Michael and Lesley Tierra's Blogs
Herbal, health and inspired life ramblings
Tags >> politics
A recent article published in the Economist (May 19, 2011) entitled 'Think Yourself Better' claims that all alternative medical treatments are mere placebos designed to bilk the consumer out of an estimated $60 billion per year spent on alternative medicine (based on 2008 estimates).
The article is based on the single opinion of a Dr Edzard Ernst, who retires from his 18-year professorship at Peninsula Medical School in southwest England in May. Described by the author as the world's first professor of complementary medicine, it seems that all Dr. Ernst can say to sum up his findings is that nearly all alternative medicine -- indiscriminately lumping the entire kit and caboodle including acupuncture, herbal medicine, Ayurvedic medicine, homeopathy, crystal healing, reiki, and flower essences -- are mere placebo.
Well thank you Dr. Ernst, and goodbye!
It is a well-known fact that 40 to 60 percent of medical procedures and drugs is claimed to be due to placebo. In light of this, it seems reasonable that one would prefer to 'think him/herself better' with herbs, acupuncture, homeopathy, TCM or Ayurveda that has a long, sound record of safety and efficacy unmatched by invasive medical procedures and drugs that are extremely expensive with a high probability of adverse reactions.
For example, statin drugs taken to lower cholesterol cause a high number of people to develop symptoms of rhabdomyalgia, chronic acute muscle pain caused by a breakdown of muscle fibers. Instead, one might avoid such a horrible side effect by taking the Ayurvedic herb guggul or a garlic supplement. If necessary, red yeast rice lowers cholesterol with no adverse reactions.
Or, perhaps in lieu of an open heart bypass surgery, one might take hawthorn and/or arjuna herb supplement. Many of you might think I've taken things too far with this one. I refer you to an article by Dr. Jonathan Wright published in January 2004, reporting that Dr. Henry McIntosh, a highly respected cardiologist at Baylor University, observing the results of heart bypass surgery over the course of 15 years, said, 'Despite a low operative mortality and rate of graft closure, available data in the literature do not indicate that myocardial infarctions, arrhythmias or congestive heart failure will be prevented, or that life will be prolonged in the vast majority of patients.' Similar opinion is shared by Dr. Howard H. Wayne M.D. of the Non-Invasive Heart Center in San Diego, California, and the same sentiments were reflected in an article in a July, 2008 article in Business Week Magazine entitled 'Is Heart Surgery Worth It?'
Would you rather relieve back pain with acetaminophen, the OTC drug that is known to injure your already beleaguered liver, or with turmeric or willow bark which relieves inflammation and pain with no side effects? You should know that acetaminophen drugs such as Tylenol send 56,000 people to the hospital emergency ward with a reported 458 deaths a year caused by liver failure.
Finally, did you know that correctly prescribed medical treatment and pharmaceutical drugs are the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S., with up to 106,000 deaths a year? The third leading cause is blatant medical malpractice, according to the prestigious Journal of American Medicine Association (JAMA).
I don't want to make this an either-or, bash the medical establishment article, but when a leading magazine publishes such poorly considered schlock, I think we need to speak up for our side -- a side, by the way, that much of the medical profession is slowly coming to validate.
For the remaining unbelievers, following are a number of randomized placebo-controlled, double-blind studies for herbs, acupuncture and homeopathy that Dr. Ernst should have come across during his 18 year spot as professor of complementary medicine '“ but as we now know, he didn't.
Tripterygerium wilfordii, a.k.a. Thunder god vine, for rheumatoid arthritis
Buckwheat for leg edema
Lemon balm for Alzheimer's disease
Ginger for nausea in pregnancy
Celandine and angelica for IBS
Andrographis for colds and upper respiratory infections
Chinese herbs for atopic dermatitis in infants
Chamomile and fennel for infant colic (this is published in a respected and credible journal dedicated to phytotherapy research)
Chinese herbal formula Rehmannia Eight for senile dementia
Chinese herbal formula Free and Easy Wanderer for depression and bipolar disorders
Passionflower for post-operative anxiety
Common sage for Alzheimer's
Milk thistle for diabetes
Acupuncture helps with fibromyalgia symptoms '“ Mayo clinic:
Acupuncture relieves back pain '“ University of Maryland study
Acupuncture for the immune system study
Chinese Medicine for depression and anxiety
Homeopathy research studies:
Allergies, hay fever
Face lift bruises
Eczema and homeopathic medicine
For numerous other homeopathic research studies go to the National Center for homeopathy: http://bit.ly/lp3SaA
An article published in the UK Independent on Dec. 30, 2010, reports: 'From 1 May 2011, traditional herbal medicinal products must be licensed or prescribed by a registered herbal practitioner to comply with an EU directive passed in 2004.'
The reason given for the directive is a purportedly 'rising concern over adverse effects caused by herbal medicines.' The fact that this reason is given for the regulations reflects not only issues with herb safety but also the herbal community's inability to unilaterally effectively address these concerns. Bickering factions among individual herbalists and herbal organizations have crippled their ability to self-regulate, resulting in regulations imposed by governmental agencies.
While the new law requires registration and licensing of individual herbal products and does not directly regulate the practice of herbal medicine, it will certainly affect herbalists in the EU. In most European countries, herbs are dispensed by medical doctors or individuals licensed in particular healing professions like Traditional Chinese Medicine and so forth. But if one is not a registered herbal practitioner '“ for which no registry has yet been created '“ one will no longer be able to dispense the hundreds of still-unlicensed herbal products. (For a bit of perspective, here is a World Health Organization listing of how EU countries regulated herbal medicines compiled in 2005.)
Under the new law, the EU has basically succumbed to the dispensing of herbs by medical doctors. However, even with the more extensive training in herbal medicine that German medical doctors evidently receive, it is questionable that they are skilled in the finer aspects of herbal prescribing that is an essential part of the art of traditional herbal systems throughout the world.
What finer aspects are these, you may ask? It's the difference between deciding to prescribe an herb such as willow bark as an alternative to acetaminophen for a headache or choosing to prescribe an herbal compound that addresses both the headache as well as its underlying cause.
Failure to address the underlying cause of disease results in the widespread use and abuse of stronger synthetic alternatives. In fact, as much as 80% of all drugs are either derived from herbs or synthetic compounds found in plants. The reason for the plethora of drug side effects is precisely because of their concentration and the focus being largely directed to muffling symptoms rather than promoting rejuvenation and cure.
Because people have become aware of these undesirable side effects and dangerous risks, they have come to rely on herbs. In fact, the main reason people turn to herbs, supplements and alternative healing methods is because of well-founded fears regarding the adverse reactions to drugs and some medical interventions.
The herbal product regulations in the EU require that companies selling undergo similar licensing requirements as pharmaceutical drugs. Considering that there are literally thousands of medicinal herbs throughout the world with which people have had a long history of safe use, and that there are infinite combinations of herbal formulas that oftentimes make for more effective products, it is both impractical and unrealistic that a company should invest millions of dollars to license each of their herbs and herbal formulas. This is not to mention the inevitable prohibitive ultimate cost to consumers for these products. I agree with the critics of the move to ban herbs in the EU when they say that this is indeed 'disproportionate and discriminatory.'
To restrict the sale of such common herbs as cascara sagrada, an herbal laxative; skullcap, an herbal sedative; and ashwagandha, a whole body tonic that increases health and libido which are only a few of the 100s of herbs that will be banned from sale starting in May shows flagrant disregard to the public's reliance on these and other safe herbal products and discourages people from finding alternatives to the high cost of conventional medical care.
What about the United States?
Attitudes similar to the ones that led to the restriction of herbs in the EU, namely that the herbal and nutritional supplement industry is dangerously unregulated, are also present in the United States. Upon closer examination one may discover that the industry in the U.S. is subject to unannounced inspections by the FDA leveling severe fines on herbal companies who fail to follow stringent GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) guidelines established both by the herbal industry itself along with the FDA. Recognizing the regulatory difficulties involved, the United States enacted what may be one of the most popular legislations in US history, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA). This established the regulation of herbs and supplements in a separate class from drugs.
But if they don't stand united and agree on a method of self-regulation, U.S. herbalists may find themselves in the same kind of quandary that those in the E.U. face today.
The American Herbalists Guild is the single herbal organization that has come closest to creating standards for professional clinical herbal practice in the United States. For over 20 years it has done much good for the profession, but one of the problems it has consistently encountered is attempting to appeal to and represent all the individual and sometimes quirky styles of herbalism that exist in the U.S. Nevertheless, it has a five-person peer review admissions board whose objective is to screen for and accept only professional applicants who meet the rigorous standards set forth by the AHG for its members.
At the AHG's inception, a number of respected herbalists were granted professional membership based on their prior experience. Recognizing the need for such an organization, most of these herbalists responded to the call, and thus the AHG has grown over the course of its 22 years in existence. Some, however, saw the formation of the AHG as a threat to herbal medicine and an herbalists' "civil war" ensued. The AHG had no intention of limiting the practice of herbal medicine but to establish professional standards of practice for its members and by so doing advance the profession of medical herbalism in America.
Several years ago, foreseeing possible developments restricting herbal medicine as is now occurring in the E.U., some of the members of the AHG tried to create a "Traditional Medicines Category" to protect our access to important medicinal herbs just in case such restrictions would be implemented in the U.S. When this endeavor was met by stiff opposition from "olde garde" herbalists, some members of the AHG felt that the project needed to be abandoned and so it was. Without such a protected category in place these herbs may one day be banned not only from the public but also from practitioners.
In view of the course taken by the E.U. and the highly restrictive climate of these times, herbalists in the United States should really consider this a wake-up call. What can we do to prevent the same from happening to us?
It is difficult at this point to not descend into the typical '˜us against them' polemic but when apparently discriminatory repressive measures are taken against herbal medicines based on a very small number of reported incidents while far greater concerns regarding adverse drug reactions exist worldwide, it is impossible to not refer to the following statistics in order to frame a context for discussion.
An oft-cited statistic comes from a 1995 study based on the United States alone that describes an average 106,000 deaths per year from adverse drug reactions at a cost of $12 billion. Further, when combined with all other iatrogenic causes (caused by drugs and medical treatment) of injuries and deaths, the total rises to 16.4 million people who are affected with costs modestly estimated to be well over $300 billion a year.
In comparison with these statistics, the percentage of deaths and injuries from herbs and natural medicines is minuscule. The Natural Health Federation (NHF) reports that 'There was not even one death caused by a dietary supplement in 2008, according to the most recent information collected by the U.S. National Poison Data System.' This was based on polls of 61 poison centers who provide coast-to-coast data for the U.S. National Poison Data System, which is then reviewed by 29 medical and clinical toxicologists.
While there are no immediate signs that such regulations will extend to the United States, there is reason for concern that with the heightened atmosphere toward increased regulation generally, it could become a concern for those who rely on herbal supplements in the United States.
Therefore I urge that that we stand in solidarity with our European counterparts by signing the petition to stop the European Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive: http://www.gopetition.com/petition/39757.html
To learn more about how to challenge the new law go to:
My friend Don Monkerud recently sent me his periodic political critique which included the following:
'Corporate controlled politicians claim America has 'the greatest healthcare system in the world,' only to reveal their ignorance. The World Health Organization ranked the U.S. 37th among nations in healthcare performance in 2000, although we pay more for less service. Numerous studies reveal that the U.S. is mediocre in treating illness. For example, compared to the G8, the U.S. has the highest infant mortality, the most mothers who die during childbirth, the most lives lost that could have been saved, and the worst in treatment of cancer. The U.N. rates the U.S. even worse: 74th in healthcare performance. And in 2009, the C.I.A. ranked the U.S. 49th in life expectancy in the world.'
Each day we read about phenomenal medical breakthrough research. Doesn't it ever occur to the large numbers who voted the present Conservative regime into dominance in the House that these discoveries are hardly ever available to the majority of average Americans, who are unable to afford health insurance or who have health insurance from companies who can deny coverage for any number of trumped-up reasons?
While Republicans believe in unrestrained capitalism, the wishy-washy Democrats (for whom I nevertheless have more sympathy) have their own considerable deficiencies and weaknesses which have a particular impact on natural health and healing. To wit, their out-of-control protectionism and tendency to play 'big brother' causes them to side with the ill-informed majority against the natural health movement. Do I hear a need for a third, possibly even as many six parties out there (as they apparently have in Canada)?
The choice of either/or in anything is hardly ever a good one, but neither is simply having to choose between the lesser of two evils or, as many do, leave off choosing altogether when neither option offers a decent outcome.
I wish I could end this diatribe with a solution, but frankly I have none to offer. I encourage you to leave your thoughts in the comments section of this post.
I do have a suggestion, however: keep growing and learning about medicinal herbs, self-help and alternative natural healing. Most of us are not likely to find the kind of healing we deserve and need from mainstream medicine.
Almost exactly one year ago today, I published a blog post, 'Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Flu,' about the corporate-made H1N1 fraud.
Now, according to Digital Online, the German news source Der Spiegel published an exhaustive article describing how 30 representatives of Big Pharma met with WHO Director-General Chan and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon at WHO headquarters for the sole purpose of discussing how to move the H1N1 threat to a phase 6 or pandemic level.
Once upon a time, the term 'pandemic' represented a critical worldwide health threat; somehow it was downgraded to simply mean a world disease.
Hopefully this will awaken more people to the threat of the takeover of the world's economies by multi-national corporations generally, and by Big Pharma in particular.
Few of us can fathom the threat posed by these companies. Having no allegiance to any country and so glutted with wealth, they can shift at will, moving their base from one part of the globe to another. In this way, they are able to benefit from lower operational costs and can bypass national regulations because international regulations, are weaker and more difficult to enforce. While this is true to an alarming extent for all large corporations, it is especially an issue with Big Pharma, whose particular power can hold the people of the world hostage to their mostly 'toxic' wares.
The Der Spiegel exposé, depicting Big Pharma's ability to cloud and influence the judgment of the director of the World Health Organization and of the United Nations for their personal profit, vividly illustrates the power and persuasion unique to that industry. It also makes credible the stories that assert, based on an analysis of the DNA strands of the H1N1 virus showing origin from various parts of the world, that the virus was deliberately created giving this entire hoax an even more Orwellian dimension than most of us are able or willing to embrace.
This Dec. 1, 2009, article at the BBC website entitled "Prince Charles: 'Herbal medicine must be regulated'" points to a potential crisis for the practice of herbal medicine in the UK. Under threat of new European Union (EU) laws scheduled to take effect in April 2011 that would restrict the prescription of manufactured herbal medicines to "statutorily regulated professionals like doctors," the Prince of Wales is urging his government to regulate herbalists, lest they be banned from practice entirely when the new laws take effect. The new laws also stipulate that the only herbal medicines that will be sold over the counter will be ones used to treat 'mild and self-limiting' conditions - basically meaning nothing worse than a cold.
Apart from the fact that this would undoubtedly cause a large legally disenfranchised body of people to seek natural remedies through illegal venues, it also would overturn a 500 year-old Commonwealth law that prohibits governmental legal restriction enabling anyone to treat patients with herbs.
Since 1542, the Commonwealth Charter of Henry VIII has guaranteed herbalists the right to practice freely throughout the Commonwealth. This law is still applied in the UK as well as its former territories worldwide such as Australia and New Zealand. In fact, many think an argument could be made that the U.S.A., as a former British colony, has a legal basis for unregulated and free practice based on the English Herbalists' Charter.
For over 400 years, this has worked pretty well with very few adverse incidents reported, especially compared to those reported about conventional mainstream medicine. Other European countries such as Germany and France have chosen to impose highly restrictive laws limiting the practice of herbal medicine to medical doctors. As a result, there is economic pressure for the UK to declare the Herbalists' Charter antiquated and to get in step with the same restrictions imposed by other European countries. This has met with stiff opposition from a well established tradition that has allowed for the comparatively unrestricted practice of herbal medicine by both lay and professional herbalists.
Aside from the many differences of language, culture and history between closely adjoining countries, the standards for the practice of herbal medicine is yet another obstacle to true union. With obvious financial advantages to globalization in respect to the EU, many of the differences between these financially interdependent countries must be resolved -- and apparently how herbal medicine is practiced and regulated is just another one of those issues. Countries such as the UK with a long history of distinctive customs and traditions encounter difficulties with conformity. For instance, while most European countries have converted their currency to the Euro, the UK still uses the pound sterling as its distinctive "coin of the realm." So far, under the Herbalists' Charter, the UK is similarly seen as 'not fully participatory.'
The upshot of all of this is an ongoing fundamental conflict as to how herbal medicine is practiced, manufactured and sold between the UK and its European Union partners.
One of my former students, John Smith, is now a professional herbalist in the UK who opposes licensure and restrictions of herbalists in that country. In discussion on this issue he recently wrote me the following:
Unfortunately, what has been happening in UK is that it was felt by the powers that be that herbal medicine either had to be regulated or banned entirely -- so herbal bodies agreed to compromise and go for self regulation (i.e. Herbal Registers). (In other words,) we'd get together to exclude non registered or unqualified practitioners and agree on what herbs could and could not be used, etcetera). This was done even though many of us saw such negotiations as a huge compromise but the lesser of two evils. Ten years of time and energy went into this regulation process internal wrangling for power and influence within the herbal and alternative medical community and discussions with the Department of Health and European Union representatives. What is happening at present is that the government has pulled the plug and left herbal medicine back at square one where herbal medical practice could be banned entirely. Prince Charles, a long time proponent of herbal medicine, homeopathy, and alternative medical practice, has chosen the path of supporting the regulated practice of herbal medicine and fights that corner.
Any decision in the EU and UK to restrict herbal medicine to licensed medical doctors would be a purely financial one with no regard for the needs of the people. At the same time it supports an already established free socialized medicine of a particular state-supported brand, administered only by licensed medical doctors.
Preserving the Tradition of Herbal Medicine
Here are three good reasons why herbal medicine should remain as unregulated as possible:
- The roots of herbal medicine are empirical and depend on a stream of trial and error to evolve and renew. To do this, it must remain an inalienable right to be able to access and use herbs obtained in the market, from nature and the garden, and should not be subject to highly restrictive governmental regulations.
- The practice of herbal medicine is its own unique methodology that only experienced herbalists understand. Because most herbs are mild and have myriad non-specific biochemical elements, best results are achieved when an assessment methodology is used that takes into account not only the presenting symptoms but the underlying causes. This is the unique strength of traditional herbal medical use and practice.
- Further, conventional medicine has a different focus, useful in its own way to attend to the alleviation of symptoms irrespective of wholistic considerations and of course in crisis care. But most medical doctors have, at best, an extremely limited understanding of the practice of herbal medicine.
Because of the above stated reasons, both China and India, which have long standing traditions of herbal medicine, are able to recognize professional herbalists without prohibiting the accessibility to herbs and herbal preparations and the popular practice of herbal medicine by all.
It seems either a poor compromise or simply naive for Prince Charles to promote restrictions on herbal medical practice in the UK similar to those now in effect in other European countries. The compromise, which is the financial advantage, is probably more the reason as I can't imagine that someone has not discussed these other matters with him.
Who else stands to gain from herbal regulation and restriction?
Commingled with EU financial considerations to override the UK Commonwealth law and the 1542 Herbalists' Charter is the protection and practice of healing professions. Of course this includes conventional Western medicine but also the practioners of newer recognized alternative medicine professions, such as acupuncturists, herbalists, naturopaths, and Ayurvedic and Chinese healers who have been struggling over recent years with various degrees of success to gain recognition. Despite their roots as popular unregulated healing modalities, each of these, backed by schools standing to benefit from increased enrollment, at least superficially stand to gain in restricting practice to "licensed professionals."
Historically there is nothing new in any of this motivation of protection. Since medieval times, guilds and other organizations have been established specifically for promoting the professional (i.e. financial) interests of its members. There is something gained and something lost from this. What is gained is a standing organization that can share its experience and knowledge with its members and establish a standard of practice. What is lost, of course, is the wider experience that is the result of non-members who may also practice a particular discipline or practice such as herbal medicine.
In order to safeguard its knowledge, these professional organizations developed their own language and jargon that distinguished them from the populace. We encounter this when we try to decipher the diagnostic assessments and prescriptions of medical doctors as well as the metaphorical jargon used by Traditional Chinese Medicine or Ayurvedic doctors.
For example, Latin, a universal language understood by medical legal and scholarly professions across all European countries, was used this way. While at first intended for more widespread understanding and greater definition and clarity, the use of Latin as a professional language of medicine had the same effect as it did when it was used by the Church for 1,500 years where the Bible was only available to be read and interpreted by clergy: to prevent free thought.
The mid-17th century English apothecary-herbalist, Nicholas Culpeper, caused a furor when he published his own translations from the Latin to the English vernacular of various herbal and medical texts of the College of Physicians. He did this so that his fellow countrymen who could not afford expensive doctors would have available to them guides for maintenance of their own health. He published his own herbal, The English Physitian (1652), arguing that "no man deserved to starve to pay an insulting, insolent physician," when he could obtain his herbs from the nearby countryside. Culpeper upheld medicine as a "public asset rather than a commercial secret." Since its first publication over 350 years ago, Culpeper's Complete Herbal has been reprinted as many times as the Bible. He remains a revered iconic figure for English people and herbalists worldwide.
Education, not regulation
Many will still argue that the unrestricted use of herbs and self treatment is dangerous, but the fact remains that statistics of adverse events and deaths from herbal treatments are infinitesimal compared to the estimated 400,000 people who die annually from pharmaceuticals alone, or who are otherwise injured or made sick from conventional medicine and drugs.
It is undoubtedly my personal bias that herbal medicine remain as unregulated and unrestricted as reasonable. In fact, this was my personal path of learning. As part of a counterculture seeking independence from the mainstream in all ways possible, I looked to herbal medicine first as a passionate attraction to nature and plants, and secondly for the possibilities of what it might offer as an alternative to more invasive and Western medical drugs and procedures. It was out of this need that acupuncture and herbal medicine has grown in North America since the late 1960s.
There were no official schools to turn to for an education on this continent, and if there were, I certainly did not have the financial means to afford them. So I made do at first with the scant few books that were available by Jethro Klos and a few others and tried different herbal potions on myself and members of the commune to which I belonged. Despite the limitations of this approach I learned that plants do work and found common weeds such as plantain, comfrey, mullein, goldenseal, and later echinacea to be amazingly effective.
So my career arose out of years of personal trial and effort. I eventually got a leg up when I began to find a few experienced herbalists such Norma Meyers of British Columbia and Dr. John Raymond Christopher of Provo, Utah to study from. This eventually extended to the study of Traditional Chinese Medicine and herbalism in Yunnan, China with some remarkable doctors. Through this path, I think I received a wonderful education. Certainly there were holes because of the sporadic nature of the learning process but I found that I would only learn what I could absorb at the time and gradually my understanding deepened.
To legislate and deprive others from this path of learning to me would seem a shame of the first order. I know today, that there exists a large number of herbalists living in the mountains, forests and countryside who practice with local plants in ways that are not "official" according to accepted standards of clinical Western herbalism, TCM or Ayurveda, and that the contribution of these individuals are just as important as those made by the professionals. I think that there remains a place for both lay herbalists and individuals who might follow a path similar to my own as well as those who may seek a more set curriculum leading to professional licensure.
Recently a friend of mine called to say that she had a terrible bladder infection. Her doctor prescribed an antibiotic, but it had no effect; in fact, the infection worsened. She also said she tried drinking cranberry juice, but that had no effect on the condition either.
Women's bladder infections are one of the most common complaints in the health world, and they probably account for the brisk sales for cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon, pictured above) supplements. An article that described 10 randomized controlled trials published by Cochrane Collaboration in January of 2008 concluded that cranberry products may prevent recurrent urinary tract infections in women. I'm sure this helped boost cranberry sales as well as the belief that it can help a woman with a UTI.
I wouldn't disparage the proven value of unsweetened cranberry juice, but I remember the study only seemed to indicate that it prevented recurrent urinary tract infections. By implication, the public and marketers read "cure" and that is an entire different realm to consider.
There are flagrant misrepresentations in the marketplace for the use of herbs and various nutritional supplements, but the public also knows that these things, when used appropriately, can work for situations like my friend's antibiotic-resistant cystitis, when no standard medical procedure or tested natural therapy such as cranberries, do.
(Most studies, even preliminary trials, are expensive. We need to ask ourselves how they were funded, and naturally, this leads us to question who is likely to gain from the study. Given this, I would not be surprised that just as studies of pharmaceutical drugs are funded by the manufacturer, the same could be true, and that studies of the medicinal value of cranberries could be funded by cranberry growers.)
But, as I stated above, cranberry didn't work for my friend, and I bet it doesn't work for a lot of women who've had the same problem. She turned to me and asked what she might do.
I told her about a few other herbs which I know are more powerful for treating bladder infections. I directed her to an uva ursi-based formulation (generally herbal formulas are more effective for more people than are single herbs). Uva ursi (Arctostaphylos uva ursi, pictured at left) is not as strong as pharmaceutical-grade antibiotics and does not cause the same side effects. It works locally, purely with the body fluids, as a urinary antiseptic. It also enhances the liver's powerful role in treating inflammations. These actions, combined with other herbs in the formula, make for a more positive outcome. I also suggested the use of parsley tea which is an old time remedy for urinary tract infections, and cherry stems in the specific treatment of urinary tract infections.
Cherry stems are high in potassium, salts and tannin. Traditionally, when women in Europe were troubled with bladder infections, they would steep a handful of the stems in one or two cups of boiling water and drink the strange-tasting brew. Lesley and I have found that cherry stems work for bladder infections when antibiotics and even most herbs may not.
I think my friend wound up doing a combination of cherry stem tea and the uva ursi formula and within a couple of days her intractable urinary tract infection was gone.
In conclusion, it's good for the herbal consumer to look to the use of herbs as a first line treatment for most diseases. However, it's also important that they learn the value of different herbs and supplements in the event that one may not be enough, that if possible they educate themselves on the wise use of herbs singly and especially in formulations.
To that end I and my wife, Lesley, have published several books on herbal medicine, including the top-selling herb book in the world today, The Way of Herbs, published by Pocket Books, and Lesley's book, Healing with the Herbs of Life, now published by Random House.
It's also obvious there is a need for qualified and skilled professional herbalists. Lesley and I personally make an effort to fulfill this need with arguably the most successful course on the market, the East West Herb Course. It is partially correspondence and partially online, and one can complete it at his or her own pace. Students learn Planetary Herbology, which is a combination of the best global herbal systems from the Western, Ayurvedic and Chinese traditions. Check these and our other herbal products out elsewhere on this site.
Have you noticed the lack of health care in your area? I have, in Santa Cruz.
So many GPs have retired because of the astronomical price of liability insurance they must pay to stay in practice, along with the mounting sheaves of paperwork they are required to maintain -- not to mention the expensive staff they must keep to deal with it.
As if that weren't enough, a further disincentive for these doctors is the difficulty in getting reimbursed from insurance companies and the hoops they must jump through to get even a portion of what they bill. (In our clinic, Lesley and I simply refuse to take insurance. If people want to try to get reimbursed for our services from their insurance companies, they submit the paperwork themselves.)
Insurance companies today dictate what they will or will not cover; the basis of their decision is personal profit. It seems more than a little disingenuous for these companies and others to accuse a proposed hopefully universal health care bill that may do the same.
In either case, people are free to pay for services their plan will not cover or to seek what they believe will be better quality. As it stands, Americans are flocking to other countries such as Thailand or Tahiti, where they know they will get superior health care for a fraction of the cost presently in the United States.
Being so closely involved with American health care for the last 35 years of my career, I have had plenty of opportunities to speak with people, friends and patients from the UK, Canada, France, and Italy who seem quite happy with their health care system and have come to take for granted that this is something that a wealthy country should provide to its citizens.
Recently I had first-hand experience of another nation's universal health care system. Last May, I took a trip to Italy with my grandson. During the first three days in Rome, he was very sick. I decided he should see a medical doctor and I was prepared to be confronted with a large bill comparable to what such a hospital emergency service would cost me in California. I didn't know that Italy had universal health care. When we went to be admitted for examination, few questions were asked. They looked at our passports, that's all. They didn't even question the fact that he wasn't my son and only asked about my relationship to him. It took no longer than six minutes or so to fill out a paper, name, age and complaint before we were put into a cue to be seen.
He was examined by one of the few doctors in the Rome hospital who spoke English. We waited about two or three hours for the results of a blood test. When his condition was deemed not serious, the doctor wrote a prescription for some antibiotics and another drug that would relieve his stomach distress and we simply walked out the door, no further questions asked. Best of all -- we were not charged a single penny! In the United States, such a visit could have cost us anywhere from several hundred dollars to over a thousand. To top it off, my grandson's prescription was filled for under $10!
The way I see it, we've got those who can afford insurance and health care; then we have 46 million Americans who cannot; then we have those who already struggle to pay for health care and are having to deal with rising costs; and finally, the insurance companies, who are more concerned with bottom line profits for their shareholders rather than the needs of their customers. Meanwhile,we are distracted and stalled by the question of whether or not the government has a right to step in.
My question is, if the government doesn't step in at this point, who will?
And following that, what are governments for if not to safeguard the vital interests of its citizens? Let's just assume that none of us know what the best exact plan is. But the fact remains that we need to get in step with all other advanced Western countries and provide universal health care to everyone in America -- and I mean everyone. I don't care if they are citizens or not. The only consideration the hospital had for my grandson when we were in Italy was whether or not he was a member of the human race.
We need to move health care out of profit-driven profession to a true enterprise founded on compassion, for all -- and in case "for all" doesn't say it, let me spell it out: I mean this to include the less fortunate amongst us.
Let's face it: the present dysfunctional health care system wrecks lives! If you are not covered for a medical emergency -- and as it stands, no one knows if they are covered until they have a need -- people have lost everything they have for a single serious health incident. You don't have to go very far from home to know about that.
For example, years ago, my mother was in serious need of health care. She had no insurance. My brother and I both were happy and willing to help but neither of us was prepared to assume the full brunt of the kind of assistance she needed. The problem was that with the present profit-based system, if the government knew we were contributing any financial support, they would cut off their assistance entirely. As a result, we had to go and visit her in a very depressing facility located on the outskirts of San Diego.
My son has been a nurse for decades and enjoys a hefty salary. I'm happy for him, but it doesn't go unnoticed by me that because a few nurses must receive such a generous pay and benefits, the hospitals are understaffed and a patient's single overnight stay could cost from $15,000 to $20,000! It's obscene, the service is usually barely adequate -- ask anyone who has had a medical emergency.
My son recently commented on the paperwork nurses must fill out for every patient. More is added each month. For instance, when he admits a patient, he has to fill out a form for every article the patient has when they are admitted. This is repeated when the patient leaves. Multiply that by 25 or 40 papers for every patient, and you can see why health care givers are mostly standing behind a desk or nursing station when you visit a hospital rather than assisting the large number of patients supposedly under their care!
At present we hope and rely on insurance companies paying for such care, but the reality is, we are all paying for it. The hospitals have to charge so much because they are mandated to not turn anyone away because of lack of funds. "Lack of funds" means that they are entitled to take every penny you have until you really lack funds.
Further, everyone should realize that under a universal health care program, you still have the option to pay for whatever services may not be provided. It's worth paying more taxes to have it; consider it, if you will, a charitable contribution, if necessary. In any case, it would be cheaper than the present single payer system.
Perhaps, like me, you have seen one or more of the many misleading emails that are being circulated around the health care issue. One entitled "Health Care Reform or Government Take Over?" urges the gullible to distrust the government's intentions to reform American health care. (I suggest that any statements that are made pro or con be checked with an impartial web organization such as http://www.politifact.com/. )
When you receive bogus emails like the one mentioned above, consider how powerful the insurance and for-profit medical lobbies are, how they have congresspeople in their pockets, and how willing they are to spend millions on negative propaganda to prevent universal health care from happening in the United States.
My only fear at present is that the final bill will be so compromised that it will not accomplish what it is intended for. Can you even imagine how and why a newly elected president would go head-to-head with the most powerful lobby in the world, staking his reputation on doing what he and most Americans believe is the right thing to do?
President Obama is not writing the bill, he is charging Congress with that task and will sign it after reviewing it. I can assure you that he would not sign a bill that reflected the stupid and unfounded charges represented by many anti-health care emails that are circulating.
These are my own personal arguments for universal health care in this country. I invite you to share your thoughts on this topic in the comments section of this blog.
Who's afraid of the Big Bad Flu?
I know many of us are concerned about Swine Flu, and as I write this even the World Health Organization has declared a Level 5 outbreak; just one step away from Level 6, the highest, which is reserved for pandemics.
Somehow it all just doesn't compute. Maybe I'm sitting here with my own self-made and self-proclaimed measurement yardstick, but based on all the information so far, it looks like the customary blend of media hype feeding off the public's paranoia.
As of this writing there have been approximately 150 deaths and a little over 2,000 people supposedly infected with H1N1 virus. Even assuming unreported cases with double or triple that number lurking as a possibility, this still doesn't look anything like pandemic. Latest reports today seem to be that the number of deaths in Mexico have leveled off. So far in the US, there is one reported Mexican infant who died of the disease. The head of medicine in Mexico recently asserted that this viral pathogen did not even originate in Mexico but from Southeast Asia.
There are a few scattered cases reported throughout the country and the world but it's still far from anything approaching pandemic proportions. Further, thus far there is nothing that distinguishes the so called Swine flu from any other flu symptoms -- except that it can only be identified by the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
It's certainly not news that some people die from the flu. In fact in the US, approximately 36,000 people die each year from the flu with the worldwide death toll numbering into the millions.
Recently a number of health officials are beginning to cautiously question the growing hysteria around the growing Swine Flu hysteria. Recently on his daily networked radio show, even Dr. Dean Edell, an AMA loyalist if there ever was one, pointed out that over 800 people of all ages die from the flu each week, and he questioned the amount of attention and media hype this latest global threat poses.
So if it's not as bad as it seems, why are we hearing about it every hour like it's going to wipe us all out?
To quote the bard, "something smells rotten in the state of Denmark." As always, when paying attention to such things, consider: who stands to gain? This is what brings one back to the global pharmaceutical industry - the true '˜pandemic' to human civilization if there ever was one.
What is happening is that the European drug maker Roche is greatly increasing its production of Tamiflu with a tremendous boost in stock prices bankrolling millions. GlaxoSmithKline, the maker of the anti-flu drug Relenza, is also an investor boom with a steep increase of its stock prices.
Bottom line: Don't get carried away by alarmist media hype, wash your hands often, and keep it all in perspective.
Herbs for flu prevention (Swine or otherwise)
What can one take to prevent and treat influenza? In North America, an extremely bitter herb known as boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) was traditionally used for "breakbone fever," as the flu was called in the 19th century.
The traditional Chinese formula called Jade Screen (Yupingfeng San) was first described in 1481 and was used to strengthen the Wei (defensive) energy of the body, otherwise known in modern medical terms as the exterior immune system. Jade Screen consists of three herbs: astragalus (Astragalus membranaceous), white atractylodes (Atractylodes macrocephela), and ledebouriella (Saposhnikovia divaricata). Astragalus root has known antiviral and antibacterial properties. Like astragalus, white atractylodes also tonifies Qi (energy) and serves as an assistant or synergistic helping herb with astragalus. The herb ledebouriellia (fang feng), further dispels pathogens, i.e., invading bacteria and viruses, from the surface of the body (skin, nasal passages, mouth, lungs, etc.).
Interestingly, ledebouriella is in the same Apiaceae family as the native North American species of ligusticum herbs such as osha (Ligusticum porteri) which was used by the native and local people had a noticeable benefit during the 1917-1918 Spanish flu pandemic that killed tens of millions of people. Those who took these native herbs only got a relatively mild case of the flu which was deadly to most others.
There is considerable supportive research that daily intake of supplemental vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin) is effective for preventing colds and flus.
Finally, it is important to not allow oneself to get over tired and adhere to a health supporting dietary and lifestyle regime. I also recommend the regular daily use of probiotics to enhance the body's innate immune wellbeing.
Michael Moore, the great Southwestern herbalist of North America, left his earthly dwelling for other realms on Friday, Feb. 20, 2009. Michael leaves us a rich legacy of herbal knowledge and wisdom, the fruit of over 40 years of his passionate explorations of the fundamental healing relationship between plants, the earth and humankind.
I had first heard of Michael around 1967 when he and I were involved with the avant-garde music scene at UCLA. At the time, Michael was an accomplished symphonic trumpet player. True to his nature as one attracted to the more esoteric fringe aspect of any endeavor, Michael was not content to simply occupy a life chair in a symphony. Instead, he was well known as the unconventional musician who was open and willing to explore exciting new musical languages and artistic experiences.
It just so happens that when we had our first brief encounter at a rustic outdoor summer fair in Topanga Canyon between Malibu Beach and San Bernardino in Los Angeles, Michael was already involved in another fringe movement: herbal medicine.
At the time I was identified with the artistic beat culture and living in Venice West. I must confess, herbs and herbal medicine had not even occurred to me when I happened into a quaint herb stall at the fair. Herbs hung to dry from the eaves and various homemade potions, lotions and ointments were priced to sell. For some strange reason I was drawn into this medieval-looking tableau and was taken a little aback to see a large man with a shaggy beard sitting behind a counter, looking more like an LA biker than ye olde herbalist of yore. We shared the look of the 'beat outlaw,' and as such we should have been kindred spirits, so to speak; yet, his eyes were fixed menacingly on me.
I never understood why until years later, when Michael explained that he remembered my wandering into his booth and that he was sure I had pilfered one of his herbal extracts. Well, in those days I might have, but hardly from him -- I was still in my 'rebel without a cause/Robin Hood' period and I would hardly have stolen anything from someone who looked as disheveled as he did. I also distinctly remember that Michael was eager to tell people the then-revolutionary idea that herbs could heal body and soul, but few believed him, and it didn't appear that he did much business. Given the social climate for herbs and my own ignorance at the time, I half jokingly reassured Michael, when we became respected herbal colleagues much later, that I owed him no debt from that day at the fair.
In retrospect, what I get from that brief encounter was that Michael Moore was pursuing his passionate affair with herbs before I or most anyone knew there even was such a thing (except, of course, for the herb). Years later we met again at a number of seminars and I visited his store Herbs Etcetera in Santa Fe. At the time he was teamed up with another giant man, Stuart Watts. Stuart and I were part of the first group of North American acupuncturists who went to China in the '70s specifically to study Chinese herbal medicine, which was then pretty much unknown among non-Chinese in the West.
I remember how much Michael and Stuart resembled each other in stature but also in the incongruity of their appearance as healers. As I mentioned in my first impression of Michael above, you could easily have mistaken these two as members of a biker gang. The fact was, they were both at the top of their game. Michael was never much of a business man. Like the rest of us, he didn't get involved with herbal medicine to get rich but was able to preach the gospel of herbs to anyone he encountered. From the beginning we were both dedicated to plying our herbal potions on those suffering from various ailments, who for a number of very good reasons found conventional Western medicine unsatisfactory. Michael mainly wanted to sell enough so he could continue his passion, which was to go either alone or with a small number of adventurous students on his herbal forays through the mountains, deserts, forests and canyons west of the Rocky Mountains. This was a perfect calling for Michael Moore, for various reasons.
You see, back in the '70s (and even continuing up to the present day somewhat,) the extent of our knowledge of North American herbs might have been summed up with ginseng, goldenseal, sassafras and sarsaparilla, which grow east of the Rockies. This part of the United States was first to be settled, and it was settled at a time when there was a still a keen interest in herbs as healing agents both here and in Europe. In those days there was a lively exchange of information and many Eastern seaboard medicinal herbs were shipped off to be integrated into European medicine. The Chinese, hearing that wild ginseng was available, literally imported tons from Eastern forests so that the 'seng' trade rivaled the trade in furs and other wild products.
By the time the Westward expansion began to occur, interest in herbs - at least new herbs - was on the wane, and Native Americans, seeing how brutally their Eastern brethren were treated, became more and more reluctant to tell white settlers about the use of their native plants. So by the North American herbal renaissance in the mid-20th century, we herbalists knew little or nothing about native herbs west of the Rockies.
Enter Michael Moore, a man whose aerophobia kept him close to his Southwestern home base, and who loved to get in his truck and drive to remote areas of the West to learn, teach and harvest herbs for his homemade potions. Michael educated himself from whatever scientific literature was available, usually from "journals, sources and research outside the United States," as he states in the introduction to his Medicinal Plants of the Desert and Canyon West. He expresses this frustration of not being able to find similar literature in his own country in one of his usual rants against the 'establishment': "We are able to develop and finance BIG medicines; we have no method of developing and financing little medicines (like herbs)," in contrast to countries like China and India, for instance.
Michael describes our being embroiled in a "grim, desperate, multi-billion-dollar mud-wrestling match between the public sector (the Food and Drug Administration) and the private sector (the pharmaceutical/medical/hospital industry)." He lays the problem out clearly, pointing out that the initial cost of $50 million is what it takes to bring a drug to market, meaning that no less than a million people a day have to take the new drug to justify its cost. It's hardly any different today than it was in 1989 when this book was first published, except to say that the figure is probably much, much bigger.
Michael goes on to say that at the time of his writing, medicine was our biggest industry, bigger than the Pentagon, costing us 10 percent of our Gross National Product. That was then; today not only is medicine still our biggest industry, but its cost has grown to 17% of our gross National Product, according the National Coalition on Health Care. Is it any wonder that in these times of deep recession we read in the news about how herb and supplement sales are up?
No herbal reference library should be considered complete without Michael Moore's three major books, Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West, Medicinal Plants of the Desert and Canyon West, and Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West. The first two are published by the Museum of New Mexico Press and the last by Red Crane Books. These are universally regarded as classics by the majority of herbalists throughout the world, not only for their practical descriptions of in-the-field, hands-on use of the herbs Michael selected, but also for his inimitable 'Kerouacian' witty writing style that makes his herb books a very special experience to read (a talent of which the rest of us who have written herb books can only be envious). Here is a link to all of his published books and clinical manuals.
In contrast to the lucid communication provided by his books, Michael had an eccentric, difficult to understand stream-of-consciousness style of teaching. He seemed to have such a uniquely consummate understanding of Western biochemistry and physiology that he couldn't help but weave us dizzyingly through a labyrinth of complex scientific terminology and interrelationships in class. Few could follow him and still come out the other side; I know I couldn't. But I could understand enough to know that Michael espoused a vision of holistic interconnectedness expressed in scientific terminology that completely jived with my traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic models. It may have been tough for us to hang on to Michael's train of thought in a workshop or classroom situation, but this never diminished one iota my deep respect for him, whom I consider another one of those misunderstood geniuses.
For a while I wanted to engage Michael in a discussion comparing Chinese and Ayurvedic energetic herbal medicine with what I mostly suspected was Michael's version of the same in Western biochemistry and physiology. Knowing this, he approached me with his intention to formulate a constitutional model of the human body based on Western physiology. We co-taught one class together on this. In the end, I'm not sure either of us nor any of the participants got anything from the experiment, but it is worth knowing that we tried and that this is now increasingly becoming a powerful direction in which to carry Planetary Herbology in the future.
I do know that despite his gruff appearance, Michael was a true gentleman. He was always too cognizant of his own personal shortcomings to hold anything against others he would encounter. I think the concept of the personal hamartia (the tragic flaw that ultimately brings down the hero that the audience perceives but the hero does not) didn't apply to Michael, whose self-awareness made him the kind of teacher and healer who would have to say in so many words, "Do as I say but not as I do." All of us have our personal limitations that we must struggle with through life. In Michael's case these do not in the slightest tarnish the contribution he has made to herbalism now and as far as it will extend into the future.
Dioscorides, the famous Greek physician who served as a field doctor to Roman legions during the reign of Nero, discovered and chronicled the medical use of over 600 plants found throughout different regions of the known Western world. His herbal served as the most indispensible one of its kind for over 1,500 years through the Middle Ages. In a similar way, Michael Moore's three books on the medicinal uses of herbs west of the Rocky Mountains will remain as the quintessential source reference for this area for many years to come.
But back to the burly, bearded, avant-garde musician-herbalist at the fair.
I have noticed that for the most part, herbalists in all cultures are also artists, musicians or poets. There is an appreciation for aesthetics and things beautiful and creative that I think underlies one's attraction to the use of plants as medicine. As Michael says, "There are no fixed methods to apply to the human predicament, there is no single all-pervasive rule to follow, since medicine is not a science but an art."
No matter how deeply one studies and enters into the complexity of healing, plant biochemistry and so on (and I happen to agree with Michael that one should go deeply into these things), nevertheless there is always place for the irrational and the subjective. The poet's perspective of life, the musician's sense of harmony, the artist's eye of proportion and relationships - these are all shared by healers, especially the herbal healer who works with plants, which are the pure creative expression of nature and the healing process.
Michael was an extraordinary musician. Music is something that he and I shared in a special way. I was honored when at a symposium he presented me with a gift of two CDs which were the recordings of his beautiful orchestral works. After I learned of his passing, I went to find these CDs and play them in his honor. For whatever reason, they would not play. I was so happy to see that these recordings, along with his teaching manuals, scans of valuable medical Eclectic books, and other precious herb-related materials, are all freely available to enjoy online.
We are so blessed to have this kind of access to Michael's herbal and artistic treasures, which he always so graciously shared. Personally I think this says volumes about the kind of man Michael Moore was: at the core of his being, he was a man of genius, deep caring and generosity.
Note: Michael's generosity does not leave a whole lot to pay for his enormous medical bills and support his beloved wife, Donna. It is important that we give back some of what we received from the life work of Michael Moore and all that he has done for the herbal renaissance of North America. Donations can be made out to The Bountiful Alliance and sent to: Catherine Mackenzie, 457 East Riverside Dr., Truth or Consequences, NM, 87901. The Bountiful Alliance is a 501 C-3 non-profit organization and is able to issue receipts for tax purposes.
Please consider attending this April 17-19, 2009, event in Truth or Consequences, NM. Originally coordinated to help raise funds for Michael's medical expenses, now it will be not only a fine educational event but also a celebration of this great herbalist's life and legacy.
Please copy and sign the following petition and submit it to http://change.gov/agenda/health_care_agenda/
Then please send or forward it to as many people as you know, asking them to do the same.
Or sign it online here and share the link!
To: President-Elect Barack H. Obama
Presidential Petition for Incorporation of Integrative CAM into U.S. Health Care Policy
Dear President-Elect Barack Obama,
I respectfully ask that you incorporate Integrative Medicine modalities into any new U.S. health care policy once you take office in January 2009.
The 1979 oft cited resolution by the World Health Organization[i] called on countries to promote the role of traditional practitioners in the health care systems of the world and also encouraged more financial support for the development of traditional systems.
It further recommended that the medical profession should not undervalue the role played by the traditional medical system in providing important health care in developing countries and even specifically advocated the use of medicinal plants and remedies used by traditional practitioners to effectively treat their patients.
With the popularity of these traditional healing systems, we are at the place in time where at least a third of the people of America have recognized the value of these traditional systems not only for developing countries but as being of great benefit for certain conditions in our own country.
Because they provide relatively safe and effective approaches for treating many conditions, evidence-based, complementary, alternative medicine (CAM) health care modalities should be integrated into the U.S. health care system.
There are many reasons why one would choose such alternative health care methods but one of the most obvious is described in published research revealing that over 150,000 Americans die annually from FDA-approved pharmaceuticals that have been prescribed and utilized according to their indications. Shockingly, these 'iatrogenic' (medically induced) deaths account for the fifth major cause of mortality in the U.S.
I am one of the millions of Americans who have found complementary, natural health methods to be an invaluable part of my health care requirements and needs. These systems, including acupuncture, herbal medicine, naturopathy, chiropractic, homeopathy and Traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine offer aspects of health care that are not provided by conventional Western medicine.
A recent study based on 1162 patients found acupuncture to be more effective for treating lower back pain, from which 85% of all people will suffer at some point in their life, than conventional treatments.[ii] This is only one of many conditions that are better treated with traditional alternative medicine but the fact remains that these time honored methods represent relatively non-invasive treatments that continues to be the legacy of all traditional peoples throughout the world.
The reasons that these methods continue to be resorted to is because conventional Western medicine based on expensive technological procedures and synthetic drugs, for various reasons is not always the best approach for all conditions, in much the same ways that exclusive reliance on fossil fuels is unsatisfactory for all of our energy needs.
Happily, there are other approaches from which to choose and utilize. These are some of the reasons why Harvard studies conducted by David Eisenberg, M.D. et al.,[iii] in 1990 and again in 1997 revealed that a significantly large percentage of Americans are already using these integrate, alternative, complementary therapeutic approaches and that they are even willing to spend more out-of-pocket money for such care than for all allopathic primary care and hospital care combined.
As recent as December, 2008, a National Health Statistics Report, entitled Complementary and Alternative Health (CAM) Care Use Among Children and Adults: United States 2007 by Barnes' et al. revealed that 38% of adults and 12% of children used CAM therapies over the previous 12 months.[iv]
I stand ready to be of assistance to you and Secretary of Health, Tom Daschle in any way that I can. Thank you for your kind attention and I look forward to your expedient response.
[iii] Eisenberg DM, Davis RB, Ettner SL, Appel S, Wilkey S, Van Rompay M, Kessler RC. Trends in alternative medicine use in the United States, 1990-1997. JAMA: the Journal of the American Medical Association 1998;280:1569-1575.
Read the recent article in the Wall Street journal: "Alternative Medicine is Mainstream" by Deepak Chopra
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