These organizations are working hard to advance the recognition and acceptance of Ayurveda as a purveyor of healthcare in this country.
Mantram: What are the implications of such a report on the mainstream market and people using or planning to use Ayurvedic formulations?
LOAJ: The great majority of Ayurvedic medicine comes from reputable suppliers who take great care in the procurement of their products. The preparations are carefully tested for contaminants before being offered for sale. These companies are also working to implement the highest possible standards Ayurvedic products.
The recommendation to the Ayurvedic consumer continues to be: Ayurvedic formulations should not be taken at the whim and discretion of the consumer, but only under the care of a qualified practitioner who is capable of evaluating both the source and administration of the medication. All people should be educated and discriminating about the medications they choose to take into their bodies, no matter what healthcare system they utilize.
Mantram: What is your advice to prospective as well current users of Ayurveda trying to wade through the plethora of Ayurveda products available on the market? What separates fact from fiction?
LOAJ: While all consumers of healthcare, whether Western or Ayurvedic, are well-advised to assume responsibility for their own state of health, this does not preclude the responsibility to seek out a qualified practitioner. Healthcare is a shared responsibility between patient and practitioner. Only then can we hope to achieve the a state of health and well-being.
Excerpts from a Commentary by Dr. David Frawley:
"While herbs do have medical properties and potential toxicity if taken in the wrong dosages or if wrongly prescribed, they are generally much safer than the drugs that would otherwise be used, not try to scare people away from herbs by highlighting only the negative[...]. Relative to toxic metal contents, the amounts mentioned in the articles are still low but should be dealt with.[....]The real issue should be how we can improve herbal and other alternatives to drugs."
Protocols for Safety of Ayurvedic Herbs
LOAJ inquired into the safety of herbs from distributors and domestic suppliers of Ayurvedic herbal supplements. Banyan Botanicals and Bazaar of India were two responders from the U.S., and Ayushakti responded from India.The following is a summary compiled from the information supplied by the herbal companies.
Numerous organizations and agencies are involved in the testing and certification of herbal products. Among them are the AHPA (American Herbal Products Association), NSF (National Sanitation Foundation), European Pharmacopoeia, the USP (United States Pharmacopoeia), and the FDA (Federal Drug Administration). The FDA is responsible for drug regulation, the NOP (National Organics Program) is involved in the certification of organic herbal farms. The DSHEA (Dietary Supplement health Education Act) sets standards that affect herbs and their importation. The NSF is one of the premier labs in the world and has written the standard for testing heavy metals (ANSI standard 173).
The following are accepted testing protocols for botanicals:
Identification (one or more of the following may be used)
- Organoleptic testing ñ physical examination using the senses
- HPLC (High Pressure Liquid Chromatography)
- TLC (Thin Layer Chromatography) to identify herbs and measure their quality by "fingerprinting" the herb sample and comparing it to a library of known standards.
- Microscopic examination to determine the species, plant segment (root, stem, leaf or flower), and any contamination thereof.
Microbiological testing - Bacteria, Molds & Yeasts, E. Coli and Salmonella by government regulated labs, either in the U.S. or Europe. This testing results in a CofA (Certificate of Analysis) supplied by the testing lab.
Pesticide testing - (This is implicit in the certification standards of organic farms).
Heavy metal testing - is done by special laboratories such as NSF.
Foreign materials detection - the ash residue resulting from burning away the organic material via microwave technology is analyzed for mineral content.
Testing protocols of various herbal suppliers
Banyan Botanicals: Is in the process of becoming a 100% certified organic manufacturer utilizing farms in the U.S. and abroad. Due to the certification process of organic farms, only spot pesticide testing is performed. Their testing includes:
-Organoleptic ID testing
Pesticides -uses certified organic suppliers
Heavy Metal Testing - by NSF