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Study Says Popular New Age Medicines Are Toxic

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS Staff Writer Herbal medicines used in an ancient Indian medical system known as Ayurveda, which has become increasingly popular in the West, have been found to contain unsafe levels of lead, mercury and arsenic. According to a report published in The Los Angeles Times, a study conducted by Dr. Robert Saper, a Boston University professor of family medicine, a fifth of the nearly 200 Ayurvedic concoctions tested contained levels of toxic metals that exceeded California’s safety guidelines if taken at maximum recommended doses. Dr. Saper, who published his findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association, is hoping the findings will spur the Food and Drug Administration to start clamping down on the largely unregulated world of pills, herbs and powders classified as dietary supplements. ”It shouldn't be me trying to figure this out,” Dr. Saper said. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Ayurvedic practitioners subscribe to a pantheistic belief system that everything in the universe is joined together and every human being contains elements that can be found in the broader universe. Disease arises when a person is out of harmony with the universe. Ayurvedic medicine attempts to correct this disharmony by using a variety of herbal products and techniques to cleanse the body and restore balance. Nearly 80 percent of the population of India uses Ayurvedic medicine either exclusively or comnbined with conventional Western medicine. New Age enthusiasm brought the practice to the United States where an estimated 750,000 people are believed to have used it at one time. The problem with Ayurvedic medicines is that they are known to cause side affects, to interact with conventional medicines, and/or to contain toxic levels of certain ingredients. In tests conducted on 70 commonly used Ayurvedic remedies by the NIH four years ago, 14 were found to contain harmful levels of lead, mercury and arsenic. Also in 2004, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 12 cases of lead poisoning occuring over a recent 3-year period were linked to the use of Ayurvedic medicines. Dr. Saper became interested in the supplements in 2003 after a man of Indian origin showed up at a Boston-area emergency room with seizures. The culprit turned out to be the lead contained in the man's Ayurvedic medicines. In an initial study published in 2004, Saper bought 70 Ayurvedic products imported from India and found that toxic metals were common components. These findings are unsettling, especially because most of the preparations are intended to be taken as part of a daily regimen to improve health. “Many, many studies are showing that even small levels of lead in the blood can increase the risk of high blood pressure, kidney dysfunction and decreased IQ,” Saper said. In spite of the evidence, Ayurvedic practitioners are calling the research alarmist, saying that it only showed there were problems with mixtures from India, not with U.S.-made products. They pointed out that in India, many of these metals are purposely blended with herbs as part of the medicinal recipe but that these metallic mixtures are rarely used in the United States, they said. However, Dr. Saper’s study found that among the toxic samples, U.S. and Indian-made products had similar rates.    © All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly/Women of Grace.   This is only one of a variety of popular New Age healing techniques that can be harmful to both the body and the soul. Johnnette Benkovic’s The New Age Counterfeit explains the hidden dangers in many of these practices. Available in our store at




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