Researchers at Boston University have found lead, mercury, or arsenic in a fifth of Indian herbal medicines made in the US or India and sold on the Internet.
Ancient herbal remedies from India have become increasingly popular in recent years as an alternative to western pharmaceuticals. Also called Ayurvedic medicines, they're often sold as dietary supplements in health food stores, vitamin shops, and grocers like Whole Foods.
But medical professor Robert Saper, who led the BU study, says they are not sufficiently regulated.
"The current regulations in place for dietary supplements do not adequately protect consumers," said Saper. "We need government-mandated strict limits on the amount of toxic metals such as lead and mercury that can be present in supplements."
Consumption of those metals can decrease IQ levels, raise blood pressure, and cause kidney problems.
The research appears in the latest Journal of the American Medical Association.
This program aired on August 27, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.