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Compulsory testing for heavy metal content in herbal medicines

In response to reports of heavy metal contamination in herbal/ayurvedic medicines, testing of levels of such substances// would be made mandatory January 1, 2006. The Indian Government has already issued a notification to test products for heavy metals. However, this testing is only meant for products meant for export. It is likely to be extended to products sold in the country as well.

The Department of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy (AYUSH) has issued a notification in this regard under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act 1940, making testing for heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, mercury and cadmium mandatory. All labels would be required to specify the heavy metal content and indicate clearly that ‘‘heavy metals within permissible limits’’. This move is believed to ensure a better quality control over herbal medicines meant for export.

The decision has been influenced by the negative reports about toxicity of ayurvedic medicines in the international media. Infact a study published in Journal of American Medical Association had showed heavy metal contamination in about 80 per cent of samples tested.

The permissible limits for arsenic, lead and cadmium have to follow the WHO norms for 'quality control methods for medicinal plants and materials'. In case of mercury, the permissible limit will be one part per million (ppm). According to an official release, the manufacturers, who do not have in-house laboratory facilities, will have to get these tested by any approved drug-testing laboratory.

Medindia On Drug Toxicity:

Drugs are not food but are chemical substances, which alter the body's normal chemistry. Most if not all medications have some kind of negative effect on the body. Maintain a healthy respect for medications, and use them only when really necessry.

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