Valuable cattle gallstones in Toowoomba stolen and recovered

A 38-year-old man has been charged with stealing cattle gallstones, which can apparently sell for as much as $20,000 a kilogram.

The stones are used in traditional Chinese medicine under the belief they can treat hepatitis and other liver and heart-related diseases.

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Police have uncovered allegedly stolen gallstones at a Toowoomba property.

Acting on a tip-off, officers from the Stock and Rural Crime Investigation Squad (SARCIS) raided a property in the Toowoomba suburb of Cranley on Thursday, uncovering a hoard of the stones.

Police allege they were stolen from a nearby abattoir over six months and are believed to be of "considerable value".

Toowoomba SARCIS Senior Constable Glenn Evans said the stones had been valued but he wouldn't say how much they were worth.

"It was less than half a kilo, of varying quality," he said.

"They certainly weren't all top-quality stones.

"We don't want to blow it out of proportion. It was nowhere near the $20,000 mark."

He says gallstone theft does happen but it's not common.

"I couldn't comment on how often but it isn't common because if you consider there aren't that many avenues for collecting them," he said.

Gallstones are small, hard masses that form in the gallbladder from a digestive fluid called bile and can be very painful.

Griffith University traditional chinese medicine (TCM) expert Dr Yunjiang Feng said gallstones were a "very common" ingredient among practitioners.

"It is believed however it formed should have some effect to cure where it is produced," she said.

"They believe the stone is formed in problems with cattle between heart and liver, therefore this can be used to treat diseases related to (those) organs.

"So as a result it can be used for many different things related to heart and liver disease."

Dr Feng said although there were many TCM practitioners in Australia, she believed cattle gallstones would mostly be sent overseas to China and other Asian countries where the practice was more common.

She said she imagined the stones would offer "some black market attractions" because they were in high demand.

A SARCIS blog post said the value was determined by dryness, colour, texture, size and whole and broken pieces.

"Whole, smooth, lustrous, golden specimens attract the highest price," the post read.

"Dark and pitted stones as well as stones with calcium inclusions (white) are of reduced value.

"It is understood that quality stones may reach values of around $20,000 per kilogram."

Contrary to popular belief, gallstones were not an aphrodisiac, police said.

Gold Coast-based cattle gallstone trader Jenny Murtagh told the ABC gallstones were used in Eastern medicine for heart, liver and general wellbeing.

"It doesn't cure anything but it's a highly prized product," she said.

The 38-year-old man will face a charge of theft in the Toowoomba Magistrates Court on June 23.

Valuable cattle gallstones in Toowoomba stolen and recovered
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