Safety is the main concern when considering herbal preparations. Ayurvedic herbs are potent, and some contain compounds that may be toxic if taken in large amounts or over a long period of time. For this reason, the supervision of a trained practitioner is recommended.
It is important that the herbs come from a trustworthy source. Some Ayurvedic herbs from India have reportedly been contaminated with Western drugs, and there have also been reports of the accidental or intentional presence of toxic metals in imported herbs.
Examples of contraindications to the use of Ayurveda include traumatic injuries, acute pain, advanced disease stages, and those requiring surgery.
Amlaki (amla, Emblica officinalis) should be avoided at bedtime to prevent harmful effects on teeth.
Pippali (Piper longum) used in asthma should be avoided in patients with peptic ulcer disease and should be consumed with milk.
Guggul should be used cautiously in patients with peptic ulcer disease. Users should avoid sour food, alcohol, and heavy exercise.
Sweet flag (Vacha, Acorus calamus) is presently classified as an unsafe herb for internal usage by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Terminalia hebula (harda) is a powerful purgative to stimulate gastrointestinal motility and should be avoided in pregnancy.
Mahayograj Guggul contains lead and is often prescribed for rheumatoid arthritis with the warning that it should not be taken for long periods of time because of the theoretical possibility of lead poisoning.
Ayurvedic preparations can often change the bioavailability of allopathic drugs so a medical professional should be consulted before combined use.
It is important not to self-diagnose. Instead, patients should work with qualified Ayurvedic practitioners who can help ensure that Ayurvedic treatments are safely used.
This information is based on a professional level monograph edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com): William Collinge, PhD, MPH (Collinge & Associates); Dawn Costa, BA, BS (Natural Standard Research Collaboration); Nicole Giese, MS (Boston University); Jacquelyn Guilford, PhD, MBA (Natural Standard Research Collaboration) Dana A. Hackman, BS (Northeastern University); Lisa Scully, PharmD (Massachusetts College of Pharmacy); Kristopher Swinney, PharmD (Massachusetts College of Pharmacy); Isabell Syelsky, PharmD (Northeastern University); Brian Szczechowski, PharmD (Massachusetts College of Pharmacy); Shaina Tanguay-Colucci, BS (Natural Standard Research Collaboration); Catherine Ulbricht, PharmD (Massachusetts General Hospital); Wendy Weissner, BA (Natural Standard Research Collaboration); Jen Woods, BS (Natural Standard Research Collaboration).