Everybody in the west knows that lead is toxic, right? We spend lots of money removing lead paint from the walls of old houses. So, what is the logic that justifies adding lead to ayurvedic medicines?

Dr. Annapoorna Chirra from the Department of Medicine at UCLA has the answer.

According to Dr. Chirra, some Indian schools of medicine emphasize the role of metals like lead (as well as copper, gold, iron, mercury, silver, tin and zinc) in the proper functions of the human body.

Any imbalance in these metals is thought to cause diseases, and “the equilibrium of these metals is seen as a requirement of normal immune defenses and general health.”

And it’s not limited to ayurvedic medicines. Certain traditional or folk medications used in East Indian, Middle Eastern, West Asian, and Hispanic cultures contain lead and other adulterants.

Illustration: Palmland Tours, Kerala

8/27/06 17:21 JR

Hi, I’m JR

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.