Animal Ingredients in Ayurvedic Products

At first there was the Central Council for Research in Ayurveda & Siddha. Many years later in 1995 the Department of Indian System of Medicine and Homeopathy (ISM&H) was set up. In 2003 it was renamed the Department of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy (AYUSH). In November 2014 it became the Ministry of AYUSH.

The first system covered is Ayurveda meaning science of life. The National Ayurveda Day is celebrated every year on Dhanvantri Jayanti.

It is a common misconception that Ayurvedic products are always vegetarian. Today, they commonly contain about 50 different animal substances, 52 mineral products and 600 medicinal plant and herbal ingredients.

There was a time when body parts of wild animals ranging from deer horn to fox or crocodile meat were extensively utilised in making Ayurvedic medicines and supplements. After the Government banned their use, they are clandestinely utilised to a lesser extent. They could even be imported.

The Charaka Samhita (the Sanskrit text on Ayurveda) advocates the use of between 150-200 animals. Some of these remedies are: smoke from burning owl feathers, nails and skin for insomnia; owl meat, meat of cat, mongoose and jackal (in the guise of rabbit), snake (disguised as eel), and crow (as partridge) for tuberculosis; and goat meat and blood for excessive blood loos. Meat of lion, bear and tiger (disguised as venison) is also listed as being highly potent. In addition to freshly cut fish, fish oil, eggs, egg shells, deer horns, pigeon blood, partridge meat, goat blood and meat, the following are frequently utilised in Ayurvedic preparations:

Amber  Ambergris Sperm Whale
Amrita prasha ghrita Goat meat in ghee
Ajamamsa rasayana       Goat meat
Aswagandhadi lehya Ashwagandha containing Goat meat
Brihat Chagalyadi ghrita Goat meat
Chukkumthippaladi gulika Deer horn and Civet semen
Dhanwantara gulika Civet semen
Gandhamarjar virya

Semen of Civet Cat

Godahi (takra) Curd of Cow’s Milk
Goghrta (ghrta) Ghee made form Cow’s Milk
Gomutra  Urine of the Cow
Gorochana/Gorochanadi Bile of the Ox or Cow
Kamadudha rasa Conch Shell
Kapardika bhasma Cowries
Kukkutandatvak bhasma Egg shells
Laksha Lac
Madhu Honey
Maha sneha Animal Meat & Fat
Mahamasha thailam Goat meat
Mathala Rasayanam Bile of Ox or Cow
Mayurpiccha (Pilikkamu) Peacock feathers
Mrigamadasava (Kasturi) Deer musk
Mukta bhasma/pishti Pearl Oyster
Mytilus margretiferus Pearl Oyster

Navaratna Raja Mruganka rasa

9 gems including Pearl & Coral
Pravala (Paviza) Coral
Rasayanam Bile of Ox or Cow
Samunderphana Cuttlefish bone
Shankha bhasma/vati Conch shell
Shringa bhasma Deer horn
Siktha Beeswax
Varatika   Cowries
Vayu/Kasturyadi gulika Deer musk

Manufacturers of Ayurvedic products need to obtain a licence and get their formulations cleared from the State Drug Controlling Authority. Although they have to list the ingredients on labels, it is not mandatory for them to affix the green veg or brown non-veg symbol on their products. It is therefore advisable for vegetarians to read the long lists of ingredients carefully before consuming. For example, Patanjali Ayurved’s badam pak which falls under the category of an Ayurvedic proprietary medicine and food supplement, has pearl oyster (mytilus margretiferus) listed as an ingredient, but the bottle displays a green veg symbol.  As it is not mandatory to affix the veg/non-veg symbol on proprietary foods, FSSAI for reasons best known to them, have taken no corrective action. It is another matter that in November 2023 the Supreme Court cautioned Patanjali Ayurved against making false and misleading claims in advertisements or face a Rs 1 crore fine on every product.

Page last updated on 25/11/23