Ayurveda is a medical system that originated in India thousands of years ago and has gained wide popularity in the Western world. Herbal supplements are often subscribed to help adult acne, boost the immune system, lower stress levels and improve the skin. However, a worrying report highlighted this week in the New York Times shows many of these supplements actually contain lead, mercury or arsenic.
The New York Times cites the Aug. 27 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association, which found that nearly 21 percent of 193 ayurvedic herbal supplements bought online, produced in both India and the United States, contained lead, mercury or arsenic. Almost all of the products were sold through US web sites.
“Some manufacturers (of herbal supplements) advertised that they test for metals, and their products still had them,” Dr. Robert B. Saper, assistant professor at the Boston University School of Medicine and lead author of the study, told the paper. The average consumer, he added in the report, “has no way of determining which supplement is free of contaminants and which isn’t.”
Although it is difficult to estimate the exact number of arsenic, mercury or lead poisoning illnesses in the US and UK which are related to ayurvedic medicine, the fact that there are any reported cases at all is incredibly worrying. There is no universal official body to monitor standards for herbal supplements. Instead, the emphasis is on the manufacturer to ensure that it's products are safe.