, was later confirmed to be a novel (new) virus in 1965. However, it was not called a coronavirus in 1965 either.

In 1966, new samples of a different virus – designated 229-E, were collected from University of Chicago medical students suffering from the common cold. Even then, that virus was not known as a coronavirus.

Recommended : Did CDC Say COVID Vaccines Cause AIDS + Cancer?!

Fact #3 : Coronavirus Was Identified + Named In 1967

In the video, David Martin appears to say that the “coronavirus was identified in 1965 as one of the first infectious, replicatable viral models that could be used to modify a series of to her experiences of human conditions“.

I have no idea what most of the word salad meant, including the word “replicatable”, but I can tell you that the coronavirus was only identified as a new group of viruses in 1967, not 1965.

Remember the four coronavirus samples that were collected earlier? They were new viruses, but were not known as coronavirus at that time. It was only in 1967 that an electron microscope analysis of those four different viral samples showed that all four viruses belong to the same group.

It was only in 1967, that June Almeida and David Terrell made that discovery, and called the new group of viruses “coronavirus”, based on the characteristic spikes on their surfaces that make them look like the sun’s corona.

Fact #4 : 1967 Experiment Did Not Involve Human Manipulation

In the video, David Martin appears to say that “in 1966, the very first CoV coronavirus model was used as a transatlantic biological experiment in human manipulation“.

He would later repeat this saying “in 1967 – the year I was born, we did the first human trials on inoculating people with modified coronavirus“.

He listed his source as the 1967 study called Effects of a “New” Human Respiratory Virus in Volunteers (PDF download). He may have mixed up his dates a little. In any case, his claim is wrong on multiple levels:

  • that was the fourth and most recent coronavirus sample – 229-E
  • the virus was not known to be a coronavirus at that time
  • the study did not involve human manipulation

What the British scientists did was give the 229-E virus to volunteers to determine :

  • if it causes colds, and
  • the serum neutralising antibody when infected with viruses of this type

There was no manipulation and no modification of the 229-E virus sample before it was given to volunteers.

Recommended : Do COVID-19 Vaccines DOUBLE Heart Attack Risk?!

Fact #5 : Biological Weapons Convention Only Began In 1975

In the video, David Martin appears to wonder, “Where were we when we actually allowed, in violation of biological and chemical weapons treaties? Where were we, as a human civilisation, when we thought it was an acceptable thing to do to take a pathogen from the United States and infect the world with it? Where was that conversation and what should have been that conversation in 1967? “.

Well, for one thing – the 1967 experiment happened long before the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) came into effect on 26 March 1975. There was no conversation to be had.

In addition, the BWC does not limit scientific experiments on viruses, so even if it had been in effect, the 1967 experiment on volunteers would not have breached its rules as it was not being developed as a bioweapon! Again, there was no conversation to be had.

Fact #6 : There Are Many Coronavirus Species

The coronavirus family consists of a multitude of different viruses, with completely different characteristics. Think of them as car models – they are all cars, but every model has a different look and different characteristics.

Hence, it is wrong to associate past coronaviruses with the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. Any genetic link has to be determined by its genetic code, not by when a virus was discovered!

By 2020, scientists have discovered at least 45 coronavirus species, which were classified into four different genera – Alphacoronavirus, Betacoronavirus, Deltacoronavirus, and Gammacoronavirus.

SARS-CoV-2 is a Betacoronavirus that is most closely related to SARS-CoV-1 – the virus that caused the SARS outbreak in 2002-2004. However, it was a novel (new) coronavirus when it was discovered, and was not derived / engineered / developed from SARS-CoV-1.

There is simply no evidence to suggest that SARS-CoV-2 was developed as a bioweapon from the SARS-CoV-1, or any other coronavirus species.

Recommended : Did US Intentionally Release COVID Virus In Wuhan?!

Fact #7 : No Evidence SARS-CoV-2 Was Engineered

What David Martin said at the International COVID Summit sounds startling, but if you analyse his word salad and sources carefully, you will realise that he has not actually offered any evidence that the SARS-CoV-2 was engineered in any way, much less developed as a bioweapon!

It is plausible that the SARS-CoV-2 virus was created in the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and accidentally released in a leak of some sort, but that has never proven one way or another. It is just as plausible that it was brought into Wuhan by some yet-to-be-identified animal host.

There is currently no evidence that SARS-CoV-2 was engineered and released as a bioweapon.

Please help us FIGHT FAKE NEWS by sharing this fact check article out, and please SUPPORT our work!


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Name : Adrian Wong
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Dr. Adrian Wong has been writing about tech and science since 1997, even publishing a book with Prentice Hall called Breaking Through The BIOS Barrier (ISBN 978-0131455368) while in medical school.

He continues to devote countless hours every day writing about tech, medicine and science, in his pursuit of facts in a post-truth world.


Recommended Reading

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