Ancient Healing meets Modern Science : Controversy and Opportunity
Traditional Indian systems of Medicine (TISM) including Ayurveda and Siddha have a rich tradition lasting thousands of years. Ayurveda and Siddha are whole systems of treatment that address biological, mental and spiritual dimensions. TISM is widely practiced in India and in abroad. Although widely considered safe, recent reports of toxic metals such as lead, mercury and arsenic in Ayurveda and Siddha medicines have raised safety concerns. Over 80 case reports of lead poisoning associated with TISM medicines have been published. Nevertheless, the source, form and effect of the metals have been a subject of much recent debate and controversy among key stakeholders including the international Ayurveda and Siddha community, herbal industry, public health professionals, allopathic physicians and government. Raw herbal ingredients may be contaminated with metals due to environmental factors. Incidental contamination during the manufacturing process is also possible. Lastly, ancient and modern TISM texts describe a process of intentionally adding carefully prepared “detoxified” metals for different formulas and further process them to prepare bhasmas. These bhasmas are purported to contribute to the therapeutic benefit of the remedy. My presentation will review past and on going clinical, animal and basic science studies that tries to shed light on this controversial subject. I am highlighting the importance of creating a mutually respectful dialogue and collaboration between allopathic medicine and ancient healing traditions in order to gain a greater understanding of these ancient therapies. Current trends warrant the use of evidence-based medicine approaches to the evaluation of Ayurveda and Siddha so that safe effective methods can be identified and promoted. Conversely Ayurveda and Siddha practices found to be unsafe or ineffective can be discouraged. Ultimately, an objective and dispassionate evaluation based upon science, is critical for the preservation and promotion of Ayurveda and Siddha globally.
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