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