Int. J. of Environment and Health   »   2008 Vol.2, No.3/4

 

 

Title: Heavy metal poisoning from Ayurvedic traditional medicines: an emerging problem?

 

Author: Paul I. Dargan, Indika B. Gawarammana, John R.H. Archer, Ivan M. House, Debbie Shaw, David M. Wood

 

Addresses:
Guy
s & St Thomas
Poisons Unit, Guy
s & St Thomas
NHS Foundation Trust, London SE14 5ER, UK.
Faculty of Medicine and South Asian Clinical Toxicology Research Collaboration, University of Peradeniya, Peradeniya, Sri Lanka.
Department of Pharmacology and Clinical Pharmacology, St George
s University of London, London, UK.
Medical Toxicology Laboratory, Guy
s & St Thomas
NHS Foundation Trust, London SE1 7EH, UK.
Chinese Medicines Advisory Service, Guy
s & St Thomas
Poisons Unit, Guy
s & St Thomas
NHS Foundation Trust, London SE14 5ER, UK.
Guy
s & St Thomas
Poisons Unit, Guy
s & St Thomas
NHS Foundation Trust, London SE14 5ER, UK

 

Abstract: The use of Ayurvedic medicines is common in both adults and children and is increasing in many areas of the world. This paper will discuss the risks of heavy metal poisoning associated with the use of Ayurvedic medicines and illustrate this with some cases managed by the authors. Many Ayurvedic medicines contain heavy metals, including lead, mercury and arsenic, and there have been numerous reports of clinically significant heavy metal poisoning related to their use. However, there have been few studies that allow quantification of the incidence of this problem. There is limited regulation of these products in most areas of the world. Recent European legislation may help to improve safety of products bought in shops, but it is likely to have a relatively limited overall impact as it will not cover personal imports or products prescribed by traditional medicine practitioners. There is an urgent need for studies to quantify the frequency and potential risk of heavy metal poisoning from Ayurvedic medicines and for culturally appropriate education to inform the public of the potential for toxicity associated with these products.

 

Keywords: lead; mercury; arsenic; heavy metals; heavy metal poisoning; Ayurvedic medicines; traditional medicines; health risks; health hazards; safe medicines; safety; culture; public health; education; toxicity.

 

DOI: 10.1504/IJENVH.2008.020936

 

Int. J. of Environment and Health, 2008 Vol.2, No.3/4, pp.463 - 474

 

Available online: 24 Oct 2008

 

 

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