We are practicing Ayurveda in 21st century. In the last few decades, there is remarkable popularity seen in international community regarding clinical potential of ayurvedic medicine. The Ayurvedic pharmacopoeia contains hundreds of listings, uses and preparations. Many of these have been in continuous use for several thousand years. Although these medicines are trusted by those in India, from western modern “double blind clinical trial” perspective they are unproven to be safe and or effective.
In the Western scientific paradigm it is customary to identify a traditional therapy and medicine, isolate the active ingredient, standardize the potency and clinically test its safety and efficacy outside of the remedy’s traditional use. What needs to be studied is the authentic cultural treatment as a system of healing, not whether an isolated compound can be grafted into our modern medical system. We need to study the difference between an ingredient’s chemical identification and its physiological medicinal and / or toxic properties. The first study should be whether a therapy and its medicines are toxic as traditionally used. Then follow with a study of its efficacy.
Some Ayurvedic formulations contain herbs that are natural forms of drugs or substances generally considered toxic in their customary forms. We need to study Ayurvedic remedies, formulations, and therapies in a way that satisfies our Western scientific method while preserving those therapeutic elements considered important by Ayurveda. We should not simply study isolated compounds but the medicines, therapies and medical system as a whole.
There are unique preparations in Ayurveda that intentionally combine specially prepared minerals with botanicals for the purpose of increasing the effect of the botanicals. It is these formulas that are the most suspect to our Western eyes as they often contain mercury, lead and / or other ingredients that have been proven to be toxic in forms we are familiar with. These Ayurvedic formulas have long and complicated preparation methods often lasting months or even years. They are believed to have amazing curative powers in the treatment of uncontrolled ailments of modern era, but are they toxic as well? They are traditionally believed to be safe when properly prescribed, prepared and taken. They address serious medical problems like cirrhosis of the liver, hepatitis, kidney problems, mental and brain function disorders, Parkinson’s disease, muscular dystrophies and other serious Neuro-muscular diseases, etc. But it is important that we insure and determine proper preparation and whether there is any risk of toxicity when prepared and used properly. The preparations with lead and mercury are not currently approved by the US FDA and therefore can not be used by people in the United States until proper studies are done.
In the West they have very high standards for purity and the means to test for it. It could be said that they have these high standards because they can test for positive identification of ingredients and the presence of unwanted substances. It is especially important to consider the possibility that indigenous medicines may be prepared in ways that western scientists do not fully understand and the difference between medicine and poison may not be uncovered by modern chemical analysis, no matter how sophisticated. They must also establish uniform testing protocols for heavy metals in Dietary Supplements that include sample preparation, testing methodology and acceptable daily dose.
In summary, Ayurveda uses hundreds of substances therapeutically. It is important to assess Ayurvedic herbal medicines according to Western scientific standards and investigate them for levels of toxicity and contamination that are unacceptable. We must also differentiate between products that are manufactured in the USA under FDA guidelines and regulations and those that are manufactured in other countries never intended for export and brought into USA. At the same time, we must, keep a scientific and open mind about the Ayurvedic preparations and medicines that have intentional ingredients we have come to regard as toxic by Allopathic standards but which have undergone special preparatory procedures that have yet to be documented by Western scientific standards. It may be that these very medicines hold the promise of cure for diseases modern Western medicine is currently unable to adequately address.
– An article by Mukesh D Jain, Bhilai (firstname.lastname@example.org) as provided to AyurvedNews.com
Hon. President of AYUSH Academy of Ayurvedic Medical Sciences & Fellow of French Association of Medical Yoga. Double graduated in Basic Sciences, Ayurveda with Modern Medicine and Surgery both from Sagar & Ravi Shanker Universities. A teacher, researcher, an author of two scientific books on Ayurveda & Yoga; On editorial board of several journals including Global Ayurveda & Light on Ayurveda Journal. Currently head of Panch Karma Clinic on Neuro-Muscular Diseases in Bhilai.