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Ayurvedic herbal medicine and lead poisoning

DOI: 10.1186/1756-8722-4-51

Keywords: Lead poisoning, basophilic stippling, anemia, Ayurveda

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Abstract:

Ayurvedic medicine is a traditional system native to India [1]. This system stresses the use of natural plant-based medicines, and minerals including sulfur, arsenic, lead, copper and gold are often added to formulations with the belief that these metals are essential components of vital molecules within the human body. In India, over 100 colleges offer degrees in traditional Ayurvedic medicine and in western countries, Ayurvedic medicine is gaining popularity as complementary treatment to modern medicine. Ayurvedic medicines are used to treat a wide spectrum of diseases from headaches to cancer. Currently, the United States does not specify a certification requirement for Ayurvedic practitioners, although many training programs are being offered through state-approved institutions. These practitioners are able to prescribe the medications and sometimes manufacture it themselves.From 2000 to 2003, the Centers for Disease Control reported 12 cases of lead poisoning in adults associated with Ayurvedic medication intake occurring in five different states [2]. Some Ayurvedic preparations have been found to contain contained lead and/or mercury at 100 to 10,000 times greater than acceptable limits [3]. Although not common in western societies, lead exposure through dietary sources is a well-recognized phenomenon and in past years, calcium supplements have been a source of lead poisoning [4]. In addition to Ayurvedic medicine, other traditional medicines originating from Asian, Middle Eastern and Hispanic cultures have been found to contain lead and other heavy metals [5]. Although many health supplements are now subject to limited government regulation in the U.S. through the Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act of 1994, these medicines are readily obtainable as herbal remedies in health food stores and through the internet and their safety and efficacy are not regulated by government agencies such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) [6]. Thus, without

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