Ayurveda Treatment Methods

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Uses of Mercury

The official treaty controlling the production and trade of mercury containing products was ratified in the month of October 2013 at the Minamata Convention in Kumamoto, Japan where in 94 countries were co-signatories. This United Nations Treaty directly and indirectly affects the 2000 year old traditional medicine industry not just in India but the Asian Continent. The Minamata Convention provides for controls and reductions across a range of products, processes and industries where mercury is used, released or emitted. The treaty also addresses the direct mining of mercury, export and import of the metal and safe storage of waste mercury. It will have far reaching effects and hence needs to be studied and inferences drawn to explain to the trade the ramifications of this treaty in the coming years.

The philosophy behind this ban is the substantial scientific data that has been generated by the environmental scientists where the ill effects of mercury in the Food chain are well documented. It is proven that mercury is a neurotoxin and in extreme cases, can cause kidney damage, respiratory failure, and death. However this is true only in the case of organic derivatives esp. methyl mercury and fumes of Mercury which are highly toxic in nature. Inorganic mercury is relatively non-toxic as well as has poor absorption profile.

On studying the treaty it is evident that for certain manufacturing industries the treaty exempts them and allows the use of a mercury compound "thimerosal". It's use in vaccines and mascara is permitted! Let us understand that in such situation this treaty must have witnessed immense lobbying by the vaccine and the cosmetic industry to ratify the use till the suitable alternatives are available. Rather than accept these facts at face value, Indian industries should now wake up to the fact that most of the international decisions are effected through lobbying with the regulators and mainly through the use of professional agencies. In this case the treaty is ratified by the Alliance for Natural Health an international organization based USA that lobbies government, files lawsuits, and files comments on proposed rulings on behalf of consumers, medical practitioners, and companies in the natural health industry. The fact that they have not considered the use of Mercury in Ayurveda and supported the treaty clearly indicates that perhaps none of Indian manufacturers as well as AYUSH has approached such organizations to fight their cause.

It is now known that this treaty took 10 years to formulate, hence it is obvious that Regulators in India, apart from Industry as well as Government officials could not have been unaware of the implications this would have on the manufacture of Ayurvedic products as well as the effect on the Indian Health Care system where majority of the population still uses traditional medicine as primary treatment. Sufficient time to convince the delegates of UN Environmental Programme has been wasted and hence Ayurveda faces in near future wherein the traditional science will be devoid of the precious derivatives of mercury which have proven efficacy over 1500 years.

Let us now understand the concerns of the world at large regarding the Heavy metal content of Ayurvedic preparations. There is no second thought that Herbal formulations unless containing "Rasaushadhis" should not contain heavy metals beyond the permissible limits. In appreciation of this fact AYUSH enforced mandatory testing for heavy metals in respect of Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani herbal products being exported from India w.e.f. 1.1.20062. However the major concern is the Rasaushadhis that contain therapeutic mercury (Parada)compounds. These are inorganic compounds prepared by classical, well documented procedures and are rendered suitable for therapeutic use. If there were a ban on processing and trade of mercury then it needs to be determined as to how many formulations will be affected and in turn the escalating effect on the treatments which could not be prescribed as it is known that mercury has no substitute.

It will be imperative that Ayurvedic industry introspects and gets organized to face the external threat. Sufficient data needs to be prepared and presented with respect to the correctness of manufacturing processes, specifications of the Raw Materials and finished products, revision of the existing pharmacopeia with the active participation of leading practitioners of Ayurveda.This needs to be followed by detailed in vivo studies to understand the Toxicology and Pharmacokinetics of the drug substances. AYUSH has initiated this procedure through the Golden Triangle project wherein eight important Rasaushadhis (Herbo-mineral preparations) have been characterized and their toxicology studied using the best of the modern techniques available2. Further work needs to be undertaken involving multidisciplinary experts in Physical, Chemical, Biological sciences along with Medicine and will require concerted participations of Governments, Semi Government, Academics, Physicians and Scientists.

However it is imperative to undertake studies, collate data and on war footing start the process of re-negotiating with the UN for seeking necessary amendments to the treaty.

Fortunately both India and China; major users of mercury and mercury products are and not yet signatories to this United Nations Treaty and there remains some hope that India could perhaps use this as can leverage and negotiate a better deal. 

 

 

Let us now understand the concerns of the world at large regarding the Heavy metal content of Ayurvedic preparations. There is no second thought that Herbal formulations unless containing "Rasaushadhis" should not contain heavy metals beyond the permissible limits. In appreciation of this fact AYUSH enforced mandatory testing for heavy metals in respect of Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani herbal products being exported from India w.e.f. 1.1.20062. However the major concern is the Rasaushadhis that contain therapeutic mercury (Parada)compounds. These are inorganic compounds prepared by classical, well documented procedures and are rendered suitable for therapeutic use. If there were a ban on processing and trade of mercury then it needs to be determined as to how many formulations will be affected and in turn the escalating effect on the treatments which could not be prescribed as it is known that mercury has no substitute.

 

References:

1.     www.unep.org/hazardoussubstances/MinamataConvention

 

 

 

All the above articles / blog posts are not the original contribution from author, please consider a opinion of qualified doctor, if you considering this. If you need a advice please contact Dr. Anil Joy email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 

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Useful Links

Medicinal plants of India ; Ayurveda

Encyclopedia of Indian Medicinal Plants/Herbs mainly using in Ayurveda with good quality pictures and information like therapeutic usage of Medicinal Plants, cultivation, morphology, habitat, flower characters, Chemical content, parts used, research works etc.