Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Researchers Find High Levels Of Potentially Toxic Heavy Metals In Herbal Medicine Products

Date:
December 24, 2004
Source:
Harvard Medical School
Summary:
According to a study to appear in the Dec. 15, 2004 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), one of five Ayurvedic herbal medical products (HMPs), produced in South Asia and available in Boston area stores, contains potentially harmful levels of lead, mercury, and/or arsenic.

Boston (December 14, 2004) -- According to a study to appear in the Dec. 15, 2004 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), one of five Ayurvedic herbal medical products (HMPs), produced in South Asia and available in Boston area stores, contains potentially harmful levels of lead, mercury, and/or arsenic.

"We tested Ayurvedic HMPs sold in Boston areas stores and found they had unacceptably high heavy metal content," said Robert Saper, MD, MPH, currently with the Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) Department of Family Medicine and a former research fellow at the Harvard Medical School (HMS) Osher Institute and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

"This study, yet again, highlights the need for Congress to revisit the way dietary supplements are regulated in the U.S.," said co-author David Eisenberg, MD, the Bernard Osher Associate Professor of Medicine and Director of the HMS Division of Research and Education in Complementary and Integrative Medical Therapies. "Our first priority must be the safety of the public. Over-the-counter herbs and supplements with high levels of heavy metals are simply dangerous," he said.

Ayurvedic medicine originated in India more than 2,000 years ago and relies heavily on herbal medicine products. In India, an estimated 80% of the population uses Ayurveda. In the United States, Ayurvedic remedies have increased in popularity and are available from South Asian markets, Ayurvedic practitioners, health food stores, and on the Internet. Several recent reports of Ayurvedic medicine users developing life-threatening lead toxicity prompted the current study.

The researchers tested 70 HMPs at the New England Regional Environmental Protection Agency Laboratory and found 14 (20 percent) contained lead, mercury, and/or arsenic. Each of the 14, if taken as recommended by the manufacturers, could result in heavy metal intakes above regulatory standards. Several of the HMPs, such as Mahayograj Guggulu and Navratna Rasa, could result in lead and arsenic intakes of 1,000 - 10,000 times greater than the regulatory standards. Half of the HMPs containing potentially toxic heavy metals were recommended by the manufacturers for use in infants and children. Eleven different manufacturers produced one or more HMPs containing heavy metals. Eighty percent of the 30 stores sold at least one HMP which contained significant amounts of heavy metals.

"Users of Ayurvedic medicines manufactured in South Asia may be at risk for heavy metal toxicity," said Saper, the lead author of the study and Director of Integrative Medicine in the Family Medicine Department at BUSM. "While the exact extent of Ayurvedic HMP use in the U.S. and abroad is unknown, the numbers of individuals at potential risk are substantial. Domestic and international public health and community organizations should issue advisories to current or previous users of Ayurvedic HMPs manufactured in South Asia to consult their physicians about screening for heavy metal toxicity."

Because Ayurvedic HMPs are marketed as dietary supplements, they are regulated under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), which does not require proof of safety or efficacy prior to marketing. The researchers believe that testing Ayurvedic HMPs should not only be mandatory, but call for reform that would require mandatory testing of all imported dietary supplements for toxic heavy metals.

"In order to investigate the efficacy of commonly used dietary supplements including Ayurvedic remedies we need to test high-quality standardized products free of contaminants and dangerous toxins," said Eisenberg. "This study reminds us of the need for regulatory reform involving dietary supplements used by the American public."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Harvard Medical School. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Harvard Medical School. "Researchers Find High Levels Of Potentially Toxic Heavy Metals In Herbal Medicine Products." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 December 2004. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/12/041219162210.htm>.
Harvard Medical School. (2004, December 24). Researchers Find High Levels Of Potentially Toxic Heavy Metals In Herbal Medicine Products. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/12/041219162210.htm
Harvard Medical School. "Researchers Find High Levels Of Potentially Toxic Heavy Metals In Herbal Medicine Products." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/12/041219162210.htm (accessed April 17, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A new study conducted by researchers at Northwestern and Harvard suggests even casual marijuana use can alter your brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Thousands Of Vials Of SARS Virus Go Missing

Thousands Of Vials Of SARS Virus Go Missing

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A research institute in Paris somehow misplaced more than 2,000 vials of the deadly SARS virus. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Formerly Conjoined Twins Released From Dallas Hospital

Formerly Conjoined Twins Released From Dallas Hospital

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) Conjoined twins Emmett and Owen Ezell were separated by doctors in August. Now, nearly nine months later, they're being released from the hospital. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Outbreak Now Linked To 121 Deaths

Ebola Outbreak Now Linked To 121 Deaths

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) The ebola virus outbreak in West Africa is now linked to 121 deaths. Health officials fear the virus will continue to spread in urban areas. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins