Ayurveda medicines and safety concerns: The need to revive the branch of toxicology in Ayurveda

Ayurveda medicines and safety concerns: The need to revive the branch of toxicology in Ayurveda

A resurgent Ayurveda is sought after as a safer alternative to chemical medicines. In fact, the adverse effects of modern drugs have triggered a search for medicines from natural and safer sources, thus bringing traditional systems of medicine into the limelight. The perception is that medicines derived from plants processed in crude form without the isolation of the active molecules would be safer.

The tables have turned against traditional systems of medicine like Ayurveda after being subjected to suspicions of toxicity of its medicines.[1] Just as there are questions about efficacy of Ayurveda, the perception is being built that Ayurveda by itself does not have adequate protocols to identify and check the toxicity of its medicines.

It is pertinent to point out that Ayurveda is perhaps the earliest system of medicine to have developed the specialized discipline of toxicology. Toxicology or Agada Tantra is one of the eight clinical specialties of Ayurveda since thousands of years.[2] The present educational system is just paying lip service to Agada Tantra and it seems that this discipline is going to be demoted as a nonclinical subject in the Ayurveda curriculum. Those trained in this branch are mainly dealing with forensic medicine.

All medicines can cause unwanted side effects. For example, some antibiotics can cause allergic reactions in around five per cent of the population. Skin rashes are a common reaction. But, it is not always easy to tell if the reaction is caused by the medicine or the illness.

Interactions between other medicines the person may be taking is a further complication. Interactions can happen between prescription, over-the-counter and complementary medicines.

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