Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Herbs now, herbs forever

At left, Echinacea



For two days, I have been defending my occupation against mostly-anonymous shills for the drug companies over at Alas, a blog. If they aren't actual shills for BigPharm (which are in fact all over the net and get paid very well for it), they can come over here and say so, and this time, they will answer my direct questions (helpfully placed in bold) or git the hell out.

It started with a derail, of course. Mandolin wrote that she is experiencing heavy bleeding, and I recommended Chaste Berry (Vitex) and all hell broke loose. Never mind that other questionably-effective remedies are discussed, including artificial cancer-causing hormones of varying strengths, invasive surgery, expensive fertility specialists (!) and that's all understood to be fine and dandy. I just mentioned a fucking PLANT! OUT OUT DAMNED SPOT! I said there were no side effects--when I admit that I should have said FEW. (Or maybe I should have just been honest and said, I have never had anyone report any side effects to ME; in fact, I was comparing the weak side effects of herbs, to the serious side effects of the therapies being discussed.)

Anyway, with that, we were off to the races. First from some drug-company shill (I have no idea if she is or not, merely judging from her RAH RAH WESTERN MEDICINE! posts, and her refusal to answer the question of whether she is) named Dianne:

No. Any drug that is strong enough to have a clinical effect is strong enough to have side effects. It doesn’t matter if it comes from a tree or a lab or was given to you directly by hyperintelligent aliens who designed it just to help you. It may be perfectly fine and helpful and do wonderful things for you, but it is a drug and should be treated with the same caution that you would treat Merck’s latest product. More: nature doesn’t care about being sued and most medicinal compounds that plants make are actually made in an attempt to keep the plant from being eaten–poisons, in other words.
I dislike being patronized and assumed to be stupid by someone who hauls out the profanity MERCK when preaching to me, and I replied:
I will amend my statement: the side effects are negligible compared to either pharmaceutical or over-the-counter remedies.

...Someone seems a bit hypersensitive (hostile) towards herbal medicine. Drug company rep? Doctor?
Maia:
daisydeadhead - to imply that anyone who has a problem with the marketing of alternative medicine is doing so because they’re bought off is offensive and completely unfounded.

I think a sizeable proportation of alternative medical practitioners are thieves and charlatans. I think the vast majority of pharmaceutical companies, or companies that sell ‘alternate medicine’ are pretty much the epitome of evil.

I don’t think the battle is between two groups of people who want to sell us different health products. I think it’s about whether health is a commodity to be bought and sold or a right.
I replied:
Maia, I detected some hostility in Dianne’s comment, when all I did was suggest an herb, which has shown very few (any?) documented side effects. I got two rather hostile paragraphs, and I don’t think my suggestion deserved that. And now, you seem hostile also. (?)

And I didn’t see any discussion of “marketing” of alternative medicine; I saw a bizarre reference to aliens. Why the sarcasm and patronizing? Was that necessary? Yes, I replied in kind.

And BTW, I was not recommending anything I didn’t learn from my grandmother, and she from her grandmother. I am not foisting some evil nefarious industry on anyone.
Brossa, another commenter, wrote:
From one of the research articles in DaisyDeadhead’s initial Chaste Berry link: “The most frequent adverse events are nausea, headache, gastrointestinal disturbances, menstrual disorders, acne, pruritus and erythematous rash.”
Me:
Same as for birth control pills, but even less occurrence of these.

Why do you all ignore the same negatives for prescription drugs? It’s like you have a blind spot for those–and I could dig up countless malpractice suits and trash-talking blogs dedicated to every single one.
Ignoring my question, Brossa continues:
Dianne’s point is a legitimate one. The active ingredients in chaste berry have real physiological effects, which may benefit or worsen a given medical condition. If it had absolutely no physiological effect, like a homeopathic tincture, then there would be less reason to be wary of ‘just giving it a try’.
Me:
I will amend my statement: the side effects are negligible compared to either pharmaceutical or over-the-counter remedies.
Dianne:
I know very little about chaste berry in particular, but if this statement refers to herbal medications in general, it is nonsense. Herbal medications can have side effects just like any other medication.

Specific examples: There have been deaths due to kava and ephedra. Other herbs can alter the metabolism of other drugs with potentially lethal side effects. Then there’s the PC Spes story. PC Spes was once touted as an example of successful use of CAM in cancer. It appeared to work periodically–not always, not particularly better than “allopathic” medicine, but sometimes–on prostate cancer. Then people taking it started getting clotting and/or bleeding problems. It turns out that the company that makes PC Spes was adding a synthetic estrogen to the mixture to make it effective. But estrogens can cause clotting. So they added coumadin. And a benzodiazapiem to make people happy about taking it. Unmonitored coumadin is a disaster waiting to happen and benzos are addictive. It was withdrawn from the market once this was discovered.
Regarding my remark that "I detected some hostility in Dianne’s comment," Dianne replies:
Well, yes, but it wasn’t directed towards you, but rather at the “herbal supplement” industry. Which is totally unregulated and has caused a number of deaths, both directly and indirectly. Perhaps you are obtaining your herbs by gardening or searching the woods for appropriate plants (please be careful if so), but most people buy them. The makers of these medications are not wise men and women working deep in the Amazon rain forest with nothing but knowledge hoarded from generation to generation, but large companies that make them for the same reason that drug companies make drugs–to make a profit. Often they are branches of “big pharma” houses. Some herbal supplements are contaminated with heavy metals. Others do not contain the ingredient listed as “active”. If you must buy herbal supplements, buy them from Germany. Germany does regulate its supplement industry and so you’ll at least be reasonably sure that what is listed on the package insert is what is in the bottle.
Dianne also claims:
My mother used to give me aspirin when I was sick as a child. She learned that from her mother. It turns out that we were both simply lucky in that we did not die from Reye’s syndrome. On the other hand, she also learned that breast feeding is a good idea and I benefited from that. Traditional wisdom is a crapshoot: might help, might kill.
DaisyDeadhead (me on ALAS) writes:
Quoting Dianne: I know very little about chaste berry in particular, but if this statement refers to herbal medications in general, it is nonsense. Herbal medications can have side effects just like any other medication.

First, I didn’t say this about all herbal meds. You are extrapolating. But if you wanna go there, fine.

Specific examples: There have been deaths due to kava and ephedra.

The death of the baseball player, supposedly due to ephedra was due to an overdose. There have been far more overdoses due to regular diet pills–and I grew up when diet pills like Dexedrine were given to any overweight teenager who asked for them, myself included . Ma Huang, the herb ephedra is extracted from, has been used for thousands of years in China, and is very safe if used properly. It’s historic use was for ASTHMA, not weight loss, which is how it was marketed in the West.

Deaths from kava? Details? I know of some concurrent liver issues with people ON OTHER DRUGS who took kava also (and if you have pre-existing liver problems, DO NOT TAKE KAVA–this is why you go to a proper herbalist who knows this stuff). But I know of no deaths solely from kava. Also, these deaths were in Germany, if memory serves, where local supplement companies did not know the correct part of plant that was historically used in Tahiti. Perhaps they should have asked the locals? Western arrogance strikes again.

Like Ma Huang, Kava-kava has been safely and successfully used as a cocktail (actually sold in cocktail bars in Tahiti as the cocktail “Nakamal”) for millenia. Didn’t you have any when you went to Tahiti? If so, that’s what you drank, just as ROOT BEER was once historically Sarsaparilla.

Drug companies have been very aggressive in marketing these few scare-stories, though, even though Vioxx, Celebrex, Fen-Phen and even garden-variety Ibuprofen have caused far more damage. Yet, people are terrified of herbs, which as I said, have been historically used for MILLENIA, not for the few scant decades that prescription drugs have been used (and idolized).

At this point, Dianne hauls out something arcane that I never heard of, as if it is a mainstream example:
Then there’s the PC Spes story. PC Spes was once touted as an example of successful use of CAM in cancer.
Me:
Well, I’ve been in herbal medicine for decades, and I have never heard of this. Guess it ain’t much of a story, huh? Which herb is this?
Dianne ignores the question, and plows onward:
It appeared to work periodically–not always, not particularly better than “allopathic” medicine, but sometimes–on prostate cancer. Then people taking it started getting clotting and/or bleeding problems. It turns out that the company that makes PC Spes was adding a synthetic estrogen to the mixture to make it effective.
Me:
So, it was the company’s meddling with the herb, not the herb itself. Figures.

Um, where did they get this estrogen? They had a doctor, with prescribing capabilities, working for them? Sounds hinky.
Dianne is unimpeded:
But estrogens can cause clotting. So they added coumadin. And a benzodiazapiem to make people happy about taking it. Unmonitored coumadin is a disaster waiting to happen and benzos are addictive. It was withdrawn from the market once this was discovered.
Me:
You are saying an herbal company added TWO EXPENSIVE PRESCRIPTION DRUGS to their formula? Forgive me for my skepticism, but do you have a link? How were these obtained without prescription? Are you saying they had the power of prescribing?

Which company was this?

I fully admit, that one must be conscious and aware before using herbs, as one would when using anything else, including food. But certainly, no herbs can cause the harm prescription drugs can, WHEN TAKEN PROPERLY and advised by someone knowledgable.
DaisyDeadhead (me) replies:
Do you believe even external use, as in Arnica gel (or essential oil) for joint pain, is ineffective?

Aloe vera for burns? Lavender essential oil for relaxing people during massage? Peppermint has NO effect on migraines? I guess those migraine-sufferers who claim different are all full of shit, then, yes? Eucalyptus is bullshit and does NOT open sinuses? (Do the cough-drop and cough-medicine makers know this, because they use LARGE AMOUNTS of Eucalyptus, Thymol and Menthol in their products.)

And White willow bark is crap, too? Then, we should stop taking aspirin to prevent heart attacks? You realize, that is where aspirin comes from, no?

I could go on, of course, but those are the best-selling herbs.

Dianne:
The makers of these medications are not wise men and women working deep in the Amazon rain forest with nothing but knowledge hoarded from generation to generation, but large companies that make them for the same reason that drug companies make drugs–to make a profit.
Me:
My favorite herbal company is Gaia Herbs, a local company from Brevard, NC. I have been there myself, several times, and I have seen how they farm herbs, and prepare their formulas. I have eaten their stuff raw, out of the ground. And they sell a great kava formula that I have taken many times.

Many companies do not get my seal of approval, and some do. It’s like ANYTHING ELSE. One must learn to discern and judge–not throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Germany, huh? Like where the kava fiasco occurred? Regulation doesn’t mean shit, and needs to be AVOIDED. (Sorry, now you are tapping into my anarchism, sorry about that.)

Dr Andrew Weil has an excellent rule of thumb: Western medicine is for crisis, Eastern medicine is for chronic. Cancer, broken bones, acute pancreatitis, etc=Western medicine. Acid reflux, sinuses, insomnia, arthritis, etc=Eastern medicine.

Western medicine is great for crisis situations. That’s its strength, that’s how it was forged. The problem is, western medicine treats EVERYTHING like a crisis–ruining people’s digestion with Prevacid, getting them hooked on Ambien (I talk to at least 2 Ambien addicts a week, some by telephone, so it isn’t just a local problem) and garbage like that. (The best sleep and arthritis aid, marijuana, is not legal for medical use in my state, another outrage.) Herbs and other supplements such as digestive enzymes would be preferable for acid reflex, and in this matter I speak from personal experience also.

Eastern medicine understands the relationship of mind and body, and can ferret out dietary causes of illness in a shot. However, they are likely to prescribe herbs for broken bones and cancer, and NO, you can’t do that. I have actually pleaded with my customers to go to doctors before–the medical profession has scared so many people and repeatedly lied to them, patronized them, etc– people avoid them even when doctors are obviously necessary.

I’ve heard about 3 iatragenic illnesses in just the past week; people who went to the hospital for one thing and came out with something else. Conventional Western medicine has PLENTY to answer for.

The problem with the Weil thesis is that at some point, chronic can become crisis, or crisis can revert to chronic. In a civilized society (not this one), an herbalist and doctor might work together for the betterment of the patient, not continually be at odds, as you seem to prefer.
Brossa replies:
“Why do you all ignore the same negatives for prescription drugs? It’s like you have a blind spot for those–and I could dig up countless malpractice suits and trash-talking blogs dedicated to every single one.”

I don’t ignore the negatives for prescription drugs; I just want to point out that herbs have indications and contraindications, effects and side effects, and favorable and unfavorable interactions, just like prescription medications do. Just because you can eat them out of the ground does not mean that they are all inherently safe, or even that they do what it is claimed that they can do.

I believe that homeopathic tinctures, where any possible active ingredient has been diluted to the point of nonexistence, are no more effective than placebo. One last time: I do not dispute that herbs have physiological effects under the proper conditions. Deadly nightshade got that name for a reason. My own experience with aloe vera for a burn resulted in a pretty unpleasant skin reaction, akin to a poison ivy rash. Western medicine has derived a huge number of highly effective drugs from plant/fungal/animal sources. But citing the historicity of a given herbal treatment does nothing to establish its efficacy or side effect profile.

I encounter more people who think that herbs are perfectly safe than I do people that are terrified of them.
Me:
My remark about “eating them out of the ground” was in reply to any doubts about Gaia’s process and purity, which I feel very confident about. This is not some huge evil conglomerate, it is a local business I approve of, have thoroughly checked out, and therefore do business with. I don’t think anyone added any estrogen, etc (!) (still waiting to hear which company did this?) to any of their products.

Umm, I wouldn’t be much of an herbalist if I thought “all herbs are safe”–why does it jump from my stated opinion that “herbs can be better than Rx drugs for certain conditions” to the straw-herbalist argument “you think all herbs are safe”? No, that is not my opinion. Stop putting words in my mouth and read what I said: I think Eastern and Western medicine can work together. You are the one proposing the superiority of Western medicine to all else.

Some herbs are safe if used in extract and not externally; some you can smoke and some will kill you that way. Some can heal and the VERY SAME HERB, USED WRONGLY, can hurt. I realize this; it’s my job.

As we say about abortion, it’s better to be legal and safe, than illegal, driven underground, with information and resources scarce and/or nonexistent. (PS: some abortions are dangerous and some are safe–that doesn’t mean all abortion is unsafe.) Wouldn’t you agree?
Brossa:
When I propose “the superiority of Western medicine to all else”, feel free to quote me.

When you trash herbs, you trash Ayurveda and all traditional medicine. YES, YOU DO.
Perhaps I misunderstood your earlier statement:

But certainly, no herbs can cause the harm prescription drugs can, WHEN TAKEN PROPERLY and advised by someone knowledgable.

Is this not a claim that, unlike prescription drugs, no herb can cause harm when taken properly and under supervision? Or that the side effects or interactions of herbs are always more benign than those of prescription medications? Because that claim is patently false.

A Google search on PC SPES will provide a large number of references about the testing and withdrawal of the product. I will address one point: prescription medications are only expensive and hard to get if you produce them legally and are subject to the expense of testing and product liability. Coumadin is a brand name for warfarin, which is itself a synthetic derivative of coumarin, which was isolated from moldy sweet clover. Warfarin was produced as a rat poison, and is dirt cheap in bulk, especially if purity is not much of a concern.
Dianne Writes:
But I know of no deaths solely from kava.

I guess you didn’t read the link, then, since it mentioned four deaths from the use of kava and no other drugs or herbal supplements, in people who had no prior history of liver problems.
And Dianne sees fit to tell me, after I have told her several times that I've been an herbalist for years:
Actually, willow bark is not aspirin. It is salicylic acid, not acetylsalicylic acid. The difference is quite important if you want your stomach lining to remain intact.

Oh for chrissake: I said it COMES FROM White willow bark. Can you read? Didn't Merck train you to READ before letting you loose on the web? Stop patronizing me, please.

My stomach lining is barely intact, after barfing over this thread. :P

Dianne continues the arrogant condescension, teaching me Herbology 101:
Of course many medications are derived from plants. Besides aspirin, you could have mentioned digitoxin, taxol, vincristine, opiates, and many others. Yet people take taxol for their breast cancer, not yew bark extract. Why? Several reasons. First, yew bark is not standardized (the plant makes a variable amount depending on any number of changes in its environmnent) and so simply taking a given amount of it doesn’t guarantee a given dose of active ingredient. Second, it is far more effective, with far fewer side effects (i.e. more a drug and less a poison) if taken IV instead of by mouth. I’ll leave the question of what would happen if you injected bark to the readers’ imaginations. Finally, taxol, the drug, can be synthesized. This is critical: before the synthesization was worked out, there was fear that demand for taxol would drive the yew tree into extinction. After, there was no problem. Much like viagra–an effective drug for impotence–is helping save the rhinocerous by driving down the demand for rhino horn, a traditional, but entirely ineffective, treatment for impotence.
I was then asked:
Are we talking about FDA approved substances?
Dianne raps on:
Ah, that’s the beauty of the thing for Big Naturpathy: the FDA doesn’t regulate “herbal supplements”. They aren’t allowed to because of a bill pushed through by the oh-so innocent companies that sell these supplements. All they have to do is label them in such a way that they don’t make an overt claim to cure any disease and they are “nutritional supplements” and not subject to regulation, not “medicines” which, plant derived or not, are.

More on the dangers of taking herbal medications listed, for example, here. The long list of references to cases of non-permanent injury, permanent injury, and death related to the injestion of various herbal and ostensibly herbal medications is particularly interesting.
Ah, we get to the heart of it. Dianne, spokesdoctor for BigMotherGov/BigPharm wants "regulation." And when I hear the words "regulation"--I reach for my gun.

And Mandolin adds the big indictment:
My sister-in-law used to sell herbal medications.
Well, there you go.

And I used to work in traditional western health care, too... so? My brother-in-law used to mow lawns at Six Flags Over Georgia, but this doesn't mean I know anything about roller coasters.

Dianne:
Because, after all, plants are never addicting. (Opium, tobacco, marijuana, alcohol…nope, no addiction problems there.)
Me:
First rule of herbology: Two of these are not like the other two–opium and alcohol require a lot of preparation (fermentation, in the case of alcohol) to use, and are transformed into food-like (processed) products, while marijuana and tobacco require no processing. Opium and alcohol are therefore distilled, extracted and much stronger. They have passed out of the herbalist category. Marijuana and tobacco remain in their natural state.


Mandolin:
I have no problem believing some alternative medicines work. But if they work, why not prove they work? The scientific method is not an impassable barrier.

If the problem is funding the tests, then that’s a reasonable concern. Or maybe you feel the FDA has been biased about this drug, in the way they’ve been biased about things like plan B. That’s fine. But I still generally prefer scientifically gathered evidence to anecdote-based evidence. I prefer evidence that controls for factors like patient’s other treatment and placebo effects, and that monitors for unexpected side effects.

For instance, take your recommendation (which I totally appreciate the spirit of, by the way). You are telling me you know it’s safe because your grandmother took it. I am glad that it’s been beneficial for you and yoru family. But if we aren’t very similar physiologically, it could have very weird effects on my health. I’m allergic to a lot of stuff that most western Europeans aren’t, for instance. And also, I’m very susceptible to mood effects from plants or drugs.

I tend to have extreme reactions to medications, anyway. If there’s a nasty (non-fatal, non-permanent) side effect, I’ll usually get it. I like to have warning.
Dianne:
The idea that we have already discovered every plant that has any potentially useful medicinal qualities and every potential medicinal quality of all known plants is extremely implausible. Proving which ones work and which don’t is one important issue. But I’d still be in favor of isolating the active ingredient*, synthesizing it, and giving it as a “western”-style medication (”western” is in quotes because not all allopathic medications are discovered or developed in places we’d think of as the “west”) for several reasons. First, increased ability to standardize dosing. Second, decrease the chances of side effects due to other toxic components of the plant. Third, ease of transport and administration. Finally, decrease the likelihood that demand for the medication will endanger the plant’s survival.

*Whenever possible. I can, at least in theory, imagine a situation in which the plant is producing a large number of ingredients, all of which have a low level of activity in different ways such that no one can be isolated and used separately because no single component is responsible for the effect. However, I know of no such situations in real life, though I have some suspicion that the anti-nausea effect of cannibus may be more than just THC.
First of all, it's spelled CANNABIS, which I am surprised that you don't know, as patronizing and arrogant as you are.

Me:
The FDA can ban anything, as it did L-trytophan. OTOH, it does not “approve” herbs, but if any supplement is judged a “food” for some unfathomable bureaucratic reason (some amino acids, kombucha, etc) it does have power to approve or not.

Certain vitamins and other herbs are now claiming to be “whole food”–which to me is playing gotcha with the FDA, but hey, their choice, and they claim they can stand up to any analysis, so I say go for it.

Interestingly, these particular companies are rarely challenged, so maybe it’s all how you go about it?

Is this not a claim that, unlike prescription drugs, no herb can cause harm when taken properly and under supervision? Or that the side effects or interactions of herbs are always more benign than those of prescription medications? Because that claim is patently false.

No, that is not my claim. (Sorry for unclear writing.) My position is that any possible harm would not equal the possible harm of an RX drug. They simply are not as strong.

Why does everyone see this matter in black and white?

A Google search on PC SPES will provide a large number of references about the testing and withdrawal of the product.

Oh, dear God.

You brought it up and I am not going to do your searching for you. I searched enough to see that 1) no participating company is mentioned that is currently in operation and 2) you can’t name any herb that is in this remedy. I’ll ask again: WHAT HERB DOES THIS MYTHICAL CONCOCTION CONTAIN? Because if this is your example of evil herbal medicine, and you can’t name a single herb that it supposedly contains, I’d say it’s a pretty shitty example, wouldn’t you say?

Your kava example, again, is mistaken. All of the people were taking concurrent ibuprofen, according to the German monograph accounts I have read. Why are you concentrating on some Germans who used (as I said, please read carefully) the wrong part of the plant, rather than the Tahitians who have used it for millenia? Do the Tahitians not exist?

Are you therefore against all Eastern medicine modalities, including acupuncture, Ayurveda, etc? Because if it’s like that, that is a simple cultural bias that you have not examined or studied.


I also provided the link to CONSUMER LAB, which tests herbs to insure other excipient ingredients have not been added, as in the mythical PCES example given above.

And I ended with:
Since you are all WESTERN MEDICINE UBER ALLES, with highly ethnocentric arguments… I am ending this discussing before I accuse someone of cultural ignorance and xenophobia, as well as a belief in the superiority of the West–which I thought died out with Claude-Levi Strauss. Shows what I know!

If you want to continue this conversation, I will be posting on this thread at my blog, where I can’t get banned for accusing people of ethnocentrism, colonialism, and all that lefty stuff.

It’s been real! :)

Before continuing, Dianne needs to come clean regarding what she does for a living, as I have. If she doesn't, I will assume she works for BigPharm or the medical establishment, and is a lackey for the Western-ethnocentric status quo. I am ready to defend herbalism from all over the world, not just exhibit some garden-variety, predictable, spoon-fed-by-drug-commercials, June-Cleaver-on-Kaopectate USA bias.

Anyone else wants to jump in, remember, this isn't ALAS, and all assumptions that "The West is the best/get here and we'll do the rest" will be challenged as the racist, evil, ethnocentric arrogance it is, and when you trash the traditions, history and disciplines of another culture, you will be expected to answer for the entire tradition you are defending, including the medical experimentation done on slaves and Jews during the Holocaust. You are expecting me to answer for all of herbalism, and accusing me of defending all abuses of herbology, and I will therefore hold you to the exact same standard. Yes, I will haul out the entire sordid history of the American profit-driven medical medicine. If you are ready to go there, bring it on.

Brought to you by your local hippie herbalist. Toasting with a kava cocktail!

20 comments:

brossa said...

Daisy-

Per your invitation, and true to my word in the Alas thread, I will move my comments to your blog, where you can feel less constrained.

I have no objection to the practice of herbology, by itself or in conjunction with 'Western' medicine. I draw a distinction between herb use and homeopathy, though - for all I know you may agree with me on that. As I said repeatedly in the other thread, many (but not all) herbs have demonstrable physiological effects.

My objection to your initial comment in the Alas thread was based not on the recommendation of an herbal therapy, but on the blanket statement that that therapy had no side effects. And you continue to maintain that no herb has side effects as severe as prescription medications. It's unclear to me what herb you are comparing to what drug (THC is pretty benign and amphotericin is pretty awful, but belladonna is pretty awful, etc.) but it's simply untrue as a blanket statement.

I will happily state for the record that many herbs, when taken appropriately, produce fewer side effects or are less toxic than prescription medications given appropriately for the same condition. Heck, maybe even 'most herbs'. But I can't let your "all" slip by unchallenged.

As for one of the other things brought up in the Alas thread: PC SPES is not a phantom like McCarthy's list of Communists; the details are easily tracked down via Google.

drakyn said...

Thank you Daisy for the link to Gaia herbs, I'll be bookmarking and sharing that. ^.^
A friend of mine is really interested in herbal/natural alternatives and I know she'll be happy for the link.
When she's at her parent's home in Pennsylvania, she goes to this awesome homeopathic doctor her mom also goes to, but she doesn't have anyone here in NY. And I know she's always looking for a place to get oils and herbs and things.
She found out how much poison was in shampoo and soap a few months ago and has been searching for alternatives since. Recently she found a natural soap that she has started to use as both soap and shampoo and already her hair and skin is looking better and healthier.

And I just looked and there are Gaia stores in NY. ^.^


Brossa, YOU need to google for the articles. If you get into a discussion with someone it is up to you to provide support for your statements.

And I'll try to contribute a bit after I read the Alas thread Daisy.

brossa said...

I think the PC SPES thing is a side-issue, and I was not the one who brought it up in the other thread. I would be happy to not mention it again, since it has no bearing on my overall point.

drakyn said...

K, so, I think it was pretty obvious that Daisy was saying that this herb, Chaste Berry, has fewer side-effects and less-strong side-effects than a Rx drug (taken for this same purpose) would.
Obviously, Daisy knows that herbs can be deadly and/or dangerous.
And one of the first google results for "chaste berry" has a list of tests done on chaste berry and menstrual/menopausal problems from 1999-2005; where it helped even when the tests were randomized and double-blind. http://www.raysahelian.com/chasteberry.html
Daisy, have you heard of this guy?
A search of amazon shows that his books have good reviews. And a google search of his name shows the first few pages are positive.

Daisy said...

And may I first ask if you are a medical practitioner or affiliated in any way with BigPharm? (That includes being a consumer deeply invested in whatever way, with BigPharm.)

My objection to your initial comment in the Alas thread was based not on the recommendation of an herbal therapy, but on the blanket statement that that therapy had no side effects.

First off, you apparently did not read my post. Please go back and read these pertinent excerpts:


I said there were no side effects--when I admit that I should have said FEW. (Or maybe I should have just been honest and said, I have never had anyone report any side effects to ME; in fact, I was comparing the weak side effects of herbs, to the serious side effects of the therapies being discussed.)

~*

Why do you all ignore the same negatives for prescription drugs? It’s like you have a blind spot for those–and I could dig up countless malpractice suits and trash-talking blogs dedicated to every single one.

~*

I will amend my statement: the side effects are negligible compared to either pharmaceutical or over-the-counter remedies.


Does that sound like I said "ALL"?

I draw a distinction between herb use and homeopathy, though - for all I know you may agree with me on that.

I distinguish between homeopathic herbs, cell salts, and some of the strange, off-the-wall ones. I do not make categorical pronouncements--your side does that. Which type of homeopathy or which homeopathic herbs do you refer to?

I think Arnica Montana (homeopathic) essential oil and gel, is a godsend, and I use this myself in the form of TRAUMEEL, an ointment far superior to BEN-GAY, ICY-HOT, or any of those. (Although it is notable that herbs were used to make those over-the-counter arthritis remedies, also.) I recommend it wholeheartedly and without reservation. I am less convinced it has much effect taken internally; but know of no negative side effects. When I took an oral prep of Traumeel, I felt there was only minimal (probably psychological) relief. I have also taken others such as Byronia Alba, etc, which I give only average grades. Newton homeopathics recently put out an "Eczema formula" that worked for a few days (on me), then quit. Win a few, lose a few. However, other people are having prolonged success, so it depends largely on the individual.

And you continue to maintain that no herb has side effects as severe as prescription medications.

For what they are used for, yes, I do maintain this.

Examples:

St John's Wort or Paxil; which has more side effects?

Ex-Lax or Triphala; which has more side effects?

Sudafed or Ma Huang USED PROPERLY (ephedra in 2-4 mg doses); which has more side effects?

Benadryl or Nettles; which has more side effects?

Most arthritic pain relievers (NSAIDS), Vicodin, Tramadol, compared with THC; which has more side effects?

Caffeine or Ginseng?

Effexor or 5-HTP?

Ambien or Valerian?

And so on. These are the common-sense comparisons I am making. I am not comparing Belladonna to Tylenol. And even if I did, Tylenol trashes the liver and IMO is far more damaging physically than a few wayward and unpleasant hallucinations. Again, we herbalists try to look at the BIG PICTURE--it's called being HOLISTIC.

PC SPES is not a phantom like McCarthy's list of Communists; the details are easily tracked down via Google.

Excuse me, but it's your lame-ass example, not mine. I've been a practicing herbalist for decades and I have never heard of your phantom. You bring it up, you defend it.

So far, you can't even tell me which herb(s) it is. There is no HERB by that name.

Is this the caliber of argument I am expected to engage with?

Since you expect me to answer for your phantoms, where is your defense of Josef Mengele? If I have to answer for all the extreme herbal-cases, I expect YOU to be able to answer for every mad doctor, too. So, I'm waiting.

If that strikes you as absurd, well, that is how these outlandish references to some outdated formula strike me: I am supposed to answer for the misuse of an herb you can't even name--why?

Daisy said...

Hey cute Drakyn! :) Great to see you!

http://www.raysahelian.com/chasteberry.html

I was just talking about him today! I think he was an early formulator for Irwin Naturals or Nature's Secret? Either brand is pretty good. The women's "Steel Libido" formula is helpful for women in menopause, and pretty sure he added Vitex/Chaste Berry to it?

And yes, thank you for understanding my point. The most common drug given for bleeding is of course, birth control pills, and I guess everyone knows the side effects of that? (Infertility, increased cancer risk, weight gain, hormone-related edema, etc)

I was comparing Vitex in relatively small doses, to BC pills, as in my examples above.

Rainbow Light and a few other companies are even adding Vitex/Chaste Berry to women's multivitamins; which I am not too sure I even agree with. But they are doing it with confidence.

drakyn said...

Great to see you too. ^.^
Honestly, I've been interested in natural methods for a while, but I never know what to trust. It's bad enough that I have to rely on the BigPharm companies when I start hrT. I don't want to have to take even more pills and injections.
And BC can have horrible side-effects. I had three bad periods in two months, lost over ten pounds in a few weeks (because I was too sick to eat), was more depressed, and my disphoria became worse when I went on BC for a couple months. And the funny thing is, I took it for period pain.

PS: Daisy, would you say the liquid phyto caps or liquid extracts are best for taking St. John's Wort? One of my friends takes the extract, but I saw you recommended the chasteberry caps to Mandolin.

Daisy said...

Drakyn, re: starting T.

It's really too bad there can't be a kind of "pharm co-op", like for food buying. But unlike Canada, US BigPharm reserves all their "bargains" for doctors and not patients. growf!

Extract of St John's is best; phyto-caps are almost as good. Just remember: can suppress birth control pills, which I don't think is a concern of yours, but I tell everyone! ;) Also, it can increase sun sensitivity and easily cause sunburn, as some other anti-depressants also do. Lather on that sunscreen!

Some people report an increase in sleepiness, vivid dreaming, etc. All the same as Prozac and other SSRIs.

drakyn said...

Well, it can be really dangerous to mess with hormones without a doctor's supervision, so I'd still have to get endo tests done and everything. But, injectable T isn't too expensive and as long as I have a prescription I can get it for fairly cheep from a few well-known and well-used online pharmacies (can't remember them off the top of my head since I can't get any yet).

Thanks. ^.^
And yeah, I don't need to worry about how they interact with BC, but thanks for the info. ^.^
You can never be too careful.
And I'm practically a vampire-- I put on 48spf when I go outside for less than an hour. ^.^;;
I actually welcome the other side-effects you mentioned--I tend towards mild insomnia and I've never remembered a dream in my life.

Daisy said...

Well, the risk still exists that some guy's wife or girlfriend might grab the St John's Wort and pop a few, and so I make sure to let them know about the birth control pill suppression.

And when I tell some women about that, they drop the bottle like it's the proverbial HOT POTATO! :D LOL

drakyn said...

True; some friends of mine actually had to get plan B a few months ago because while he knew antibiotics messed with the pill she didn't. She thought her doctor would tell her all she needed to know and sie never told her what messes with it.

And the friend who takes st John's Wort is also a trans*guy, who also doesn't use the pill (lucky dog started T a few months ago).

Zan said...

Well, I am beyond enamored of my BC pill. It's been a godsend to me, getting rid of my insane PMDD within a few months. I tried a lot of other stuff first, but it's the only thing that's worked. And I was a monster. It was just....for half the month, I couldn't function. I was angry all the time, I was crying all the time, I was inable to focus, my appetite was swinging crazily -- I'd be hungry all the time. I mean, I'd eat a full meal and then, ten minutes later, it was like I hadn't eaten in weeks. I was calling in sick to work on a fairly regular basis because some days I'd wake up and just /know/ I couldn't deal with anyone that day. And not just in a 'i'll be annoyed' way.

That said, for my Lupus, fibro, migraines and joint pain, I prefer using a mixture of herbal/vitamins and Western meds. I have migraines so bad they've been confused for seizures and was put on Topomax as a preventative. That worked for about a year, then it stopped. I started getting headaches again. And I get them daily, repeatedly. That time, I had migraines every day for two months straight. So, I went back to my doctor and she put me on...magnesium. I started at 1000 mgs a day for two weeks, now I'm on 500 mgs a day. It's just bloody amazing. As soon as I started taking it, I could feel the pain stopping. I tell every one I know about it. Take the magnesium. It's cheap, it's effective and damn, no side effects! (Plus, it's good for all sorts of other things too. Your body likes it!) Now, if I feel a migraine starting, I just take a few extra mgs and bam...no more pain. And it's /way/ less toxic than Topomax. (Which, if you're needing it for seizures, is certainly a godsend on it's own. But if you can take something else instead that works as good or better? Well...)

Question -- do you have a good recommendation for joint pain? I get that a /lot/ with the Lupus and Fibro and it's awfully hard to treat. I have pain killers for it (Ultracet and Vicoden, mostly) but I'd rather take as few of those as I can. In addition to the Pill, I'm also taking Cymbalta (which is /amazing/ for the perif. neuropathy I've got. Stopped th at cold. And helps keep a reign on the pain, but I still have breakthroughs). I take the magnesium and Vitamin D suppliments. Don't want anything to interfere with those :)

You know, since I have a chronic illness (or twelve) I've learned to check everything I get prescribed before I take it. I ask a hell of a lot of questions to my doctor and I pull up everything I can find online too. (Which is how I knew that St. John's can screw with your BC. And I quickly told every female friend I had.) I just don't understand people who just take what the doctor gives them without question. Considering that something as simple as what vitamins you're taking can effect certain meds, it seems a little...shortsighted.

But maybe because I see more doctors in my 30s than my grandmother does, I'm a little biased :)

Dw3t-Hthr said...

Hey cool, I didn't know you were an herbalist. (A good friend of mine is getting some really good effects from seeing an herbalist, and I've been seriously considering looking into it myself.)

Not quite the same thing, but I control my depression/anxiety mess with B vitamins and oil caps. (And more herbaly, my UTI tendencies are kept completely in check with cranberry, celery seed, and yoghurt.)

The doctor's office I'm currently dealing with is actually a hybrid practice -- in addition to the whole Western medicine gig, they have on staff ... lemme look 'em up ... acupuncture, massage, yoga ... basically a bunch of stuff that has medical effects. The center's organising principle is, basically, that people should have access to all the health care that works, whether or not it's technocratic. Their initial patient interview form includes asking if people have regular meditational practices, including prayer.

The friend who recommended them to me was once prescribed a week's vacation ...

Zan said...

My doctor is the same way. She shares an office with a massage therapist/acupuncturist, plus she's big into prescribing suppliments in addition to traditional medicine. Now, if only I could find a way for my insurance to PAY for regular massage, I'd be set. It is the ONE thing that always, without fail, works on my fibro :(

Daisy said...

Zan, I've heard some theories going around, that migraine sufferers are simply not absorbing Magnesium like regular folks, which is why they do so well with extra amounts. I've heard your story hundreds of times!

Question -- do you have a good recommendation for joint pain?

I'm pretty conservative, and I'd start with Omega 3s. I think our bodies are starved for them. I use flax, but if you are not vegetarian, use the purest fish oil you can find. The furthest away, usually, the more pure. Nordic Naturals is expensive, but from Norway and very clean compared to most North American brands. I'd look on the label for it to be made from tiny fish (like sardines and shrimp) rather than large ones that eat other fish (the big fish eat the little ones/the big fish eat the little ones--Radiohead)...eating a predator fish raises the mercury content.

In addition, Glucosamine is very good if you have no high-glucose/diabetic tendencies, but there are some reports of it raising blood sugar. Chondroitin is cartilage, usually shellfish cartilage, and probably a waste of money--not sure how they got marketed together. The herbs I would recommend are Turmeric and Tinospora; the first one is very safe, while I admit the second is Indian and I haven't studied everything about it. (As usual, I made a guinea pig of myself and used it, and so far, so good.)

Zyflamend is a great supplement, but damn, it is pricey. Columbia recently recommended it for prostate cancer intervention, which has sent the price through the roof. Shop around online for the cheapest! It's a great formula of critically-extracted Ayurvedic anti-inflammatory herbs.

michelle said...

Hi Daisy, I followed the discussion from Alas A Blog, but usually don't read that either (and didn't comment there) -- linked there randomly from somewhere else (basically I'm blog browsing while waiting for some soup to be ready, random as that is.)

Anyway. I just want to be sure I understand one thing. You wrote: Before continuing, Dianne needs to come clean regarding what she does for a living, as I have.

This is such an important issue overall, IMO!

And I am not 100% clear, I may have missed something and I am sorry if so but just to be sure I comprehend the situation:

You have said you are an herbalist, and that is listed as your "occupation" in your profile, but the industry says accounting. Whatever the case, my question to you is: do you make money as an herbalist?

I, by the way, do not work for or otherwise have any affiliation with any medical establishment/institution/context of any kind at all in any way, Western or alternative.

michelle said...

Okay, wait, more to say and one more question, posted too soon above. Got a little of the soup in me and this is what happens:

I think some part of my interest in this discussion is your equation of Western/eurocentric and the commenters' defense (or whatever it is) of Western medicine -- as opposed to "alternative medicine" which you seem to imply is not Eurocentric/western (am I getting this correctly? If not please correct where I'm not getting it)

So here is my additional question to you: Are you white?

And actually one more question: what's your take on any relationship between cultural appropriation and white-practiced/white-dominated alternative medicine?

DaisyDeadhead said...

Whatever the case, my question to you is: do you make money as an herbalist?

Yes.

So here is my additional question to you: Are you white?

Yes. Are you?

And actually one more question: what's your take on any relationship between cultural appropriation and white-practiced/white-dominated alternative medicine?

Obviously, the native people in any given region will usually know the most about the plants that grow there. (That includes Europe.)

I am less concerned about cultural appropriation (in these days of multiculturalism), than I am with fair trade and a living wage, as well as protecting endangered species (Sandalwood, Goldenseal), etc. In my links, you can check out HERBALISTS WITHOUT BORDERS for more about that.

michelle said...

Yes I am white too. Your whiteness reads loud to me, some underlying cultural approach.

About that Herbalists Without Borders site? Wow.

For many farmers, poverty is systemic, held in place by the following obstacles:

*Farmers living in poverty lack market access. How can anyone succeed in business lacking clients?

*Farmers living in poverty lack information and "market intelligence." How can anyone design a viable business plan lacking information?

*Farmers living in poverty lack seed money. How can anyone attract seed money lacking a viable business plan?


Wow -- talk about ethnocentrism!

"Poverty" is held in place by what, again? Lack of poor farmers' ability to participate in the existing market on its logics, not really about control of land and policy and resources by nations like the US and other dominator nations? And you're so up in arms about the ethnocentrism in western medicine but don't see this? Actually, maybe I am wrong: Do you see this?

Step 1: Bioregional Mapping

Translated: we know about HOW TO. Sustainable development starts with people following the steps we know about. The actual varied speficially rooted ways of actual indigenous peoples aren't good enough. And talking about land rights or ways that farmers can survive without learning the logics of the "market" ... nah.

Because you the ones who "lack" need to adopt our steps to be able to compete in our markets because after all, what other way is there to survive but to adopt our ways and provide herbs for all the affluent whitefolk who are part of that market?

STEP 2: Community Health Assets and Needs Assessment

Well, I've come across this language/model before. In my experience, it is a favorite language of a particular breed of white male poverty pimps. Seriously this is what I have seen. And it sounds sort of good, but in actual practice is often an excuse for white experts to get control (and often, grants or other resources for themselves).

Anyway, I am not impressed with that site. And seeing as how you apparently endorse it, I feel like your concern with "ethnocentrism" in western medicine is not concern with the practiced ethnocentrism of the west in its varied forms, but rather the use of that perspective as a tool to defend your livlihood. And you know what, I think that may be why I was moved to comment in the first place, it felt like that was going on -- the use of a real live concern just to defend what is financially and identity-wise valuable to you as a white person.

I very much agree with you about how fucked-up western medicine is and the way that people at Alas were arguing with you. But your tone of oppressed self-righteous victim about herbs (there and here), when your location and practice and perspective is a heck of a lot more complicated than that... ugh (to me).

DaisyDeadhead said...

Anyway, I am not impressed with that site. And seeing as how you apparently endorse it, I feel like your concern with "ethnocentrism" in western medicine is not concern with the practiced ethnocentrism of the west in its varied forms, but rather the use of that perspective as a tool to defend your livlihood.

Wow, talk about your either/or thinking. My main problem with WESTERN thinking, white or not, is the DUALISM = If you don't agree with X, you must mean Y. No, I don't.

I didn't "endorse" the site, as much as I approve of people attempting new ideas and new alternatives, whatever they are, and want to encourage that. I think they are on the right track, but I am not a member of their organization. I am not a member of every organization on my blogroll--I just like what they are about or what they are attempting to do, how they do it, etc.

And similarly, you asked about native peoples (I thought that is what the ethnocentric question was about?) and so I assumed you were asking me about fair trade. Yes, I am fully aware the concept of fair trade is ethnocentric at base, but thought that was WHAT YOU WANTED. (?)

I do endorse the site as an alternative to outright stealing from tribes all over the world... As the debate goes, isn't it better to develop oil locally rather than depend on foreign oil? Same for herbs. That is properly called protectionism, not ethnocentrism.

Perhaps you mistake what I mean when I say "ethnocentric". I refer to AMA-style medicine being a result of the western approach, with all of the attendant assumptions and biases, few stronger than against native or herbal medicine.

Would you prefer native people were
ripped off upfront, as Merck does? Or would you prefer some fair trade with them as herbalists?
Merck and BigPharma offers no choice to this exploitive system.

And you know what, I think that may be why I was moved to comment in the first place, it felt like that was going on -- the use of a real live concern just to defend what is financially and identity-wise valuable to you as a white person.

And your job is what, again? I must have missed that.

How well do you do your job? Can I interrogate you about your job, too, or does this only go one way?

Again, I asked, do you take drugs or herbs regularly? Which ones?

I very much agree with you about how fucked-up western medicine is and the way that people at Alas were arguing with you.

Thank you, although I suspect you in fact ARE Dianne. :)

But your tone of oppressed self-righteous victim about herbs (there and here), when your location and practice and perspective is a heck of a lot more complicated than that... ugh (to me).

I was trying to sound like HerbWarrior, a superhero, not a victim. :( Sorry about that, I guess I just don't have that superhero vibe. (Self-righteous, well, of course--all the great superheroes are self-righteous.)