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Wednesday 26th October 2016

Are ayurvedic medicines harmful?

2nd September 2008

Heavy metals like lead, mercury and arsenic have been found in a "substantial proportion" of ayurvedic herbal medicines from India, a new study shows.


Researchers have called on US regulators to tighten regulation of the herbal supplement industry, saying that current regulations governing the quality of herbal supplements made and sold in the US and India are inadequate.

Study author Robert Saper, whose  team tested 193 ayurvedic preparations purchased via the internet in 2005, recommended strictly enforced government-mandated daily dose limits for toxic metals in all dietary supplements.

When tested for contamination, just over 20% of the products contained toxic metals.

The highest levels of heavy metals were found in "rasa shastra" supplements, where herbs are combined with metals and minerals.

Compared with 17% of non-rasa shastra medicines, 41% of rasa shastra supplements contained metals, and all the metal-containing products exceeded 1 or more standards for acceptable daily intake of toxic metals, according to the the study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, or JAMA.

A JAMA paper written by many of the same researchers raised concerns about ayurvedic supplements in 2004, in a paper which found that one of five ayurvedic supplements available in Boston South Asian grocery stores contained potentially harmful levels of lead, mercury, and/or arsenic.

Ayurvedic practitioners have criticised the research as alarmist, saying that it only shows there are problems with mixtures from India, not with US-made products.

But the paper also found a high prevalence of metals in US-manufactured products.

Just over 21% of US-made ayurvedic supplements were found to contain heavy metals, compared with 19.5% in Indian products, showing no significant difference in products on the basis of country of origin.

Kush Khanna, who runs a manufacturer of ayurvedic medicines in Berkeley, California, said all his raw material came from India.

He said lead levels in his products were below limits recommended by the World Health Organisation, which are higher than those set by the state of California.


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