Testing and detection of Artificial/Synthetic/Allopathic/Chemical ingredients in “Herbal/Ayurvedic” preparations

The essence of this blog is to encourage consumers to avail treatment and medication from authentic, accredited and licenced practitioners and treatment centres of Ayurveda.

Diabetes mellitus is a medical condition caused due to insufficient production and secretion of insulin from the pancreas in case of Type-I diabetes, and defective response of insulin in Type-2 diabetes. Under normal body circumstances, blood glucose levels are tightly regulated by insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas. Insulin lowers the blood glucose level. When blood glucose levels increase, such as after a meal, the brain triggers the release of insulin from the pancreas, thus normalizing glucose levels. In individuals inflicted with diabetes, the lack of insulin or its insufficient production results in hyperglycemia (elevated blood sugar levels).

Diabetes is a chronic medical condition. At the initial stage, through lifestyle changes, diabetes can be tackled and controlled, followed by proper medication after its incidence, and by the administration of external insulin in advanced stages. It would not be wrong though to state that diabetes cannot be cured completely.

In India, according to recent statistics, over 30 million people have been diagnosed with diabetes. Crude prevalence rate (CPR) in urban areas is approximately 9%, while in rural locations, the corresponding value is 3% of the population. As a matter of fact, India has the highest number of diabetics of any one country in the entire world.

Synthetic anti-diabetic drugs to counter type I and type II diabetes can be broadly categorized as:

  • Insulin
  • Biguanides / Metformin
  • Sulphonylureas
  • Meglitinides / Prandial glucose regulator / Glinides
  • Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors
  • Thiazolidinedione / Glitazones
  • DPP-4 inhibitors / Gliptins
  • Incretin mimetics / GLP-1 analogues
  • Amylin analogues

Many of these drugs, however, have adverse side effects due to long-term use and patients look for natural alternatives. The use of herbal medicinal preparations has widely increased in the recent years, both globally as well as in India. Their popularity and enhanced market is largely due to the low risk factor associated with their consumption. This demand has, however, caused the emergence of herbal preparations adulterated with undeclared synthetic drugs, which could cause serious side effects in the consumer. The value of using herbal preparations as a safer alternative is then lost!

A former research scientist came in to our laboratory with 10 pills of the herbal preparation, multi-hued, brilliantly colored, spherical balls about three-fourths centimeter in diameter. He requested a qualitative analysis. Based on our previous experience, the research scientists in our laboratory carried out an FTIR on a few representative samples that he had provided.

The FTIR spectrum so obtained was then matched against a library of FTIR spectra of known synthetic anti-diabetic drugs. To further substantiate our findings, the sample was quantified using a standard FTIR spectrum of metformin hydrochloride and it was found to be a perfect match.

Herbal medicines are available through pharmacies, drugstores and many a times directly from local practitioners. These products are delivered as different formulations, without any adequate declaration of the ingredients, or information on the recommended dosages or side effects. One of the greatest risks to human health related to herbal preparations comes from adulteration that is economically motivated.

Herbal products available without a prescription with contents claimed to be purely herbal, may nevertheless contain synthetic substances in concentrations far above the therapeutic range. This could cause severe side effects or potentially fatal interactions with conventional synthetic drugs. Therefore, stringent regulations that control the sale and marketing of traditional herbal medicines are required, including licensing, labeling rules and quality control mechanisms to verify ingredients. Alternatively, prior to their use, these products can be tested at an advanced testing laboratory such as ours, for their authenticity.


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