Researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) have found that a fifth of Ayurvedic medicines made in the United States and India purchased via the Internet contain lead, mercury or arsenic.
Ayurveda is a form of medicine that originated in India over 2,000 years ago and is largely based on herbal products. In India, it is estimated that 80 percent of the population practices Ayurveda. In the United States, Ayurvedic remedies have grown in popularity and are available in South Asian markets, health food stores, and on the Internet. Ayurvedic medicines are divided into two main types: herbal only and rasa shastra. Rasa shastra is an ancient practice of deliberately combining herbs with metals, minerals, and gems. Ayurvedic experts in India believe that if Rasa Shastra medicines made from metals such as lead and mercury are properly prepared and administered, they will be safe and therapeutic.
Using an Internet search, the researchers identified 25 websites containing 673 Ayurvedic medicines. They randomly selected and purchased 193 products made by 37 different manufacturers for analysis. Overall, 20.7% of Ayurvedic medicines contained detectable lead, mercury and / or arsenic. American and Indian manufactures were also likely to contain toxic metals. Rasa shastra drugs compared to non-rasa shastra drugs were more than twice as likely to contain metals and had higher concentrations of lead and mercury. Of the products containing metals, 95 percent were sold through U.S. websites and 75 percent claimed good manufacturing practices or heavy metal testing. All products containing metals exceeded one or more of the acceptable daily intake standards for toxic metals.
“This study highlights the need for Congress to review how dietary supplements are regulated in the United States,” said senior author Robert Saper, MD, MPH, director of integrative medicine in the department of family medicine of BUSM. Saper first published on this topic in December 2004 (JAMA). In this study, he and his colleagues found that 20% of Ayurvedic medicines produced in South Asia alone and available in stores in the Boston area contained potentially harmful levels of lead, mercury and / or arsenic. “Our first priority must be public safety. Herbs and supplements containing high levels of lead, mercury and arsenic should not be available for sale on the Internet or elsewhere,” he said.
Saper adds, “We suggest strictly enforced and government mandated daily dose limits for toxic metals in all dietary supplements and requirements that all manufacturers demonstrate compliance through independent third party testing.”
“Drugs that are supposed to cure disease should not promote another disease due to the presence of toxic substances such as lead,” said co-author Venkatesh Thuppil, PhD, director of the National Reference Center for Poisoning. lead in India, as well as a professor at St. John’s Medical College in India.
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