A 26-year-old student developed lead poisoning from taking Ayurvedic herbal medicine, write doctors in the Online Journal BMJ Case Reports.
During a trip to India, he took the herbal medications to treat his low back pain. On returning to the USA, he began to use them regularly, but developed pain in the upper central region of his abdomen, weight loss, dark stools, nausea and vomiting.
A blood test showed he was suffering from anaemia and a high level of lead in his blood. No other source of lead exposure was evident, so doctors advised him to discontinue use of his four different types of Ayurvedic medications. He was given medications for nausea and vomiting and required morphine for his low back pain..
Chelation therapy to remove excess iron was initiated, and within months the patient's symptoms resolved.
"This case follows similar reports in the USA of acute lead toxicity from Ayurvedic medications produced in India," wrote Dr Judith Green-McKenzie, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.
"Concern regarding the use of Ayurvedic herbal medicines originates from their easy availability, increasingly international use and global reach, lack of focused scientific research and the possibility of abuse in an unregulated industry," the author concluded.