NPR ran a story about many traditional Ayurveda medicines which contain toxins like lead.

These medicines are called rasas or bhasmas, and are basically blends of ingredients we now known to be toxic. These bhasmas contain heavy metals such as mercury, lead, and arsenic in addition to herbs and spices.

The New York City Health Department issued a recent advisory warning consumers against 20 traditional Ayurveda compounds, which often contain horrific amounts of these toxic heavy metals. One such medication had 43,200 parts per million of lead (4.3%!); the recommended FDA maximum level is 0.1 parts per million.

Dr. Laura Breeher of the Mayo Clinic found 40% of 115 people who were practicing Ayurevda had lead poisoning. This is by far the largest concentration of lead poisoning from Ayurveda medications in the United States to date.

Lead poisoning can lead to nervous system disorders, brain damage, and even death.

Many products commonly used in Ayurveda do not contain toxic heavy metals as main ingredients, but can – in fact – still contain traces of heavy metals due to overseas manufacturing processes where lead is often a component of manufacturing machinery.

While here in the West we known heavy metals such as lead, mercury, and arsenic are poisonous, in India there is a different view where many of these bhasmas have been used for generations. Some people argue if these compounds are as toxic as Western Medicine says, why aren’t more people in India sick?

There are many forms of preparation of bhasmas which are said to remove the toxins from lead, mercury, and arsenic. One of these forms of preparation even includes using goat urine as a form of “detoxing” heavy metals.

Although these products have been used in India for hundreds of years with claims of efficacy and safety, they have not been proven by modern medical science to be either safe or effective, according to the National Ayurvedic Medical Association.

The National Ayurvedic Medical Association, a North American organization that provides leadership in the Ayurvedic community, welcomes all efforts to enhance the quality and safety of Ayurvedic products. NAMA recommends that Ayurvedic professionals and consumers avoid the use of products containing lead, mercury or arsenic until these products are better understood by modern medical science.

One of the reasons this is becoming such a large problem is because in the United States Ayurveda medicines are considered supplements, and are not subject to regulation by the FDA.

While this all sounds scary, there is no reason to be alarmed if you are an Ayurveda practitioner but haven’t taken any Ayurveda medicines. Ayurveda is a holistic living practice that combines sleep routines, yoga, and purely herbal supplements without any traces of heavy metals. Many Ayurveda supplements are simple combinations of ginger, turmeric, nutmeg, cardamom, and fennel.

If you are in the market for Ayurveda medicines, make sure to do your homework and carefully research every ingredient. Opt for medicines that are 100% herbal.

Have you taken Ayurveda medicines? What was your experience? Let me know in the comments.