Ayurvedic Death: Medicines adulterated with steroids and heavy metals- Part 1
Moneylife Digital Team 16 November 2011

Several so-called Ayurvedic medicines readily available are found to contain steroids and heavy metal, both harmful to the human body if taken in excess

Ayurvedic medicines given by the vaidyas – be it in the form of bhasma or churan-, which people swallow in with great faith, could contain steroid and toxic metals such as lead, mercury and arsenic. According to experts, such medicines sold under the ‘Ayurvedic’ preparations often contain steroids and metals, and if used beyond permissible limit could lead to nervousness, indigestion, chest pain, seizures and even coma.

This information was revealed in a Right to Information (RTI) application. Mumbai-based consumer activist Dr AR Shenoy, who has experience in testing adulteration in food and medicine industry, filed an application under the RTI Act. He sought information on analysis of Ayurvedic Drug samples for presence of steroids and toxic metals above permissible limit by the Ayurveda Research Centre of KEM Hospital, Mumbai.

In the reply, the Research Centre revealed that out of the 244 Ayurvedic samples that were analyzed for steroid 96 samples were tested positive. About 18 samples had more than one steroid and it detected steroids like Betamethasone, Dexamethasone, Hydrocortisone, and Prednisolone in these samples.

It also stated that out of the 80 Ayurvedic samples that were analyzed for heavy metal such as mercury, lead and arsenal above permissible limit, 42 were tested positive or contain metals above the limit.

“If the statistics provided by KEM regarding steroid spiked Ayurvedic formulations are taken as an indicator of the state of Ayurvedic malpractice in Mumbai, then every four out of 10 patients undergoing Ayurvedic treatment are probably in danger of steroid toxicity,” says Dr Shenoy.

The Department of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH), has kept the permissible limits of lead, mercury or arsenal less than or equal to 0.5 parts per million (ppm).

Dr Shenoy points out that a study, conducted in 2008 for over 230 products (reported in the August issue of USA Today) found that around 20% of remedies (and 40% of rasa shastra medicines) purchased over the Internet from both US and Indian suppliers contained lead, mercury or arsenic.

“Seriously, this issue needs to be tackled in India considering the fact that according to WHO (World Health Organization), up to 80% of people in India use either Ayurveda or other traditional medicines. Due diligence and care is taken or permissible limits followed for Ayurvedic medicines that are exported abroad. However at the domestic level it is absent,” added Dr Shenoy.

Safety concerns have been raised about Ayurveda, with two US studies finding about 20% of Ayurvedic treatments tested contained toxic levels of heavy metals such as lead, mercury and arsenic. Other concerns include the use of herbs that contain toxic compounds and the lack of quality control in Ayurvedic facilities.

Experts say that such level of toxic metals is hazardous for human body. For instance, lead interferes with body’s metabolism and is toxic to many organs and tissues including heart, bones, intestines, kidneys, and reproductive system. It hinders development of nervous systems and in severe cases could lead to seizure, coma. Like the element mercury, another heavy metal, lead is a neurotoxin that accumulates both in soft tissues and in the bones. Lead poisoning has been documented from ancient Rome, ancient Greece, and ancient China. Long terms exposure to heavy mercury vapour can result in brain damage and even death.

Due to these concerns, the Government of India ruled that Ayurvedic products must specify their metallic content directly on the labels of the product, but, writing on the subject for Current Science, a publication of the Indian Academy of Sciences, MS Valiathan noted that "the absence of post-market surveillance and the paucity of test laboratory facilities in India make the quality control of Ayurvedic medicines exceedingly difficult at this time.

(This is a Part 1 of a series on adulterated Ayurvedic medicines)

9 years ago
Steroid is a medicine which can use in the positive as well for bad cause. Ayurvedic medicine can be help to reduce this problem.
http://www.charak.com/clinic">Ayurvedic Treatments in India
Jogn Howard
10 years ago
All medicines including ayurvedic medicines should be brought under the control of the Food and Drugs Administration Authority. Every item should be appropriately labelled showing all the ingredients such as steriods, if any, and the type. It is scary to learn that ayurvedic medicines can contain ingredients that can be seriously harmful to health.
1 decade ago
i am not clarrified about the types of steroid, because the best medicine in ayurveda, like aswagamdha and yasthimadhu all members of solanaceae are rich in phyto steroids. one more thing i want clarrification about the compenies who have manufactured said examined medicines are having experts with them about quality control and they have got legal permission from govt of india and various states.
1 decade ago
This kind of articles are misleading. Please indicate such as the medicine name, manufacturer name, contents beyond prescribed limits etc. Then we will know which companies to avoid.

Also, please enlighten us if mercury etc are part of all regular auyurvedic medicines. If not why are they are included? Do they help the companies?

Please do not publish such incomplete articles. It appears as if all Ayurvedic Medicine manufacturers cheat.

1 decade ago
For long we were afraid to use ayurvedic drugs. This article and the studies conducted in US shows our fears were not beyond doubts. Miracle cures can be achieved by using high doses of corticosteriods, but at the risk of side effects. All drugs should be labelled with a list of potential side effects. The chemist shops must have a qualified pharmacist employed. Do you agree?
1 decade ago
I am not afraid.
1 decade ago
While the article does raise concerns for the public, it would be interesting to know how many actual cases of toxicity have been identified to be caused by consumption of such drugs. Allopathic drugs' toxicity and adverse reactions are also only too well known but articles on them are never alarmist, in tenor, as this one is.
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