The C.A.M. Report
Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Fair, Balanced, and to the Point
  • About this web log

    This blog is intended as an objective and dispassionate source of information on the latest CAM research. Since my background is in pharmacy and allopathic medicine, I view all CAM as advancing through the development pipeline to eventually become integrated into mainstream medical practice. Some will succeed while others fail. But all are treated fairly here.

  • About the author

    John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at www.Vicus.com, a complementary and alternative medicine website.

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    The material on this weblog is for informational purposes. It is not medical advice or counsel. Be smart, consult your health professional before using CAM.

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    Making ayurveda an international medical system

    Dr. Raghunath Anant Mashelkar is the former Director General of the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research in India.

    During the Second World Ayurveda Congress he shared his thoughts about bhasmas — the Ayurvedic “supplements” with the highest reported heavy metal (lead, tin, iron, arsenic) content.

    Bhasmas are mixtures of metals or minerals and account for almost 10% of ayurvedic products. Most are traditionally calcined (heated to bring about decomposition) in sealed earthen containers by burning cow dung cakes. Other times, furnaces are used. The final products from this process are fine powders about 50 microns or less in diameter.

    Most of the elements used in these preparations are classified as toxic in standard scientific texts.

    But in ayurvedic medicine, bhasmas are considered fast-acting healing agents and are used freely, particularly siddha preparations — medical treatment of diseases where different substances are combined to “balance” the possible harmful effect of each substance.

    The bottom line?
    Dr. Mashelkar observes that no toxic effects have apparently been reported from bhasmas, although researchers from Harvard School of Public Health in Boston have reported several cases.

    His main point however, is that “to make them internationally acceptable, it will not only be necessary to show that they are efficacious and non-toxic, but also to define their physicochemical characteristics by accurate scientific measures.”

    Here’s his list of things to do in response to recent reports of heavy metal “contamination” in ayurvedic medicines.

    • Encourage clinical research in ayurvedic institutions
    • Create a complete ayurvedic pharmacopeia
    • Create an effective surveillance system, like the post-market surveillance systems for other traditional systems
    • Carry out studies of ayurvedic biology
    • Establish a presence in international scientific journals

    11/21/08 21:32 JR

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