Thursday, 11 December 2008
Metals in Ayurveda: Scientific evaluation and standardisation of herbal drugs
November 23, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Nov 22: With the USA and European nations rejecting Ayurvedic drugs containing metals, the Central government has now embarked on a mega scientific mission to prove that metallic compounds in traditional Indian system of medicine are indeed helpful in fighting diseases.
Only Ayurveda system of medicine extensively utilises a variety of metals to treat certain health problems and boost immunity to fight diseases. But since there's no scientific evaluation of these drugs, developed nations have put a ban on them.
The Department of Science and Technology has entrusted the research, evaluation and standardisation work of Ayurvedic drugs containing metallic compounds to a number of scientific, research and pharma bodies across the country, including the city-based Indian Institute of Chemical Technology.
Ayurvedic medicines consist of ingredients of herbal, mineral, metallic and animal origin. While scientists in many countries are working on herbal products, no country is working on metallic products, which is an important strength area of Ayurveda. This is because, barring India, this knowledge does not exist anywhere else.
"Arsenic and mercury may be harmful. But when taken in minute quantities they have several health benefits. Ayurvedic drugs have been using these and other metals for centuries. What we need to prove is that these metallic compounds are beneficial to health in small quantities. We have taken up the evaluation and standardisation work.
Once our task is complete Ayurvedic drugs will get scientific backing," Dr J Madhusudhan Rao, director-grade scientist, IICT, told this correspondent. The DST believes that it is one area where India can make original contribution to the world and thus there's need for validation of claim of metallic products. "It is our heritage and needs to be subjected through well planned research in order to bring it to international fora as India’s unique contribution," he added.
The task before the scientific team is to identify different types of bhasmas and formulations for carrying out scientific studies with regard to the standardisation of raw materials, processes and finished products. It also involves chemical transformation, safety, efficacy evaluation, and validation through networking of the various institutions and industries having expertise in this area.
Ayurvedic drugs containing metals will be subjected to pre-clinical studies in animal models for pharmacological evaluation and toxicity,pharmacodynamic and tissue distribution studies. Later, the drugs will be used on human beings for clinical studies, though thousands of Indians have already been using them for centuries.
"It is essential to understand the chemical nature of the complexation taking place with metallic ions and organic phyto-constituents present in medicinal plants with which the metals are treated. Unless we understand the nature of the complex compounds formed during the processing of metals/minerals and medicinal plant material, it is not possible to evolve the quality parameters and understand the
mechanism of action of such important, potent and unique drugs of Ayurveda and Siddha," DST guidelines on Ayurveda research point out.
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