artificial sweeteners in Chywanprash and more dumbing down of ayurveda...
Date: Thu, 7 Feb 2008 17:38:51 -0500
Center for Science & Environment (in India), News Bulletin [Feb7, 2008]
Chayawanprash, an ayurvedic
tonic has artificial sweetner
Beware before you pick up chyawanprash from a drug store. The most popular brands of this
ayurvedic tonic has artificial sweeteners, which have unconscionable
side-effects. On January 11, 2008, Ranbaxy Laboratories launched a
sugar-free version of chyawanprash, which it calls ‘Chyawan Active’.
Unlike the classical chyawanprash, which is 50-60 per cent sugar, the
Ranbaxy product uses the artificial sweetener sucralose as a taste
enhancer. Other versions of the tonic, like Alkem Laboratories’s Jeevan
Prash and Dabur India’s Chyawan Prakash, also use artificial sweeteners.
“Our product offers an excellent nutritional formulation, especially to
calorie-conscious, diabetic, obese and overweight people,” said
Malvinder Mohan Singh, ceo, Ranbaxy. Other
than the sweetener, the product also has sorbitol. The Dabur version
uses this chemical as well to provide bulk.
In its classical form, chyawanprash is a mix of herbs, minerals,
crystallized sugar and ghee with honey. It stands to reason if
the tonic’s constituents are changed, the product may not work as well.
Ranbaxy’s spokesperson maintains that Chyawan Active provides the same
benefits as the classical chyawanprash since it has the same
But there are question marks over artificial sweeteners. Sucralose, a
chlorinated version of sucrose has, for instance, been shown to shrink
the thymus gland and enlarge kidneys and liver. Consumer groups and
experts say the chemical, used in Jeevan Prakash as well, has not been
studied adequately. Sodium saccharine, used in Dabur’s Chyawan Prakash,
is less suspect, mostly because it’s been used for a long time.
Besides, the sorbitol in Dabur and Ranbaxy’s version of chyawanprash,
has been linked to diarrhoea and eye problems. The products have
unspecified amounts of this chemical.
Use of chemical additives add a new dimension to the practice of
deviating from classical ayurvedic recipes. Past modifications to
chyawanprash include adding gold and silver dust to the tonic. But these
were still substances recommended in ancient texts, albeit for other
remedies. Such modifications were also permitted under the Drugs and
Cosmetics Act, 1940. Use of chemical additives is a recent practice,
facilitated by a 2005 amendment to the rules of the Drugs and Cosmetics
Act. Some senior officials at the Union Ministry of Health and Family
Welfare’s Department of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha
and Homoeopathy (ayush) insinuate that the
amendment allowed chemical additives under pressure from industry. But
one official said the “use of the sweetener was allowed after
consultation with the ministry’s ayurvedic pharmacopeia committee”.
There is another concern. State drug controllers are supposed to examine
safety data provided by companies before issuing manufacturing licences.
But experts say this doesn’t happen because the state authorities don’t
have the capacity to analyse the data.
Misbranding Companies like Ranbaxy and Dabur tend to see the use of
sweeteners as an innovation necessary to retain a foothold in the Rs
250-crore chyawanprash market. But ayurvedic practitioners deride the
practice as misbranding. “A company that modifies a classical recipe
should not derive sanction from ayurveda. It should have the conviction
to say that it has developed a new remedy,” says Balendu Prakash, an
eminent ayurvedic physician. Ancient texts do not prescribe chyawanprash
for diabetics, he adds, in obvious reference to products that use
Misappropriation of classical chyawanprash recipes came in for special
discussion at a meeting of ayush’s
Ayurveda Siddha Unani Drug Technical Advisory Board on December 6,
2007—the minutes of which are with Down To Earth. Much of the
discussion centred on the use of prefixes like ‘chyawan’ that suggest a
link with classical ayurveda. The drug controller general of India said
that the practice constitutes misbranding according to the drugs and
cosmetics act. It was suggested that state licensing authorities review
products that draw their names from classical remedies and give
companies 30 days to mend matters. The meet also suggested reviewing
licences of chyawanprash variants with gold and silver.
Industry is unrepentant. Ranjit Puranik, general secretary, Ayurvedic
Drug Manufacturers Association, says firms have made proper distinction
in names and consumers have been told of differences with classical
S Madhavan, advisor to ayush, says an
order censuring misbranding units and revoking licences if they do not
change brand names is awaiting the health minister’s approval. But he
isn’t sure it will change things substantially.