After the herb dust settled on last month’s JAMA article, I decided to write about this challenge to the business of Ayurvedic herbs, where lead, mercury, and arsenic levels have been detected.
The first thing to remember is that, alas, there is lead even in India’s spinach. I don’t think this is really about Ayurveda.
As our friend, a prominent practitioner, has elegantly summarized,
“As long as our entire food chain is polluted by human activity it will be impossible to remove every detectable trace of heavy metals, yet the levels are too low to be of harm.”
The Indian government seems to to say that the JAMA article authors are enemies of Ayurveda and others seem to say that they are Ayurveda’s friends. I think the truth is somewhere in the middle, and that battle lines need not be drawn.
To be sure, most journalists covering this story irresponsibly and breezily conflated the single worst case of metal presence with the much more common least cases, when there is a differential of 200,000%! The JAMA article summary, which is ALL that most of the newspaper articles are based on, seems designed to facilitate such confusion.
Here is the National Ayurvedic Medical Association ‘s response where they advocate for
Here is Banyan Botanicals’ response where they stand by their products – which after all met the ANSI standards (and typically the CA Proposition 65 standards as well which are used in the JAMA article, are 1/40th of ANSI, and are not at all universal).
In sum, the reduction of active metals in the food supply is admirable and necessary, but this article does the sensible reader no favor:
If you have questions about whether your herb is included in the study, feel free to contact me.