Ayurvedic and herbal medicine use in Kerala causing severe liver damage and mortality

In a study conducted by liver specialist Dr Abby Philips, senior gastroenterologist Dr Philip Augustine, liver pathologist Dr Rajaguru, with the partnership of Sophisticated Testing and Instrumentation Centre of the Cochin University of Science and Technology and Envirodesigns Ecolabs, at a tertiary level hospital at Kochi, in Kerala, it was found that about two percent of patients who came for treatment in the liver department had liver damage due to intake of Ayurveda and herbal medicines. Ayurveda and herbal medicines that were taken by these patients were from two sources – practicing Ayurveda and Homeopathy doctors and from traditional healers without proper training or medical degree in alternative medicine (parambarya vaidyanmar). Most patients took Ayurveda for abdominal symptoms like loss of appetite, bloating, gas formation while other took for control of diabetes, weight loss, joint problems. In all the patients, severe jaundice was noted, while in 30 percent of patients, severe liver damage leading to brain failure and accumulation of fluid in abdomen were seen. Around 19 percent of patients died due to severe liver damage. The study team also performed liver biopsy in 27 patients. The biopsies showed various levels of injury ranging from severe fat accumulation in liver cells (mostly in patients who took ‘lehyam’, homeopathy medicines rich in alcohol and oil/fat based herbal mixtures) to complete loss of liver cells (in patients who took multiple Ayurveda medications, especially tablets and unknown powder mixtures from traditional healers). The various Ayurveda and herbal medicines retrieved from the patients and found associated with liver damage and the companies that manufacture them are shown below.

Yog Sallaki by Legend Pharma

Bonsil by Ballan Pharma

Ostina Forte by Ayurchem

Swarna Guggulu by Dabur

Bitana Forte by HV Pharma

Bacfo Joint Care by Bacfo Pharma

Ikshwadi by Balakishna Pharma

Sankara Bati by Vyas Pharma

Hriden Plus by Traditional healer

Vasaguluchyadi by Everest Co

Prameoushadi by Oushadi

Orthoherb by Pankaja Kasturi

Livomyn by Charak

Ayamodaka Sathaal by Ayamodakam

Kaisoragulu Vatika by Raja Health

Najati Powder by Faiz Unani

Vilwadi Gulika by Kottakal

Testes Siccati by Reckeweg

Oleum Jeconis by Reckeweg

Arethaki Lehyam by Nagarjuna Pharma

Drakshati Kath by Kerala Ayurveda

G H Evandam by Athreya

Gasna Syrup by Das Classic

Noni by Apollo

Rasna Sallaki by DC Pharma

Ginseng by Reckeweg

Multiple Medicines by Traditional healers

In the next step in their study, the researchers analysed Ayurveda and herbal medicine samples retrieved from the patients for potential toxins, poisons, heavy metals and alcohols. They found that most of the Ayurveda and herbal medicines contained heavy metals such as lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, and antimony up to 10000 times more than the normal levels. They also found highly poisonous and toxic chemicals, called volatile organic compounds in these Ayurveda and herbal medications. Most of these heavy metals and toxins were found in medicines prescribed by traditional healers or ‘parambarya vaidyanmar’ who advertise their fake treatments through social media and by word of mouth. However, even some of the Ayurveda and herbal medicines made by proper Ayush companies were also found to have high heavy metal and toxin levels. The majority of patients who died of severe drug related liver injury due to Ayurveda and herbals medicines had consumed medicines prescribed by traditional healers while only few died after using medicines prescribed by Ayush practitioners. The researchers took about ten different samples of modern medicines prescribed for liver patients and analysed them also for toxins and heavy metals and found that none of them contained these poisonous substances. Fake media advertisements, social media networking, television shows on Ayurveda and herbal medicines and claim by Ayush doctors that their treatments can cure cirrhosis and other liver disease must be taken with caution. These Ayush medicines in the current era are not scientifically proven or tested in animals and humans and have not undergone proper clinical trials. This is proven with this new breakthrough study from Kerala, that show high levels of toxins and heavy chemicals in Ayush medicines. The researchers were also surprised to find that many patients still took treatment from Homeopaths in Kerala, when homeopathy practice has been found to be without effect in European and American healthcare system. The United States Federal Trade Commission has ordered Homeopathic practitioners to label their treatments/medications as ‘not effective’. This detailed information on the useless effects of Homeopathy practice can be seen in databases as simple as Wikipedia and also at the official public statement issued by the US Government at the following link:

https://www.ftc.gov/system/files/documents/public_statements/996984/p114505_otc_homeopathic_drug_enforcement_policy_statement.pdf.

The current study by Dr Philips and colleagues was reviewed and accepted by the American Association for the Study of Liver Disease as a major work in liver speciality and the lead researcher Dr Abby Philips was invited to deliver a talk in the honourable plenary session at the prestigious Liver Meeting, conducted by the American Association for the Study of Liver Disease, held at Washington DC, in November 2017 and was awarded the young investigator award. The study also underwent strict critical review from senior members of the medical community in India for over six months, was accepted as a strong and important work and published in the official journal of the Indian Society of Gastroenterology in March 2018. The complete study and details can be seen at the following link online: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12664-017-0815-8

It is important for the common man to understand a few points in the light of this new study and its important findings. 1) Ayurveda and herbal medicines are NOT totally safe as is traditionally considered and has the potential to cause severe organ damage 2) Without proper basic research, clinical trials and studies on Ayurvedic and herbal medicines in various diseases, in human population, the benefits still remain unknown and experimental 3) the people and Government must ensure full disclosure of substances in the Ayurveda and herbal medicine samples that are especially used by traditional healers and 4) Like in modern medicine, alternate medicine should also disclose possible side effects of the preparations.

You can also read the important Editorial/scientific discussion on this study at the link: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12664-018-0820-6

One comment

  1. Sir, I’m Icey JOHN w/o Dr. John Jacob.A . My husband is an Ayurvedic and Siddha specialist . Our family especially John is taking these medicines for about 25 years. According to you, his liver might have been damaged now itself. It is your duty to prove your derivations. You please summon all the various organisations of the medicine for proving it. I’m witness that he is taking and treating his patients by these medicines. I ‘ m anxiously waiting for the result. I hope that you should do the best you can. Thank you Icey John

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