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Lead, Arsenic Found In Ayurvedic Medicines

PTI 05 Dec 2010, 10:14:32 IST
A laboratoty analysis of 100 samples of ayurvedic medicines available in the market has revealed that a majority of them contain higher-than-permissible limits of lead and arsenic, that can cause cancer, vomitting, diarrhoea, says a MidDay report.

Conducted by the Indian Institute of Environmental Medicine (IIEM), the analysis has found that 66 per cent of the samples contain more arsenic and 25 per cent contain more lead than is allowed under the World Health Organisation and Indian Food and Drug Administration norms.

The research has been published in the Journal of Herbal Medicine and Toxicology.

While lead can cause vomiting, diarrhoea and nausea, arsenic is a known carcinogen and can cause cancer of the skin, lung and colon.

The study was conducted on samples of 10 different forms of branded as well as loose ayurvedic medicines including those of the bhasma, chatan (chyawanprash) and rasa (syrup) variety.

"Doctors from various hospitals have been sending us blood samples of patients complaining of anaemia, muscle wasting, anorexia and abdominal and chest pain.

"When the blood samples were analysed, we found that they contained high quantities of lead and arsenic, which could be the reason for the problems.

"When these patients were asked, they said they had been consuming ayurvedic medicines for a long period." said Prof Rohini Chowgule, pulmonary physician with Bombay hospital and chairperson of IIEM.

Also, some of the branded medicine makers did not mention the medicine's composition, keeping the consumers in the dark.

"Doctors from across the world have hailed ayurvedic medicines for their efficacy.

"But, the high quantity of metals in the tested samples shows that the manufacturing methods currently employed are not in tune with the ancient slow methods of production. The slower, traditional methods may help us get ayurvedic medicines without these harmful ingredients," explained Chowghule.

Professor K R Kohli, Director of Ayurveda, Maharashtra,  said, "A single study cannot infer that all available ayurvedic medication have higher quantities of lead and are arsenic.

"There are various international studies which have proved that ayurvedic medicines are very effective if taken under a doctor's supervision."

He explained that ayurvedic professionals are allowed to prepare medicines by themselves.

"The entire concept of ayurveda is personalised medication based on the needs of the patient.

"There are chances that the medicines tested were made with the intent of having the metals in it as Ayurvedic medication is of two types one made with herbs and the other with metals. But, they are completely safe for consumption if taken in the right quantity as advised by a practitioner."