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Heavy metals in Ayurveda- 3

by Dr. Dheeraj Malhotra

Heavy metals - Are they really heavy on human body?

Purification of Ayurvedic Mercurial Preparations

From my personal ‘scientific perspective these detoxifications do not have anything mystical or magical about them. All the described processes lead to the elimination of impurities through mechanical/chemical treatment of the mercury, which is then followed by a prolonged heat treatment. Sulphur is added through which process mostly the inert Compound is obtained.

The daily dosage during an Ayurvedic treatment is about 30-40 mg of mercuric sulphide. This usually is given in combination with processed aconite (and together with the fruit of Terminalia chebula etc. ).

(One Tibetan Dschu-Mar 25 ”jewel-pill” contains (depending on its origin) according to analysis between 10-50 mg Cinnabar – which corresponds closely to the Ayurvedic prescriptions. With the use of atomic absorption spectrometry at Ulm University a project was undertaken to investigate Dschu-mar 25 pills from different origins: a wide variation in the concentration of mercury was thereby discovered One result of this analysis seems to be of special importance: it was not only the inert and therefore untoxic HgS (Cinnabar) which was discovered in Dschu-mar 25

Some Facts

1. Inorganic mercury compounds like mercurous chloride and mercuric chloride are white powders and do not generally vaporize at room temperatures like elemental mercury will. If they are inhaled, they are not expected to enter your body as easily as inhaled metallic mercury vapor.

2. When inorganic mercury compounds are swallowed, generally less than 10% is absorbed through the intestinal tract ;( the WHO has set up Provisional Tolerable Weekly Intake (PTWI) – that allows 3.3 mg/kg of methyl mercury for tuna fish and shell fish) considering 1gm/kg is fed to rats which is very high dose when compared to use of mercury in Ayurvedic formulations which is 30-40mg /day in approximately 60 kg person comes out to be 0.5-0.6mg/kg……. (As compared with methyl mercury, the total amount of HgS accumulated in the tissues ranging about one five-thousandth of methyl mercury) and dividing it by 5000 it comes out to be .0001 a difference of 0 .9999 mg/kg between the thinking pattern of ancient scholars and western scientists.

3. As per absorption principle inorganic mercury absorption is 1/9th to that of methyl mercury which means 0.5/9 or .055mg/kg is absorbed through the intestines so the weekly dose comes out to be .055 x 7 =.385mg/kg bw/wk which is well below the even for the mark set for methyl mercury(the more dangerous one) .

According to the criteria of the WHO the weekly dose of mercury that can be tolerated by the body is estimated and the United Kingdom’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) uses the safety standard applied by the World Health Organization (WHO) -- called the Provisional Tolerable Weekly Intake (PTWI) -- that allows 3.3 micrograms of methyl mercury per kilogram of body weight a week (ug/kg bw/week) for the general population and 1.6 micrograms of methyl mercury per kilogram of body weight (ug/kg bw/week) for pregnant and nursing women.

Where as in U.S FDA /EPA reference dose is 0.7 micrograms per kg of body weight per week. (Note: the EPA reference dose provides a ten-fold safety factor.

4. It therefore suggests that the amount taken in with 2 to 3 pills is well below then WHO tolerance boundary for the maximum weekly dose.

There is limited laboratory evidence suggesting that several dietary components might reduce (e.g. selenium, vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids) or enhance (e.g. alcohol) mercury’s toxicity for some endpoints.

Now consider the strict regime to be followed along with mercurial preparations beside the fact that it is almost always invariably combined with sulphur which is the advice given by noted nutritionists (It will be important to have a high protein diet as the sulfur bearing amino acids in the protein will greatly facilitate detoxification) ………. Mercury Detox Diet By Joseph Mercola, MD

5. Inorganic mercury compounds also do not move as easily from the blood of a pregnant woman to her developing child.

The question which should arise is that “whether the herbs and Metals (mind you not only metals) used according to Ayurvedic principles does any harm to the human body if prescribed by an Ayurvedic doctor or more precisely Vaidya. ( and not when taken by the recommendation of a good friend or a claim by a pharmaceutical company)

The answer is Simple and one word “NO”.

Ayurveda has given supreme significance to the human body and even ascribed special position to god in the human body, which signifies the fact that “How precious we are”. Ayurveda probably is the only science which says Purshm Purshm Vikshym (Ch.S…).which means characters of one person is different from the other (thoughts working style food habits etc) or in simple words No two human beings on this earth are same., so unlike allopathic, Ayurvedic doctor will prescribe different medicine to the persons suffering from the same disease based on their individual Prakruti (nature), Vikruti (Disease), Dosha – dushya sammurchana(gradation of disease process) and Sroto-dushti (tissues involved) and that to with proper Anupan (vehicle for medicine) along with Patya –Apathya (Do’s and Don’ts for diet) details.

These two are different sciences devoted to the welfare of humans but with different principles, so the rule which apply to one does not apply to the other at all.
e.g.– Heavy Metals – as popularly explained metals with specific gravity greater than 4 gm/cm³ which means when they are put on to the water they will settle at the bottom. But going by the tests for bhasmas for the final approval to use on the human beings must have following three qualities –

1) They should float on water (what happened to the gravity!)
2) They should be able to take the weight of a rice grain. (More weight bearing –must be a heart change for the metals)
3) They should have microfiness to fit into the lines of the hand and should not glitter.

So if the bhasmas have the same harmful properties as that of the metals how come it has lost all his physical properties and acquired new ones?

Well there are few explanations and theories to it but no facts to explain it perfectly.

Mercury and other metals become toxic only when they exceed a tolerable safe level.

If billions of people can exist without toxic symptoms at a tolerably low level of heavy metals, and if that has been the case as long as mankind has existed on the earth, it is highly misleading to tell patients they have "heavy metal toxicity" .

Again, none of this excuses herbal product manufacturers from stringent quality control standards; it's just that we should put health risks in their proper perspective.

In summary, I am not trumping up medicine safety issues relative to mercury in Ayurvedic medicine. I have simply reacted to the scientific community and regulatory agencies’ published findings that have alerted consumers to the need for caution and education so they make informed personal decisions as to their medicinal choices. My goal is to assist them to continue deriving the maximum health benefit from ancient Ayurveda with the confidence that they can do so safely.

Dr. Dheeraj Malhotra M.D (Ayu);I.P.G.T & R.A; G.A U: Jamnagar,89-lawrence road; Amritsar 143001(Punjab)
He can be contacted at - 0183-2224488, 2220088, 09872244887 or email ID -