Herbal medicine in Bahrain 'all-clear'
Manama, August 28, 2008
Ayurvedic centres in Bahrain claim their customers have nothing to fear after US researchers found harmful levels of lead, mercury and arsenic in Ayurvedic medicines purchased over the Internet.
Researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) discovered one-fifth of US and Indian-manufactured Ayurvedic medicines they purchased online contained enough of the dangerous substances to exceed acceptable standards.
Their findings have been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Jama) and have raised question marks over the safety of Ayurvedic remedies here.
'Herbs and supplements with high levels of lead, mercury and arsenic should not be available for sale on the Internet or elsewhere,' said Dr Robert Saper, who led the study.
'We suggest strictly-enforced, government mandated daily dose limits for toxic metals in all dietary supplements, and requirements that all manufacturers demonstrate compliance through independent third-party testing.'
Ayurveda is a form of medicine based on herbal products that originated in India more than 2,000 years ago.
The alternative treatment has recently gained popularity in the Gulf among all nationals, with several centres now operating in Bahrain.
However, Kottakkal Ayurvedic Centre manager S Shekhar told our sister publication, the Gulf Daily News that such medicines available in Bahrain had to undergo testing by the Health Ministry before they could be sold.
He added that imported Ayurvedic medicines found to contain unacceptable quantities of the metals were shipped back to India.
'We use and sell only those medicines that are allowed in Bahrain and have a valid licence to do so,' said Shekhar.
'We get our shipment of medicines from our headquarters in India once every two months.
'These medicines are subjected to various tests by the Health Ministry, like heavy metal residue test, microbiological residue test and pesticide residue test.
'However, since testing each item costs around BD50 to BD55, they are only tested once [for the first time] and later they are only tested randomly.
'But when sometimes it was found [during testing] that the item contained these metals in unacceptable quantities or that certain herbs were not allowed for sale here, they were sent back.
'This is applicable to all alternative medical centres in Bahrain licensed to import medicines, so there's nothing for Bahrain to worry about.'
Meanwhile, Coimbatore Herbal Centre senior specialist Dr Rajeev Raj said medicines manufactured using metals were not harmful if they were properly processed.
'Ayurvedic medicines are divided into two major types: herbal only and Rasa Shastra, which is an ancient practice of deliberately combining herbs with metals, minerals and gems,' he said.
'If medicines made with lead, mercury and arsenic are properly prepared and administered, they will be safe and therapeutic.
'They need to undergo various thorough processes until they are converted from being inorganic to organic.
'They should be in a form that can be assimilated by the human body, but if otherwise consumed they will prove to be highly poisonous.
'We get our medicines from other centres in Bahrain that are licensed to sell them.'
Bahrain Wellness Resort Centre medical officer Dr Janaki Balan admitted that medicines still retaining unacceptable quantities of the metals could lead to serious health problems.
'Our shipment of medicines comes from Kerala once every six months, which we use for treatment and selling,' she said.
'If our medicines contain anything at all harmful or not approved by the Bahraini government, we will not be able to use them.
'Medicines that contain lead, mercury or arsenic in quantitie