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...

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