The Presence of Heavy Metals in Ayurvedic Products - What is Myth, What is Truth, And What is Propaganda!
I repetitively come across news of presence of heavy metals in Ayurvedic Products. I am an Ayurveda doctor, and I have felt challenged, earlier as Ayurveda practitioner, and for past 3 years as director of Holistic Herbalist by this onslaught of media.
This issue of heavy metals is highly related with the safety of Ayurvedic and Natural products for its users and it determines the mindset with which people from all over the world perceive Ayurveda products.
Heavy Metals in Ayurvedic Products - Let Us Divide Ayurvedic Products in 3 Categories!
Based upon the issues and happenings of last two decades, it would be wise to put all the Ayurveda products into three categories…
- Items having only herbs and herbal extracts
- Items having metallic compounds either as herbs and metallic compounds or only metallic compounds
- Safe Minerals and Metallic Compounds
Safe Minerals & Ayurvedic Bhasmas:
Ayurveda makes use of minerals like natural salt and other varieties of salts. These are perfectly safe compounds and are consumed as food and as ingredients all over the world.Their chemical analysis also shows them to have edible minerals.
The one difference with table salt is that these are natural minerals, not refined minerals. That is why they contain a group of beneficial minerals that would be better for health than refined table salt. I would like to delve deeper into this topic later on.
Other substances like Coral, Pearl, Pearl Oyster, Conch and Godanti are all natural forms of Calcium. Ayurveda doesn’t use them in their natural form. Their powder is processed with sour juices (commonly a variety of lemon) or other liquids of herbal origin (e.g. Rose water). In some cases, this powder if further calcined (burnt) to make Bhasma (ash).
These calcium compounds are also perfectly natural and safe. Ayurveda assigns these calcium compounds far more therapeutic values than merely being a source of Calcium. Many of them are popular in other parts of the world like Coral Calcium. The possibility of their having heavy metals is only possible if these are sourced from contaminated places (ocean, beach, river, stones etc.)
Herbal Supplements based Ayurvedic Herbs and Their Extract – True Ayurvedic Herbal Medicine Products (HMPs):
These Ayurvedic products contain only powder of herbs and their extracts. Extracts can be aqueous or water soluble or alcoholic or soluble in other organic compounds. Extracts can be standardized or having Ratios.
Standardized Bacopa extract is having 2.5 percent of this compound. While Ratio or Strength Extracts are represented as proportion e.g. 5:1 strength extract means that 1 part of extract is derived from 5 parts of herbs.
At Holistic Herbalist, we use primarily with priority Standardized Herbal Extracts having full spectrum of plant’s nutrients and herbal powders. This is simply the best policy for having Quality Herbal Supplements.
These Herbal Products, containing primarily Ayurvedic Herbs, can both of as Herbal Supplement or as Natural Medicine or Ayurvedic, depending upon the registration of the product.
These Ayurvedic Herbal Products can be contaminated with heavy metals. However, their chances of having heavy metals are ‘NO DIFFERENT THAN CHANCES OF HAVING HEAVY METALS IN HERBAL PRODUCTS MANUFACTURED IN ANY COUNTRY’, whether it is USA or European country. Period!
Holistic Herbalist manufactures only this category of Ayurvedic Products. And we take pride in having one of the best qualities of Herbal Supplements based upon Ayurveda herbs. The only limitation within a country would only be 100% compliance with its list of allowed herbs.
I have explained the issue of heavy metals in Ayurvedic Herbal Products here…
Ayurvedic Products with Heavy Metals as Ingredients – False Ayurvedic Herbal Medicine Products (HMPs), True Ayurvedic Herbo-Metallic Medicinal Products (HMMPs):
This group of products, mostly from Classical Ayurveda, and some from proprietary goods belonging to different companies are the main culprit of heavy metals in Ayurvedic products.
But, friends, the real truth is…
“THESE PRODUCTS HAVE HEAVY METALS AS THEIR INGREDIENTS. THESE ARE NOT CONTAMINATED WITH HEAVY METALS.”
If you blame entire range of Ayurvedic Products having heavy metals, it will be like blaming Paracetamol tablet or syrup (fever reducing common medical drug) as contaminated with Paracetamol.
This is simply not reasonable or logical!
Ayurveda is the system of ancient healthcare that believe that everything in world – material or energy or abstract idea or emotion – can be utilized for the wellbeing of a person after its careful analysis and preparation so that it serves as the tool for enhancing the wellbeing of that person.
It is better to call this category of products as Ayurvedic Herbo-Metallic Medicine Products (HMMPs).
Better, Raise These Questions Now about Heavy Metals in Ayurvedic Products:
I would invite more queries with full regards… even if I might not be a suitable person to answer those.
Are Bhasmas (usually ashes or organic compounds of Heavy Metals) are safe for human consumption?
What is the safety data of Ayurvedic Bhasmas?
How is the manufacturing of Ayurvedic Bhasmas different? What do they do to ascertain their safety?
My Personal View About Heavy Metals in Ayurvedic Products As An Ayurveda Doctor and Consumer:
I have been a passionate and ardent student of Ayurveda all the time starting from 1994. I started using Ayurvedic products on myself since 1996 when I was a third year (second professional year) student.
Simply speaking, I find it hurting myself whenever I used Kupipakva Rasayana (best Ayurvedic Products with Heavy Metals like Mercury, Sulphur and Arsenic and arguably and presumably the best considered).
I tried using minimal dosage, tried by varying their dosage, tried on several occasions, varying the companies. I was frustrated most of the times in next 11 years (till 2007)
I dropped them from my list of Ayurvedic Medicine.
When I started Clinical Ayurveda practice in 2001 in the countryside town, I had the privilege of having most of the clients from villages. These persons usually enjoy natural food, had good stamina and worked physically, as well.
For next 7 years, I used both Ayurvedic Bhasmas (having metallic compounds related one metal), these are found relatively safer. I found some minor side effects after 3 months of their use.
I didn’t have a single client who had major complaint of heavy metal poisoning, because I tried to use Ayurvedic Bhasmas from best possible companies and mainly judiciously using them in minimum possible dosage.
As a practitioner, I had little resources to ascertain the quality of Ayurvedic Bhasmas.
Third Phase – Global Face of Ayurveda – The Most Appropriate for Indian Consumers As Well:
In 2008, I transformed my work and modified it as the Globally Accepted face of Ayurveda. I was fortunate to travel, stay, consult, conduct seminars in about half a dozen of European countries and have clients from USA, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.
During this time, as I was also engaged in the development, manufacturing and marketing of Ayurvedic products to some of these countries, I found that some finished goods TEND TO LITERALLY FAIL AND FALL OUT OF COMPLAINT CATEGORY OF SAFETY when Ayurvedic Bhasma (heavy metal compounds) is added to it.
The Ayurvedic Bhasmas were tested in laboratories many times.
I simply made a decision TO LET GO OF AYURVEDIC BHASMAS from Holistic Herbalist Herbal Supplements.
Simply, I am open to further feedback, convincing and plane DATA in this regard. Actually, there had been many ADVANCEMENTS (using modern technology) in manufacturing of Ayurvedic Bhasmas, leaving aside labor intensive, time consuming methodology of Classical Ayurveda.
Personally, I still believe that there is treasure hidden in the art and science of using heavy metals in Ayurvedic Bhasmas.
But I don’t have resources, and don’t feel it as a priority to pursue that science now. I believe that Indian Government and Ayurvedic researchers will have more information about Ayurveda Bhasmas. I look forward to future when Ayurvedic Bhasmas could be represented along with Herbs and Natural Medicine as the global face of Ayurveda.
I extend my Best Wishes to the fraternity of Ayurveda, who is working with Ayurvedic Bhasmas in India.
I pledge my dedication to Global Face of Ayurveda that deals with Herbs, Herbal Supplements, Panchakarma Cleansing and Rejuvenation technology) and the treasure of Ayurveda wisdom as it applies to health, life and medicine. Literally www.holistic-herbalist.net and http://ayurvedamentor.net
How Did The News of Heavy Metals in Ayurvedic Products Spread Across Media and Internet?
First, some Indian stores in foreign countries bought common Ayurvedic products that contain heavy metals as ingredients and put them in their store.
Many people used them, and some reported their side effects when they visited doctors.
Laboratory tests were conducted on a variety of Ayurvedic products that contain heavy metals as ingredients. Some examples are Vatavidhavansan Ras, Garbhapal Ras, Garbhdharak Yog, Garbha Chintamani Ras. Some of them contained 1-10% of heavy metals.
This heightened level of presence of heavy metals is not contamination or due to faulty manufacturing. This is BECAUSE THAT THOSE PRODUCTS MEANT AND DESIGNED TO HAVE HEAVY METALS AS INGREDIENTS.
And I am with people, as a consumer and as a practitioner
JAMA about Heavy Metals in Ayurvedic Products. 2004 Dec 15;292(23):2868-73.
(Singapore Government about Heavy Metals in Ayurvedic Products, 2006)
http://www.bcmj.org/bc-centre-disease-control/heavy-metal-poisoning-ayurvedic-medicines(British Columbia Medical Journal about Heavy Metals in Ayurvedic Products, 2008)
(Center for Disease Control and Prevention about Heavy Metals in Ayurvedic Products, USA, Aug. 24, 2012)
This news about heavy metals in Ayurvedic products, particularly, JAMA article, was widely reported, published and spread.
This awareness is a good thing. My entire motive to write this piece to tell you – the consumers of our products in Indian and Other Countries – that…
Ayurvedic Herbal Products or Herbal Supplements can be as good as herbal supplements manufactured in any great country. Your safety concern for them should be different, and they usually meet and comply with standards of Herbal Products. These are the true Ayurvedic Herbal Medicine Products (HMPs). I addressed the issue of heavy metals in them here…
Classical Ayurvedic Products and Other Ayurvedic Products that contain heavy metals as ingredient will always show HIGH CONTENT OF HEAVY METALS. These are not actually Ayurvedic Herbal Medicine Products at all as they contain heavy metals as ingredients. You should avoid them and don’t confuse these with Ayurvedic Herbal Supplements that can be as good as the best herbal supplements in your country or any country.
What Steps Did Indian Government and Ayurveda Department Take About Heavy Metals in Ayurvedic Products?
Indian Government and its Ayurveda Department take notice of JAMA study in 2008 and took further initiative.
About Ayurvedic Bhasmas (Ayurvedic Products with Heavy Metals as Ingredients):
A project for Physicochemical characterization and toxicity studies of 8 widely used Bhasmas (Rasa Aushadhies) was also sanctioned under the Golden Triangle Project which is being carried out by various laboratories of CSIR i.e. Indian Institute of Toxicological Research (IITR), Lucknow, Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT), Hyderabad.
Indian Government Finding About Heavy Metals in Ayurvedic Herbs:
“Samples of 600 Indian medicinal plants collected from the wild as well as various medicinal plant gardens in India by the Council for Scientific Research in Ayurveda and Siddha were sent to the Indian Institute of Toxicological Research (CSIR), Lucknow, Sri Ram Institute of Industrial Toxicology, New Delhi and Centre for Research in Indian Medicine, Shastra University, Thanjavur. The test reports received from these three laboratories disclose that Lead, Mercury and Arsenic have not been found in these 600 Indian medicinal plants samples above the permissible limits laid down by WHO which is 10ppm for Lead, 1ppm for Mercury and 3ppm for Arsenic. This study clearly indicates that Indian medicinal plants collected from the wild or cultivated have been found to be free from lead, mercury and arsenic contamination contrary to the claim made by Dr. Robert Saper et al in their second article “Lead, Mercury and Arsenic in US- and Indian- Manufactured Ayurvedic Medicines sold via the Internet” published in JAMA, August 27, 2008.”
(Press Release of Indian Government Website about Heavy Metals in Ayurvedic Products, 2nd September 2008)
What is Indian Government Advice for Export/Import Based Upon Heavy Metals in Ayurvedic Products?
“It needs to be emphasized that as per the directions issued by Department of AYUSH, herbo metallic compounds are not being officially exported because of heavy metal concerns and only purely herbal Ayurveda, Unani and Siddha medicines are being exported from India with effect from 1.1.2006 after certification of heavy metals below the permissible limit by the manufacturing unit.”
The officially and legally allowed Ayurvedic products that can be exported outside of India, SHOULD CONTAIN ONLY AYURVEDIC HERBS. Persons or companies who are importing or exporting Ayurvedic Bhasmas or Ayurvedic products containing heavy metals as ingredients from India is ILLEGAL. And quite ironically, it is effective since 1st Jan. 2006.
Obviously, some Indian stores in foreign territory fall to this temptation of getting some of NOT ALLOWED PRODUCTS from India and selling them.
How Could You Be Assured with Holistic Herbalist Supplements about Heavy Metals?
As I, Dr. Vikrama Aditya Tomar, an Ayurvedic doctor was aware of all these issues. Keeping aside media buzz and personal prejudice, I took some decisions….
- Our Herbal Supplements will contain only Ayurvedic Herbs in powder and standardized extract form.
- If some metallic compound – Iron, Zinc, Copper – is to be added, we source it from pharmaceutical or medical industry. Still, most of our products don’t contain even these normal minerals found in supplements. (Iron, Copper and Zinc in My Women’s Herbs; Zinc in My Men’s Herbs).
- The manufacturing license of Holistic Herbalist is for Herbal Food Supplements. So, naturally, any of our products is not Herbal or Natural Medicine, even though these have great formulations based upon Ayurveda wisdom of herbal combination.
- We take all required care in procuring, storing and processing quality raw materials.
- We take the help of modern laboratories in finally getting convinced about safety and compliance of these Herbal Supplements.
- I want to keep me in a direct and dedicated contact with individuals who are consuming our products as Herbal Supplements abroad and as Herbal Medicine in India. This is the most valuable and direct feedback that few companies dealing with natural products can have.
So, you can confidently use our range of Natural Herbal Products or Herbal Supplements. These are true Herbal Formulas Empowered by Ayurveda Wisdom!