In a study conducted by liver specialist Dr Abby Philips, senior gastroenterologist Dr Philip Augustine and liver pathologist Dr Rajaguru, at a hospital at Kochi, in Kerala, it was found that about two percent of patients who came for treatment in the liver department had liver damage due to intake of Ayurveda and herbal medicines.
The ayurveda and herbal medicines taken by the patients are mainly from two sources – practicing Ayurveda and Homeopathy doctors and traditional healers without proper training or medical degree in alternative medicine (famously called parambarya vaidyanmar). Most patients took Ayurveda for abdominal symptoms like loss of appetite, bloating, gas formation while other took for control of diabetes, weight loss, joint problems.
In all the patients, severe jaundice was noted. In 30 per cent of patients, severe liver damage leading to brain failure and accumulation of fluid in abdomen were observed. Around 19 percent of patients died due to severe liver damage. The study team also performed liver biopsy on 27 patients. The biopsies showed various levels of injuries ranging from severe fat accumulation in liver cells (mostly in patients who took 'lehyam', homeopathy medicines rich in alcohol and oil/fat based herbal mixtures) to complete loss of liver cells (in patients who took multiple Ayurveda medications, especially tablets and unknown powder mixtures from traditional healers). The various Ayurveda and herbal medicines retrieved from the patients and found associated with liver damage are as follows:
- Yog Sallaki
- Ostina Forte
- Swarna Guggulu
- Bitana Forte
- Bacfo Joint Care
- Sankara Bati
- Hriden Plus
- Ayamodaka Sathaal
- Kaisoragulu Vatika
- Najati Powder
- Vilwadi Gulika
- Testes Siccati
- Oleum Jeconis
- Arethaki Lehyam
- Drakshati Kath
- G H Evandam
- Gasna Syrup
- Rasna Sallaki
- Multiple Medicines by Traditional healers
In the next step in their study, the researchers analysed Ayurveda and herbal medicine samples retrieved from the patients for potential toxins, poisons, heavy metals and alcohol. They found that most of the Ayurveda and herbal medicines contained heavy metals such as lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, and antimony up to 10000 times more than the normal levels.
They also found highly poisonous and toxic chemicals, called volatile organic compounds in these Ayurveda and herbal medications. Most of these heavy metals and toxins were found in medicines prescribed by traditional healers or 'parambarya vaidyanmar' who advertise their fake treatments through social media and by word of mouth. Even some of the Ayurveda and herbal medicines made by proper Ayush companies were also found to have high heavy metal and toxin levels.
The majority of patients who died of severe drug related liver injury due to Ayurveda and herbals medicines had consumed medicines prescribed by traditional healers while only few died after using medicines prescribed by Ayush practitioners.
Fake media advertisements, social media networking, television shows on Ayurveda and herbal medicines and claim by Ayush doctors that their treatments can cure cirrhosis and other liver disease must be taken with caution. These Ayush medicines in the current era are not scientifically proven or tested on animals and humans and have not undergone proper clinical trials.
This is proven with this new breakthrough study from Kerala, that shows high levels of toxins and heavy chemicals in Ayush medicines. The researchers were also surprised to find that many patients still took treatment from Homeopaths in Kerala, when homeopathy practice has been found to be without effect in European and American healthcare systems. The United States Federal Trade Commission has ordered Homeopathic practitioners to label their treatments/medications as 'not effective'.
It is important for the common man to understand a few points in the light of this new study and its important findings:
1) Ayurveda and herbal medicines are NOT totally safe as is traditionally considered and has the potential to cause severe organ damage
2) Without proper basic research, clinical trials and studies on Ayurvedic and herbal medicines in various diseases, in human population, the benefits still remain unknown and experimental
3) the people and government must ensure full disclosure of substances in the Ayurveda and herbal medicine samples especially used by traditional healers and
4) Like in modern medicine, alternate medicine should also disclose possible side effects of the preparations.