Message Number: YG3907 | New FHL Archives Search
From: RRC
Date: 2001-05-23 02:20:00 UTC
Subject: Bob C: Not Yet Quite Back Online; Herbs

No, I haven't died, although it is said I stink a bit. I am not yet on
line; the new phone lines to the basement are in, BUT the super fast
cable connections got postponed until later this week (I just didn't get
the dominos to fall right). While I can use my laptop to send email,
because of some special security protocols, I can't use it to check
email, so I can't read the FHL or other posts. Sorry, but my computer,
references and books are still under plastic tarps to save them from
airborne nasties while I finish the basement. I admit I have extended
the work a bit, taking advantage of helpers to build a super duper wall
around my darkroom. The week was made worse by the sudden illness and
unexpected death of my cat, Bastet. She was a 14 year old Japanese
bobtail who hated all ferrets and other cats.

Be patient, and as soon as I can, I will upload those photos of nasty
teeth and reactive bone, done in by hard extruded foods. And answer
those questions I've already forgotten on albinism and domestication.
And to actually read the FHL and other ferret lists.

There was one thread a person on the list called me at home to discuss.
Their basic question was if herbs actually worked in treatment of ferret
illnesses. Well, yes and no.

It is true that many modern drugs are a form of phytochemicals; that is,
natural chemicals found in plants. Digitalis is a great example, as is
aspirin, curare, and many, many others. It is also true that you can
ingest plant materials to obtain those phytochemicals; just ask any pot
or cocaine user, or someone who ate the wrong mushroom and lost the
function of their liver. Or just think about it the next time you drink
coffee. No one can deny these two truths. But that is not the real problem.

First, the body CANNOT tell the difference between a natural
phytochemical and a manmade one; they are biochemically identical. That
means, regardless of urban myth, the origin of the chemical has no
bearing on how it works. This is why you can substitute a generic drug
for a specific one. Using drugs from herbs compared to those obtained
from vets is exactly the same, IN TERMS OF CHEMISTRY of the reactive
substances. It is NOT true in terms of purity and dosage, as well as
other important aspects of drug therapy.

The problem is, plants are like animals in that they possess a great
deal of variation. When you give your ferret a pill, you can be certain
that the little guy is getting a specific dose. This is important,
because the effectiveness of a drug is usually dependent upon the levels
of the chemical in the bloodstream. With plants, you NEVER know the
exact dosage because the concentration of the drug can vary from plant
to plant, and even from leaf to leaf. Again, ask any pot smoker. It is
possible to one day underdose your ferret and the next to slightly
overdose the fella, which you would never know, but the kidneys and
liver might. Also, again contrary to urban myth, just because a plant
was raised in natural crap and never treated with pesticides, it doesn't
mean it cannot contain dangerous chemicals. For example, bones from
South America are frequently contaminated by lead; leaded gas is still
sold, and the lead in the air lands on the grass, which is eaten by the
cows and ends up in the bones. The cows are made into hamburgers, the
bones are dried and ground into dust, and the bone dust is sold to
people to want to feed their plants, or change the pH of the soil. In
either case, get ready to take the Roman fall, because lead isn't
exactly good for your brain.

A second MAJOR problem is that many of the herbs have the potential to
interact with medicines and increase reactions or reduce the
effectiveness of prescribed drugs. For example, it is a long known fact
that eating corn can reduce the absorption of some forms of metabolic
iron; there is a chemical reaction which turns the iron into a form
which is quite hard to digest. Many Native Americans who primarily
subsisted on corn also suffered chronic anemia, a problem cured in South
America by eating calcium compounds and other foods which either added a
great deal of iron to the diet, or reduced the effects of the corn on
digestible iron. Drug-herb interactions are such an common problem that
the heads of the several herb organizations have publicly suggested
herbs only be used with the knowledge of your doctor.

A third serious problem is that when you take a drug, you know it has
certain side effects, and demonstrated effectiveness in treating
specific aliments. You have no such guarantee with herbs. In fact, herb
therapy isn't yet regulated by the FDA (there is a strong movement to
change that status), so there is no requirement to prove specific
claims. It is like those psychics on TV who claim they can see your
future, but on the bottom of the screen it always says "for
entertainment purposes only." NEVER are you offered evidence that a
specific herb will do what it is claimed it will do, because no proof is
required. Many herbs are offered in doses which have no therapeutic value.

You can decide for yourself, but I love my little monkeys. When I give
them a drug, I want to know how it works, what the side effects are, and
what I can expect the drug to do. I have NO such guarantees with herbals
and alternative medicines. I am not even sure they will work. I do not
deny that some herb and plants contain powerful phytochemicals which can
exert a profound influence on biological systems, but unless I can be
sure of the dose or purity, I will use substances which have been
purified, regulated, dose monitored, and tested.

Bob C