Ayurvedic Medicine or Ayurveda is one of the oldest systems of medicine in the world. Ayurveda literally means “knowledge of life” and it embodies exactly that. Ayurveda uses information from the universe (elements such as earth, water, fire and ether which is air), the seasons, qualities of nature (gunas) in order to have a deep understanding of nature, the human body and how to promote wellness for body, mind and spirit.
A Brief History of Ayurveda
Ayurveda originated in India over 3000 years ago. This system of medicine incorporates a variety of treatment tools such as special diets, herbal preparations and the use of exercise such as yoga and meditations which are tailored to the individual.
The principle behind Ayurveda is that everyone is unique and has a different makeup or constitution. This is called a Dosha. The 3 major Doshas are Pitta, Vata and Kapha.
Everyone has all three but in different proportions. Generally, there is a dominant dosha or constitution which can make one predisposed to certain illness.
This knowledge allows for specific recommendations for that person. An example could be a person who is primarily pitta (or made up with a heat constitution) in summer would be largely suited to a diet made up of cooling foods such as salads. As you can see, the person and their environment are taken into consideration.
What may be good for one individual would not be good for another. Ayurveda is becoming more and more popular for this very reason. Because each person’s unique characteristics are taken into consideration when coming up with lifestyle and treatment recommendations.
Eastern Medicine vs Western Medicine
Although we tend to think of Eastern Medicine vs. Western Medicine they are often times speaking the same language but using different terminology. For example, in Western medicine we speak of inflammation and look for anti-inflammatory herbs or medicines. Whereas Eastern Medicine may use the terminology of ‘heat’ and look for cooling herbs. The anti-inflammatory and cooling herbs are often the same but just with different terminology.
Integration of both systems of medicine allow for a complete picture into healing and disease prevention.
With the increase in the use of Ayurvedic medicine in North America, there has been a natural increase in the use of and purchase of Ayurvedic herbs.
The key concern regards manufacturing standards and practices. Ayurvedic herbs are considered nutritional supplements and so do not fall under the same FDA regulations as drugs do. This means that they are not subject to the same quality and standards of testing.
There are valid concerns regarding the standards of preparation and the possibility of heavy metals being present in the preparations.
Many of the Ayurvedic herbal preparations go through a process of Rasa shastra. This is a process of combining herbs with metals (including lead, iron, mercury, zinc), minerals or gems (pearl for example). This is an ancient practice and experts in this process believe that if done correctly, this not only safe but also therapeutic.
However, there are concerns. Since 1978, there have been over 80 reported incidences of lead toxicity worldwide directly from Ayurvedic herbal preparations. There is also concern as to just how many more there may be. Many may not have been reported as even those consumers that appear unaffected may actually have unrecognized, misdiagnosed, or have subclinical heavy metal intoxication.
The Problem with Some Ayurvedic Medicines
An interesting study done in 2008 analyzed 193 products that had been ordered from various suppliers online and these are their findings:
- 21% of the Ayurvedic medicines tested had detectable levels of lead, mercury and /or arsenic present.
- Some of the herbal preparations sold had 3-4 times the recommended levels of lead and mercury as outlined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
- The prevalence of metal-containing products did not differ significantly between US- and Indian-manufactured products.
- The median lead concentration in Indian-manufactured vs. US-manufactured lead-containing products was similar.
- Mercury was present in greater concentrations in Indian-manufactured products.
- Rasa shastra metal-containing medicines had higher lead and mercury median concentrations than non–rasa shastra metal-containing medicines.
The following is a list of products and manufacturers that were found to contain traces of heavy metals in them.
Ayurvedic Medicine Made in the U.S.
Product Name Manufacturer
- Prana–Breath of Life Ayurherbal Corporation
- AyurRelief Balance Ayurvedic Product
- GlucoRite Balance Ayurvedic Product
- Mahasudarshan Banyan Botanicals
- Kanchanar Guggulu Banyan Botanicals
- Shilajit Banyan Botanicals
- Acnenil Bazaar Of India
- Energize Bazaar Of India
- Hingwastika Bazaar Of India
- Bakuchi Bazaar Of India
- Brahmi Bazaar Of India
- Chairata Bazaar Of India
- Cold Aid Bazaar Of India
- Trifala Guggulu Bazaar Of India
- Heart Plus Bazaar Of India
- Jatamansi Bazaar Of India
- Kanta Kari Bazaar Of India
- Licorice Bazaar Of India
- Praval Pisti Bazaar Of India
- Prostate Rejuv Bazaar Of India
- Sugar Fight Bazaar Of India
- Tagar Bazaar Of India
- Yograj Guggulu Bazaar Of India
- Lean Plus Tattva’s Herbs
- Neem Plus Tattva’s Herbs
Ayurvedic Medicine Made in India
- Commiphora Mukul Unknown
- Bacopa Monniera Unknown
- Yogaraj Guggulu Unknown
- Ezi Slim Goodcare Pharma
- Ekangvir Ras Baidyanath
- Agnitundi Bati Baidyanath
- Brahmi Baidyanath
- Amoebica Baidyanath
- Arogyavardhini Bati Baidyanath
- Vital Lady Maharishi Ayurveda
- Worry Free Maharishi Ayurveda
- Ayu-Arthri-Tone Sharangdhar Pharmaceuticals
- Ayu-Hemoridi-Tone Sharangdhar Pharmaceuticals
- Ayu-Leuko-Tone Sharangdhar Pharmaceuticals
- Ayu-Nephro-Tone Sharangdhar Pharmaceuticals
The lesson here is not to avoid Ayurvedic medicine but instead to investigate and ensure you are purchasing from manufacturers that guarantee high-quality herbs which do not contain heavy metals.
Many Ayurvedic herbs show significant effects in clinical trials. Here are just a few that are showing amazing health benefits.
- Amla for example, is an extract of a fruit that has many purposes but is used primarily for anti-aging. The fruit is packed with nutrients: minerals, amino acids, polyphenols, antioxidants and essential fatty acids. This combination gives it its anti-aging properties. In fact, the polyphenol content gives Amla a more powerful anti-oxidant effect than Vitamin C. Clinical trials have shown that it significantly improve cholesterol, lowers LDL and total cholesterol while raising HDL. It also helps with managing blood sugar.
- Bacopa is an herb which supports cognitive function, reducing mental fatigue and memory and to protect the aging brain. Studies show benefits for children with ADHD. In India, bacopa is often given to babies in the hopes that it will open the gateway to intelligence.
- Ashwagandha is one of the most revered of the Ayurveda herbs and is ideal for those facing constant stress and chronic fatigue. It is considered a rejuvenating tonic, and supports energy and vitality. In North America, ashwagandha is used as an “adaptogen”, which means that it helps the body cope with the effects of stress.
- Gymnema is a well known in the management of diabetes as it helps manage blood sugar levels and it is also reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Boswellia is also known as Indian Frankincense. Boswellia is used to relieve inflammation especially inflammation of the joints. Studies have shown that boswellia reduces inflammation and pain in rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis and has also been shown to be effective in reducing the severity of inflammatory intestinal disorders.
- Arjuna support heart health. Scientific evidence has shown that arjuna encourages a healthy blood lipid profile. In addition, arjuna supports the heart muscle by increasing the heart’s capacity to pump blood more efficiently. It helps improve circulation, reduces high blood pressure and reduces symptoms of angina and angina attacks.
- Triphala is a traditional remedy from Ayurveda. “Triphala” literally means “three fruits”; it is a balanced mixture of the fruits of Emblica officinalis (“Amalaki” in Hindi), Terminalia belerica (“Bihara”), and Terminalia chebula (“Harada”). Triphala. is used as a part of a cleansing and detoxification formula dating back thousands of years. It also improves digestion and promotes detoxification.
- Turmeric root is a well known and revered East Indian spice. It can be found in most spice aisles. The active ingredient, curcumin is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Curcumin is used to treat chronic pain, including joint pain. It stops abnormal cell growth, is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal as well as anti-viral. It is also good for cardiovascular health and in promoting healthy cholesterol levels.
- Licorice root has been used for thousands of years for its soothing properties. The benefits of licorice have been recognized and it is regularly used to soothe gastric ulcers, irritable bowel and acid reflux. It may also inhibit the growth of H. pylori, which is a bacterium often responsible for ulcers and heartburn symptoms. Caution needs to be used as it can also increase blood pressure so often the deglycerized form is used.
These are just some of the many Ayurvedic herbs that are being recognised for their amazing properties.
When purchasing Ayurvedic herbs consider the source and choose companies that choose quality herbs, and those that stick to high manufacturing standards.
Consult with your GP, ND or other knowledgeable health practitioners regarding the standards of herbs and also to check for interactions with any medications you may be on.
Remember to choose professional brands which adhere to very rigid manufacturing guidelines
The list of supplements below details some well-known brands which adhere to very rigid manufacturing guidelines set out by the FDA.
Their manufacturing facilities are certified cGMP by the FDA. The products manufactured are tested for a multitude of harmful contaminants such as microbiological contaminants, residual solvents, heavy metals, aflatoxins, pesticides, melamine, PCBs, dioxins, and GMOs. In addition, they are free from gluten, soy, nuts, fish, shellfish, dairy, wheat, and many other common allergens which can also pose a health concern.
- Ecological Formulas
- Gaia Herbs
- Herb Farm
- Designs For Health
- Thorne Research
- Klaire Labs
- Pure Encapsulations
- Douglas Labs
- Vital Nutrients
- Standard Process
- Medi Herb
This amazing guest post was written by Dr. Simone Burke, a Naturopathic Doctor. You can check out her website here!
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