Monday, September 01, 2008

Herbal medicines to die for

Dr. Robert Saper, a Boston University professor of family medicine, became interested in ancient Indian herbal medicines after someone showed up at his emergency room with seizures. As the LA Times reports:
Saper got interested in the supplements in 2003 after a man of Indian origin showed up at a Boston-area emergency room with seizures. The culprit turned out to be lead in the man's ayurvedic medicines. In an initial study published in 2004, Saper bought 70 ayurvedic products imported from India and found that toxic metals were common components.
According to the New Scientist, the levels of heavy metals in some Rasa Shastra medicines are far above the levels that the FDA permits in medicines over which it has regulatory control:
One sample of a preparation called Ekangvir Ras had 26,000 parts per million of lead. This compares with a US legal limit of 2 ppm in pharmaceutically produced calcium tablets for the elderly.
Kush Khanna, who manufactures such ayurvedic medicines, counters by citing World Health Organization rules. As the LA Times writes:
The problem is that there are no unified standards for what is considered safe.

Lead levels allowed by the World Health Organization are 500 times the California limits.

"Based on WHO standards, our products are perfect," Khanna said. "They have not exceeded any limits."
Dr. Saper counters that "Many, many studies are showing that even small levels of lead in the blood can increase the risk of high blood pressure, kidney dysfunction and decreased IQ." Mr. Khanna sells his heavy metal rich potions from the company his father started, Bazaar of India, located in Berkeley, CA.

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