Ayurvedic Heavy Metal

nagarjunaBefore reading on, and specifically before asking why I’ve used a picture of Buddha in an article about Ayurveda…it’s not Buddha, it’s Nagarjuna, redactor of the Sushruta Samhita a sixth century BCE text on surgery, the only treatise for two of the eight branches of Ayurveda. The snake is part of Nagarjuna and is usually depicted as a protective canopy, I’ve never seen Buddha depicted in that way. Apologies for any confusion, but please no more comments or emails telling me I’ve used an inappropriate photo. I don’t believe I have.

Ayurvedic medicines can contain dangerous quantities of heavy metals, including lead, mercury, thallium and arsenic, clinical toxicologists in London have warned. Writing in the International Journal of Environment and Health, they suggest that recent European legislation aimed at improving safety of shop-bought products will have little impact on medicines prescribed by traditional practitioners, imported personally from overseas or bought over the Internet.

The problem is that the heavy metals are not simply inadvertent contaminants of natural herbal products, they are added deliberately in order to supposedly return the body to health by rebalancing allegedly essential minerals. You can read the full article on this via AlphaGalileo.

There are wide and wild claims for Ayurvedic medicine including the ability to treat diabetes, flue, cancer, asthma, flu, acne, boils, diarrhoea, headaches, and that perennial of the alternative remedy market, sex drive. Unfortunately, Ayurveda, although ancient, is no panacea.

Some practitioners are hoping to modernise the Ayurvedic system. However, until it is more widely recognised among users that adding arsenic, lead, thallium and other potentially toxic heavy metals to so-called medicinal preparations is unacceptable, it will remain a practice more associated with the past than contemporary medicine.

Paul I. Dargan, Indika B. Gawarammana, John R.H. Archer, Ivan M. House, Debbie Shaw, David M. Wood (2008). Heavy metal poisoning from Ayurvedic traditional medicines: an emerging problem? International Journal of Environment and Health, 2 (3/4), 463-474


21 thoughts on “Ayurvedic Heavy Metal

  1. I am a patient of low hemoglobin. Please let me know if ayurvedic medicine can also bring the hemoglobin further down to a dangerous level. Please reply by mail at the earliest.

  2. dear David Bradley, after keen observation u hav given an account on metals and herbo mineral formulations. As a student of Ayurveda I can say that herbo mineral formulations are quiet appropriate in various conditions where various other management fails, or further cripples the patient condition. Herbo mineral formulation validation based on modern parameters has been going on. Certain points i like to add on ur attension are 1. Mercury when enters in body immediatly get converted into sulphide form which is least harmful to body, the same form is used in Ayurveda, along with that it in small amount raise the absorption of other drugs with it removed from body as inert matter. British Pharmocopia shows the use of HgCl and HgCl2 as medicine and not Hgs. Other minerals having similar machenism in small doses, rest on next time. U r free to call them baseless or silly as its ur blog but this very small segment of Ay is still relevent, even today. Its great to read the discussion.

  3. @David Bradley, sir ayurveda doesn’t know about thallium, its recently discovered. Regarding use of metals and minerals in ayurveda, there is a standard mandate to use any metal or mineral, or combination of these, in ayurveda texts there are ref of toxicity of each and every metal or minerals to be used, so is the purification methods (different kinds of procedures, which according to ayurveda detox the metals and minerals and then taken for medicinal usage). I agree that there is more needs to be done in the field of ayurveda like research, pharmacological evaluation, phytochemistry and phytopharmacology, animal trails etc for better understand and to provide broader avenues to ayurveda in the field of medicine. This kind of research will be recognized and highly acclaimed by the international medical societies. Regarding chelating agent etc, bhasmas are incinerated at a constant temp, in constant pressure, in limited oxygen and this would result in the formation of complex compound (Iron Fe into Fes as its done in very limited oxygen, also its easily absorbable and assimilated into human body) rather than a pure metal, the bhasma process is very difficult process to achieve and its possible by an expert only and procedure is repeated several times to attain the quality quoted by the acharyas. There are lot of research being conducted on bhasmas, a sample to it, link – http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/search/savedquery?ID=121193876&action=runQuery&personalisationMenu=true
    Is ayurveda a science is a debatable question and i leave that to scholars.
    I agree that, there are lot of peoples including ayurveda doctors, who want to make money and I have personally seen many of them mixing modern medicines in ayurveda churnas for better results and to prove that they are good in this system of medicines. I can’t help in that matter.
    Ayurveda system never claims to treat diabetis, cancer etc, its the ayurveda doc, any one who claim that they can treat diabetis, cancer etc are just claims unless proven, If they really can treat then, why don’t they go to research institute and get a detailed research done. Currently I am doing research on a anti diabetic preparation of our family (I don’t claim things, i just prove it).
    I would appreciate it, if the bloggers use this platform for a healthy discussion rather than fight each other.

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