June 12, 2008

Traditional medicines can now safely go global

The quality, safety and effectiveness of traditional medicine will now be monitored better with the Shriram Institute of Industrial Research giving technical inputs to the Department of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) in the Union ministry of health.

“A growing lack of trust in traditional medicines had led to people turn to allopathy. This was also preventing India from capitalising on the growing global demand for traditional medicine, a market dominated by China. The new programme for enforcement of good manufacturing practices will increase the acceptability of these drugs, being manufactured by over 5,500 manufacturers across the country,” said Anita Das, secretary of the Department of AYUSH.

Quality issues have long plagued popular traditional systems of medicine such as Ayurveda, Unani and Homeopathy. Two years ago, the United States and Canada took Ayurvedic and Unani medicines off stores and banned further import following dangerously high levels of heavy metals such as lead, mercury and arsenic being found in formulations manufactured in India.

These heavy metals can accumulate in the body and cause health problems ranging from dizziness and muscle cramps to mental retardation.

Again, on May 8, Canada had raised a red flag and reminded people that some Ayurvedic medicines had heavy metals.

“According to the principles of Ayurvedic medicine, heavy metals may be used in a detoxified state in these medicinal products because of their presumed therapeutic properties. However, improper manufacturing processes may result in dangerously high levels of heavy metals in the final product,” it said.

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