Message Number: YG3394 | New FHL Archives Search
From: Sukie Crandall
Date: 2001-05-09 15:16:00 UTC
Subject: Re: Devil's Club Supreme AGAIN!

Bruce Williams wrote:
>It is certainly not my intent to condemn ferrets to not being able to
>get an efficacious medicine, however, I cannot manufacture a reason
>to believe in efficacy if none exists. I do not hide the fact that I
>am skeptical of herbal remedies, and I generally do not discourage
>their use. But I will not endorse a product in the absence of any
>studies that show that it indeed works, in any species.

I'm like Bruce in that I like to have numbers and to know more about meds.

For those who want reputable and BALANCED information (pros, cons,
cautions, and studies) on herbal meds check out:
1. _PDR for Herbal Medicines, 2nd edition_
2. _Tyler's Honest Herbal_
3. _Tyler's Herbs of Choice_
The first is the most up-to-date and extensive but can require a
medical or veterinary dictionary, which I get to use a lot. The
others are by very respected authorities and are easy reads. Because
the first is newer it contains more items and more information, and
thus fills over 850 pages.

I recall years ago when people were giving things like licorice for
circulatory conditions because it has a quick pick-me-up effect,
even though it worsens the existing damage and can cause bad
complications. That's one of the problems with some herbal meds:
many times folks don't know exactly what the lasting effects or
side-effects may be, which is why references like those above can
help avoid dangerous results.

Another difficulty is that the contents of compounds can be hard to
know. Here are just three examples: 1. Ever heard of the health
food store supplements called Glandulars? There is some real fear
about them and people are trying to find out how to stay within the
strict rules that keep regulations from supplements while still
protecting the public. The reason is that many are imports from
Europe and some are largely made from cattle neurological tissue.
Now, the chances of contracting BSE (Bovine Spongiform
Encephalopathy) is low anywhere, but why concentrate the risk
factors, even in low doses? 2. There were discoveries last year of
some Asian herbal imports which were sold as mood elevators which did
not contain the herbs they said they contained but did contain
medications which can be sold only by prescription here. Those were
able to be tackled. 3. Cyanobacter is the life form commonly known
as blue-green algae; most are thought to be completely safe though
they don't pack as much nutritional wallop as spinach, but a few
forms have been implicated as having the potential of either
triggering or promoting some types of malignancies (Can't recall fine
details so will need to dig out that Sci Am sometime since I think
that's where the write-up was.). Problem is that it's very hard for
even the experts to tell one cyanobacter form from another and the
places which process and sell the stuff don't have the screening
abilities to do so.

Then again there is simply the question of whether things even work.
Some do, some don't, and some may work for only certain individuals
or cases. Some are based on false premises. People claimed that
shark cartilage cures cancers because sharks don't get cancers.
Guess what? Sharks do get their own sets of cancers. False claims
are caution lights. (BTW, in some studies on the use of cartilage in
diet for types of arthritis there were some good results with it, but
plain-old, much-more-affordable chicken cartilage worked as well as
shark cartilage and the domestic chicken's population isn't in a
threatened category. That is, of course, a further thing I like to
take into account --preferring horticulturally raised herbals because
badly conducted wild harvesting has done horrific damage to some
areas and species.)

Now, I'm happy to add horehound to my own asthma routine when it's
mild, to give hot pepper for sinus clearing to anyone who likes it,
to brew up ginger tea for a human's sore throat, to give reasonable
amounts of dried blueberries or cranberries to those with UTIs (who
don't have insulinoma) because of the unusual form of tannin in them
which prevents bacteria from sticking to the bladder's walls, to give
co-enzyme 10-Q along with standard heart meds for cardiomyopathy (and
certainly am intellectually excited to read about its fine results
for human Familial Cerebellar Ataxia), etc.. I'm obviously not closed
to herbals and do use them; I merely am as careful with them as I am
with standard approaches. (Yes, I am someone who reads medication
inserts for standard medications.)

There's a wise maxim that anything strong enough to heal is usually
strong enough to harm. What I am trying to say is that medications
of any types must be handled with respect and with the knowledge that
if given improperly they may make things worse, and that for some
things there just isn't enough information to know what constitutes
improper use. It scares me silly when people confuse words like
"natural", "herbal", "holistic", and "alternative" with "safe" or
"miracle cure". Hey, cyanide is natural, so is arsenic, so is rattle
snake venom, so is lead, so are... The list could go on for weeks
and weeks; I have a book here which must have around 500 pages of
natural poisons in it. To not use the same level of caution for all
types of medications just confuses me. I can see pulling out the
stops when options are thin to non-existent, but not when well
tested, humane, and effective methods of treatment with reasonable
levels of risk and comfort exist. Others will feel differently, but
that's my take on it. Those herbal approaches which have been
studied well and which are found in reputable references like the
three above fair better in my evaluations because I know if they work
and how to avoid trouble from them.

As time goes on more and more of the alternative medications will be
studied enough to be used safely and effectively. There are a number
which already fit in that category (as you noticed from the length of
that PDR ref.). Having reputable references lets a person tell which
ones already are known.