In the wake of recalls on prescription drugs that showed hazardous side effects, many consumers seek alternatives. Often Ayurvedic medicine is seen as a less hazardous alternative, and medications are ordered on the internet or purchased in stores. There may be the notion that products that are manufactured in the US may be subject to stricter controls than imported items. All these assumptions leave the consumer confused as what to believe or trust. Investigators have tried to shed some more light on Ayurvedic medications. Six hundred and seventy three oral products were identified and random samplings of 230 products were purchased. Under the lead author Robert B. Saper of Boston University School of Medicine a technique called fluorescence spectroscopy was applied to examine the products for the presence of toxic metals. Of 193 products that were tested, 20.7% showed noticeable concentrations of toxic metals. Of those products that showed contamination 21.7% were US made and 19.5% were manufactured in India.The highest concentrations- namely 40.6%-were found in rasa shastra products, as compared to 17.1 % for non-rasa shastra products. The most prevailing contaminants were lead and mercury. Of these contaminated medicines 95% were sold by US websites, and shockingly 75% of the sites claimed “Good Manufacturing Products”.
All of the toxic metal levels exceeded standards for acceptable daily intake. Ayurvedic medicines are widely used in India and in other parts of the world. There are previous reports describing lead poisoning caused by these types of medicines. In rasa shastra products herbs are combined with metals such as lead, mercury, iron or zinc. Often mineral gems are also part of the compound. In view of the heavy metal levels the researchers suggest third party testing of the product and government-mandated daily dose limits.
More information on heavy metal poisoning:
1. From pollution: http://www.askdrray.com/protecting-yourself-from-environmental-toxins/
2. From cosmetics: http://www.askdrray.com/lead-still-poisoning-us/
Reference: JAMA. 2008;300:915-923
Last edited November 5, 2014