Although it is rare, the Canadian Medical Association Journal released a new study that claims that Ayurvedic medicine may contain poisonous levels of lead and other heavy metals.
While lead exposure used to be a prevalent issue in the United States – often found in house paint and pipes – exposure has decreased over the past 40 years due to strict regulations.
Diagnosing someone with lead toxicity can sometimes be a challenge since vital signs may be normal, but the patient is feeling nauseous with abdominal pain. In the Canadian study, researchers looked at a woman who was taking holistic medication for infertility. Even though she was feeling ill, it took several weeks and many tests to find the source.
The researchers state that clinicians should consider lead toxicity with patients who have anemia, abdominal pain, headaches, fatigues, or cognitive impairment.
Lead toxicity is typically diagnosed with blood samples, where levels of lead will be elevated.
Researchers randomly bought medication from the Internet and found that 21% contained lead, mercury, or arsenic. Some included heavy metals as well.
This isn't the first time scientists have found alarming levels of toxins in Ayurvedic medicines, however. In 2013, the Journal of Occupational Medicine & Toxicology explained that much of Ayurvedic medicine includes heavy metals due to the belief that they can be holistically healing. For example, small amounts of lead is known to calm the stomach, and mercury can kill bacteria. However, too much of one thing is found to be toxic for the human body. They write that 95% of lead toxicity is due to occupational origin, like medications.
A 2015 study published in the International Journal of Occupational Environmental Health found that 40% of people who use Ayurvedic medication have elevated levels of lead or mercury.
What is Ayurvedic medicine?
Ayurveda is an Indian holistic medicine that includes herbal medications.
According to a survey in the U.S, one in 1,000 people have used Ayurvedic medicine in the past year.
Examples of this kind of medicine include:
- Licorice Root
- Bitter Melon
These herbs and spices may be beneficial but exceeding doses can be harmful and their origin — often online — may be a reduced quality.
Moreover, these products are not regulated or FDA-approved, meaning they may contain harmful substances that exceed the safe daily limit. Always consult your physician before trying a new medicine.
- Canadian Medical Association Journal. Lead Toxicity Ayurvedic medicines.
- Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology. A case report of adult lead toxicity following use of Ayurvedic herbal medication.
- International Journal of Occupational Environmental Health A cluster of lead poisoning among consumers of Ayurvedic medicine.