Sunday, September 07, 2008

High levels of toxic metals found in Ayurvedic medicines

Alternative medicine is in the news again with scientists in the U.S. saying they have found high levels of toxic metals in popular herbal medicines sold online.

The scientists at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) ordered Ayurvedic medicines from 25 web sites and tested them for metallic poisons.

The Ayurvedic medicines were manufactured in both the U.S. and India and the researchers found that one fifth of them contained lead, mercury or arsenic.

Ayurveda is an ancient form of medicine that originated in India more than 2,000 years ago and includes herbal medicines, meditation, exercise and dietary guidelines.

It is practiced by millions on the Indian subcontinent by an estimated 80 percent of the population and increasingly in the West.

Ayurvedic remedies are available from South Asian markets, health food stores, and on the Internet and are divided into two major types: herbal only and Rasa Shastra.

Rasa shastra is an ancient practice of deliberately combining herbs with metals, minerals and gems and Ayurvedic experts believe that if Rasa Shastra medicines made with metals such as lead and mercury are properly prepared and administered, they are safe and therapeutic.
An Internet search found 673 Ayurvedic medicines, and 193 products made by 37 different manufacturers, were randomly selected and purchased.

The researchers found that overall, more than 20% of Ayurvedic medicines contained detectable lead, mercury and/or arsenic and American and Indian manufactured products were equally likely to contain toxic metals.

Rasa shastra compared with non-rasa shastra medicines were more than twice as likely to contain metals and had higher concentrations of lead and mercury.

Among products containing metals, 95 percent were sold by U.S. web sites and 75 percent claimed Good Manufacturing Practices or testing for heavy metals but all the products containing metal, exceeded one or more standards for acceptable daily intake of toxic metals.
Lead author Dr. Robert Saper, says the study highlights the need for the way dietary supplements are regulated in the be re-examined.

Research by Dr. Saper first revealed that some Ayurvedic medicines produced in South Asia contained potentially harmful levels of toxins in 2004 and he says that herbs and supplements with high levels of lead, mercury, and arsenic should not be available for sale on the Internet or elsewhere.

The researchers say all dietary supplements should undergo mandatory testing for daily dose limits for toxic metals and all manufacturers should demonstrate their compliance through independent third-party testing.

The researchers say medicines which are supposed to cure sickness should not promote another illness due to the presence of toxic materials such as lead.

The research appears in the August 27th issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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