Tuesday, 29 September 2009


Published in the Daily Mirror, Thursday, 24/09/2009; an article written by Dr. Miriam Stoppard entitled: HERBS CAN DO MORE HARM THAN GOOD

(read it here - http://blogs.mirror.co.uk/dear-miriam/2009/09/herbs-can-do-more-harm-than-go.html)

Yet another article written on herbal medicine by a "popular and trusted expert". A subject she obviously knows nothing about!

She begins by declaring her dismay at the fact that two thirds of a group of patients being studied by Aberdeen University took complimentary medicines including herbs whilst recieving prescription medicine. She says, "anything strong enough to have a positive medicinal effect is also strong enough to cause side-effects and interfere or even clash with medication". I'm afraid to tell the good doctor that it's a lot worse than she thinks, especially on our planet. Were those patients also taking onions, garlic, cabbage, carrots, beetroot, ginger, tomato.....Just a few examples of the herbs that those patients could also have been taking. I hope none of the study participants were enjoying a typical Asian diet as they may have been enjoying a whole arsenal of herbs and spices.

All the above foods which are also used as herbs (confusing jargon, is it not, but there is no difference. Maybe we should just say plants), have had their chemistry examined and defined. How those chemicals work on our bodies to exert their health giving/medicinal effects have been clearly defined and understood. The reason why the government, on the recommendation of the scientific evidence, tells us constantly to eat these foods for the purpose of adjusting our health in a positive way, is because of their clearly understood medicinal effect! They are good for us. Importantly, how these herbs affect our health in normal daily potions is clearly understood. You certainly do not need concentrated doses. In fact in concentrated doses cabbage would be very dangerous. As the good doctor knows there exist already some lists of commonly used plants/vegetables that can not be used with certain drugs, warfarin for example or mono-amine-oxidase inhibitors could interact with a vast array of fruit, vegetables and other plants. They are not very extensive lists but it does give us a glimpse of the truth.

What I am trying to demonstrate here is that an awful lot of those so called dangerous herbs are actually normal and regular parts of our diet...standard fixtures and fittings of our lives and metabolisms, for ever. It is the drug that is the odd man out. Maybe we should be asking not if a plant, vegetable, fruit, herb or seed interferes with a certain unnatural, man-made pharmaceutical, but if the drug is interfering with or clashing with our food and normal biochemical processes. It seems that this is the truth as taking certain drugs means we have to suspend reality! Dr Stoopid seems to be placing drugs and pharmaceuticals in a superior position above our normal dietary needs and above the foods we can use to help us return to health. It has to be crazy when a drug limits what you can eat? It has to be crazy when the drugs become the norm and vegetables become the danger men!!

The good doctor also seems to think that the herbal products industry is "totally unregulated". Did she ask any herbal product manufacturer if this is truly the case? Obviously not! For at least 10 years now we have been dealing with the "Traditional European Herbal Medicine Product Directive". All the major companies supplying the British market now manufacture to UK GMP. This is the standard of the MHRA itself, the medicine control agency. UK GMP is a pharmaceutical standard and really too high for herbs. After all, herbs are not pharmaceuticals. The suggestion that you can never be sure what you are getting in herbal products is an insult to all the major British herbal product manufacturers. A UK GMP product must have what it says on the tin! We have the analysis results to prove it, thanks to UK GMP production methodology. We all want high standards...and now they can't get any higher!! What more can I say? Sure, you can raise the issue of dodgy Chinese or Indian products that find their way to the market, but they have nothing to do with the major British/European/American companies and the standards they adhere to. The same thing happens in the pharmaceutical world from time to time where batches of dodgy drugs are discovered from dodgy companies. Just take a look at the history of Baxter pharmaceuticals for example. They make the swine flu vaccine that is being forced upon the population. Check them and their quality control out...eye opening...

As far as herbalists themselves are concerned. The oldest professional body of herbalists in the UK is the National Institute of Medical Herbalists (NIMH), in existence since the 1860's. They dont hide, they are easy to find. Herbalists are now trained to B.Sc. degree standard, the same standard as doctors. This has been the case for almost 10 years now. The NIMH has always maintained and continuously improved the standards by which herbalists practise. There is a strict code of conduct, ethics, continuous professional development etc....just like all other professional bodies. In fact, since 2001 the government has been pursuing state regulation of herbal medicine. A process in which the NIMH is pivotal of course, as it has been in past medicine legislation. The ultimate outcome of these developments is that herbalists would be given protected title exactly like other professionals such as doctors and solicitors. Is Dr. Stoopid scared yet? The NIMH is easy to find...try a web search Doctor. The suggestion that it's impossible to know who the "real" herbalists are is ludicrous. If it helps they have B.Sc. after their names (just like doctors) and also MNIMH (a member of the NIMH). On the other hand, what do I do when it comes to finding a "good reputable" doctor? Forget reputable herbalists...doctors can seriously damage your health, according to government statistics, in numbers that far outweigh any problems herbs/herbalists may have caused. While we're having a bash at safety the good doctor states..."pharmaceutical drugs are tested rigorously for safety, side-effects, strength, dosage, purity, and suitability and are medically supervised. Even the over-the-counter drugs come with detailed safety advice". Ok, so on my way home tonight I shall stop off for a box of paracetamol at the sweet shop, get another from the newsagent, pick some more up at Tesco then get home, observe how rigorously tested they have been, how well packaged they are, enjoy reading the safety instructions, chuckle at the potential side-effects, totally ignore the dosage and kill myself and the whole family by taking as many as we can. So, stop talking bollocks and sort it out, protect us from these real and easily available, potentially fatal substances. For goodness sake woman, they are next to the sweeties down at your local newsagent!
Incidentally, what is wrong with the fact that a herb has been used for thousands of years? What that amounts to are the longest running clinical trials in history...actual herbs being taken by actual people over thousands of years. How does the good doctor think that man kind knows so much about herbs? Why is it that herbalists know which herbs are dangerous and which ones are not? I think it's probably because of the longest clinical trials in history. Does she realise that if the potato and tomato were discovered last week they would have suffered an immediate ban by all our so-called drug and food standard agencies. They belong to the deadly nightshade family of plants and could potentially contain atropine. Why did our grannies tell us to avoid eating green potatos and tomatos? Simple, cos they were stupid and incapable of simple observation! Add to the thousands of years of continuous use of herbs in real people the world over, the fact that most herbs have been chemically analysed, tested in test-tubes and in people then you really end up with a reason why the pharmaceutical industry, which in human terms has existed for less than a blinking of an eye, is running scared of herbs! Drugs have been around such a short space of time in human evolution that we have no idea whatsoever the long-term effects on mankind will be.

Let's just go back to that statement again for a moment......"pharmaceutical drugs are tested rigorously for safety, side-effects, strength, dosage, purity, and suitability and are medically supervised. Even the over-the-counter drugs come with detailed safety advice"... As a herbalist I regularly encounter patients with an interesting drug dilemmas. For example, a patient will approach me and tell me they are taking methotrexate, prednisolone (a steroid) and assorted painkillers for their rheumatoid arthritis and will then ask me if they can take dandelion or some other herb as they are worried it may interfere with the medication. My immediate response to such a question is to throw my arms up in despair and fall to the ground weeping and wailing. Whilst one drug in one person at one time may have been studied, two or three or many more in the same person at the same time certainly would not have been. I'm sure there are no drug licenses issued for combinations of drugs. Not even God would know how some of the combinations of drugs given to people nowadays interact when given together. Why worry about a herb in this situation? It's the least of your worries. Methotrexate, by the way, was originally an anti-cancer drug, it stops the functioning of DNA and RNA and therefore stops cells being made...cancer cells and normal cells! Because cells of the immune system play a part in rheumatoid arthritis and they are very susceptible to the actions of methotrexate the (dumb) logic goes that if you "damp down" the immune system (in other words, kill it off) then you reduce the symptoms of Rheumatoid arthritis, and other similar immune based inflammatory conditions. Now, you do not have to be a pharmacist to realise what happens when such a powerful drug is used...yes, that's right, you guessed it, potentailly fatal side-effects. POTENTIALLY FATAL, as recognised and described by the manufacturer. Work carries on as we speak, by medics, to try to find ways to administer the drug more efficiently to try to stop the deaths that have happened as a result of using it. Bring in other drugs though that also depress the immune system such as steroids and Lord only knows what may happen next! Forget trials and rigorous safety tests dear patients...you are the guinea pigs!

I do love this statement..."With pharmaceuticals, there's always a considerable gap between the dose you're warned not to exceed and a potentially toxic dose"... Do forgive my stupidity doctor, but drugs such a methotrexate work BECAUSE THEY ARE TOXIC TO HUMAN BEINGS! Side effects in general could be described as toxic effects because they can be damaging/disabling to human physiology. They occur at recommended/normal doses...

I am so glad the subject of Chinese skin creams for eczema appears once again. The MHRA and people with an axe to grind about herbs continuously bring up the subject of adulterated Chinese herbal products. It's like this is the only thing they have on the list and continuously re-cycle it time after time. It's been mentioned for years. Let me state, categorically, AGAIN, that these Chinese products are nothing to do with mainstream western/European/American herbal medicine. These products are brought in by Chinese "doctors" to supply Chinese medicine outlets. We have all seen the Chinese stores on the High Street of one town or another, staffed with Chinese "doctors" and Chinese products. You may also notice that these shops/clinics are stocked with products labelled in Chinese only and staffed by people who do not speak English. Now, forgive me if I'm wrong, but I thought that was against basic trading standards laws. Don't even start on the medicine legislation. Why have they not been shut down? I sometimes feel that these places are left open by the authorities simply so that they can use them as a scapegoat to incriminate the whole herbal world. We western herbalists manufacture to UK GMP, we could not possibly adulter our products with drugs. Even western herbalists that also practise Traditional Chinese Medicine use suppliers from Britain/Europe/America. We do not ship in adulterated products in from Shanghai or where-ever labelled in foreign languages. I myself have been called upon to test some of these imported, Chinese products that are packaged in Chinese boxes. They are usually made to look like pharmaceutical products, but often actually contain nothing at all! So if you want to do something useful Doctor, go after this illegal import and High Street sale of these products.
In her article Dr. Stoopid gives us a list of herbal health warnings. Most startling is her claim that red clover should not be taken by women with hormone sensitive cancers such as breast, ovary etc. Large scale population studies carried out by scientists and orthodox scientific reasearchers has found that populations as found in Asia with a high intake of the isoflavones found in soya products have a reduced incidence of these cancers. The exact same isoflavones are the active constituents of red clover. What's up Doc? HArd scientific proof of plant chemicals working in real people, not test tubes, is somehow wrong all of a sudden....duhhhhh. She also tells us about Ephedra and rreminds us that it is banned already...so what's your point? Then there are the "herbal high" smoking blends which have nothing to do with the high quality herbal products available through herbalists and good health food stores. As for St. Joh's Wort giving you an allergic reaction to the sun, I have not encountered this in 25 years as a herbalist....I believe it is based on cattle grazing on the stuff! Theory and fact are often, as the good doctor knows, two very different things.

Congratulations Doctor, you got this rubbish out there, you got paid for unsubstantiated trash, you scared people...keep taking the tablets...

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Another one for the MHRA!

Scanning through THE TIMES on Thursday, September, 10 (2009) I encountered the following headline. Just try to imagine my horror as a law abiding herbalist when encountering such extreme medical claims!

Healthy eating taken to a life-affirming new level with recipes for beating prostate cancer.

...and the first couple of paragraphs state...

It is probably the most delicious cancer treatment yet devised. A recipe book built around foods known to help fight prostate cancer is the first example of "evidence-based cooking", its autor said yesterday.
The Prostate Care Cookbook has been written by scientists for people with prostate cancer or at risk of developing it. "There is growing scientific evidence that strongly suggests that diets rich in certain foods can help prevent this disease or its spread", the authors write. "For those living with this condition, a controlled diet may be the only means of active treatment".
Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer in men, but aggressive treatments can often be worse than the disease, said Margaret Rayman, professor of nutritional Medicine at the University of Surrey and lead author of the book.

Let's just check the terminology used here..."a delicious cancer treatment". What sort of claim is that? Yes, it's a medical claim. Why do they claim that? Well, because this book is written about "Evidence based cooking"...scientific, clinical proof that foods are medicinal just because they are and those medicinal properties are well studied and observed by scientists, doctors etc...just the kind people that wrote this book. Are they not aware of the TRADITIONAL EUROPEAN HERBAL MEDICINE DIRECTIVE? If not, then they are in big trouble, and about to be taxed big time by the MHRA in pursuance of this directive that says that all herbs, and that includes various fruits, seeds, oils, vegetables etc if sold for their medicinal properties have to be registered through the very expensive route of the Directive. It also means that all these "medicines" have to be packaged in pharmaceutical style. The book itself would have to be banned because no medical claims are allowed. We can not advertise drugs.

Just taking a look at one of the recipes they recommend from the book we find sweet potatoes, tomatoes, onions, garlic, pepper, and basil. All well known herbal medicines! Tomatoes in fact belong to the deadly nightshade family. Garlic, tomato, basil and pepper are all found not just as over the counter whole foods but in various herbal supplements...tablets, capsules, tinctures etc. The beauty of this book of course is that it highlights yet again the fact that the MHRA/Europe are making herbalists pay to register their herbs just because we use herbs and sell herbs for their medicinal qualities and this is nothing more than a money making scam and a tax on the fact that some foods are medicinal just because they are, not because herbalists or the MHRA say so. Herbalists do nothing to change these foods into pharmaceuticals...they just are, we use them because they are...and now it appears scientists are using the evidence from research (the kind used and quoted by the MHRA) to treat the dreadful disease that is prostate cancer using a cook book!

Well, the people that wrote this book better look out, they have no idea what they have done...the book will have to banned as soon as it hits the shelves in order to avoid cancer patients self prescribing in a haphazard and dangerous fashion. All the foods mentioned will have to be packaged appropriately into tamper evident, blister packs or bottles complete with braille printing for the visually impaired. Just imagine a blind cancer patient overdosing on tomato sauce due to inadequate labelling. How would the MHRA live with themselves? Each pack would contain a strictly limited quantity of the medicinal food and I wonder, being anti-cancer agents surely they would be better off on prescription only. Great if you live in Wales, prescriptions are free. A patient information leaflet with strict instructions as to the use, storage and appropriate dosage together with potential side-effects and interactions must be included along with, I hope, the instruction to eat...three times daily...

Monday, 7 September 2009

Ban the Broccoli!

Fantastic headline in the Daily Express on Saturday (September 5, 2009):


Call me an idiot...but I'd call that a medical claim. Being a herbalist, I'd be rather paranoid and extremly woried about making claims like that. Not that it is not true of course, but because herbal medicine and our right to talk about it is being demolished by Europe and the MHRA (the UK Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority). Currently, all herbs, vegetables, fruits, seeds, and all other vegetable materials sold as medicines (or to put it another way - because they are good for us) have to undergo a rigorous registration process under the perversly named "Traditional European Herbal Medicine Scheme". As I have described in previous blogs this process is a highly expensive, time consuming and totally unnecessary process that has to be carried out on every herb, vegetable, fruit, seed etc that is being sold for its medicinal properties.We are told it is to protect public safety. I'm still waiting to see the mortality figures...
If I dried broccoli and put it into capsules therefore, I would have to subject it to the registration process. It's the same broccoli I had for dinner and is freely on sale at the grocery. So what happened to it just by putting it into a capsule, or a tablet, or a liquid extract? What's the difference? I did not suddenly make it a medicine....it already was. Read the Daily Express if you don't believe me. They go into intricate chemical and physiological detail about how vegetables in this family of plants exert their medicinal effects on the body, in this case the heart and circulation. Vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, beetroot etc are not medicinal because I say so, or because the MHRA says so, or because of the way they are processed...they just are...straight out of the ground, steamed, with a little butter or pressed into a tablet. What is the difference? The broccoli does not somehow mystically alter or take on a new area of activity just because a herbalist gets hold of it! Maybe the MHRA really does believe in magic and that plants are somehow transformed in the hands of those weird herbalists?
The difference of course is that the herbal industry represents a taxable resource for Europe/MHRA. So the question "when is broccoli not broccoli" is answered by saying, "when a herbalist gets his hands on it". However, this approach is rather worrying of course because when the few herbal companies that will be left after registration have registered all that they could afford then maybe the MHRA will have to go after fruit and veg merchants to maintain their funding! Tax the pharmaceuticals at source. For goodness sake there is sulforaphane in broccoli and its vegetable relatives. If sulforaphane does not sound like a pharmaceutical what does hey? So why stop at taxing the herbal industry...this stuff is in there full stop, go to the source, tax the farmer, the grocer, God!

What a joke it will be when we are handed a "patient information leaflet" or safety data sheet by the greengrocer when picking up our greens. Oh, how frustrated will they be at having to compile these documents for the MHRA, and pay for the pleasure of compiling them?
Maybe, this is what GM food is all about. The MHRA and European bods do not want us being subjected to so many medicinal chemicals in our food. Breed all those medicinal chemicals out. While you are at it limit the amount of vitamins in food too. Don't want too many of them. Blimey, think of how healthy we'd be if we left all those things in there, and the thought of people actually using every day food stuffs as medicine really should be outlawed. Was it not Hippocrates, "The Father of Medicine" who said, "Let food be your medicine, let medicine be your food"? Well, yes, but he was an ancient idiot of course who knew nothing about chemistry and how dangerous food could actually become in the hands of the health conscious consumer. He obviously did not notice how these foods mysteriously transformed into registered medicines just because of they way they were used. He of course just saw the herb, the fruit, the seed, the vegetable etc for what it was. He was not looking at plant life through the tax tinted MHRA issue shades. So, go GM now...avoid having to flood your body with those medicinal chemicals and registered medicinals, and be very scared because according to the MHRA and Europe certain plants can alter their state and become new and hideous pharmaceuticals just because of they way they are presented for sale!