Ayurvedic Medicines Linked to Lead Poisoning
Remedies Used in Ayurvedic Medicine May Contain Dangerous Levels of Lead
WebMD News Archive
July 9, 2004 -- Using some types of traditional ayurvedic
medications may cause lead poisoning, according to a new report from the
Researchers say 12 cases of lead poisoning have been reported
from 2000-2003 among adults who used ayurvedic medications.
Although more than 95% of lead poisoning in the U.S. is caused
by occupational exposure to lead, researchers say lead poisoning can also occur
after using traditional or folk remedies that contain unsafe levels of
Ayurvedic medicine is commonly practiced in India and other
South Asian countries and is also practiced in the U.S. as a form of
alternative medicine. The medications contain herbs, minerals, metals, or
Many ayurvedic and other types of traditional medications do
not contain lead, but researchers found lead content ranged from 0.4 to 261,200
parts per million in some common ayurvedic preparations. These lead levels are
especially dangerous to young children and pregnant women.
In addition, certain branches of ayurvedic medicine consider
heavy metals to be therapeutic and encourage their use to treat particular
Ayurvedic Medications May Pose Lead Risks
In the report, published in this week's Morbidity and
Mortality Weekly Report, researchers describe 12 cases of lead poisoning
linked to use of ayurvedic medications that occurred in New Hampshire,
California, Massachusetts, New York, and Texas.
The lead-poisoned adults said they were using ayurvedic
medications from India to treat a variety of conditions, such as infertility,
diabetes, and arthritis. Each of the individuals had very high blood levels of
lead, and no other source of lead exposure was found.
Lead can affect almost every organ system, but the most
sensitive is the brain, especially in children.
Symptoms of lead poisoning in adults often vary and may
- Abdominal pain
- Decreased libido
- Muscle pain
- Joint pain
- Motor function problems
The number and severity of these symptoms increase as the level
of lead in the blood increases.
Researchers say culturally appropriate educational efforts are
needed to inform people about the potential health risks posed by these
They say women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant also
face a higher risk for the toxic effects of lead because of the use of
ayurvedic medications to treat infertility. Ingested lead can also affect a
A blood test is available to measure the amount of lead in your
blood and to estimate the amount of your exposure to lead.