Saturday, 30 October 2010

Ayurveda Pura - Pura Rubbish

Simon Perry has written an excellent beginner's guide to writing ASA complaints. But where can novice sceptical letter writers find the adverts?

A great place to start is just about any "Ayurvedic Beauty Salon" - such as this one.

Ayurveda Pura - a beauty salon a stone's throw from the O2 Arena in London - produce a handy 8-page booklet (available here, here, here and here) listing the treatments they offer.

It's full of dubious claims for "detox" therapies, weight-loss massages and the like. ASA complaint follows!

"I write to complain about a booklet I picked up at the CamExpo exhibition in London on 24th October this year.

The booklet promotes the "Ayurveda Pura London Health Spa & Beauty Centre".

I suspect that the booklet may be in breach of the British Code of Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing (CAP Code). I can provide the original booklet by post, if necessary.

1. The UK's leading authority on complementary medicine, Professor Edzard Ernst, has recently written about "detox" therapies [1]:

"Detox, as used in alternative medicine, is based on ill-conceived ideas about human physiology, metabolism, toxicology etc. There is no evidence that it does any good and some treatments...can be harmful. The only substance that is being removed from a patient is usually money."

2. Under Section 12.1, I challenge whether the advertiser can substantiate any of the following claims:

(i) The "Aromatherapy Facial" (p3) can "eliminate toxins" from the skin

(ii) The "Detoxifying Back Cleanse" (p3) is capable of detoxifying any part of the body

(iii) The "Ayurvedic Detoxifying Face Massage" (p4) can "assist is detoxifying the facial skin..."

(iv) The "Nasya - Nasal Cleansing Treatment" (p4) is "highly effective in relieving...migraines"

(v) The "Abhyanga - Ayurvedic Whole Body Massage..." (p4) "...stimulates the immune system, detoxifies...the entire body"

(vi) The "Marma Abhyanga - Ayurvedic Energy Point Massage..." (p4) "...stimulates"

(vii) The "Vishesh - Ayurvedic Deep Tissure Massage" (p5) is capable of "removing toxins and impurities from the body"

(viii) The "Hridaya Basti" treatment (p5), in which "the heart area is continuously bathed with warm Ayurvedic oils" can help with "ailments like high blood pressure and heart conditions"

(ix) The "facial treatment" included in the "Rejuvenation Package" (p6) is capable of "detoxifying" any part of the body

(x) The "Panchakarma - Ayurvedic Detoxification Packages" (p6) are capable of detoxifying any part of the body, and are capable of "internal cleansing", "restor[ing] and maintain[ing] good health", "strengthen[ing] the immune system", "protect[ing] the body against diseases by removing toxins and rejuvenating your body's internal systems"

3. Regarding Shiatsu, Ernst has written [2]:

"Shiatsu is based on the biologically implausible theory of yin and yang. There is no evidence that it is effective for any specific conditions. Shiatsu massage therefore seems to be a waste of effort and expense, which offers nothing above conventional massage."

4. Under Section 12.1, I challenge whether the advertiser can substantiate the following claim:

(i) "Shiatsu" (p7) can "help in a wide range of conditions" including "specific injuries"

5. Under Section 13.1, I challenge whether the following claim can be substantiated, under 13.4, I challenge whether the advertisers have established that weight-reduction is caused by loss of body fat, and under Section 13.9, I challenge whether the advertisers are claiming that weight or fat can be lost from specific parts of the body:

(i) The "Nabhi Abhyanga - Abdominal Massage..." (p5) "...assists in weight loss around the stomach area"

6. Under Sections 12.1 and 12.7, I challenge whether the following claim can be substantiated:

(i) The "Mukhabhyanga - Traditional Ayurvedic Face-Lift Massage" (p4) is capable of "keeping away wrinkles" and "promoting the regeneration of healthy, younger looking [sic] skin"

7. I confirm I have no connections with the advertiser. I confirm I am not involved in legal proceedings with the advertiser.


[1] Simon Singh, Edzard Ernst, "Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial", American edition 2008, p308
[2] Ibid., p326"


  1. You want to get a life! You have your belief system, other people have theirs. YOU ARE NOT BETTER OR SUPERIOR. YOU ARE NOT 'RIGHT'. Just wasting you time and making not a jot of difference, as the only people interested will be those already believing the same as you.

  2. Surely there are more important problems in the world that we should be tackling: poverty, mass unemployment, homelessness, corporate greed and that's only beginning with the UK. I fully concur with the previous comment: "Get a life!"

  3. Hi Anonymous,

    Is this a fair summary of your argument?

    (1) There are many injustices in the world (poverty, mass unemployment, homelessness, corporate greed and so on)

    (2) Therefore Ayurvedic beauty salons are exempt from obeying the law

  4. Hi Sceptical Letter Writer

    I am writing to you from Ayurveda Pura - my name is Daniel. Pleased to meet you!

    Our lead clinician is a trained, fully qaulified medical doctor and surgeon, and has subsequently studied and practised Ayurveda for 18 years, having approached health and wellbeing from both Western orthodox or 'allopathic' studies and Eastern complemetary, preventative methods. Dr. Apte is also a fully qualified yoga teacher and yogini.

    The reason I mention this is because through this study, she has been able to make an informed and calculated choice as to how she would prefer to assist in restoring the health of those seeking a return to balance from dis-ease.

    You may be surprised to discover - as was I - that in 7 years of training to qualify as a GP in the UK, there is not a single study module on nutrition. "Let food be your medicine" said Hippocrates, and yet according to dominant paradigms in the medical profession in teh West, it has absolutely nothing to do with a person's health - a doctor does not study it, at all.

    I mention this only to point out to you, that there is room for many approaches to wellbeing, and we are not in any way denigrating the fine work of other paradigms at all. We offer, and people choose.

    I would like to ask you to consider revising the title of your post on our business. You have remained permanently lodged as a top result on Google for many months, and while you are of course entitled to your opinion, I only ask in the politest way possible that you consider amending this damaging and harmful headline to your post about us. I would also like to offer you a free treatment at our Day Spa, so that at least you can speak with experience and knowledge of that which you rail against so energetically.
    Please do not hesitate to contact me should this be of interest to you. You can call me on 0208 312 8383 and select option 1 or email me at

    I look forward to hearing from you, and wish you good health and prosperity.

    Thank you


    I look fo

  5. Hi Daniel,

    It is an offence under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (2008) to make unsubstantiated health claims in one's advertising.

    I've picked a handful of claims from my original complaint. Do you think Dr Apte, with her two decades of clinical experience, would be able to substantiate them?

    If she can, I would be happy to change the headline and substantially rewrite the article to make it clear I was wrong:

    1. The "Detoxifying Back Cleanse" is capable of detoxifying any part of the body

    2. The "Nasya - Nasal Cleansing Treatment" is "highly effective in relieving...migraines"

    3. The "Hridaya Basti" treatment, in which "the heart area is continuously bathed with warm Ayurvedic oils" can help with "ailments like high blood pressure and heart conditions"

    4. The "Nabhi Abhyanga - Abdominal Massage... assists in weight loss around the stomach area"

  6. Hi Sceptical Letter Writer

    I'm afraid I have only joined the company since June 2011, and none of the claims you are dissatisfied with exist in the brochure for our Spa treatments, last revised in July of the same year - 2011. If you wish to maintain a complaint against a long since discontinued brochure - which I have personally not seen - from the first print run of newly established health spa, then there is little I can do to mitigate your complaint I'm afraid, especially in the absence of the document in question.

    However, extensive clinical and scientific studies of the efficacy of Ayurveda have been and continue to be conducted - even endorsed by your favourite authority on complementary medicine, Edvard Ernst, who referred to this study on the efficacy of Ayurvedic treatments / medicines for rheumatoid arthritis as 'the blueprint for further research on Ayurveda'. See here:

    You may also wish to peruse for yourself this very useful resource on current and historical research into various 'alternative' medicinal approaches to health & wellbeing - I have linked straight to the section on Ayurveda for your convenience:

    And a quick precis of some of the content:

    I'm afraid I don't have time to seek out any corroborative studies which may answer some of your queries, but can appreciate your strength of feeling about this subject. It clearly irks you, and indeed I can quite sympathise when it comes to some of the more 'New Age' and less credible outreaches of healing. I can attest personally (anecdotally, of course) to the efficacy of Nasya Therapy for relief of persistent headaches, as can many users of the techniques.

    I do not ask you to revise nor re-write any aspect of your original complaint - it stands for what it is. However, your headline, while facile in terms of its combination with our brand, seems to me unnecessary and deliberately confrontational considering the extensive global research and ongoing study of this most ancient of medicinal systems, and the high regard with which it is considered by many clinical researchers who are spending their budgets, time and expertise investigating the praxis.


  7. ...continued

    Referring to the Natural Standard evidence table at the above site, you can see for yourself that further (very expensive!) research is required to form more consensus-based conclusions considered satisfactory to the clinical standards of Western medicine. Most studies report a 'C' in a scale from A-F where:

    'A' is "Statistically significant evidence of benefit from >2 properly randomized trials (RCTs), OR evidence from one properly conducted RCT AND one properly conducted meta-analysis, OR evidence from multiple RCTs with a clear majority of the properly conducted trials showing statistically significant evidence of benefit AND with supporting evidence in basic science, animal studies, or theory."

    ...while 'F' is "Statistically significant negative evidence (i.e. lack of evidence of benefit) from >1 properly randomized adequately powered trial(s) of high-quality design by objective criteria."

    This means most of the studies thus far conducted into Ayurveda for a range of conditions including cardio-vascular, chronic heart conditions, insomnia, depression, osteoarthritis and high blood pressure fall in a category defined thus:

    'C' - "Evidence of benefit from >1 small RCT(s) without adequate size, power, statistical significance, or quality of design by objective criteria,* OR conflicting evidence from multiple RCTs without a clear majority of the properly conducted trials showing evidence of benefit or ineffectiveness, OR evidence of benefit from >1 cohort/case-control/non-randomized trials AND without supporting evidence in basic science, animal studies, or theory, OR evidence of efficacy only from basic science, animal studies, or theory."

    I hope you can agree that to consign this research to the dustbin of 'Pura Rubbish!' - without having any direct experience of the treatments or our centre - is a little unfair, and not reflective of the committed and ongoing studies being evaluated to reach a more satisfactory position with regard to Ayurveda's effectiveness by the standards of Western clinical trials.

    I would like to thank you for engaging and responding, and reiterate my offer to extend to you a free consultation and treatment at our Spa for you to see for yourself that we are in no way intending to denigrate other systems, make outrageous or wild claims of our own efficacy nor dupe anybody from their hard-earned cash in return for snake-oil and mumbo jumbo.

    Yours sincerely


  8. Can you produce any evidence published in peer reviewed journals that you are alive and well?

  9. Hi Anonymous,

    I'm well and good, thanks for asking, and still waiting for evidence that Ayurveda can detoxify the body, relieve migraines, treat high blood pressure and heart conditions, and cause weight loss in the stomach area.

    I'd also love to know if the advertisers can substantiate their claim - which appears in some advertising I picked up a couple of weeks ago - that something called "Ayurvedic Tongue Diagnosis" can "determine a person's body constitution, diseases and imbalances... just by examining the tongue".

    For that matter, it would be good to read about the evidence supporting the claim that their Ayurvedic Face-Lift Treatment is "an effective non-surgical method of achieving younger and healthy looking skin" - a claim that is forbidden under the advertising rules, regardless of whether it's true or not.

    Let's also consider tha claims that Ayurveda can "manage ailments such as PMS, menopause and fibroids", the claim that Ayurvedic Pulse Diagnosis can "identify...toxins", the claim that the company's herbal teas "can help you detoxify" and the claim that the company's massage oils can "strengthen the immune system".

    There isn't space to mention all the dodgy health claims still visible on the company's website. Let's hope hope someone doesn't submit another complaint!

    (P.S. The advert which was the subject of the original complaint is visible by clicking on the links near the top of the article.)


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