Recently the press was transfixed when NY State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office announced that the vast majority of herbal supplements tested by the AG’s office had none of the herbs claimed. This followed a Canadian Guelph University study from the developers of a novel DNA testing process that claimed a huge percent of herbs tested were bogus. That study was so poorly done that the American Botanical Council asked for it to be retracted. Their title said it all:
Science Group Says Article on DNA Barcode Analysis of Herbs Is Flawed, Contains Errors, Creates Confusion, and Should Be Retracted: Methodological Flaws, Statistical Inconsistencies, Taxonomic Confusion, and Unreliable Conclusions Require Paper in BMC Medicine to be Corrected, Revised, and Re-peer-reviewed
Nonetheless the specter of a relatively inexpensive new test in an industry everyone assumes is unregulated was irresistible to the AGs office (and besides everyone knows DNA is scientific!) This new DNA barcode test is different from forensic DNA tests which is what people think of when they hear “DNA test.” Now GNC has signed a premature consent agreement and the AG’s offices in 14 states are planning to follow suit based on technically misleading testing.
As a clinical herbalist for over 25 years and a professor of herbal medicine I need to point out that the press has given a free ride to the validity of new DNA barcode testing which purported to show that 79% of herbs from Target, GNC, Walgreens and Wallmart were adulterated or missing the herb claimed. The high figure should have given the AG’s office pause. Verification […]
English: First aid kit for a trip to rural Nicaragua. Not pictured: Chloroquine. The contacts and the medical tape didn’t make it in. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
After a trip to Guatemala where a few of us ended up with severe parasites and after the death of my friend Keiko Golambos to virulent malaria, I was asked to put together an emergency travel kit for international outreach. This is a kit for Continue reading…
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Douglas Fir. Image via Wikipedia
What do you do with a Christmas tree after Christmas is over? Have you considered eating it? Well not the trunk (although the inner bark can be used medicinally), but the needles. Fir or spruce tips and pine needles can make a fine tea- infused a short period of time (don’t boil it.) But there is a world of uses beyond teas.
Pine needles are high in Vitamin C, Vitamin A, quercetin, flavonoids, anthocyanins, tannins, pine oils, resveratrol, pinosylvin, shikimic acid, and isocupressic acid. Vitamin C levels may be as high as 5 times as that of lemons, depending on the species. The flavonoids, Vitamin C and associated compounds, and proanthocyanin are considered protective against cancer and scurvy. They are also are good for respiratory infections. Russian studies show pine oils as useful for weight control, lowered cholesterol and lowering blood pressure while Chinese studies find them as slowing the growth of liver cancer. Pinosylvin is antifungal and antimicrobial. Proanthocyanin and resveratrol are potent antiaging compounds.
Isocupressic acid blocks progesterone in ruminants like cows and is considered toxic and abortafacient to them after the fermentation in their second stomach. This should not be a concern for humans due to our single stomach digestion, but of course has not been studied. The less tasty, more resinous pines like Ponderosa or Lodgepole pine have the highest levels. I think that if you let your taste be your guide, you will not overdose- pregnant women are quick to feel nauseated by […]
Iced coffee (photo care of Baltimore Sun)
When summer comes around I turn to the cooling bitter or astringent drinks, served slightly below room temperature or at most refrigerated. I don’t really like to use ice because it can ruin your digestion but cold feels awfully good. The bitter flavor is also cooling. Sour or astringent flavors help reduce water loss, so I like an infused vinegar in water at times as well as lemon or lime water.
And while warm beverages don’t often come to mind, hot tea is often consumed all day long in China or the Mideast. Think of it as homeopathy- like cures like. Or just as a way of reducing the difference between your body and the environment so adjustment isn’t such a shock.
One word about caffeinated beverages. You aren’t eating dry leaves or beans, you are drinking a water-based beverage flavored with the leaves or beans. The research shows you don’t lose more water than you take in, but you do lose it sooner, so tissues don’t hydrate as well. Rule of thumb: you lose 25% of the fluid value from coffee compared to water, and Continue reading…
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Greenman Sean Donahue, of Green Man Ramblings is host to the May Herbal Blog Party on Herbs for Sexual Health and Vitality. A number of prominent herbalists have written articles on various facets of sexuality and herbs, from improving function to contraception. Here is his reblogged post with the links to the articles:
Saturday, May 15, 2010
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Springtime in an urban garden is different than in a suburban or rural garden. For one thing you may not own your land. Your plants may be growing in raised beds, in pots or in circumstances that would not be considered optimal. Your coop board or condo association may prevent compost bins. Your wildcrafting may be in city parks where you need to avoid areas of pesticide use.
For many years I struggled with feeling that I couldn’t be an authentic herbalist living in the city. I thought “real herbalists” should be living off of the land Continue reading…
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It is almost Spring. Even if your garden is primarily ornamental, you can include medicinal herbs, many of which are lovely. And don’t forget to eat the weeds, once you know what they are and what is safe! […]
Cordyceps is an adaptogen from a fungus that invades an insect body that increases stamina, prevents cancer cell proliferation, increases immune system function and reduces arrhythmias. […]
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Each month herbalists are encouraged to submit articles to the Herbal Blog Parties, hosted by various herbalists. The August party had as its theme sweet ways to use herbs, including herbal honey’s, glycerites, elixirs, electuaries, melomels and the like. If you need definitions, go down to Kiva Rose’s article which has an overview.
Kiva's Wild Rose Tincture
While we generally want to keep sugars low in our diet, there are legitimate uses for sweet herbs. Sugar in its various forms is used in a variety of traditional medicines. In Chinese medicine it strengthens the Spleen/pancreas function (in judicious quantities) and formulas often use dates, honey, longan fruit, or licorice to engage the digestive function. Ayurveda makes medicinal honey and ghee preparations like Chayawanprash. Continue reading…
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Numen is a film that previewed at the International Herbal Symposium this June. It features prominent herbalists, botanists and ethnobotanists like Rosemary Gladstar, Tierona LowDog, the late Bill Mitchell, Stephen Buhner, Phyllis Light, Ken Ausubel, James Duke and Rocio Alarcon, among others. Numen, defined as the animating force in nature, brings together innovative thinkers to discuss how our disconnection from nature affects human and environmental health and the healing made possible by embracing our place in the wider web of life.
You can view a 15 minute preview here:
The 80 minute film features wonderful time lapse photography and will be an extraordinary DVD to show and replay. The DVD will include tutorials on growing and harvesting medicinal herbs, preparing kitchen medicine, and on the growing field of ecological medicine and should be available later this month from the site above.
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