Ayurvedic medicine is a system of alternative medicine that descends from ancient medical techniques of Hindu society in Ancient India. There are three principal early texts on Ayurveda, the Charaka Samhita, the Sushruta Samhita and the Bhela Samhita. Ayurveda is one of the few systems of medicine developed in ancient times that is still widely practiced in modern times. As such, it is open to the criticism that its conceptual basis is obsolete and that its contemporary practitioners have not taken account of the developments of modern medicine.
It is based on the idea that the body has three elements, and that disease is the result of elemental imbalance.[note 1] Proponents of the practice of Ayurvedic medicine claim to cure almost anything, in this case by supposedly getting your bodily systems in line with one another and with the alleged elements of the Earth. This is achieved by many treatments including yoga, herbal remedies, pastes made by herbs and oils, panchakarma, which is described as a 5-step program for therapeutic cleansing, and rasa shastra, a system involving treating diseases with metals including mercury and lead.
Panchakarma is an Ayurvedic treatment which supposedly clears the body of toxins and balances the body's "energy" (whatever that means). It's recommended to be done every year as a "tune up". It consists of five parts: Vomiting, purging, enema, herbal inhalation therapy, and bloodletting, as well as a "pre-treatment" consisting of oil massage and essential oil ingestion. The vomiting is used to balance the body's kapha, the purging is for clearing the body of toxins, the enema is used for various things, the herbal inhalation balances the body's prana, and the bloodletting "purifies" the blood and clears it of toxins (again).
Bloodletting is used for excessive drowsiness, baldness, urticaria, rash, eczema, acne, scabies, leucoderma, chronic itching and hives, enlarged liver, spleen, gout, tumors, and genital infections.
Vomiting is supposedly good for "cough, cold, symptoms of asthma, fever, nausea, loss of appetite, anemia, poisoning, skin diseases, diabetes, lymphatic obstruction, chronic indigestion, edema (swelling), epilepsy (between attacks), chronic sinus problems, and for repeated attacks of tonsillitis." It has been recommended for Kapha Dosha (qualities reflecting water and earth) disorders, including "bronchial asthma, allergic bronchitis, rhinitis, sinusitis, migraine, hyperacidity, indigestion, anorexia, obesity, overweight, dyslipidemia, diabetes mellitus, acne vulgaris, psoriasis, eczema, urticaria". Yes, vomiting has been claimed to prevent anorexia!
Heavy metals/rasa shastra
Rasa shastra is an ancient body of medical folklore in Ayurvedic medicine. It holds that it will do you good to eat mercury, lead, and arsenic, but only if they've been purified by baking them in burning cow shit. Not recommended; while mercury and arsenic do have some rare real medical uses (e.g. chemotherapy and treating certain parasitic diseases), they do so in the form of being put in various compounds that make them safer, not baking them in burning cow shit.
In Ayurvedic medicine, arsenic, lead and mercury are thought to be effective remedies. Accordingly, about 20% of Ayurvedic herbs sold on the Internet (by both Indian and American companies) contain dangerous amounts of substances such as lead, arsenic, and mercury. In one study, researchers bought imported Ayurvedic herbal remedies from several stores in the Boston area, and 20% of those products also contained dangerous levels of the same heavy metals. In another study, about 20% of Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese remedies sold in the Netherlands also contained dangerous amounts of heavy metals. However, not all of this is due to rasa shastra; some of the heavy metal content is likely due only to unintentional contamination. And, these are not just trivial amounts of toxins that are say slightly over the legal limit — Ayurvedic medicine was associated with lead poisoning in 5 US states between 2000 and 2003.
Ayurvedic practitioners opposed a global ban on mercury trading on the grounds that the mineral is a very important component of Ayurveda; some went as far as to say that Ayurveda "may collapse" if the ban goes through.
Ayurvedic medicine promotes the use of unproven and sometimes toxic plants. Toxic plants include birthwort (Aristolochia indica), betelnut (Areca catechu), and madder root (Rubia tinctorum).
- Official Ayurveda Pharmacopoeia. Scientific analysis of Ayurveda-related plans and preparations.
- Lead Poisoning in Pregnant Women Who Used Ayurvedic Medications from India — New York City, 2011–2012
- Lead Poisoning Associated with Ayurvedic Medications — Five States, 2000--2003
- Lead Poisoning and Anemia Associated with Use of Ayurvedic Medications Purchased on the Internet — Wisconsin, 2015
- Use Caution With Ayurvedic Products
- Ayurvedic medicines and heavy metals WHO Drug Information Vol. 19, No. 3, 2005 (archived from October 19, 2009)
- Lead Poisonings in Children Associated With Some Ayurvedic Medications from India New York City Department of Health And Mental Hygiene (archived from March 25, 2017)
- Ayurvedic herbal medicine and lead poisoning
- Ayurvedic Medicine Use and Lead Poisoning in a Child: A Continued Concern in the United States
- Skeptic's Dictionary entry
- Apologetics Index
- Bay Area Skeptics on Ayurvedic medicine (archived from January 25, 2008)
- Rasa Shastra, iloveindia.com.
- Rasa Shastra
- Heavy metals in Ayurveda — An article by an Ayurvedic practitioner who claims the mercury used in Ayurveda is not such a big deal (note how he criticizes mercury fillings without citing any references).
- Ayurveda — Panchakarma, holistic-online.com.
- Ayurvedic Medicine: Cancer Natural Ayurvedic Cure
- Panchakarma, Chopra Center.
- Bloodletting - An Ayurvedic perspective
- Raktamokshana(Siraveda & Jalokacharana), Ayurveda Health Clinic.
- Bloodletting therapy helps to remove toxins, Allayurveda.com.
- Ayurveda for Alopecia, AltMD.
- Ayurvedic Detox: Leeches Help You Live Longer, Reenita's wisdom.
- The three doshas: The keys to your individual nature Eat, Taste Heal
- A study on Vasantika Vamana (therapeutic emesis in spring season) — A preventive measure for diseases of Kapha origin by Santoshkumar Bhatted et al. Ayu. 2011 Apr-Jun; 32(2): 181–186. doi:10.4103/0974-8520.92562.
- Study finds toxins in some herbal medicines, Liz Szabo, USAToday.
- Heavy metal content of ayurvedic herbal medicine products, Saper RB, Kales SN, Paquin J, Burns MJ, Eisenberg DM, Davis RB, Phillips RS, JAMA. 2004 Dec 15;292(23):2868-73.
- Monitoring of mercury, arsenic, and lead in traditional Asian herbal preparations on the Dutch market and estimation of associated risks, Food Addit Contam Part A Chem Anal Control Expo Risk Assess. 2010 Feb;27(2):190-205. doi: 10.1080/02652030903207235, Martena MJ, Van Der Wielen JC, Rietjens IM, Klerx WN, De Groot HN, Konings EJ..
- Lead Poisoning Associated with Ayurvedic Medications — Five States, 2000-2003 July 9, 2004 / 53(26);582-584 MMWR (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report).
- Mercury Ban may Hit Ayurveda by Swati Chandra (Feb 6, 2013, 05.51AM IST) The Times of India.
- Aristolochia indica[sic] Ayushveda (archived from February 19, 2019).
- Betel Nut (Areca catechuv)[sic] Satveda (archived from March 20, 2011).
- Manjishta iLoveIndia.com (archived from September 29, 2019).
- Holy Basil Examine.com
- Turmeric Examine.com
- Aloe vera Examine.com
- Curcumin Examine.com
- Drink To Your Health — Urine Therapy Agama Yoga (archived from July 15, 2007).
- Could Morarji Desai have been right? Businessman Jagadish Burani claims, with evidence, that urine therapy can cure even terminal cancer patients. by Deepthi MR (8 Apr 2013-04:10am) DNA.
- India makes cola from cow urine: To millions of devout Hindus, it's the real thing: a cola made from the urine of India's sacred cows. by Dean Nelson (3:39PM GMT 11 Feb 2009) The Telegraph.