Consumers Warned Against Ayurvedic Medicinal Products
Health Canada is reminding consumers who choose to use unapproved Ayurvedic medicinal products that some of these products may contain high levels of heavy metals. Consumption of excessive amounts of heavy metals, such as lead, mercury, and arsenic, pose serious health risks because they may accumulate in vital organs of the body. Children are most susceptible to the toxic effects of heavy metals.
In March 2008, a domestic case of heavy metal poisoning was published in the British Columbia Medical Journal, involving an adult male with symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea. The patient had been taking one tablet daily of the unauthorized Ayurvedic product Puspadhanva Rasa over a number of years to "increase vigour". Puspadhanva Rasa is manufactured by the Shri Dhanwantri Ayurvedic Pharmacy in India. The patient purchased this product in India and imported it into Canada for personal use. The product was found to contain extremely high levels of lead, mercury and arsenic.
The toxic effects of lead may include abdominal pain, anaemia, changes in blood pressure, reproductive effects, weakness, concentration problems, weight loss, insomnia, dizziness, kidney and brain damage. The toxic effects of mercury may include irritability, tremors, memory loss, insomnia, and concentration problems. Mercury can permanently damage the brain and kidneys. The toxic effects of arsenic may include skin and lung cancers, as well as heart and kidney disease and liver damage.
Ayurvedic medicinal products are used in traditional Indian healing practice and are often imported from India. According to the principles of Ayurvedic medicine, heavy metals may be used in a detoxified state in these medicinal products because of their presumed therapeutic properties. However, improper manufacturing processes may result in dangerously high levels of heavy metals in the final product.
Health Canada posted information on its website in March and July 2005, and in June and September 2006, to advise consumers that some Ayurvedic medicinal products may contain high levels of heavy metals.
Consumers should exercise caution when purchasing health products from outside Canada or over the Internet, as these products may not have undergone the same degree of assessment as those authorized for sale in Canada. Authorized health products will either bear an eight-digit Drug Identification Number (DIN), a Natural Product Number (NPN), or a Homeopathic Drug Number (DIN-HM). These numbers indicate that the product has been assessed by Health Canada for safety, efficacy and quality.