Archive for January, 2009

The Safety of Ayurvedic Herbal Preparations

This recap came from the Light on Ayurveda Education Foundation – I ran across this only after I read the FDA’s posting on October 16, 2008 first about high levels of heavy metals in Ayurvedic products. Not only was the research incomplete and very vague in general, it also is refering to $2.99 bottles of “dirt” that Indian consumers were not educated about – and were illegally imported and did not represent the high quality products and preparations that are on the market and safe.

As always, the moral of the story is “buyer be-aware”.

“The key to the effective application of herbal medicine begins with the correct diagnosis of the exact imbalance. An experienced clinician knows that most people show an array of conflicting imbalances. One organ may require warming while another needs cooling. The direction of alternative medicine in the West has tended toward the mass marketing of general formulas, which people buy directly off the shelf. Herbal medicine, however, is most effective when the formula is conformed exactly to the person.”

Angelo Druda

Please be educated, and do consult with a certified Health Educator or Practitioner who genuinely cares and can educate you about choices and their benefits, and can follow up with you and keep you on track.

The Story …

The December 14, 2004 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association included a report of research done at Harvard by a team led by Robert B. Saper, MD, MPH,(1) that exploded across the U.S. and even overseas. The news resulted in worried patients calling their Ayurvedic practitioners for assurance that their recommended herbal protocols were not those containing toxic metals. In turn, practitioners were turning to their herbal suppliers for confirmation that the herbs they offered were “safe”.

Let’s take a look at this report and discuss some of the issues that have been brought up by the research. Included with this discussion are reports on safety practices supplied by various domestic herbal companies and excerpts from articles published in the Spring 2005 issue of Light on Ayurveda Journal.(2),(3)

The Harvard study reports:

High levels of Lead, Mercury, Arsenic found in Ayurvedic products sold in U.S. (1)

The Harvard based study reported that one in five Ayurvedic medicines that were stocked in Asian groceries for their Indian clientele contain toxic levels of lead, mercury, or arsenic. According to the research team, these products put users at risk for metal poisoning. The researchers collected and analyzed 70 different Ayurvedic medicines produced by 27 companies, mainly from India, one from Thailand, and sold in 30 Boston-area stores. Most of the products, although not the ones containing heavy metals, were targeted for gastrointestinal problems and most cost $2.99 a bottle.

Their findings were that 20% of the examined products contained lead, mercury, and/or arsenic, and that seven were specifically recommended for children. Among the supplements mentioned with high levels of Mercury, Lead, and Arsenic were Mahayograj Guggulu with silver, Makardhwaj, Swama Mahayograj Guggulu with gold, Navratna Rasa, Mahalakshmi Vilas Ras with gold, and Balguti Kesaria. Saper noted that it was not known whether the heavy metals were already present in the plants from which the medications were derived or whether they had been added intentionally or unintentionally during the manufacturing process.

The levels were high enough to result in an intake above published safety standards, even in the quantities recommended.
It was noted that studies in England found similar results, and that traditional medicines from China, Malaysia, Mexico, Africa, and the Middle East have also been shown to contain metals. The researchers called for better regulation of the imported dietary supplements containing toxic metals.

LOAJ Editorial Commentary:

The samples obtained were inexpensive products available in Indian grocery stores and illegally imported. The study did not examine the high quality products produced by domestic Ayurvedic herbal companies.

The investigation did not distinguish between Ayurvedic herbal supplements and bhasmas. The “supplements” with the reported highest heavy metal content fall into the category of bhasma and there is a vast difference between herbal supplements and bhasmas. There is a special branch of Ayurvedic medicine that concerns itself with the creation of medications called Rasa. Rasas are derived primarily from the ashes (bhasmas) of heavy metals, gemstones, and toxic substances. The preparation process is intricate and requires specialized training and education,(4) and the resulting product is quite expensive. The resulting medication would not be available at the low prices offered in the grocery stores.

The products containing these bhasmas were properly identified by their Sanskrit names. However, the Indian population who frequent these markets and purchase these products, may not have understood that the traditional formulation contained heavy metals requiring special care and supervision.(5)

The researchers assumed that the heavy metals they found were toxic, but did not test them for toxicity. They also did not cite any of the research studies or books showing the safety and salutary effects of these bhasmas.(6)

LOAJ feels that the authors’ conclusion that laws should be created to prevent the importation of these dangerous products is inappropriate as there is already DSHEA legislation prohibiting the importation of heavy metals.(7) Further regulation would only penalize legitimate manufacturers and raise costs for consumers.

Please visit this URL for the full story and all references:

Excerpts from a Commentary by Dr. David Frawley:

“While herbs do have medical properties and potential toxicity if taken in the wrong dosages or if wrongly prescribed, they are generally much safer than the drugs that would otherwise be used, not try to scare people away from herbs by highlighting only the negative[…]. Relative to toxic metal contents, the amounts mentioned in the articles are still low but should be dealt with.[….]The real issue should be how we can improve herbal and other alternatives to drugs.”

It goes on to talk about some manufacturers and the testing procedures and due diligence these companies undertake.

Protocols for Safety of Ayurvedic Herbs

LOAJ inquired into the safety of herbs from distributors and domestic suppliers of Ayurvedic herbal supplements. BANYAN BOTANICALS and BAZAAR of INDIA were two responders from the U.S., and AYUSHAKTI responded from India.The following is a summary compiled from the information supplied by the herbal companies.

Numerous organizations and agencies are involved in the testing and certification of herbal products. Among them are the AHPA (American Herbal Products Association), NSF (National Sanitation Foundation), European Pharmacopoeia, the USP (United States Pharmacopoeia), and the FDA (Federal Drug Administration). The FDA is responsible for drug regulation, the NOP (National Organics Program) is involved in the certification of organic herbal farms. The DSHEA (Dietary Supplement health Education Act) sets standards that affect herbs and their importation. The NSF is one of the premier labs in the world and has written the standard for testing heavy metals (ANSI standard 173).

Further information states how these 3 companies test their herbs and by what methods. You should do the research when you are buying off a shelf!  When you discover a traditional Ayurvedic Herbalist/Practitioner, you have less layers in between you and the source and when you have found that Herbalist you trust, you have struck your pot of Gold!

Many thanks.  Again, please click on the link for the full story!

“In keeping with the theme of putting high quality, high energy bio-available foods and herbs into our bodies, please DO examine labels, KNOW the manufacturer (know the source), and have a good experience by listening to your body and seeing/feeling results! That is why I take AMAZON HERBS, everyday for the last 5 years. They worked instantly, I know the source, can feel the quality and LIFE FORCE directly, and I trust and respect the manufacturing process. My body craves them.  Know the sources and buy purity, not synthetic-filled plastic bottles.”  Peace out, D


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