Dr.Robert B. Saper of Department of Family medicine, Boston Medical Center along with others had published an article in JAMA, December 15, 2004 “Heavy Metal Content of Ayurvedic Herbal Medicine Products” which on the basis of testing of 70 samples of herbal medicinal products collected from grocery stores of Boston Area for heavy metals concluded that one out of every 5 Ayurvedic Herbal Medicinal Products originating from South Asia and available in Boston South Asian grocery stores contains potentially harmful levels of lead, mercury and/or arsenic. This article was widely reported in the Indian print media. In spite of methodological infirmities in the study carried out by Dr. Robert Saper and his associates, the Department of AYUSH enforced mandatory testing for heavy metals in respect of Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani herbal products being exported from India w.e.f. 1.1.2006. Testing for heavy metals and other contaminant in Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani products is already a part of Good Manufacturing Practices notified in 2003.
A project for Physico chemical characterization and toxicity studies of 8 widely used Bhasmas (Rasa Aushadhies) was also sanctioned under the Golden Triangle Project which is being carried out by various laboratories of CSIR i.e. Indian Institute of Toxicological Research (IITR), Lucknow, Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT), Hyderabad. Under this project, one of the reputed manufacturers of Rasa Aushadhies was chosen for manufacturing of the selected Rasa Aushadhies as per the classical texts which were made available to CSIR laboratories for physio chemical characterization and their toxicity studies. On the basis of 28 days toxicity studies, all the 8 Rasa Aushadhies have been found to be non-toxic. 90 days chronic studies are under progress. CSIR would be getting the results of this scientific research published to set at rest doubts regarding the safety of Rasa Aushadhies prepared properly as per classical texts. Further, the work of finalizing SOPs for the various herbo metallic compounds (Rasa Aushadhies) used in Ayurveda has been undertaken by the Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia Committee of India. Supplementary Good Manufacturing Practices for Rasa Aushadhies have also been prepared of which draft publication has been done.
» Read more: Comments of the Department of Ayush on “Heavy Metals in Ayurvedic Medicines”