Richters HerbLetter

Date: 2001/03/31
1. Canada’s NRC Proposes Multi-Million Dollar Quality Standards Lab
2. Health Canada Releases Second Draft Regulatory Framework for NHPs
3. Irradiated Food and Herbs on Sale in London Stores
4. "Cloak-and-Dagger" Herb Implicated in Deaths
5. Americans Opting for Herbal Supplements over Doctor’s Office
6. European Researchers Tout Virtues of Edelweiss in Skin Rejuvenation
7. Medicinal Magic of Herbs
8. Herbal Remedies Gaining Popularity
9. Weeds May Be Richer Source of Medicines Than Tropical Rain Forests
10. Women’s Health Expert Confirms Natural Nutrients Can Boost Vitality, Energy
11. Medical Research Firm Gets $100,000 for Cayenne Pepper Study
12. Could Herbal Sleep Remedies be the Answer?
13. Herbs Take a Whack at Prostate Cancer
14. Herbal Tablets Blamed for Dangerous Clotting
15. Herb Safety is Controversal According to Texas A&M Professor
16. Prosecutors Say Moneylender Copied 1986 Aconite Murder
17. Be Careful with Weight Reducing Teas
18. Don’t Get Hopes Up Over ‘Herbal Viagra’
19. Under the Influence? -- Kava Might Make Driving Dangerous
20. Cannabis Can Drive Users Insane, Say Doctors
21. Pursuit of a Perfect Body with Supplements Exacts a Physical Cost
22. Government Warns against Chinese Medicines Containing Trichosanthes
23. Questions Raised over Supplement Safety
24. U.S. Says Lack of Funding Hampers Supplement Law
25. Industry Group Briefs House Government Reform Committee on Dietary Supplement Quality
26. Bracing for El Nuna: Hopping Mad about Popping-Bean Patent
27. Story of Salt and Pepper
28. Flecks of Flavour: Poppy Seeds Add Spice, Texture
29. Pass the Seeds, Man: Is Hemp the Food of the Future?
30. Swaziland to Clamp Down on Conmen Posing as Traditional Healers
31. Organic Products Are Gold in Zambia
32. Zimbabwean Traditional Healers Seek Amendment of Witchcraft Act
33. Ghanaian Man Shot Dead as "Bulletproof" Herbal Magic Fails
34. New African Herbal Medicine for Chronic and Incurable Diseases
35. "Goodness Real Ginseng Bitters" Sold in Ghana Unsafe
36. South African Traditional Healers Call for Recognition in AIDS Fight
37. Zimbabwe Determined to Stop Biopiracy by Swiss University
38. Traditional Chinese Medicine Now "Serious" Medicine in Singapore
39. Chinese Doctor Cures Rheumatism with Herbs
40. Yunnan to Build Herbal Medicine Production Base
41. Food for Thought for College Students
42. Eighteenth Century "Curious Herbal" Republished Online
43. To the Land of Henna and Kohl, Avon Calls
44. Coriander Seed Crop Fears Start Panic Buying
45. Plants Send for Help When Hungry Bugs Strike
46. U.S. Supplement Firms Pledge Anti-Mad Cow Steps
47. Black Pepper Prices Plunge as Vietnamese Harvest Peaks
48. Herb Business News

1. Canada’s NRC Proposes Multi-Million Dollar Quality Standards Lab
By Conrad Richter

GOODWOOD, Mar. 31 -- According to a confidential discussion paper dated March 19, the Canadian government’s National Research Council is floating a proposal to establish a multi-million dollar herbal quality standards research laboratory.

The paper, written by Ralph Sturgeon, a senior research officer from the NRC’s Institute for National Measurement Standards in Ottawa, proposes capital funding of $1.6 million to set up the lab, plus a $500,000 annual operating budget for salaries and materials. The INMS has no natural health product and functional foods specialists on staff so the proposal calls for hiring new technical and research personnel to provide necessary expertise.

Calling on the Canadian government to take "proactive steps" in an "emerging and economically significant field," Sturgeon argues that there is a "measurement standards and metrology problem that must be addressed" if Canada is to take a leadership role. The INMS proposes to "effectively establish measurement standards" in "close collaboration" with Health Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, other government bodies, and the research community, both in Canada and internationally. Sturgeon suggests that the INMS act as a research and coordinating body to establish measurement standards that will, in part, help to ensure that Canadian products are "unencumbered by export barriers."

Citing published studies showing levels of medicinally active or marker compounds in commercial herbal products can vary widely, the paper argues that there is a critical need for to understand where the variation is coming from. Differences in the quality of raw herbs used to make herbal products and differences in handling and manufacture are widely assumed to be causes for the variation; and even improper spiking of herbs with chemicals or improper substitution with other herbs have been reported. But part of the apparent variation could also come from differences in the analytical techniques used.

The INMS is a national metrology institute, participating in an international network of NMIs that cooperate on critical measurement standards issues. Sturgeon is head of the INMS’s Chemical Metrology Group which is active in developing methodologies for organic and inorganic chemical analysis.

But despite the need for internationally accepted standards in the herbal products industry, critics worry that the INMS may do more damage than good. They worry that the INMS’s lack of expertise in natural health products will set off a process that will lead to inappropriate standards. Given the INMS’s intent to collaborate closely with Health Canada’s new regulating body, the Natural Health Products Directorate, critics suggest that the impact of inappropriate standards could be great.

Herb industry experts point out that the IMNS proposal puts a heavy emphasis on "high tech" solutions for the herbal product quality measurement problem, on methodologies such as chemical fingerprinting and constituents analysis. These methods often single out compounds that are assumed, but not proved, to be important measures of quality. St. John’s wort, echinacea, and feverfew are examples of herbs that have suffered from an inappropriate emphasis on chemicals assumed to be important.

In Canada, there is a critical need for basic herb quality assessment expertise and standards, but the proposal does not address these gaps. For the vast majority of herbs on the market for which there are no clear chemical quality markers, experts say quality should be assessed by using traditional microscopic, macroscopic and taxonomic parameters. But in Canada there is an almost total void in skills in these areas. "We need to learn to walk before we learn to run," said one industry insider.

"Feverfew is a perfect example of how we have gotten screwed up in Canada," said the executive. The chemical constituent first thought to be important for its anti-migraine effect is parthenolide. Most feverfew products are standardarized to this chemical. But parthenolide is no longer considered medicinally active, and is now treated only as a "marker" compound. But as marker compounds go, it is a poor choice because it is unstable, breaking down at room temperature and when processed and handled improperly. "Look at the parthenolide levels in the study of commercial feverfew products Sturgeon cites. No wonder they are all over the map. The compound is unstable."

And because the Canadian government made parthenolide the standard for feverfew quality, there is a temptation to adulterate feverfew products with other high parthenolide herbs such as magnolia or tansy -- something unscrupulous companies could never get away with if the quality standard were based on more traditional microscopic and macroscopic characters of feverfew. "Parthenolide levels in some products are so much higher than natural levels that you have to wonder," said the herb industry executive.

The INMS’s lack of expertise in the natural health products arena shows up in the critical area of authentication of botanical reference material. Sturgeon proposes that the development of standard chemical tests and reference materials "should only be undertaken on botanicals of known authenticity, as first established via DNA profiling." This is exactly the polar opposite of what should be done. DNA profiling as a general system of identification for herbs has never been validated by comparison to authentic herbarium specimens. "DNA profiling needs to be proven first using authentic botanicals, not the other way around."

"We need the basics, the unsexy stuff, such as herbaria and living plant collections, and we need taxonomists and herbal quality experts. Once we know each herb and each herb’s potential herbal imposters on a gross taxonomy level, then we can start the job of mapping that knowledge to chemical fingerprint and DNA profile data and other sophisticated new technologies."

2. Health Canada Releases Second Draft Regulatory Framework for NHPs
By Conrad Richter

GOODWOOD, Mar. 31 -- Health Canada’s Natural Health Products Directorate released its long awaited regulatory framework for natural health products this month. But instead of the promised final version of the regulations, it was a new draft -- the second.

Phil Waddington, director of the NHPD, told a delegation of grower and processor representatives last October that the final NHP regulations were to be published in Canada Gazette, the government’s official publication, by "early 2001." But already in October, grower and processor delegates expressed doubt that the many unfinished elements of the new framework were likely to be complete by the spring of 2001.

The first draft, released last June, and followed by a cross-Canada series of consultations with stakeholders, was criticized for providing few details. While consultations were widely praised, most stakeholders reserved judgement until critical details about product and site licensing fees, Good Manufacturing Practices, and the definition of a natural health product were released. The new draft fills in more of the new regulatory scheme contemplated by the government.

The definition of a natural health product has been expanded to include a table that distinguishes between herbs considered foods those considered medicinal. An expert advisory committee will develop the table, though industry stakeholders expect that this artificial division between culinary and medicinal herbs will prove to be unmanageable. Who would have predicted that oregano is now considered a medicinal herb used for infections and many other conditions? Also added to the definition is an exclusion list that keeps substances such as tobacco, narcotic herbs, and antibiotics out of the natural health products category.

There are still no details on what the cost will be to get a product license or a site license to manufacture, package, import or distribute NHPs.

But the new draft does give details on the requirements for product and site licensing. There is now a provision that lets new products based on traditional usages go on the market pending license approval, and if the NHPD does not respond to a product license application within 60 days, the application is deemed to be approved. Industry stakeholders will welcome this time limitation because fears had been widespread that the system was going to be overwhelmed by applications once the regulations take effect.

A new feature of the regulatory framework are the "attestable traditional monographs" which the NHPD says it is preparing. These monographs will simplify the product licensing application process and spell out product quality and labelling specifications for the most popular herbs.

Changes to the site licensing system will now exempt growers who sell to bulk herbs to processors or manufacturers, as well as growers who sell live plants. This was recommended by the growers committee that met Waddington and the NHPD last October. Retailers too will be exempt from the site licensing requirement.

There will be a phase-in period for existing products and existing businesses to be licensed. Existing products have up until three years after the final regulations are published in the Canada Gazette to be licensed. Existing businesses must get a site license within two years.

Although the first draft of the regulatory framework warned that Good Manufacturing Practices would be imposed on licensed NHP businesses, there were no details. The new draft indicates that GMPs for NHPs will not be as stringent as those applied to drugs and spells out such requirements as trained and experienced personnel, a written sanitation program, product and raw material specifications, quality control on each batch, and stability testing.

There are detailed rules on labelling of NHPs in this draft. There is a provision for inner and outer labels and what they must show. Every product must have a lot number, and security packaging will be required. Existing products will have up to three years to comply with the labelling rules.

Like pharmaceutical products, natural health products will have an adverse reaction reporting system which requires manufacturers, distributors and importers to report serious adverse reactions to the government within 15 days. As in other sections of the regulations, there will be a phase-in period for existing businesses to get a reporting system in place.

Unlike the old system under the food or drugs directorate, businesses will be able to appeal decisions of the NHPD. The appeal committee will be drawn from a balanced mix of appointees selected by both the NHPD and the appellant business. Under the old system many businesses felt field inspectors had too much power with no checks and balances.

Although the new framework is a big improvement over the old system, there are still many unanswered questions and concerns. The biggest concern to small players are the costs of compliance. Small home- and farm-based businesses will be forced to close or go underground, unable to cope the new fees and paperwork the new system demands.

There are also concerns about the competitive balance between foreign and domestic manufacturers. Industry observers can foresee problems with how foreign manufacturers are licensed under several options suggested in the draft because overseas standards are often not as stringent, or as stringently enforced, and are open to abuses.

The personal use importation rule, likely remain in effect under the new framework, could add to the competitive imbalance if domestic businesses are required to comply with costly regulations while foreign-based retailers selling direct to Canadian consumers are exempt. With the advent of the Internet, it is easier than ever for foreign retailers to reach Canadians directly.

Another concern is how bulk herb sales will be handled under the new rules. This was the subject of much discussion when the growers committee met Waddington last fall. The new draft seems to address only part of the issue, in exempting farmers who sell bulk herbs to distributors and manufacturers. But direct consumer sales by farmers and retailers were not addressed as explicitly. Last fall, Waddington seemed to favour putting all bulk sales to consumers under the regulations, but an explanatory note in this draft says the "definitions of manufacturer and distributor are not intended to include retailers of NHPs." This could be interpreted as meaning that retail sales of bulk herbs will similarly be exempt since bulk herbs are defined as NHPs. But this is not how Waddington was leaning last fall, so growers and retailers will be seeking clarification.

The full draft of the "Proposed Regulatory Framework for Natural Health Products, March 2001," may be downloaded in pdf format at The NHPD is accepting comments from the public and stakeholders until the end of May.

3. Irradiated Food and Herbs on Sale in London Stores
By Danny Kemp

LONDON, Mar. 22, PA News -- Irradiated food is on sale at leading high-street stores in defiance of British and European food safety rules, it was claimed tonight.

Four out of 28 samples bought at random had been subjected to the controversial process despite not being labelled, investigators said.

By law, only herbs and spices heat-treated by irradiation can be sold on shelves, but even they must be clearly marked.

The products were a Realeat vegeburger mix from Holland and Barrett, a Sharwoods curry powder from a local shop, Fiddles Payne Spice It Up on sale in major supermarkets and some of the seasonings in a French roule cheese from Sainsbury’s, the investigation by the BBC Six O’Clock News found.

A bottle of ginseng bought from Holland and Barrett, labelled as non-irradiated, was also found to be irradiated when tested at a lab.

Prawns that had been irradiated were discovered at two of Britain’s leading supermarkets by trading standards officers, the report said.

The manufacturers involved said they were launching investigations and claimed their suppliers told them their ingredients were not irradiated.

Food and Drink Federation spokeswoman Jackie Dowthwaite told the BBC: "We’re very disappointed. Manufacturers don’t use irradiated food in the UK -- even where we could, because consumers don’t like it."

Supporters of irradiation say the process is a safe way of killing harmful bugs like E-coli but critics claim its effects are unproven and could be used to mask poor quality food.

Dr David Sanderson, who developed the tests used for the investigation at the Scottish Universities Research and Reactor Centre in East Kilbride, said it raised urgent food safety questions.

"If we find that irradiated foods aren’t being labelled properly, that does raise questions about the sourcing of food and whether the potential recall of a product can be done reliably when the labelling chain is broken."

The Food Standards Agency said it was now planning its own nationwide surveillance programme.

A spokesman said: "All irradiated food sold in the UK should be properly labelled and if there is evidence that any of them are not, we will follow that up."

A spokeswoman for Sainsbury’s said the tests were not conclusive.

"This is not a food safety issue, but we have a policy of not selling irradiated foods so we are taking it seriously.

"The results are not conclusive so we are carrying out further tests ourselves."

She added that the group that supplies Sainsbury’s roule cheese supply most retailers in Europe.

Sainsbury’s later said the suspect cheese had been withdrawn from shelves while the further tests were carried out.

Holland and Barrett said it was deeply concerned about the irradiated food allegations.

It immediately recalled both the vegeburger mix and the ginseng, the company told the BBC.

4. "Cloak-and-Dagger" Herb Implicated in Deaths
Mar. 31 -- A man accused of killing his wife and daughter in Los Angeles with a herb-derived poison has been arrested in Japan. The bodies of his wife and four-year old daughter were found tied together and wrapped in plastic under a boat by a diver in September of 1999.

According to LAPD Homicide Detective Rick Jackson the two deaths were traced to the Japanese man who is suspected of having extracted a fatal poison from seeds of a common garden annual plant and using it to murder his wife and daughter.

During the investigation, the LAPD Homicide Division found a package of castor beans purchased by mail from a seed company, along with recipes on how to extract the poison. Records revealed that the man ordered beans from at least two North American seed companies.

Castor bean (Ricinus communis) is a source of a fatal poison, ricin, a white powder with a history of use in the world of espionage and counter-espionage. The former KGB was known to kill using umbrellas and other sharp objects impregnated with the white powder. Once the compound enters the blood stream, even if only a tiny amount, the victim dies quickly, making it a favourite tool that is difficult to trace. Terrorists are known also to have tried to use ricin powder with the powder reportedly turning up in several arrests in North America.

A commonly used laxative oil used to treat constipation and diarrhea is obtained from the beans. Although the bean oil is safe, the raw beans are very poisonous and children are known to have died eating the large colourful beans. The ricin compound is not extracted with the oil, but can be extracted using recipes which the man apparently obtained over the Internet.

Jackson said that the LAPD is still wrapping up its case against the man and expects the suspect to be tried for first degree murder in California.

5. Americans Opting for Herbal Supplements over Doctor’s Office
By Sandra Hoenig

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J., Mar. 27, Daily Targum -- Even in the wake of Congress’ deregulation of the health food industry that began with the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, research still shows that the number of people who prescribe themselves herbal supplements is up and visits to the doctor’s office are down -- despite the lack of supplement regulation.

"I think [people using herbal supplements] are having good feedback from people," Michele Levine, assistant chief pharmacist at Willner Chemists in New York City, said. "Like Echinacea. People use it instead of going to the doctor for bad colds. A few years ago, [people] did not know how to say it or spell it, and now they know so much about it. They have an option where they could use something without going to the doctor."

But consumers must be very specific about what they are looking for when purchasing supplements in order to prevent any potential adverse side effects, she said.

"I really have to pull teeth from [the customers]," Levine said. "You really have to feel the person out and ask a lot of questions." Nutritionists need to ask potential supplement users of the intentions of the particular product, she said.

"I don’t use [herbal supplements] personally, just because I tend to forget, but I do believe in their effectiveness," Orit Carmiel, a Douglass College sophomore, said.

Now that pharmaceutical companies are beginning to research the effects of supplements, doctors will need to learn more about them, Levine said. However, the need still remains for informative scientific studies on herbal supplements, said Alan Conney, director of the Laboratory for Cancer Research and chairman of the University’s department of chemical biology.

If the supplements are better controlled, the potential stands for positive side effects, Conney said. "Bottles may be labeled the same, but may differ from batch to batch in terms of the part of plant that is used," he said. "That [problem] is not usually controlled for" due to the unregulated status of supplements.

In addition, a supplement may contain unwanted toxic contaminants or might negatively interact with certain prescription medication on the market, he said.

For instance, taking the herbal supplement St. John’s Wort while on certain blood-thinning medications poses such a risk, potentially countering the medication’s effect. Physicians who do not know a patient takes St. John’s Wort may increase the dosage of blood-thinning medication under the assumption that the current dosage is insufficient. In such a case, if a patient stops taking St. John’s Wort, the higher dosage of medication could accumulate in the body -- a potentially harmful situation, Conney said.

Another impending problem for the self-care revolution occurs when a consumer uses an herbal supplement for a serious medical condition in lieu of consulting a physician. Consumers might consider supplements to be substitutes for seeking medical guidance, Conney said.

Conney said certain dietary changes may prove to be a safer alternative to taking supplements. "People [who] eat a lot of fruits and vegetables have a lower risk of cancer," he said. However, Levine - also a holistic pharmacist -- worried that simply eating more fruits and vegetables may not sufficiently perform the supplements’ job.

"You do not always absorb everything you eat," she said. "Sometimes you can’t eat all the foods [your body] requires."

Consequently, several health food stores and researchers are looking to place more scientific scrutiny on the positive effects of supplements. For starters, the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition posts on its Web site information regarding herbal supplements, including their reported side effects and interactions.

Many General Nutrition Centers are employing the use of The BioNutritional Encyclopedia -- a free computer service that uses a color-coded system to point out when the consumer should "stop," "use caution" or "go" with their supplement intake, according to BNE reviewer Paul Lachance, executive director of the Nutraceuticals Institute at the University.

In the BNE service, a green rating means that one or more good quality studies have been performed in humans; yellow indicates that early data emerging from human studies appear promising; orange means that only animal studies have been done; and red signifies that little data on the supplement are available, Lachance said.

"Every nutrient can be toxic if you abuse it," he said.

Additionally, the Pioneers Nutraceuticals Research Project at the University studies the effects of food supplements. Its research attempts to isolate beneficial substances from certain foods, while at the same time bringing in more non-regulatory scientific control and value, Geetha Ghai, the project’s principal investigator, said.

But until additional scrutiny is applied to supplements, consumers can only read labels and ask questions, Levine said. "Call a health professional that’s licensed," she said. "Everybody has different views, but at least they have some background."

6. European Researchers Tout Virtues of Edelweiss in Skin Rejuvenation
By Allan Hall

LONDON, Mar. 21, Evening Standard -- Julie Andrews first extolled its virtues in song, only to witness Vince Hill pluck the same Rodgers and Hammerstein ode about an Alpine herb and take it to number one in the British charts.

The musical charms of the edelweiss may now be consigned to elevators and shopping precincts, but the magical properties of the plant could be the latest claim to eternal youth -- a panacea for vain Homo sapiens.

The small flower it’s name means "noble white’ -- is at home on Alpine pastures. Frank Gasner, a research leader for the Swiss pharmaceutical company Pentapharm, says: "Edelweiss have their own in-built sunscreen system. The flowers grow in the mountains at high altitude where they are closer to the sun and get more UV radiation. The same chemicals which protect the flowers from the sun, and help them to survive, can also help the skin.

"Free radicals, which attack the skin’s collagen making it dry out and become wrinkled, also attack the flowers -- but they have learned how to protect themselves. The flowers are also great moisturisers."

Pentapharm subsidiary Alpaflor of Basle, Switzerland, has started harvesting the flowers from dozens of Alpine farms, including 36 in the Val d’Entremont region of Switzerland, for use in cosmetics.

Scientists realised the flowers could be something special when research started about a year ago and the company called in edelweiss specialist Professor Hans Stuppner from Innsbruck University, Austria, who proved they could protect the skin and stop wrinkles.

Edelweiss, once threatened with extinction, was first grown commercially in 1995, since when cultivation has expanded to cover 15,000 square metres of meadows at between 1000 metres and 1600 metres above sea level.

Philippe Auderset, head of research and development at Just Suncare, says: "Edelweiss is typically Swiss, which means people can identify with the product and this image has been really useful to us. Besides that, it really works."

Alpaflor has a representative in Britain where the edelweiss extract could soon be used in cosmetics. But the company’s biggest market is Asia.

7. Medicinal Magic of Herbs
WESTPORT, Conn., Mar. 19, HealthScout -- Herbal medicine is one of those things we hear a lot about these days. But are you confused about what it really is, much less how to incorporate it into your life?

Naturopath Dr. Jennifer Brett, chair of botanical medicine at the University of Bridgeport College of Naturopathic Medicine, has the scoop on herbs and their health benefits.

Just what is a naturopath? A physician who’s trained and licensed in plant-based medicines and herbs. Naturopaths go through four years of medical school like all doctors, but instead of training in a hospital with traditional pharmaceutical drugs, they train in natural medicine.

"Naturopaths are useful in helping patients to optimize general health in a preventative sort of way as opposed to simply treating illness after it occurs," explains Brett. "Naturopaths are also effective in treating chronic complaints, many women’s health-care issues, and typically any complaint that is not responsive to traditional drugs or surgery."

Many people choose to have a naturopath as their general physician, meaning that the naturopath examines the patient regularly to ensure that they maintain overall good health, treating small problems with herbal medicine as they arise. Like any general practitioner, a naturopath will send his or her patients to a specialist when a more serious problem arises.

Other people choose to see a naturopath in addition to a general practitioner. "Some of my patients prefer to see a traditional physician and to supplement that with herbal treatments," says Brett.

"Many people come to a naturopath when conventional medicine has not met their needs. This is especially common in people with chronic complaints that have not been ameliorated by pharmaceutical drugs, and with women facing specific women’s health issues such as menopause. Often, these people find that herbal medicine is more effective than the traditional kind."

8. Herbal Remedies Gaining Popularity
By Ben Koerselman

AMHERST, Mass., Mar. 12, Massachusetts Daily Collegian -- Call it a new herbal renaissance. During the past few years herbal medicine has caught on again, but this time, in a big way. Six years ago, herbal medicine made up only a small part of the North American health marketplace, mostly steeped in cultural beliefs. In 1996, the herbs industry represented only an estimated $5 billion market. A year later, in 1997, the market had grown to $10 billion, a 100 percent increase. The market for plants that heal has been growing since.

Experts have different opinions on the cause of this trend of millions of Americans turning to herbal remedies.

Some say it is representative of the population’s distrust of mainstream medicine, especially with the growth of HMOs and the decline for most Americans of having their own family doctor.

Others say it is representative of a general trend of Americans becoming more health conscious in recent years.

Still others claim that it has come about because herbal medicine and other alternative health therapies have become more accepted and mainstream.

Whatever the reason, it is undeniable that the use of healing plants is growing rapidly. Ginseng, Ginkgo, St. John’s Wort, Echinacea, Goldenseal -- all names that many had not heard of a few years ago, are now touted as miracle cures that boost the immune system, help depression and enhance brain function.

These "miracle cures," however, are not new, and are not limited just to the United States; Native Americans, the Chinese and almost every other culture has used herbal remedies for centuries. Even today, herbal remedies are used all over the world. The World Health Organization estimates that for 80 percent of the earth’s population, medicinal plants are the most common therapy.

Some of the most common medicines available today are derived from plants of some kind: aspirin is derived from the bark of white willow tree and penicillin had its start as a mold.

The difference between these types of drugs (prescription and over-the-counter) and many herbal remedies is that while aspirin and penicillin have been synthesized from their natural state and put through rigorous testing by the Food and Drug Administration, most herbal remedies have not.

This is not to say that herbal remedies do not show promise as being able to help heal many conditions. Many herbal remedies have undergone some testing at one point or another demonstrating their ability to cure. Plus they have centuries of use as further proof of their effectiveness. Most, however, have not undergone the extensive years of double-blind clinical testing for side-effects, dosage and effectiveness required by the FDA.

The reason for this may be rather simple, as Howard Fracklam states in his book Alternative Medicine: Cures or Myths: Economics.

Large pharmaceutical companies cannot patent an ancient remedy unless they discover a way to somehow synthesize the plant’s active ingredient to create a new drug. Without a patent, the companies cannot protect the herb from being sold by competitors, so they see no point in investing the money on the expensive tests.

The lack of rigorous scientific testing has given herbal remedies a bad reputation in the modern medical world, although attitudes are changing.

Many doctors believe that herbal remedies can be harmful to the health of their patients and are not likely to suggest or even mention the use of herbs as a form of treatment. The lack of regulations for herbal medicines is also seen as a concern in the medical community as well as the fact that herbal practitioners in most parts of the United States do not have to be licensed by states to conduct their work.

Although many herbalists have received years of training and education in the use of herbal remedies, and some even require a doctor’s diagnosis of an illness before they will offer to create a remedy, some have little training.

In addition, many consumers may attempt to use remedies on their own without the advice of a practitioner, doctor or dietitian hoping for a "quick fix." Allergies and other unforeseen consequences may result from such use.

Experts recommend that consumers consult a well-trained practitioner before beginning the use of herbal medications and to educate themselves about the herbs, the recommended doses and their potential side effects.

9. Weeds May Be Richer Source of Medicines Than Tropical Rain Forests
ATHENS, GA, Mar. 12, Eurekalert -- Conservationists have long pointed out that primary tropical rain forests may have dramatic value because of important and undiscovered medicinal plants. New research by an anthropology graduate student at the University of Georgia, however, has found that weeds in easy-to-reach disturbed areas may be even more important.

The study, by John R. Stepp at UGA and Daniel E. Moerman of the University of Michigan-Dearborn, appears to turn some theories of medicinal flora on their heads.

"I was really amazed by what we found," said Stepp. "The study is based on my field work with the Highland Maya in Chiapas, Mexico. We also used an exhaustive database of over 2,500 medicinal plants used by Native North Americans."

10. Women’s Health Expert Confirms Natural Nutrients Can Boost Vitality, Energy
POTOMAC, Md., Mar. 20, PRNewswire -- In today’s society, many women struggle to keep pace with the demands of work, home and even leisure-time activities. When women become chronically tired, they often reach for "quick energy fixes," such as candy bars, energy bars, colas and coffee. However, it is proven that these "quick fixes" don’t work. In fact, most will actually drain energy from the body by disrupting carbohydrate metabolism.

A noted authority in clinical nutrition, preventive medicine and women’s health, Susan Lark, M.D., has discovered that women have the amazing ability to fine-tune their bodies to produce energy from the nutrients they consume. "However, if a woman’s body chemistry is even slightly out of balance, this energy is often locked up and unavailable," says Dr. Lark, who is also the co- author of a new book, The Chemistry of Success: Secrets of Peak Performance. "And this can rob her of physical, mental and emotional well-being, as well as her quality of life." Dr. Lark offers four secrets of proper body chemistry in women:

* Maintain a balanced thyroid with two key nutrients-tyrosine (an amino acid) and iodine;

* Maintain body-energizing ATP with two other natural substances-co- enzyme Q10 and L-carnitine;

* Maintain circulation, oxygenation and blood flow to the brain with the herb, ginkgo biloba; and

* Keep the body in the proper alkaline/acid balance. Too much acidity promotes muscle weakness and fatigue.

Because so many of her patients were struggling with chronic fatigue, Dr. Lark began working with biochemists and supplement distributor, Doctors’ Preferred, Inc. (DPI), of Rockville, Md., to create a new natural energy formula exclusively for women. Called Energy Vitalizer, it is the first and only supplement that balances a woman’s body chemistry in the four most crucial ways. "This is the most exciting energy breakthrough for women I’ve seen in my 26 years of research and medical practice," Dr. Lark says.

"We are delighted to assist Dr. Lark in the development of her unique supplement formulation," says Linda Werner, DPI director of Women’s Health. "Energy Vitalizer contains the ideal dosages of the key vitamins, minerals and other nutritionals to help a woman’s body better convert food into a steady stream of energy. It’s exciting to consider that this can optimize body chemistry for the millions of women who suffer daily from chronic fatigue and being ‘bone tired’ for no obvious reason."

"Energy Vitalizer is the perfect, all-natural and, perhaps, only solution that addresses the true source of fatigue in middle-aged women," says Jonathan E. Missner, senior vice president of Phillips Health LLC, DPI’s parent company. "Most importantly, it contains no Ma-Huang, a Chinese herb often used in energy products; nor any form of ephedrine -- the active ingredient of Ma-Huang -- a stimulant commonly used in over-the-counter medications for asthma, hay fever, colds and weight loss. Further, Energy Vitalizer may be safely taken with most traditional medications, including those prescribed for low thyroid."

If you are taking any prescribed medicines, Dr. Lark also recommends that you always check with your doctor before adding any new supplements to your daily regimen.

A graduate of Northwestern University Medical School, Dr. Lark has served on the clinical faculty of Stanford University Medical School, where she continues to teach in the division of Family and Community Medicine. Drawing on 26 years of personal research and professional success at creating peak health for women, Dr. Lark provides unique, scientific-based solutions to maintain a vital and well-balanced lifestyle.

11. Medical Research Firm Gets $100,000 for Cayenne Pepper Study
By Andy Vuong

DENVER, Mar. 20, Denver Post -- Cayenne pepper, a popular spice used in home remedies for coughs and body aches, is also putting the heat on fungal and yeast infections.

The National Institutes of Health recently awarded $100,000 to MycoLogics Inc., a Denver-based medical research firm, to further a study that found a fungus and yeast-killing chemical in the pepper.

Dr. Anthony De Lucca, a microbiologist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s research division, discovered the chemical about two years ago while searching for compounds that could protect plants from fungi. Preliminary tests of the chemical, named CAY-1 by De Lucca, show that it is not toxic to human cells in small doses, De Lucca said.

"We did preliminary studies as far as its anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties, and found that it could have some commercial or medical merit," De Lucca said. "MycoLogics became interested in it, and they will further explore the possibilities."

Early tests also show that CAY-1 can kill or stop the growth of Aspergillus and Candida albicans fungi. Aspergillus is common in the environment, but poses a serious health threat to people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer and AIDS patients, said Dr. Claude Selitrennikoff, MycoLogic’s president and chief executive.

Candida causes a number of human diseases, such as yeast infections and thrush, which is when fungi infects the mouth, Selitrennikoff said. Both Candida and Aspergillus are life-threatening to people with weak immune systems.

At least 200,000 people in the United States each year are afflicted with a form of Candida, not including yeast infections, Selitrennikoff said, and about half die from the disease. About 45,000 to 80,000 people get Aspergillus.

Selitrennikoff said existing treatments for Candida have negative side effects, such as causing fevers and chills and destroying kidneys. "Current drugs don’t do a very good job," he said.

MycoLogics will initially examine the chemical to see how it kills fungi. It will also work to confirm that CAY-1 isn’t toxic to human cells and will test to see if it works in lab mice.

It will be about two years before the chemical is tested in humans, said Selitrennikoff, who is a professor at the University of Colorado Medical School.

And if everything goes as planned, the chemical could be used in prescription or over-the-counter drugs in about six years.

12. Could Herbal Sleep Remedies be the Answer?
HULL, U.K., Mar 23, PR Newswire Europe -- With the seasonal clock change to British Summer Time this weekend - are people putting their long term health at risk in a bid to get a good night’s sleep? Research shows that:

* Around 16 million sleeping tablet prescriptions are issued annually, even though the drugs used in sleeping tablets can be dangerous and highly addictive.[1]

* These drugs can be dangerous to people with medical conditions such as breathing problems, heart disease and psychosis and anyone who has taken sleeping tablets for more than a few nights should not try withdrawal without the help of their GP [1]

* Sleeping tablets should only be prescribed when the underlying cause of the sleeplessness has been identified and treated [2]

* A quarter of people taking part in a national sleep survey blamed stress for their sleeplessness [3]

Although conventional prescription sleeping tablets can be helpful in exceptional circumstances they can be highly addictive and can have serious side effects.

However there are alternatives which do not carry the same health implication as they work by a different mode of action.

Herbal sleep remedies, such as Seven Seas Slumber Tablets, contain only natural herbal ingredients such as Wild Lettuce, Passiflora, Lupulus and Piscidia. These herbs are renowned for their soothing properties and work to promote calmness helping the body to relax into natural sleep.

Unlike many prescription tablets they don’t work on an eight-hour cycle, which can leave you, feeling drowsy and heavy headed in the morning.

Those suffering from sleeplessness or having sleep problems, for example waking in the middle of the night, should consider the reasons why, before rushing off to their GP for a prescription for sleeping tablets.

Stress, moving home, changing jobs or relationship issues, noise levels or even an uncomfortable bed can make sleeping a problem but whatever the cause worrying will only magnify the problem, creating a vicious circle.

Sleep experts agree relaxation will help to put sleep problems into perspective along with taking steps to ensure your bedroom is an oasis of calm and conducive to a good night’s sleep. Taking a herbal sleep remedy like Slumber Tablets, using aromatherapy oils and avoiding stimulants like caffeine and alcohol should also help.

But getting practical advice about sleeping problems can be, at best difficult, which is why Seven Seas, makers of Slumber Tablets, have produced a new self-help booklet which offers tips on relaxation techniques and the use of herbs and aromatherapy.


[1] Making Sense of Sleeping Tablets, published by Mind.

[2] The British National Formulary.

[3] Slumber Cup Sleep Assessment Week survey.

13. Herbs Take a Whack at Prostate Cancer
WESTPORT, Conn., Mar. 19, HealthScout -- A mixture of Chinese herbs may offer hope to men with prostate cancer that hasn’t responded to conventional medicine. Hundreds or perhaps thousands of men nationally are using the herbs, marketed as PC-SPES, say medical experts. PC stands for prostate cancer and SPES are the first four letters of the Latin word for hope.

The herbs seem to work as well as conventional hormone therapies, which reduce testosterone and arrest the growth of prostate cancer, though with some dangerous side effects, says a new study by California researchers.

But more exciting, they say, is that the herbs halted the growth of cancer for some men who previously had not responded to hormone therapy at all.

"That was very exciting and suggested that this herb product was also working in a non-hormone fashion," says lead author Dr. Eric Small, an associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.

"In that group of patients for whom hormone therapy doesn’t work, there are not many alternatives," Small says. Findings appear in tomorrow’s Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Hormone therapy is considered a treatment of last resort and usually is begun after men have opted for either surgical removal of the prostate or radiation. Even when effective, it typically works only for several years, until the body adjusts to it and the cancer begins to spread again.

Why PC-SPES works for men who haven’t responded to hormone therapy has not been determined yet, Small says. His research has been funded by CaP Cure, a nonprofit group founded by former Wall Street dealer Michael Milken, that’s devoted to research in prostate cancer.

The American Cancer Society says 180,400 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year, and nearly 32,000 will die from the disease.

Small and his colleagues worked with 33 men who had not yet tried hormone therapy, but whose blood test for prostate-specific antigen (PSA) showed abnormal growth in the prostate gland. A score above 4 or a rise in PSA suggests the need for a biopsy, and Small says the men had an average score of 7.9.

The researchers also worked with 37 men who had tried hormone therapy but had found it ineffective. Their average PSA was 60.7, Small says.

All participants took the herbs in capsule form, taking from one to three 320-milligram capsules a day for a little more than a year, the study says.

In the first group, called hormone-dependent, every man saw his PSA decline 80 percent to 100 percent after taking PC-SPES, an extract from eight Chinese herbs, the study says. For 26 men, the PSA dropped below detectable levels.

The benefits stood for the duration of the 57-month study, the researchers say.

However, Small says how long PSAs would remain low needs more study. Some men anecdotally report their PSAs began to rise after a period of using the herbs, much as with hormone therapy, he says.

In any case, the herbs usually are not covered by insurance and would cost more than $400 a month, Small says. By contrast, conventional hormone therapy has a proven track record, while the herbs produce a number of side effects, including life-threatening clots, he says.

In Small’s study, three of the 70 participants developed clots, about 4 percent of the group.

"I see no reason to use it instead of hormone therapy," Small says.

It’s a different story, though, when hormone therapy doesn’t work.

The second group in Small’s study, called hormone-independent men -- those who had not responded to hormone therapy -- showed far more interesting and hopeful results from the herbs, he says.

About 54 percent of these men saw their PSAs drop more than 50 percent, Small says. And, although the drop lasted an average of only four months, he says something non-hormonal in the herbs caused the drop. Further, five of those 37 men have maintained their lower PSAs, the study says.

"These are people for whom there really are no alternatives," Small says.

Dr. Aaron E. Katz, an assistant professor of urology at Columbia University who also has studied PC-SPES in patients with advanced prostate cancer, says about 80 percent of men with prostate cancer do not respond to conventional hormone therapy, although no one yet knows why.

His studies also have shown that the Chinese herbs offer some hope to these men, Katz says.

The latest research adds to the growing body of evidence that PC-SPES can fight prostate cancer, Katz says.

"It’s not something fake," he says. "It’s obviously real. With more and more patients involved in studies, obviously we may be able to learn something of real value."

14. Herbal Tablets Blamed for Dangerous Clotting
By Bob LaMendola

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., Mar. 23, South Florida Sun-Sentinel -- The doctors at the hospital couldn’t figure out why John couldn’t breathe, and he was getting scared.

After days of tests, a specialist found the culprit: a clot blocking the blood flow to his lungs.

John had been taking an herbal concoction, PC-SPES, that is much-hyped for prostate cancer. An elevated test result had given him a prostate cancer scare, but he did not have a tumor. The herbs had a hidden side effect of thickening the blood.

"I had no idea whatsoever that I was putting myself in danger," says John, 69, a retiree in Boca Raton who asked that his full name not be used.

John is at least the third man in southern Palm Beach County, Fla., alone to be hospitalized with dangerous blood clots because of PC-SPES, one of thousands of untested herbal remedies sold in health food shops. Clots can break off and block crucial arteries, risking death.

The cases stand as screaming warnings about the dangers of taking so-called harmless supplements without a physician’s supervision, says Dr. Mark Adelman, a lung specialist who treated two of the three men.

Many herbal remedies billed as "natural" are potent and can have unintended side effects, especially when used in combination with other supplements or medications. Health store employees seldom have much training in such interactions.

"The benefits of these herbal remedies are not proven at all," Adelman says.

PC-SPES tablets are a blend of eight herbs: Saw palmetto, chrysanthemum, isatis, licorice, reishi, san-qi ginseng, rubescens and scuteallaria.

The combination causes a strong response similar to estrogen, the female hormone. Studies on small numbers of people and in labs showed that the pills dramatically lower the levels of PSA, or prostate specific antigen, an antibody made by the body when prostate cancer is present. An elevated PSA is an indicator of a tumor.

Advocates of herbal medicine have cited the supplement’s effect on PSA as evidence that it cures prostate cancer, which strikes 180,000 men and kills 40,000 every year.

The herbal remedy has been promoted heavily on Web sites and in health stores. A month’s worth of pills costs more than $300.

"It’s incredibly effective. It’s dramatic. It’s probably the best thing out there for prostate cancer," says Teresa Cardwell, a chiropractor, clinical nutritionist and radio health show host who works at Donigan Nutrition Center in Boca Raton, Fla.

Men who take six to nine pills per day have seen their PSA levels drop by 100-fold, back to normal range, she says.

But despite the claims, no one knows whether the herbs actually kill cancer or just reduce the body’s antibody response to cancer.

"I think it’s a placebo effect," Adelman says.

What is well-known is that the herbal remedy has side effects: It causes breast tenderness, it decreases the sex drive and it thickens the blood. Clots have been documented in a small number of cases in the small studies done so far on the supplement.

Cardwell says she tells all PC-SPES customers to take enzymes along with the herbs to thin the blood and counteract the risk of clots. Unfortunately, she says, she does not talk to every shopper and some men may skip the enzymes, which cost an additional $180 a month.

"They must stick to the regimen. If they don’t, they should not be taking it," Cardwell says. "My worst nightmare is to have someone die from something I did to try to save them."

John, the retiree, was one of her customers. He had stopped taking the enzymes, not realizing their importance. He says he now is wary of herbal remedies and PC-SPES. He would only take them if he had advanced cancer, not as a preventative.

"If you use it as a general get-well type of herbal medicine, it’s too powerful for that," John said.

15. Herb Safety is Controversal According to Texas A&M Professor
COLLEGE STATION, Mar. 27, M2 Presswire -- For as long as human beings have lived on the earth, herbs have been in use as medicine, as botanicals and as flavorings for foods. And even now, as the 21st century officially dawns, "Americans are spending between $3.5 billion and $5 billion annually on herbal supplements," said Dr. Jenna Anding, assistant professor and extension nutrition specialist at Texas A&M University.

Herbs that are touted to be health aids whether as prevention of some condition or other or as cure count for a lot of those billions of dollars. Some devotees say because herbs have been used as medications for thousands of years, they must have some value. Other consumers and health professionals are more skeptical. If herbal medications were so wonderful for all those years, they ask, why was life expectancy so much shorter in the past?

In fact, many health care professionals including Anding herself are very cautious when it comes to herbal supplements.

"Most of the research on herbal medications has been done in Europe, where herbal supplements are regulated more tightly than they are here,"she explained.

In an article on "Herbal Therapy: What a Clinician Needs to Know to Counsel Patients Effectively," Brent A. Bauer, M.D., defines herbs as "a plant or plant part valued for its medicinal, savory or aromatic qualities." Botanicals, he wrote, are "any plant-derived product used for a medicinal or health purpose." (From "Concise Review for Clinicians," the Division of Area General Internal Medicine, Mayo Clinic, 2000 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)

Sometimes herbs and botanicals are the same thing; sometimes they are not.

But according to information from The Natural Marketplace Trends Report, the three current top-sellers in the world of herbal remedies are: ginkgo, garlic and Echinacea.


"Generally speaking, ginkgo is often promoted as a means of improving short-term memory improving concentration and short-term memory," Anding said. "There are some studies that suggest the herb might have some merit and some (studies) find that it doesn’t work."

Perhaps these studies were done differently, used different levels or different strengths of the herb; or the herb was given in different ways for different lengths of time; or the symptoms were monitored differently, she said.

"The jury is still out," Anding said, adding that many studies are still being done.

"One concern is that ginkgo may have some blood-thinning properties," she said. "If one is already taking blood-thinning medication even aspirin the ginkgo might thin the blood even more." If someone who has been taking ginkgo is in a serious accident, she said, the bleeding might be difficult to stop.

Anding said the recommendation is to stop taking ginkgo at least two weeks before a scheduled surgery.


Garlic is promoted as a way to reduce blood cholesterol levels, as well as being a possible antioxidant and "it may have some antibacterial properties," Anding said.

But when garlic is taken in high doses (and as Anding points out, "Who knows what a high dose is?"), it may enhance the effectiveness of high blood pressure medication and blood thinning medication. In theory, the use of garlic with insulin or with a drug for hypoglycemia might have an adverse effect on those medications, she said.

Garlic in food is not a problem, Anding said. "Cooking with garlic is fine, although some may get an upset stomach if they eat too much.

"Using a little bit is good; using too much could be harmful."

And, as with other herbs, use of garlic should be discontinued one to two weeks before scheduled surgery.


Echinacea is promoted as a method of preventing or treating colds, Anding said. "Some studies say it works; some say it doesn’t. There are so many variables it’s hard to get a conclusive decision."

Echinacea is also called the purple cone flower, she said, which is part of the daisy family. "If one is allergic to daisies, you may experience a reaction to an Echinacea supplement."

This herb is supposed to prevent colds because it boosts the immune system. But for someone with an autoimmune disease, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, boosting the immune system is the last thing they want.

And its possible benefit might not be all that beneficial.

"Some experts say if it’s taken for longer than eight weeks, it may reduce the effectiveness of the immune system," Anding said.

Anding’s advice is to consult with a doctor or other health care provider before taking any herbal supplements.

Since the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) does not test herbal supplements, these supplements are not scrutinized with the same high standards that more traditional medications are.

"Herbs are not tested for purity before going on the market," she said. "Herbs in this country are regulated differently from drugs, although some of them may have drug-like properties."

Anding advised anyone who is thinking of taking any herbal supplement should:

-- Talk with a doctor or health care provider, and get into the habit of discussing any and all medications with them, including pharmacists.

-- Get an accurate diagnosis before using any herb.

-- Learn all about the potential side effects of the herbs considered. Do your homework get educated and make informed decisions.

-- Seek unbiased and scientific-based research for your source of information.

"There are plants that may help and plants that can harm," she said. "Many times the difference between a drug and poison is the dosage."

Anding’s Recommended Reading

* Tyler’s Herbs of Choice: The Therapeutic Use of Phytomedicinals, by Varro E. Tyler and James E. Robbers, the Haworth Herbal Press, New York, 1999

* Tyler’s Honest Herbal, by Steven Foster and Varro E. Tyler, The Haworth Herbal Press, New York, 1999

* American Botanical Council Web site:

* National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine of the National Institutes of Health Web site:

16. Prosecutors Say Moneylender Copied 1986 Aconite Murder
URAWA, Japan, Mar. 30, Kyodo -- Prosecutors said Friday at the first hearing of a murder-for-insurance case involving a moneylender and three women in Saitama Prefecture that the accused committed the crime by coping a 1986 case of aconite poisoning.

In their opening statement at the Urawa District Court in the prefecture, prosecutors said Shigeru Yagi, 51, and the three women murdered a man in 1995 by having him eat a sweet-bean bun laced with a lethal amount of aconite herb, copying a case in Naha, Okinawa Prefecture.

In the Naha case, a former company worker was convicted of killing his wife by having her take a tablet containing aconite and globefish poison in order to get 185 million yen in insurance money.

Yagi has been charged with two murders, one attempted murder, assault, fraud and forgery, and is accused of masterminding five of the six cases beginning in 1995.

He pleaded not guilty to all charges earlier in the day.

The three women -- Analie Sato Kawamura, a 35-year-old Filipina, Mayumi Take, 33, and 39-year-old Takako Morita -- pleaded guilty at the hearing to involvement in some of the cases.

17. Be Careful with Weight Reducing Teas
SANTA MONICA, Calif., Mar. 31, HealthWorld Online -- To reduce weight there are thousands of methods known nowadays, but among all of them the weight reducing teas it is considered like one of the cheapest and it was thought that its consumption didn’t produce collateral effects in health. But now it is known that this magical drink that can help you recover your figure can affect your liver and produce hepatitis.

The toxicology specialist Anthony Wong, chief of the Centro de Ayuda Toxicológica del Hospital Clinicas de San Pablo (Brazil), confirms "we have news that different types of tea produce hepatic problems" and one of the most serious collateral effects that the herbs cause when the tea is prepared is hepatitis.

This happens because the varieties of teas that have sacred rind or senna [Cassia acutifolia], which are drank by many people who want to loose those extra kilos because they have a laxative effect, can produce a hepatitis brought on by medication. Instead that the illness is triggered by a virus like in the case of hepatitis A, B and C it is caused by a chemical substance.

Sacred rind and senna have compounds that act in the nucleus of the liver cells, it is like if it was killing the cell’s heart. And produces symptoms of hepatic intoxication identical to the ones caused by the viral hepatitis: yellow eyes, dark urine and whitish feces.

Likewise, some plants like the confre [sp.? comfrey?] (a plant with digestive properties that can cause liver cancer), valerian (a type of tranquilizer) and ephedra (has alkaloids that inhibit the appetite). "Those products are difficult to metabolize. Depending on the concentration in which they were ingested, the time they were used and the sensitivity of the consumer, they tend to be retained in the liver and induce to a degeneration of the hepatic cells", explains the homeopath Luis Antonio Costa, director of the Homeopathic Medical Association of Paraná Brazil.

To avoid these collateral problems, you have to be aware of the ingestion period of the tea. Because the consumption period should not overcome 90 days, because there are persons who get used to take it during all their life. It is also necessary to be aware of the continuous irritation that the laxatives cause in the intestine because it can end in cancer.

18. Don’t Get Hopes Up Over ‘Herbal Viagra’
WESTPORT, Conn., Mar. 31, HealthScout -- The approval of Viagra (sildenafil) in 1998 revolutionized the way the public views sexual dysfunction. Many doctors had been unaware of the number of men who had erectile problems until millions of them showed up at offices seeking the new treatment.

Viagra’s success also spawned a raft of copycat herbal products that promised to work as well or better than the prescription drug but without the need for a doctor’s visit. Newspapers and television reports have even promoted such products. The Boston Herald, for example, describes a Chinese herbal formula to treat impotence, while ABC News publicizes a spray-on remedy.

In both cases, the creators claim their products are better than Viagra because they are all natural and therefore have no side effects. Such statements play on a common misconception about alternative medicine. In reality, anything capable of altering the function of the body is also capable of causing side effects, whether it’s a drug or herbal remedy.

Consumers should know that herbal products are seldom tested for safety and some products in the United States have been found to be contaminated with toxins or prescription drugs, according to a report from the San Francisco Chronicle. Herbs that have been taken safely in teas for centuries can also become dangerous when manufactured as pills or powders.

Even Viagra itself isn’t the miracle drug suggested by patients’ testimonials. A wire service story from C-Health explains that Viagra is widely misused and physicians often prescribe the drug without understanding the reasons behind a patient’s marital problems

19. Under the Influence? -- Kava Might Make Driving Dangerous
WESTPORT, Conn., Mar. 26, HealthScout -- The herbal remedy kava kava has gained a following as a natural way to relieve stress or as an alternative to antianxiety medicines such as Valium (diazepam). There’s no question that this plant extract from the South Pacific works. Scientists have identified several active compounds in the commercial mixture. Sometimes this sedative works too well. People who use the herbal product can become so groggy that driving becomes dangerous.

Kava kava is usually just called kava, and in Hawaii it’s name is awa. Island cafes frequently serve kava tea, which has more of the mood-altering ingredients than kava pills. A wire service story from the San Francisco Chronicle explains that some people have been prosecuted for driving while intoxicated after throwing back one too many cups of herbal tea.

20. Cannabis Can Drive Users Insane, Say Doctors
LONDON, Mar. 9, Deutsche Presse Agentur -- The use of cannabis can unleash a host of serious illnesses and make existing ones worse, according to scientists in Britain.

Regular cannabis use has led to acute psychological problems in a high proportion of people, said Dr Andrew Johns of the Institute of Psychiatry in London.

One study found that 15 per cent of cannabis users identified psychotic symptoms such as hearing voices or irrational feelings of persecution. Cannabis was also associated with high rates of other forms of mental illness such as major depression and adjustment disorder.

The drug seemed to worsen the condition of people already suffering from schizophrenia and heavy use could introduce a state resembling acute schizophrenia with users experiencing more and earlier psychotic relapses.

A review by Professor Heather Ashton of the University of Newcastle published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, said cannabis affected almost every bodily system.

These included heart causing problems that might be serious for people with pre-existing cardiac disease and suppression of the immune system. Smoking between three and four reefers of cannabis produced the same risk of bronchitis and emphysema as 20 or more cigarettes a day.

According to Dr Philip Robson who was also writing in the journal, cannabis is not all bad. The first reports of cannabis being used as a medicine appeared in China nearly 5,000 years ago when it was recommended for malaria, rheumatic pains and childbirth, as was mixed with wine as surgical anaesthetic.

Modern science has shown that chemicals in cannabis can have a therapeutic effect in nausea caused by anti-cancer drugs, multiple sclerosis, loss of appetite, pain, glaucoma, insomnia, anxiety and depression, epilepsy and asthma.

21. Pursuit of a Perfect Body with Supplements Exacts a Physical Cost
By Bob Condor

CHICAGO, Mar. 30, Chicago Tribune -- When Jim Magidson started a serious weight-lifting program seven years ago, he was "scared to death" of taking dietary supplements to build muscles or to lose fat. By mid-1999, he experienced a plateau in his training and a dramatic change of mind. He decided it was time to try the same supplements he never imagined taking.

Like the queues that form in a health club weight room by 5 p.m., Magidson is just one of growing number of Americans who are opting for dietary supplements to get pumped up. Muscles are in, and nothing appears out of the question to get them.

In earlier generations, little boys imagined themselves looking like Charles Atlas by merely following his exercise program. Nowadays, regular exercise along with a balanced diet no longer seem to be enough. Taking multivitamins or stocking up on protein powder are foregone conclusions.

Americans are paying serious cash for performance-enhancing and muscle-pumping supplements such as creatine, androstenedione (made famous by baseball slugger Mark McGwire) or ephedra (promoted as a fat burner) that frankly don’t stand on much scientific research.

That hasn’t stopped many people.

"I have CPAs, lawyers and doctors among my clients," said Michael Venice, a personal trainer based at Sharper Fitness in downtown Chicago. "They are still buying into the market hype. They want to believe in fat-blockers or ‘exercise-in-a-bottle’ supplements. They want an edge."

Problem is, sometimes the edge is more than what’s bargained for. Venice said some clients are using preworkout supplements with such stimulants as ephedra (also known as ma huang) and caffeine that actually make them "edgy."

"That’s good if you are planning to throw some weights around," he said, but maybe not so good for your mood or if you want to avoid throwing your personality around. Some experts say a strong cup of coffee will do the same job with less harm.

Ephedra is a main ingredient in many natural weight-loss and fat-burner products, but a prime example of what doctors and medical researchers mean when they say "natural" doesn’t always mean safer or better.

Though the 1994 Dietary Supplements Health Education Act might be considered landmark legislation by consumers who want unlimited access to vitamins, herbs and other supplements, others say the law’s flexibility is its weakness.

"The 1994 act puts the burden of proof on the Food and Drug Administration to show a substance such as ephedra (also widely used in its synthetic ephedrine form) is not safe, rather than for companies to prove it is effective," said Wilkie Wilson, professor of pharmacology at Duke University Medical Center and co-author of "Pumped: Straight Facts for Athletes About Drugs, Supplements and Training" (W.W. Norton, $14.95). "Congress made it safe to sell anything."

Ephedra is among the most controversial supplements, rating more than 1,200 complaints filed with the FDA. Those reports include 70 deaths and many cases linking strokes, heart attacks, seizures and hypertension to the herb and its variations. Many lawsuits have been filed against manufacturers, yet muscle-magazine ads are still quick to show men and women with bulging physiques and touting hundreds of products containing ephedra.

Another problem that ephedra illustrates about the downside of the lenient 1994 dietary supplements act is the inconsistency in manufacturing.

The University of Arkansas College of Pharmacy has evaluated the labels of ephedra supplements and found that 20 percent differed in actual content from what was listed on the label. Some were superpotent, and others barely contained the herb, while yet others actually were made with synthetic ephedra, though claiming to be natural.

Wilson said his research shows that products with ephedra and caffeine do actually help boost metabolism by 5 percent to 10 percent. He questions, however, whether it is worth the potential risk to one’s cardiovascular and central nervous systems, especially because there are decidedly safer ways to boost metabolism, such as exercise.

It’s an important point in the debate over performance-enhancing supplements to build today’s version of the Charles Atlas body in both male and female versions.

Most people -- a majority are men, but women increasingly are eyed as the next market -- who take the capsules, liquids and powders haven’t maximized the other resources available to them. Those are weight training and proper nutrition (beyond a balanced diet, two key strategies are eating more frequent but smaller meals and making sure to get some carbohydrates and protein immediately after a workout).

For instance, University of Florida researchers have looked extensively at how many sets of weight-lifting exercises are optimal for building muscles, both size and strength. Results show that one set is enough to make significant gains and fit into a busy schedule. But doing second and third sets will bring incremental gains that are noticeable to the dedicated lifter.

"Your goal is to exhaust the muscles," said Randy Braith, director of exercise physiology at the university. "Following a proper technique that isolates muscle groups (such as not using your legs to cheat upward on a bench press for the chest, arms and shoulders) is the best way to overload the muscles. When the muscles are worked to exhaustion, the body calls up more growth hormone naturally to rebuild stronger muscles."

That would be the natural approach, as opposed to seeking out a doctor who prescribes shots of human growth hormone. A stop at the performance-supplements shelves could be interpreted as an over-the-counter strategy to the same end.

"What surprises me so much is what people are willing to do to their bodies for little edge," Wilson said. "We are talking about serious metabolic toxins and anabolic agents for maybe an inch or two on their arms or chests."

It’s all in the dream of a perfect body, which Wilson speculates is impossible without some laboratory help.

"We tried to get some photos of bodybuilders who don’t use chemicals," he said. "Our sources basically said you can’t find them, because every photo of some guy with a pumped body uses chemicals. A bodybuilder might say he is natural because he has been off supplements for 12 weeks."

Wilson worries most about the impressionable group of America’s teenagers. "I am extremely concerned that people are not fully developed in their bodies, including the brain, before age 21," he said. "We just don’t know what damage might be done. Androgenic, or male hormone, compounds can have all kinds of negative effects, including reduced height. Male hormones send all sorts of signals to the brain. And we are just beginning to discover how androgenic compounds affect women."

Reputable supplement companies warn against using a product such as creatine if you are 18 or younger. One of the biggest reasons is that no long-term findings are available, even if a body of research shows creatine might increase power and speed in trained athletes.

Yet a December 2000 Mayo Clinic survey of 300 Rochester, Minn., student athletes showed that 27 of them had tried creatine. About half of those were still using it because they said they believed it works, while 20 percent of the respondents experienced the most commonly reported side effects of diarrhea and cramps. Perhaps most bothersome is that a quarter of the creatine users were taking more than the recommended dose.

Shazad Carbaidwala is a student and football player at North Park College in Chicago. He tried creatine at age 16, when he was 148 pounds.

"I stopped using it after a while because it made me bloated, and I pulled muscles a lot," Carbaidwala said. "I was always tight and had to drink a lot of water to avoid muscle problems."

Like many teens, Carbaidwala said his main information source for creatine was his group of friends. "I didn’t do much research," he said. "I thought I was putting something good in my body."

These days, Carbaidwala participates in the football team’s weight workouts five days per week and supplements his daily meals with protein shakes. He prefers the brand of protein supplement that goes for $20 per 2 pounds but sometimes opts for another brand that sells at 4 pounds for $20 to save money. The regimen has allowed him to gain nearly 40 pounds of muscle on his 5-foot-7 frame.

Other research shows the messages about developing more muscle don’t stop with high school graduation. Texas Tech researchers have found that about 14 percent of college-age males and more than 3 percent of females in the university gym use androstenedione, which is considerably more potent and with greater risk of side effects than creatine. This "andro" use for 1999 is basically the same number as 1998 despite a significant amount of negative publicity about the supplement during McGwire’s home run chase.

Maybe andro users would be better served to bone up on a pair of studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. In 1999, Iowa State researchers found a 300-milligram dose of andro did not increase muscle mass or strength when compared with a placebo pill during an eight-week period. The study of 30 men between 18 and 29 did show, however, that the supplement lowers HDL, or "good" cholesterol.

In February 2000, Harvard scientists found a daily 300-milligram dose of andro did increase blood levels of testosterone but similarly upped two types of the female hormone estrogen in 42 male subjects. Besides lower HDL cholesterol, a rise in testosterone in men can lead to severe acne, male-pattern baldness and possibly liver disease. A man with higher than normal estrogen levels can develop breast tissue and suffer a loss of sex drive. For women, increased testosterone can lead to a deeper voice and body hair.

Monique Ryan, an Evanston-based sports nutritionist, said "pro-hormone" supplements such as androstenedione or the hormone DHEA (purported to boost testosterone and provide an anti-aging effect) should only be prescribed by physicians, no matter if an individual is a strapping 20-year-old or someone aspiring to relive their youth.

"One problem is hormone-related cancers when the body produces too much testosterone," said Ryan, who has studied sports supplements research extensively as part of her consulting to elite cyclists and runners throughout the country. "The key fact is the supplements don’t seem to increase muscle strength."

There is some research evidence that creatine can improve power lifting or jumping ability but only in athletes already in intense training for their sports. Typical recreational athletes are better served by "recovery nutrition" or making sure to get a post-workout snack (high-carbohydrate, moderate-protein), Ryan said. Interestingly, some researchers contend creatine’s greatest benefit might be for people with atrophied muscles from an injury or illness. For now, all research has to be considered preliminary and not conclusive at best.

"We don’t know much about how creatine or andro or any of this stuff affects the human body and even less about how it affects the developing human body," Wilson said. "There’s not much that works that is safe, and there’s not much safe that works."

For his part, Jim Magidson started with creatine.

"It didn’t do much for me," said Magidson, 38, who owns his own advertising agency in Chicago.

Others swear by it.

"It’s great stuff," said Frank Masters, a 68-year-old personal trainer at Lakeshore Downtown Athletic Club. "It does allow me to work out harder and longer because it keeps my muscles hydrated."

But Magidson was unimpressed. He kept "poking around" on the Internet to discover a Biotest product called Androsol, a topical pro-hormone spray that claims to maximize the male hormone testosterone. He later switched to Nandrosol, a stronger version of the Biotech product.

Magidson sprays it on his entire body: 60 to 70 sprays with each application, twice each day for two weeks. Then he cycles off the spray for four weeks, going one week without any supplementation and three weeks using a Biotest product called Tribex that is another pro-testosterone formula featuring the herb Tribulus. He credits these supplements and changing personal trainers and workout routines with a gain of 17 pounds of muscle in his arms, shoulders and back that "people at the gym certainly notice."

Magidson notices his own effects from the pro-testosterone supplements, which he estimates cost him about $250 every three months if he buys in bulk.

"My body tends to shut down making testosterone on its own," Magidson said. "The first time I use (the spray in each cycle), it causes my testicles to shrink."

When he goes off the supplements, his body seems to make more testosterone. He said he knows this because he feels more aggressive. The "sense of overaggression" lasts for three to four days.

Magidson said he "probably should have seen a physician before starting all of this." Statistics show less than half of patients inform their doctors about the use of vitamins and herbs for health. The percentage among people using muscle-building or fat-burning supplements is speculated to be much lower.

"It’s important to recognize the incredible availability of products goes along with people being much more health-conscious," said Scott Swartzwelder, a psychologist and researcher at Duke University Medical Center who co-authored the "Pumped" book with Wilson and Duke pharmacologist Cynthia Kuhn. "People feel more empowered to do something, rather than just follow doctor’s orders."

Part of that something is choosing foods more carefully and using "meal replacer" bars and shakes.

"Our protein powders and energy bars sell better than we even hoped," said Paul Toback, corporate development director for Bally Total Fitness, the Chicago-based company that operates 385 health clubs nationwide and started selling its own brand of supplements in 1997.

Toback said two-thirds of people who join a Bally club intend to lose weight, including at least half of all men. The quest for a perfect body has evidently crossed any gender boundaries of previous generations, Charles Atlas or not. Actually, the late exercise guru was featured in an A&E Biography program in 1999, and his program is available on the Internet (along with a newfangled line of supplements). Meanwhile, both Cindy Crawford and Christie Brinkley, supermodels and moms, have signed on with sports-supplement giant EAS (founded by best-selling "Body for Life" author Bill Phillips) to be celebrity spokeswomen for a new "smart nutrition" line of AdvantEdge bars and shakes.

"The average guy thinks a lot more about his body than 20 years ago," said Magidson, speaking as a muscle builder and advertising professional who was first tempted by Charles Atlas ads as a "boy who was fat." "The media knows this and finds a way to make money from it. For men, a lot of self-image is what we do for a living. I have always felt good about my work and career. I wanted to feel the same way about my body."

22. Government Warns against Chinese Medicines Containing Trichosanthes
OTTAWA, Feb. 22, Health Canada -- Health Canada is warning consumers not to use Bao Ji Wan Pills or Chinese Modular Solutions Chest Relief Tablets. These two herbal products are indicated for use in children and labelled to contain the ingredients Tricosanthes kirilowii and Magnolia officinalis bark. These ingredients are considered highly toxic and pose a serious health hazard, particularly to children.

The herb Tricosanthes kirilowii contains tricosanthin alkaloid, which is known to cause mutations in human cells and malformations in embryos, suppress the immune system, and produce severe allergic reactions. The safe and effective dose of this herb is not known.

Magnolia officinalis bark contains turbocurarine and related substances which are known to cause respiratory paralysis in animals and may be toxic to infants and small children, even when used as directed.

Both Bao Ji Wan Pills and Chinese Modular Solutions Chest Relief Tablets have been assessed by Health Canada and found to pose a Type I health hazard, which means there is a reasonable probability that the use of or exposure to the product will cause serious adverse health consequences or death.

To date, no incidents of adverse or toxic reactions to these products have been reported in Canada. Products found on the Canadian market that contain these ingredients will be assessed by Health Canada as they are identified.

Bao Ji Wan (Pill), 74 grams, is manufactured in Guang Zou, China. It should be noted that Bao Ji Wan Pills resemble another product which has the same name in Chinese characters, but is manufactured in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong product has been approved by Health Canada for sale in Canada. The best way to differentiate these two products is to check the label for the country of origin.

The product, Chinese Modular Solutions Chest Relief Tablets, is promoted for use in children and is labelled to contain Tricosanthes kirilowii seed and several other ingredients whose compounded effects and high concentrations can be toxic to children. This product is manufactured by Kan Herb Company, 60001 Butler Lane, Scotts Valley, California, 95066.

This warning will be distributed to the Chinese Chamber of Herbal Medicines of Canada, associations of Chinese importers and Ayurvedic medicine, the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Pharmacists Association of Canada, Provincial and Territorial Ministries of Health, Poison Control Centres and other relevant associations.

Consumers are advised that products that carry an eight-digit Drug Identification Number (DIN) on the label have been assessed by Health Canada for safety, effectiveness and quality and are authorized for sale in Canada by Health Canada as they meet the requirements of the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations.

23. Questions Raised over Supplement Safety
By Katrina Woznicki

WASHINGTON, Mar. 20, United Press International -- Panelists representing the dietary supplement industry, consumer health watchdog groups, and private physicians called on Congress Tuesday to reexamine a 1994 federal law which some argue is too lax -- particularly regarding imported dietary supplements.

Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.), chairman of the Committee on Government Reform which held the hearing, acknowledged that the booming interest in dietary supplements among Americans has fueled questions about the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) and whether consumers are at risk of using supplement products brought in from overseas.

Debate whirls around whether the law minimizes the authority of the Food and Drug Administration and allows unsafe products -- whether produced in the U.S. or abroad -- into the U.S. market.

Dietary supplements are not required by federal law to undergo the same scientific testing as is legally required for a food or drug to be sold on the U.S. though supplement makers cannot make direct or false claims on product labels.

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., said the FDA would do better enforcing the current law if the agency wasn’t so strapped for resources.

Dr. Sidney Wolfe, director of the Health Research Group for the consumer advocate organization Public Citizen, said current laws are grossly inadequate. "Right now," he told the committee, "legislation could be introduced ... to rapidly lessen the damage being done by this dietary supplement industry wish list masquerading as, and having the force of a federal law -- DSHEA.

Since the enactment of DSHEA, Wolfe said there have been 35,400 reports of adverse reactions to dietary supplement to the American Association of Poison Control Centers. AAPCC classifies herbs and dietary supplements as pharmaceuticals that have the potential to cause harm.

That figure, Dr. Wolfe pointed out, is more than ten times higher than the 3,000 reports received by the FDA during that same period. What percentage of these reports involved dietary supplements made in the United States or abroad was not disclosed.

Authorities are trying to figure out the role international trade policy could play in providing better safety standards for dietary supplements in the United States. Many Americans use Chinese herbal remedies and other supplement products they purchase overseas either through American stores that carry them or sometimes even on the Internet.

Supplement are so popular they generated $16 billion last year in U.S. sales Some representatives of the supplement industry expressed concern that actions in the Codex Alimentarius Commission, an international standards organization that encourages international trade while promoting consumers’ health and economic interests, could hurt U.S. supplement businesses.

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., said he did not want "U.S. laws reduced" by international standards. Karl Riedel, chief executive officer of Nature’s Life and a U.S. delegate to Codex, said he encourages Congress to provide more support for the DSHEA Act to ensure Codex will "liberalize and not restrict" current international trade agreements.

Pallone called for a bipartisan effort from the Bush administration to send experts from the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Office of U.S. Trade Representative to assist the current U.S. Codex delegation. "I believe that we ought to clearly state a position that indicates that we will not sacrifice our sovereignty," he said.

24. U.S. Says Lack of Funding Hampers Supplement Law
By Lisa Richwine

WASHINGTON, Mar. 20, Reuters -- Scarce funding has slowed enforcement of a 1994 law that spelled out government authority over vitamins, herbs and other increasingly popular dietary supplements, a top U.S. regulator told Congress Tuesday.

Joseph Levitt, head of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said Congress gave those powers to the agency without appropriate funding. Of a budget totaling more than $1 billion, only $6 million is earmarked for dietary supplements, Levitt said.

"It’s virtually our smallest program," he told a House Government Reform Committee hearing.

Supplement sales have mushroomed from $8.6 billion in the year the law passed to an estimated $16 billion last year, an industry group said.

Levitt said fully implementing the law, known as the Dietary Supplements Health and Education Act, could take up to 10 years, depending upon how much money Congress provides.

Industry representatives said they were anxious for the FDA to propose so-called Good Manufacturing Practices to set uniform production standards.

Media reports of test results showing products that did not contain the amount of ingredients listed on the label have stung the industry. Some groups have started their own certification programs as they await the government’s plan.

"Consumer confidence in these products is essential to their continued usage," said Loren Israelson, executive director of the Utah Natural Products Alliance.

FDA officials say proposals for manufacturing standards were sent to the White House budget office last year but now face review by the Bush administration.

Supplements remain more loosely regulated than pharmaceuticals, which must undergo rigorous safety testing before the FDA allows them to be sold. With supplements, makers can sell them unless the agency proves they are unsafe.

That policy has stirred controversy, particularly with the popular weight-loss herb ephedra, which critics link to serious heart problems and deaths. FDA officials are reviewing whether to take steps to limit ephedra’s use.

25. Industry Group Briefs House Government Reform Committee on Dietary Supplement Quality
WASHINGTON, Mar. 20, PRNewswire -- David Seckman, CEO of the National Nutritional Foods Association, the oldest and largest trade association representing the dietary supplement and nutritional foods industry, will testify before Congress today regarding the association’s proactive efforts to ensure quality in the dietary supplement industry.

Seckman will testify about the many quality initiatives NNFA has implemented at the House Government Reform Committee’s hearing entitled "Six Years After the Enactment of DSHEA: The Status of National and International Dietary Supplement Regulation and Research." The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), which NNFA strongly supported, was signed into law in 1994 to regulate dietary supplements by the Food and Drug Administration.

"Dietary supplements have become increasingly popular with the American people," stated CEO David Seckman. "More than 85 percent of the U.S. population currently uses vitamins and minerals, and more than 35 percent use herbal products. NNFA is committed to providing the safest, most wholesome dietary supplements to the millions of Americans that enjoy our products every day."

NNFA has taken several proactive measures to ensure the quality of dietary supplements. Seckman will address NNFA’s specific initiatives at the hearing, including: * NNFA’s Good Manufacturing Practices Certification Program; * NNFA’s TruLabel Program; * Guidelines for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE); and * Scientific research.

The National Nutritional Foods Association, founded in 1936, represents the interests of some 3,000 retailers and 1,000 manufacturers, suppliers and distributors of health foods, dietary supplements, natural ingredient cosmetics and other natural products.

26. Bracing for El Nuna: Hopping Mad about Popping-Bean Patent
WINNIPEG, Man., Mar. 20, RAFI -- "The nuna bean is part of the Andean heritage. It is our treasure. For a company to patent a nuna cross, claiming the bean-nut popping bean as an invention with absolute world novelty is immoral and violates the rights of all indigenous groups," said Elias Carreno, Coordinator of the Stop Biopiracy in the Andes Campaign of the Associacion Kechua-Aymara for Sustainable Livelihoods, ANDES (translated from Spanish).

Indigenous elders from six Andean communities that grow nuna beans met in late February for a traditional Quechua tribunal to deliberate on US Patent No. 6,040,503 on the bean-nut popping bean awarded to a US food processor, Appropriate Engineering and Manufacturing. The popping bean trait is found only in the Andean nuna bean, which the inventors claim in their patent. After hearing testimony from expert witnesses, the tribunal rendered their decision. Their verdict was unflinching in its criticism of intellectual property monopolies that are predatory on the knowledge, rights and resources of indigenous people.

Ayahuasca, quinoa, and now nuna, said Carreno, referring to controversial US patent claims on traditional Andean medicinal plants and food crops. (The ayahuasca and quinoa patents were subsequently overturned or abandoned due to the protests of indigenous peoples). These plants represent the collective heritage and knowledge of our people, and we won t sit back and allow our popping-bean to be appropriated by a monopoly patent.

The tribunal issued a strongly worded public declaration promising to fight the popping bean patent, and demanded that CIAT - The International Center for Tropical Agriculture based in Cali, Colombia uphold its obligation under a United Nations trust agreement to keep farmer-bred bean varieties in the public domain and off-limits to intellectual property.

CIAT challenged the patent on Mexico’s yellow bean late last year, and we are asking them to defend our rights by taking similar action on the nuna patent, said Moises Quispe Quispe of the Nuna Farmers Federation of Cusco, Peru.

Not-so-novel Nuna

The subject of the patent that has shocked bean breeders, indigenous peoples, and other civil society groups is an Andean bean that ‘hops when it pops’ and ‘flies when it fries. The nuna bean (pronounced noonya ) is nutritious - with a faintly peanuty taste. More importantly for farming communities in the arid Andes, cooking nuna requires little fuelwood. The bean is roasted not boiled. A few minutes over the fire and the beans literally pop out of their shells ready to munch.

Alejandro Argumedo, a Quechua of the Peruvian Andes and coordinator of the Indigenous Peoples Biodiversity Network (IPBN), was astonished to learn that a US company had patented the bean he has enjoyed since childhood. The bean has everything -- except novelty, says Argumedo. My mother used to roast them for us, Argumedo recalls, They were a favourite. I can’t believe that anyone could pretend they invented a popping bean! While virtually unknown to the snack addicted US market, the bean is an important part of Andean culture and a widely cultivated staple food in many regions.

Patently Ridiculous

The US patent was granted one year ago this week on March 21st, 2000 to Appropriate Engineering and Manufacturing through ‘inventors’ Mark Sterner and Jeffrey Ehlers of California. The inventors have also received what is known as a WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) patent (WO99/11115) under the Patent Cooperation Treaty and have indicated that they will apply for patents in as many as 121 countries. The patent gives Ehlers and Sterner exclusive monopoly ownership over nuna crosses with characteristics allowing it to grow outside the Andes. The patent encompasses crosses involving at least 33 Andean nuna varieties traditionally bred and developed for centuries in Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Colombia. Continued development of the nuna bean in the Andes and elsewhere is threatened by this patent observes Luc a Gallardo of Accion Ecologia in Quito, Ecuador, Giving a US company this much control over an Andean resource is absurd!

Breeding Concern

The patent is not only outraging the Andean indigenous and farming community. Bean breeders are also concerned about the patent. Carl Jones, a graduate student in Plant Breeding and Genetics at Oregon State University who has worked extensively with Andean crops, believes that the patent is a serious threat to bean breeding. The patented claim is really just an attempt to patent the nuna characteristic which has been developed and preserved by the Andean peoples for centuries. The claim severely limits improvements in this crop; many of these changes could be useful to the Andean peoples from which it comes.

Jim Myers, a bean breeder at Oregon State University, has been working on adapting nunas for many years. Technically, the patent prevents any research [in countries where the patent has been accepted] on the nunas without permission from the ‘inventors.’ If I make available any of the varieties I have been working on, and someone else develops a commercial use for them, there would have to be concern about possible patent infringement, he notes. Of course, it is unlikely that the inventors would actively prevent research, since any research that helps to develop new uses for the bean could be of great economic benefit to them. Myers told RAFI that he is hoping to work something out with the ‘inventors’ so that he can get his varieties to the public without infringing the patent, but he observed that the patent will certainly have a dampening effect on any research related to this bean.

If the patent dampens research on nuna, it could have negative consequences for developing countries in particular. Toasting nunas uses less fuel than boiling beans, a feature important to economic and environmental conditions in areas of the world where fuel is scarce. Bean breeders at Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT), one of the 16 international research centres under the auspices of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) - believe that the nuna bean could contribute to economic development in the region. Last year, USDA officials forwarded to RAFI email correspondence from a senior CIAT scientist expressing his concerns about the patent. We hoped that popping beans grown in the Andes could be a good substitute for illicit crops, and indeed that was part of the rationale on which USDA supported [work on the bean]. With large acreages planted in the USA with that variety, how will Peruvian farmers produce nunas for export? He also worried that the patent could restrict bean breeding in developing countries. The business of bean breeding, considering the United States first, would be at risk in my view if other bean breeders cannot produce other popping beans using other original Peruvian or Bolivian landraces and US varieties already adapted to northern latitudes. My concern is about the limitations to bean breeding and the benefits to society at large, for instance, farmers and rural inhabitants of Africa.

An Obvious Claim?

Some bean breeders have also argued that the patent should be rejected because the method used by the breeders was ‘obvious’ -- which should have excluded it from patentability. Improving a variety involves crossing the parents to bring together different traits and then selecting the progeny having the combination of desirable traits. In the case of the nuna bean, the crosses were obvious to any one skilled in the art of bean breeding. While the inventors may have done painstaking breeding work, the results are not necessarily inventive. Bean breeders had, in fact, already written about the nuna bean suggesting how to adapt the breed. The patent does exactly what we recommended in some of our publications, wrote Dr Dan Debouck, Head of the Genetic Resources Unit at CIAT. Experts acknowledge that Ehlers and Sterner did serious breeding work on this bean, however, many people question whether or not the bean meets the criteria of a patentable invention.

Breach of Trust

The patent is particularly offensive to Andean farmers and indigenous people because it extends to crosses involving at least 33 Andean nuna varieties traditionally bred and developed over centuries in Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia. US Patent 6,040,503 lists all 33 accessions of nuna bean held in the USDA’s national germplasm collection. All of the nuna bean varieties listed in the patent were freely provided by Andean farming communities, who allowed their bean varieties to be put into the public realm in order to ensure the continued maintenance of the world’s seed biodiversity. In 1994, mounting concern over public collections being privatized led the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations to declare designated germplasm in CGIAR gene banks to be in trust, meaning that the germplasm cannot be restricted by monopoly patents. Of the 33 nuna bean varieties listed in the patent, nine are also held in CIAT’s international bean collection. All are designated in-trust accessions and all are farmers varieties collected in Peru.

Although CGIAR has not taken a public position on the popping bean patent, CGIAR officials expressed concern about the popping bean patent at the Global Forum on Agricultural Research in Dresden in May 2000.

Repeat Offender

One of the nuna’s two ‘inventors’ is not new to RAFI. In 1996 Jeffery Ehlers won a US plant variety protection certificate (plant breeders rights) on Kunde Zulu, a cowpea variety he said he developed from breeding research he initially undertook as an employee of the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA - CIAT’s sister institute in Nigeria) using African cowpea germplasm. Although this claim conflicted with the institute’s trust agreement with FAO, to RAFI’s knowledge, IITA has not challenged the claim. IITA’s failure to challenge the claim constitutes a breach of the trust agreement. This time Ehlers has a broad utility patent, and he has teamed up with Mark Sterner who owns a company that can really bring the bean to market, says Julie Delahanty of RAFI, who has been tracking the case, Inland Empire Foods, owned by Sterner, is a food processor concentrating on dehydrated legumes for the natural foods market in the US. Clearly, they hope to turn the popping bean patent into a commercial product with a novel taste and an interesting history.

High Nuna

Not if Alejandro Argumedo of IPBN, Lucia Gallardo of Accion Ecologia, and the other Andean organizations who have vowed to challenge the patent have their way. Groups in Latin America are also anxious to challenge the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) for their part in this case. WIPO is allowing this patent to go for adoption in other patent offices around the world. Yet WIPO says it wants to support the conservation and development of indigenous knowledge. Its time to put up or shut up, Gallardo states.

Ehlers and Sterner believe they have done everything legal in the eyes of the US PTO and WIPO and that they have not violated any international agreements. Even if that were true, this patent would remain morally unacceptable, says Pat Mooney, Executive Director of RAFI. The patent usurps the genius of Andean farmers for the commercial gain of a US company. Taking the genius of Andean farmers without compensation is bad enough, but the patent also makes it difficult or impossible for Andean farmers to develop a potentially lucrative export crop for the world market -- a crop which belongs to the people of the Andes. Indigenous groups in the region agree. This is a fight the people of the Andes are going to win, Argumedo concludes.

27. Story of Salt and Pepper
By Hannah Bonner

BOSTON, Mar. 20, Christian Science Monitor -- Salt and pepper -- that familiar pair graces almost every table in America. Every culture seems to have something salty and something spicy for diners to add to their food: soy sauce, hot sauce, Japanese gomasio, chili paste.... But for most of us, it’s two pure, simple substances: salt (a mineral crystal) and the ground-up berries of the pepper vine.

The scientific symbol for salt is NaCl, or sodium chloride. Salt can be either sea salt or rock salt. To get sea salt, seawater is pumped into shallow ponds (called salt pans). The sun evaporates the water and leaves the salt behind. The salt is scraped up and refined.

Rock salt is dug from mines. In prehistoric times, inland seas dried up. They left behind huge crusts of salt, which were buried under sediment. Several big salt deposits exist in the United States. Did you know that miles of salt-mine tunnels have been dug under Detroit? Most rock salt is used in the chemical industry and to salt roads.

Humans have salted their food for ages. It makes food taste better, but it’s also considered an essential nutrient. Trade routes were created to get salt, and battles were fought for control of salt supplies. Salt was especially valuable before refrigerators or freezers were invented. Meat and fish were preserved in salt. Salt sucks the water out of food, killing the bacteria and mold that would spoil it. Heavily salted foods would be soaked in water to remove some of the salt before they were eaten.

Pepper is known as "the king of spices." The first pepper vines were grown in India. The ancient Greeks knew all about pepper. The Romans were crazy about it. They paid huge sums to Arab traders who brought pepper from India. When barbarians came to sack Rome in the 5th century, one of their demands was 3,000 pounds of pepper! Pepper was the most important spice that Columbus hoped to find when he went searching for a route to India. Instead, he found America and its chili peppers (totally unrelated to black pepper). Vasco da Gama was more successful. In 1498, he went around Africa to India and secured the spice trade for Portugal. A century later, the Dutch and British grew tired of Portugal’s monopoly and the astronomical prices of its merchants. So they set up their own spice trade. By 1800, the biggest pepper-trading hub was Salem, Mass.

Today, most black pepper is from Indonesia, Malaysia, India, or Brazil. And you don’t even have to be rich to enjoy it!

28. Flecks of Flavour: Poppy Seeds Add Spice, Texture
By CeCe Sullivan

SEATTLE, Mar. 26, Seattle Times -- In the Middle Ages, it was thought that poppy seeds would quell the pangs of hunger, making the seeds especially useful during the weeks of Lent. It’s not clear exactly how many of these minuscule marvels would suffice, but we do know that a thick slice of cake shot through with poppy seeds and draped with a lemony glaze will pretty much satisfy our craving today.

A mini-debate swirls around poppy seeds: Should they be soaked or not before stirring into a batter? We’ve tested cakes for which the poppy seeds were immersed in milk for 30 minutes at room temperature, and in the refrigerator for four hours. The soaking does soften the seeds a bit and blends their flavor with other ingredients. But we also liked the contrasting texture, not to mention the convenience, of seeds that required no prep time. So the debate continues.

Of course, poppy seeds can grace lots of dishes other than desserts or breads. Thought to be one of the first spices, a creamy-colored poppy seed is used in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines. The more familiar blue-black variety is a classic addition to dressings for fruit and coleslaw, and a teaspoon mixed into buttery egg noodles is a favorite quick-fix cure for a hungry appetite.

29. Pass the Seeds, Man: Is Hemp the Food of the Future?
By Clare Harman

EVESHAM, U.K., Mar. 12, -- Offered a sprinkle of toasted hemp seeds as a garnish on her Caesar salad, my mother pauses: "Is that legal, dear?" There can be little doubt that cannabis has given the seed a bad name in respectable circles but it appears the time is ripe for a veritable hemp renaissance.

In many places, hemp still faces an uphill legislative battle for acceptance, but during the last ten years many countries and US states have been taking steps to re-establish the commercial hemp industry. Gradually, the seemingly intrinsic links between the food source and the hallucinogenic marijuana, actually largely forged by legislators during the 1930s, are being broken down. The recent publication of a comprehensive book on the subject by Paul Benhaim, acronymically named after its hero "HEMP: Healthy Eating Made Possible," is helping to remind consumers of the historic uses of hemp, largely wholesome and nutritious. Add this consumer desire for healthy diets to an environmentally sound harvest, and a sustainable super crop, and the hemp food industry is on a high. Figuratively, at least.

A Healthy Choice

Hemp seed has a long history of use in foods throughout the world, and the scope of hemp as a food ingredient is broad. Hemp seeds, which are in fact nuts, are a rich source of fatty acid oils. These are believed by nutritionists to boost the human immune system and prevent heart disease. They also contain 25% protein, which is easier to digest than the protein in soy oil, because it more closely resembles the protein of the human body. Benhaim tells us that in ancient Sanskrit (spring of life), and it is also considered an essential source of nutrition by modern authorities: in cases of famine, many governments use hemp as the first emergency food. Indeed, the US government confirmed the value of hemp by Executive Order, as the President designated hemp as a strategic crop of importance to national security (EO 12919, June 3 1994, 59 Fed. Reg. 29525).

Hemp and Marijuana Not Synonymous

As a young ascetic monk, it is believed that Buddha ate one hempseed every day during the three years that led to his enlightenment. Experts stress however that it would have been impossible for that spiritual state to be attributable to any psychoactive ingredient, because the hemp plant contains negligible levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Hemp and marijuana are both derived from the same plant species, Cannabis sativa, but the levels of the psychoactive ingredient they contain differ greatly. THC is present in marijuana by between one and ten per cent. In order to be classified as hemp by the standards of the EEC however, levels of THC must fall below 0.3%. "A smoker of hemp would not get ‘high’ no matter how much was smoked," explained Sarah Yearsley, marketing manager of MotherHemp, a company established in the UK in February 1998.

Benhaim’s apologia for the hemp plant details how the seed acquired its less respectable connotations via the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which virtually destroyed the (North) American hemp industry because it was impossible to quantify the varying levels of THC, an all-important x-factor identified in 1974. Now however, the consumption of hemp products will not mean a person tests positive for THC in a drug-screening check, a reassurance given in a research project conducted by Californian company Leson Consulting. Nevertheless, the comprehensive collection of recipes in Benhaim’s book range from the conventional Basic Wholemeal loaf or Onion Soup to the more radical smoothies, with names like Hemp Magic and Cosmic Bliss Peach. In many ways it does seem that the association between hemp and cannabis in the modern mind is deeply entrenched. Can hemp as an ingredient therefore ever move back into the mainstream?

Such a risqué allegiance can be a selling point for hemp, of course. There is a very profitable market for alternative food products, with certain consumers attracted by the "groovy" association with cannabis, often hyped by the packaging designs on hemp products.

Similarly, Oxford-based marijuana fanzine The Bush Telegraph reviews Hemp Cnusper Chocolate saying: "It was creamy, smooth and tasty, sure, but it was almost impossible to skin up with." (Volume 2, Issue 1). Arthur Hanks, a Canadian expert on the subject, explained to that, "consumers are attracted to hemp on a novelty basis, but stay with it because hemp seeds taste good." However, scope for wide-scale future growth with this strategy is limited, and problems with going mainstream are associated as closely with cost as with image.

Hemp products are often more expensive than their non-hemp equivalents, something that will change as production increases and costs are reduced. Yearsley predicts that hemp will become more popular and if agricultural subsidies are offered the price of hemp foods will fall. Balancing image and cost therefore is a delicate issue, for the product cannot simultaneously rely on its somewhat risqué appeal to the alternative market and its healthy, historically wholesome image to attract a mass following and allow costs to drop. However, many see the multi-purpose nature of hemp as a selling point in its own right and producers often focus on the nutritional or environmental benefits without mentioning cannabis at all.

Ideal Crop for Environmentalists

For environmentalists, or farmers hoping to ride the organic wave, hemp is an ideal crop. Fast growing, hemp requires minimal pesticides or agricultural chemicals and is naturally pest-resistant. It will take root in practically any climate, and unusually returns minerals to the soil as it grows. Cheap and remarkably easy to farm, hemp is also regarded by many as a solution for deforestation and is virtually unique as a crop that is not damaged by UV-B light, therefore resistant to the depletion of the ozone layer. The economic potential in the plant’s numerous applications, aside from its edible seeds, is beginning to interest groups from diverse industries. "One day we will be able to build and furnish a house with hemp products," assured Yearsley.

Selling the Seed: Specific Dietary Needs?

In February 1998, Shaun Crew founded Hemp Oil Canada, prompted by the unexpressed potential in the hemp industry. "From the start, we experienced a lot of interest in both the hemp food and hemp body care products we produce. It is our intention to take hemp food and body care products from being relegated to niche markets to mainstream distribution," he explained to Crucial to achieving this is an understanding of how alternative markets become mainstream choices.

Hemp is a useful substitute ingredient for people with specific dietary needs, and is set to capitalise upon the functional foods arena. "It is estimated that the market for wheat intolerance is between 6-15 million in the UK today and the figures for dairy and lactose intolerance is 5.5 million. Gluten intolerance is also rising," Yearsley explained to While specialty foods are essentially another alternative market, current trends mean that they are "now moving away from the dusty bottom shelves of the whole food stores to the higher shelves of the supermarkets, alongside organics," and the opportunities for hemp are expanding with them. Some might say that hemp has the potential to go mainstream merely by riding the trend for organic produce.

Increasing Product Range?

Furthermore, the expansion of the industry into the mainstream is being helped by organisations such as the UK-based Hemp Food Industries Association (HFIA), which is involved in promoting hemp as a food ingredient and offering a form of certification. This quality standardisation helps to promote the trust of a mainstream market. Focusing on certain products helps detract from the more risqué image issue as well, prepping the ingredient for a mainstream consumer.

The safety of the staple bread was given a twist by the Sunnyvale Bakery in Buckinghamshire, which recently launched its "Hemp wheat sprouted bread and Hemp gluten free corn bread [both] 100% ORGANIC" (note the stress on the organic, an increasingly popular notion for the mainstream). Elsewhere hemp is becoming more convenient to eat, with prepared foods such as ice-cream and even hemp nut burgers (from attracting a more mainstream clientele.

In the light of repeated food scares, food safety and a healthy diet are two of the primary factors dominating consumer food choice. Offer an environmentally friendly, non-GM crop, prove its nutritious content and versatility in recipes and it seems likely it will garner attention from consumers. Provide that ingredient in convenient packages as a healthy alternative to existing products and bring the price down, and it is almost guaranteed to prove popular.. Hippy haven or staple nutrition, this time round it looks like hemp is here to stay.

30. Swaziland to Clamp Down on Conmen Posing as Traditional Healers
JOHANNESBURG, Mar. 22, Xinhua -- Swaziland has vowed to clamp down on witchcraft and conmen posing as traditional healers, the South African Press Association reported on Thursday.

Swaziland’s Director of Public Prosecutions Lincoln Ng’arua was quoted as saying that large numbers of local and foreign conmen, who pose as traditional healers, prophets and herbalists and claim to possess supernatural powers, are roaming Swaziland, ripping off superstitious locals and cheating them out of large sums of money.

The practice of witchcraft has been totally outlawed in his country in the colonial era and the kingdom has a century-old anti-witchcraft act, Ng’arua said.

Many of these so-called healers advertised their claims regularly in local newspapers and on posters, Ng’arua said, adding that his department is taking a very serious view of these people’s illegal activities.

Some conmen claimed that they have supernatural powers to make clients irresistibly attractive to the opposite sex, enhance their prospects of promotion at work, win fortunes and have powers to cure people of HIV/AIDS and cancer.

The judiciary and the police are particularly concerned about those who claim having powers to help people win court cases and protect criminals from detection and arrest, Ng’arua said.

He said his office has already identified and compiled a list of these offenders, adding that one of these is a Ugandan self-proclaimed doctor-cum-herbalist who lives in South Africa and advertises his self-proclaimed divine powers regularly in the Swaziland and South African media.

Swaziland’s Ministry of Health has previously condemned traditional healers and others who claim to have powers to cure people of serious diseases.

Earlier this week, President of Swaziland Traditional Healers’ Association Nhlavana Maseko also condemned fake healers who claim to be able to cure AIDS.

31. Organic Products Are Gold in Zambia
By Charles Mucholo

LUSAKA, Mar. 10, Times of Zambia -- Following the growing demand for organic products in the Western world, the farming industry has been called on to invest in it.

Coordinator and technical advisor for Organic Producers and Processors Association of Zambia (OPPAZ) Susie Burgess says farmers should not only concentrate on traditional methods of cultivating crops. They should also extend their activities and venture into organic farming.

‘Organic farming doesn’t require a big portion of land to achieve higher profit. It can be done on a smaller portion of land, yet gives you good profit.’ She says organically grown and produced products have penetrated the West, and all major supermarkets now stock processed and packed organic goods as well as fresh produce.

And it has been found that 63 per cent of shoppers have, at times, purchased organic products, and 32 per cent on a regular basis.

Among the potential markets in developed nations for organic produce, Germany has been singled out as being the most effective, closely followed by Switzerland, Denmark and the Netherlands.

Apart from these countries, organic products are on demand in Japan, Canada, Europe and the United States.

In addition, OPPAZ has developed a network of organic buyers and traders on behalf of the Zambian farming sector.

And because of its (OPPAZ) recent participation in Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) at Biofach, the largest international organic trade fair, it has received firm interest from European buyers.

Some of the organic products that have developed in Zambia and now established market across the world are herbs and spices. These include bird’s-eye, chillies, cayenne, calendula, mellisa, chamomile, coriander hibiscus, lemon grass, lemon verbena and echinacea.

Apart from these, established field crops like groundnuts, soy beans, sunflower, sesame and castor are also on demand.

OPPAZ has established market for perennial crops such as coffee, neem, Macadamias and Annatto.

‘However, growers must see to it that their products are examined and certified for international market,’ she says.

According to Burgess, OPPAZ intends to develop a national body of organic producers to coordinate production and marketing within the next three years.

For the time being, the organisation continues providing training and extension services in the process of organic certification to the full spectrum of the Zambian farming sector.

32. Zimbabwean Traditional Healers Seek Amendment of Witchcraft Act
By Peter Moyo

HARARE, Zimbabwe, Mar. 11, Zimbabwe Standard -- The Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers Association (Zinatha) has called on parliament to revive a motion, filed five years ago, recommending that the Witchcraft Suppression Act be amended.

The secretary-general of Zinatha, Dr Peter Sibanda, accused the last parliament of failing to understand the realities of witchcraft in Zimbabwe and some crucial factors relating to the Act when it was brought up for deliberation.

One needs to be conversant with the subject under discussion first before he makes a decision. But that house did not know what to put in place of the Suppression Act if they removed it. They thought we were lying," he said.

He said a certain MP had in 1995 informed parliament that his people were being harassed by supernatural beings (tokoloshis) but when The Standard approached the said MP for comment, he said he could not recall having raised such an issue. Moreover, details of the motion could not be found in the parliamentary records.

Sibanda also said that during testimonies given of incidents of witchcraft, a different MP had informed parliament that his father had met his death through witchcraft.

The Act was introduced in 1899 in colonial Rhodesia and was written into the Zimbabwean constitution in 1980.

The Act makes it an offence to brand another person a witch and describes witchcraft as the throwing of bones. A witch is defined as anybody who throws bones and uses charms and any other devices used in sorcery. Therefore, under this law, a traditional healer or prophet automatically becomes a witch.

Anyone who accuses another of witchcraft is subject to a $200 fine or a three-year prison term. A witch hunter gets a $500 fine or seven years in jail and anybody who incites another to identify a ‘witch’ gets a $50 fine or six-month prison term.

Sibanda said if the Act cannot be scrapped, then some of its sections should be amended such as that which dubs the throwing of bones as an evil act.

Traditional healers normally use bones and other charms in their witch hunts. In rural areas, people accused of witchcraft are brought before a traditional healer for verification.

One traditional healer said a number of people were being killed in silent witchcraft wars. He said some witches needed to be exorcised and rehabilitated since their activities were sometimes beyond their control.

So strong is the belief in witchcraft that witch-hunting is a thriving business in the rural communities. One of the more prominent exorcists is Gaurani, who operates from Chendambuya, Headlands.

According to court records, witches have been confessing to their ways in the courts as far back as 1951 but they have been dismissed as mentally unstable. Just recently, a mother confessed to eating her two children, and was stopped as she went for the third.

Ritual murders have also been described as a form of witchcraft. A number of ritual murder cases have come before the courts causing the United States to cite this as one of the country’s human rights problem in its report on Zimbabwe released in Washington DC on 26 February this year.

One case brought before the courts involved Mbare women found handling chunks of human flesh in a cemetery at 7am. Then there was the case of two women and a man caught stark naked in a mortuary, busy tearing apart human flesh.

A man in Gweru also confessed to using a herb called mubobobo, to enable him to have intercourse with women in their sleep.

Zinatha also believe that the colonial rulers introduced the Act in a final bid to put down Mbuya Nehanda, one of the leaders of the 1896-8 against the white settlers. They claim the Act aimed at ensuring that traditional leaders with the potential to lead the people in a future revolt would remain pacified.

They are now questioning the relevance of the act some 21 years later saying that the realities of African culture must be understood.

The Witchcraft Suppression Act was introduced in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi.

33. Ghanaian Man Shot Dead as "Bulletproof" Herbal Magic Fails
ACCRA, Ghana, Mar. 14, Reuters -- A Ghanaian man was shot dead by a fellow villager while testing a magic spell designed to make him bulletproof, the official Ghana News Agency reported on Wednesday.

Aleobiga Aberima, 23, and around 15 other men from Lambu village, northeast Ghana, had asked a jujuman, or witchdoctor, to make them invincible to bullets.

After smearing his body with a concoction of herbs every day for two weeks, Aberima volunteered to be shot to check the spell had worked.

One of the others fetched a rifle and shot Aberima who died instantly from a single bullet.

Angry Lambu residents seized the jujuman and beat him severely until a village elder rescued him, the report added.

Tribal clashes are common in Ghana’s far north, where people often resort to witchcraft in the hope of becoming invulnerable to bullets, swords and arrows.

34. New African Herbal Medicine for Chronic and Incurable Diseases
ACCRA, Ghana, Mar. 15, Ghanaian Chronicle -- A new herbal medicine, Mariandina that treats various chronic and incurable diseases was launched over the weekend at the SSNIT Guest House, Accra.

Mariandina Nutritional Supplement which helps improve the health of patients with stroke, cancer, diabetes, HIV/AIDS and bodily pains is made purely from herbal and natural ingredients researched and produced by Professor Charles Ssali, a renowned Ugandan Medical Practitioner. Disclosing this to newsmen, Apostle Owusu, leader and founder of the Gentiles Revival Ministry and spokesman for Mariandina Research Foundation in Ghana, said Mariandina is a nutritious food supplement which is produced in capsules A and J, cleanses and mops out the entire blood circulatory system of poisonous toxins.

It also strengthens internal tissues and rejuvenates the immune system. According to Apostle Owusu, Mariandina has been registered and approved for sale by the Ghana Food and Drugs Board, and it is also marketed in Europe and other African countries.

Testifying on the efficacy of the nutritional supplement, Apostle Owusu said that a few doctors in the country who have so far tried it on their patients have realised its potent. He disclosed that Professor Ssali would interact with medical doctors and the general public about his wonder herb.

Asked why he chose to be involved in the promotion of the Mariandina, Apostle Owusu repliled: "I have witnessed the sick restored to health after taking Mariandina.

I am, therefore, convinced by their testimonies so much that, I feel a moral obligation to share and evangelise this medicinal gift of God to the world, at this period of health crises".

He added that people and particularly Christians should be aware of the fact that the answer to many incurable diseases lies in the God- given plants around us. All boils up to good nutrition.

35. "Goodness Real Ginseng Bitters" Sold in Ghana Unsafe
By Suleiman Mustapha

ACCRA, Ghana, Mar. 15, Ghanaian Chronicle -- What many people in Accra and some parts of the country may not know is that some of the beverages people are crazy about and perhaps selling very fast in the country may be unwholesome. Goodness Real Ginseng Bitters produced by a Taiwanese businessman is one of those drinks.

Sources close to Dr. Teddy Yeh, the producer of Goodness Real Ginseng Bitters reveal that the drink is produced under unhygienic conditions at the herbal clinic at Nungua. Dr. Yeh, who was deported from the country last year by the NDC government, sneaked back into the country to produce Goodness Real Ginseng Bitters without certification from the Ghana Standards Board (GSB).

When contacted, the head of the Inspectorate Division of the GSB, Mr. J. C. T. Armah, confirmed that the drink has not been certified by the GSB and was surprised at how the drink got onto the market without the knowledge of his outfit.

He was even quick to remark that the man had been deported from the country. He also added that the trademark on the product is only to deceive consumers that it had been certified by the GSB.

A source at the Ministry of the Interior also confirmed that Dr. Teddy Yeh was deported out of the country and was surprised at how he arrived into the country.

When asked why he was deported Dr. Yeh declined to comment, but said since the government that deported him was out of power he has every right to come back into the country.

When asked about his product, Goodness Real Ginseng Bitters, he challenged that a bottle should be shown to him and when a bottle was bought for his verification he finally admitted he produces the drink but it was some years back before his deportation.

Meanwhile inquiries at the Registrar General’s Department reveal that the company, Ginseng Products and Health Systems, is not and has never been registered as its files cannot be traced at the Department.

Goodness Real Ginseng Bitters, which is perceived to be medicinal is rather more alcoholic which has side effects after taking a little of it. Sources available to the Chronicle indicate that Dr. Yeh did not go back to Taiwan when he was deported but rather sought refuge in America and later Iran.

When Chronicle contacted the Chief Director at the Ministry of the Interior, Mr. H. Clark, on why the deportation order was revoked, he said Parliament is the sole authority that can revoke any deportation order. He later confirmed that this was hurriedly done on January 5, this year, by the NDC government just before they left office.

36. South African Traditional Healers Call for Recognition in AIDS Fight
By Marjolein Harvey

JOHANNESBURG, Mar. 20, All Africa Global Media -- There are 300 000 traditional healers in South Africa compared to 20 000 medical practitioners, according to young white Sangoma Rebecca, speaking at the first International Conference on Traditional Medicine and HIV/AIDS/STDs held in Pretoria this week.

Hundreds of traditional healers gathered on Monday to seek ways in which to improve their participation in the global AIDS fight.

"Traditional healers represent a broad range of practices, including herbalism and spiritualism, as well as a range of individuals who call themselves Sangomas, diviners, priests and faith healers, among other terms," explains UNAIDS in their latest report on the topic.

"Policy makers, ministries of health and the standard healthcare system must recognise the influence and impact of traditional practitioners on the many aspects of life of African communities," conference organiser Maqu Makhaye told iClinic.

A meeting of minds is envisaged, where knowledge systems not only merge and become applicable to the sociocultural systems in which they operate, but where the traditional also gains some respect, enhancing traditional healers’ efforts in the fight against HIV/AIDS and STDs in less accessible, more remote areas.

Some of the concerns raised by healers attending the conference is whether they should themselves as rolemodels to their communities be publicly tested for HIV; that patients sometimes come to them from very far away out of fear that their local Sangoma will tell their community they are HIV-positive; and that their knowledge will be "stolen without credit" by mainstream scientists.

A novel concept explained at length on the first day of the conference is that healers need to go to "healers school".

Medical doctor Erick Gbodossou’s explained the Fapeg method - healers’ self- proficiency training - which basically entails a train-the-trainer programme: traditional healers are selected to train other traditional healers a community- based scientific committee is set up which contains a drawer or artist, an anthropologist, a sociologist, an epidemiologist an educationist and an ethnologist the group interviews traditional healers in the area about their knowledge and methods of for example family planning, and formulates questionnaires out of these data the group together with the traditional healers go through the questionnaires, talking about their knowledge systems, merging their knowledge systems with mainstream knowledge systems and marrying the two in mutually enforcing, accurate images on cloth or posters with which other traditional healers as well as communities can be educated "Generally, the training of traditional healers based on the Fapeg method aims to bring traditional healers additional information, in a specific area, in line with the health policy of their country," explains Gbodossou.

"Fapeg is also a method which enables us to fight against harmful practices, the effects of which are detrimental to the health of our people," he says, adding that it is able to harmonise life-saving information of two seemingly disparate worlds.

The conference continues on Tuesday with an assessment of how traditional healers are at present coping with HIV/AIDS in their communities, and a focus on how to improve HIV/AIDS treatment interventions.

37. Zimbabwe Determined to Stop Biopiracy by Swiss University
HARARE, Zimbabwe, Feb. 28, Berne Declaration and CTDT -- Initiated by Berne Declaration (Switzerland) and Community Technology Development Trust of Zimbabwe a meeting was held on February 16, 2001, at the University of Zimbabwe to discuss a controversial patent held by Lausanne University. Attending the meeting were concerned stakeholders including the University of Zimbabwe, the Ministry of Tourism and Environment, the University of Lausanne and the Zimbabwe Traditional Healers Association (Zinatha).

The participants agreed that the patent held by the University of Lausanne for a compound of Swartzia madagascariensis (see press release of September 22, 2000; and the Agreement for the Access and Benefit Sharing to Biomaterials of Zimbabwe needs to be renegotiated because they are legally unacceptable.

The vice-chancellor of the University of Zimbabwe sharply criticised the representative of Lausanne University for failing to abide by the provisions of the research agreement between the universities signed in 1995. Article 5f of this agreement stipulates that "a joint application will be made for any patent filed". In the case at hand, Lausanne University completely ignored the above provision and proceeded on its own to file a patent without even consulting the University of Zimbabwe. While the research agreement is by no means a perfect document, the University of Lausanne obviously made no effort to respect the content and spirit of the agreement. The conduct of Lausanne University clearly demonstrates that the illegal appropriation of biological resources from developing countries is still common practice by northern universities and corporations.

CTDT and Berne Declaration demand that the current research agreement between the universities concerning the open access to medicinal and poisonous plants of Zimbabwe be suspended with immediate effect for the following reasons:

* The government is not party to this agreement as required by the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD). The representative of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism confirmed at the meeting, that they are the only legal authority to grant access to any Zimbabwean biological resources.

* The benefit sharing mechanisms and frameworks of the agreement are not consistent with common practice. For example, there are no provisions for a future benefit-sharing agreement if a product is commercialized.

* Under the current agreement only the University of Zimbabwe is a beneficiary, thus marginalizing other stakeholders such as traditional healers and the government.

* The current agreement has no mechanism to acknowledge and compensate the use of traditional knowledge systems.

* It seems that access to medicinal plants was granted to the University of Lausanne at less than a fair value.

We call upon the Ministry of Environment and Tourism of Zimbabwe to take the initiative and a leading role in defining a model agreement for access and benefit sharing. Such an agreement involving all relevant stakeholders should contain provisions for prior informed consent, mutually agreed terms and benefit sharing mechanisms. To avoid shortcomings and loopholes, the new agreement should be accessible for comments by civil society.

As the terms of access to the genetic resources of Zimbabwe are renegotiated, the University of Lausanne is given an opportunity to prove its good will by supporting a fair contract. Hopefully, they will not miss it.

38. Traditional Chinese Medicine Now "Serious" Medicine in Singapore
SINGAPORE, Mar. 26, Inter Press Service -- Singaporeans have been going to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioners for ages to relieve common ailments, but soon they will also be able to charge such treatment to medical insurance schemes.

This would bring traditional Chinese medicine into the ambit of "serious" medical treatment, alongside the usual Western treatments and medication covered by insurance schemes.

In a bid to cash in on the increasing international popularity of TCM, which includes acupuncture, herbal medicine, breathing and movement exercises, the Singapore government is pushing to regulate the industry.

Authorities are now registering more than 1,000 acupuncturists practicing in this city state, three-fourths of whose 3.6 million are ethnic Chinese. This will be followed by the registration of practitioners in other areas of TCM.

Practitioners say it is crucial for the government to set up a register of TCM practitioners, in order to encourage insurance companies to recognize such treatment.

With mainstream recognition around the corner, big players in the TCM industry -- Hong Kong’s Quality HealthCare and Singapore-listed Eu Yan Sang International Ltd -- are jointly developing a chain of Chinese medicine clinics in Singapore.

"For the first time, patients can be reassured that, not only can they rely on five thousand years of healing knowledge, but it will be offered by organizations who have established solid reputations in their own areas of the health care marketplace," says Brian O’Connor, chairman of Quality HealthCare.

The clinics are set to vie for insurance money with their Western medicinal counterparts -- but may have some problems to overcome first.

Singapore’s insurance companies did not recognize Chinese medicine as legitimate due to government regulations, lack of scientific evidence and service inconsistency in the past.

Although Chinese medicine has come a long way since then, insurance companies still maintain their stand.

A traditional Chinese medicine practitioner, who prefers to be called Mr Chang, has been practicing the craft for more than 20 years here. He says that with the Health Ministry regulating the industry, he foresees more people willing to consult a TCM practitioner.

Today, Singapore (and Hong Kong’s) insurance coverage of Chinese medicine is at a bare minimum -- despite their communities long reliance on such treatment -- and many leading medical insurance companies refuse to recognize TCM treatment for reimbursement.

Nancy Lim, human resources executive for Du Pont Singapore, says: "We tell them (patients) that our policy only extends insurance coverage to doctors registered under the SMA (Singapore Medical Association)."

"Since SMA doesn’t recognize traditional medical practitioners, neither do we," she adds.

O’Connor explained that the difficulty in satisfying "the substantial interest expressed by employees wishing to include Chinese medicine in their staff health care programs" was due to the service sector’s fragmentation and lack of quality control in the past.

Richard Eu, managing director and chief executive officer of Eu Yan Sang, agrees. "We aim to address this issue by working closely with various manufacturers of Chinese patent medicines to standardize the profile and quality of their products," he says.

In February, Eu Yan Sang International Ltd announced its joint venture with Chengdu Hua Sheng He Enterprise Co in Chengdu, China, with two Chinese partners to develop scientific-based herbal medicine ministering to lifestyle diseases.

This is part of Eu Yan Sang’s research aimed at ensuring quality, so that scientifically validated Chinese proprietary medicine becomes part of its future products.

"This is a partnership to develop a new class of herbal medicine by applying scientific principles of conventional medicine to traditional Chinese medicine. In so doing, we aim to cultivate mass acceptance of Chinese medicine worldwide," says Clifford Eu, executive director of Eu Yan Sang.

In July 1994, the Singapore government appointed a committee, headed by senior minister of state for health and education Dr Aline Wong, to review the practice of TCM and recommend measures to safeguard patients’ interest and safety.

It was also tasked to enhance the standard of training of traditional Chinese medicine practitioners.

Singapore’s health ministry is adopting a phased approach to regulate the industry. It is registering acupuncturists first because they do invasive procedures, and will proceed to do the same for general practitioners and herb dispensers next.

"With the registration, more people in Singapore will see the scientific value behind Chinese medicine," says TCM practitioner Chang. "I’m glad that hospitals are adopting acupuncture, having recognised its anaesthetic value."

Chinese medicine is also moving up in the education and research sector. The National University of Singapore now offers acupuncture courses in its medical faculty and students are given a choice to take it up as part of their syllabus.

Ongoing research is also giving scientific credence to areas such as chemotherapy and controlling pain ensuing from surgery and arthritis.

Last year, imports of herbal medicine to Singapore was estimated at 50 million Singapore dollars ($29.4 million), and this year, Eu Yan Sang recorded a 44 percent increase in net profits.

Hong Kong remains the group’s largest market with sales of 40.9 Singapore dollars ($24 million). Singapore and Malaysia contributed sales of some 15 million Singapore dollars ($8.67 million) each.

As to whether insurance firms will be able to refuse recognition of this multi-million industry, O’Connor says: "We are standing at a watershed of the Chinese medicine industry as it opens a new dimension for the private health care market."

39. Chinese Doctor Cures Rheumatism with Herbs
KUNMING, Mar. 20, Xinhua -- Jin Zhaoji’s osteopath clinic, situated in this capital of southwest China’s Yunnan Province, is always crowded with rheumatism patients from everywhere across the country.

These people came in a hopes of being cured of the joint-distorting and muscle-atrophying disease of rheumatism with Jin’s prescription of traditional Chinese herbs.

Chen Hualing, having been paralyzed by rheumatism for 14 years, now recovered with Jin’s medical treatment and returned to her job of conducting orthopedic operations.

"It is doctor Jin who gave me a new life," said Chen thankfully.

Statistics show that 87 percent of the 1,000 patients receiving Jin’s treatment have witnessed considerable alleviation of rheumatism symptoms. Many of them even recovered from the excruciating disease.

Jin’s prescription consists of Yunnan-based unique herbs and animals for medical use, and mainly deals with various types of rheumatism and bone pathological changes.

It took Jin Zhaoji and his colleagues some 36 years to find a cure for rheumatism, a disease that is prevailing in Yunnan.

Sources said that over 10 percent of the world population are suffering from the disease. Rheumatism patients in China amounted to some 100 million.

Clinic records indicate that Jin’s solution has not lead to side effects of gastric ulcer and digestive dysfunction, which usually occur after use of the steroid-containing medicine for rheumatism.

Jin and his clinic are expected to spread the benefits of the cure to more rheumatism-ridden patients, thanks to Yunnan’s efforts to turn herbal medicine into a provincial pillar industry.

Statistics show that 6,500 out of the 11,000 kinds of medicinal herbs in China are grown in Yunnan.

Meanwhile, Yunnan has some internationally famous brands of herbal medicines, namely, Yunnan Baiyao (homeostasis powder) and Yunnan Sanqi (a herb used to improve blood circulation).

40. Yunnan to Build Herbal Medicine Production Base
KUNMING, China, Mar. 11, Yunnan Economic News -- Experts of the Chinese Academy of Sciences recently approved the feasibility report submitted by Yunnan province on building a modernized traditional Chinese medicine production base.

Construction of the production base will take five years and cost 3.1 billion yuan. The provincial government allocated 20 million yuan last year to do early stage preparation.

In the first phase, five medicinal herbs plantations, three demonstration zones and five medicine processing centers will be built.

A dozen medical experts have come to Yunnan to conduct on-the-spot investigation on medicinal herbs reserve.

Yunnan is endowed with 6,559 kinds of traditional Chinese medicine, and is ranked first in China. Nearly 60 to 70 percent of China’s rare medicinal species can be found in Yunnan.

The pharmaceutical industry, a pillar industry in Yunnan, is comprised of 137 pharmaceutical plants, which produce 3,000 kinds of medicine.

41. Food for Thought for College Students
By Stuart Hutson

COLLEGE STATION, Texas, Mar 20, The Battalion -- Comedian Bob Smith once said about the final grade in one of his college classes, "I knew the world was my oyster. What I didn’t know was whether it would give me a pearl or hepatitis."

At this point in the semester, many students are wondering the same of their own classes. Will the semester end with a bang or a bust? The stress is just enough to make one wish that there was some sort of "smart pill" that could be popped like in the cartoons of olden days.

While instant intelligence is still not possible, regardless of what late-night infomercials might try to sell, there are some basic facts that students can keep in mind to help their brains run the semester’s marathon of remaining tests and papers.

Food is Good (Sometimes)

It may come as no surprise that, when it comes to nutrition, the most important factor with regard to school performance is to eat a well-rounded, balanced diet in order to maintain good health, said Rhonda Rahn, a health education nutritionist at A. P. Beutel Health Center. However, when it comes to crunch time before a series of tests, there are some foods to avoid and some to chow down on.

Rahn said foods high in carbohydrates such as fruits and breads make good "brain fuel" because the body easily converts carbohydrates into glucose, a sugar solution that the brain (and the rest of the body) uses for energy.

Fruits and vegetables have simple carbohydrates, which are broken down into glucose almost immediately, providing immediate, though short-term, energy, for thinking. Breads have complex carbohydrates that take longer to break down, providing longer-lasting energy.

Fatty foods, such as potato chips, pizza and French fries, may make good "munchies," but the body will interpret the excess fat as a signal to slow down so the fat can be broken down and stored.

"Fatty foods are going to make you feel lazy," Rahn said. "So it will just make you more likely to fall asleep and less likely to feel like learning."

Dietary Supplements

St. John’s wort may sound more like a contagious foot condition found in a monastery than a dietary supplement, but according to information from the AMA, millions of people worldwide take this and other popular herbal remedies with the hope of improving their memories.

"Whether these do anything or not is sketchy, but if they do, it’s probably not much," Rahn said. "Plus, if you haven’t been taking one for a little while or your primary care provider doesn’t know that you are taking one, you could be risking a severe reaction with another drug."

According to the AMA, some supplements do provide minute amounts of vitamins and minerals that aid in some body functions, such as calcium for strong bones, but these amounts are easily attainable through a multivitamin or balanced diet.

Advertisers of herbal supplements claim that amino acids found in ginkgo biloba and ginseng aid in memory enhancement. According to the AMA, no research has supported this claim.

You’d Better Think

Steven Smith, professor of psychology at Texas A&M, said the most important thing students can do while studying is to find ways in which the information "fits" with material the student knows.

"On a computer, you can just press save and everything is in the computer’s memory," he said. "In your mind, you have to find how that information works with what you already know. This way, knowing one thing means that you know another. And more importantly, how those two things relate.

"Memorizing lists or just trying to store facts may work on some scale, but that is probably only going to stay in your short-term memory. It may or may not be there when you need it."

Studies show that 50 percent to 75 percent of knowledge stored only in the short-term memory is lost in 24 hours. Although exactly how the memory works is not known, memories are probably transferred to long-term memory by a section of the brain called the hippocampus if they are somehow related to knowledge already there or if they are repeatedly used in a functional way.

Betty Milburn, associate director of counseling for A&M’s Student Counseling Service, said the fast loss of information is why students are encouraged to review material shortly after initial contact with it.

Milburn said breaking up study sessions into intervals will also aid retention of material.

"The brain gets tired, just like your muscles do," she said. "It is usually suggested that students study in time blocks of no more than three hours, with a break of 10 minutes every hour. That way, the information you have just tried to learn has time to sort of sink in and your mind can get ready to soak in some more knowledge."

Smith said breaking up study sessions may be useful because students may have more success remembering one session than another.

"If you forget one, you will still remember the rest. It is a ‘putting all of your eggs in one basket’ kind of a thing," he said.

Be Your Own Mozart

A few years ago, it was widely rumored that listening to Mozart could significantly enhance one’s thinking ability.

"That is absolute garbage that is the result of a misinterpretation of a study’s results," Smith said. "If it does do anything, it is probably the same as taking a sugar pill and believing that it is a miracle drug. ... On the other hand, learning to play Mozart yourself is a different matter."

He said studies have shown that learning complex skills, such as playing music, may increase one’s reasoning ability, especially if the skills are learned at a young age when the brain is most susceptible to change.

"Anything interactive, anything that makes you actively think will function in the same way to build better thinking skills," Smith said. "It doesn’t happen overnight, but reading and even working on the computer will help."

Sleep: The Necessary Evil

For the student who has an 8 a.m. test, it may be tempting to pull an all-nighter, especially if he or she has done less than an adequate amount of studying. But before pulling out the caffeine pills, Smith said, one should consider that sleep is necessary for the mind’s functioning.

"Some people think that their normal sleeping hours are time that they can steal from other activities," he said. "But the truth is that getting enough sleep is just as important as getting enough to eat."

During sleep, certain parts of the brain shut down while others start up, allowing the brain to recuperate while it consolidates memories.

"The brain consolidating memories is like a wall being built," Smith said. "Memories are like bricks laid down along with the mortar, but the wall isn’t stable until that mortar dries. Consolidation allows that mortar to dry, thus cementing some memories into your mind."

A lack of recuperation time means the brain loses its ability to concentrate, especially while attempting to perform abstract functions, such as complex math.

42. Eighteenth Century "Curious Herbal" Republished Online
WASHINGTON, Feb. 16, AP -- A computer program that will let a viewer figuratively turn the pages of a rare book or manuscript by touching a screen made its American debut Friday at the National Institutes of Health.

It showed Elizabeth Blackwell’s 262-year-old "Curious Herbal," a catalog of 500 color plates and descriptions of plants. A touch on the screen turns a page. Another touch zooms in and magnifies a tiny seed or colorful flower.

A third touch gives an audio description.

Mrs. Blackwell created and printed the colored plates herself so she could earn money to free her husband from debtors’ prison. Near the screen the National Library of Medicine will put the actual volume, open to just two pages and heavily protected in a glass case -- the usual way of showing fragile books.

"It’s the first instance I am aware of in which it is really agreeable to read the text from a computer screen," said Dr. Donald A.B. Lindberg, the head of the library. "The sensation of actually turning a page in a rare volume is remarkable."

43. To the Land of Henna and Kohl, Avon Calls
By Elisabetta Anna Coletti

CASABLANCA, Mar. 29, Christian Science Monitor -- For centuries, Moroccan women have enhanced their beauty by drawing upon the resources available.

The blush and lip stain of choice, for example, is laakar lfasia - a ladybug-red mineral powder mixed with lemon juice in tiny clay pots.

Herbalists in the alleys of the medina here still serve as old-fashioned perfumers, selling musk stones and rosebuds in bulk. Teeth are brightened by brushing with swak twigs, which also give lips an apricot blush.

But this month, a somewhat controversial beauty regime made its debut. "Skin So Soft" body oil, anyone? Have you tried the demure Iced Coffee lipstick?

Yes, Avon is calling on all Casablanca complexions.

While offering women new economic and cosmetic options, the American company’s arrival also raises concerns about corrupting the North African sense of beauty, or at least redefining it.

"Normally women in hijab [Muslim dress] don’t wear makeup, but I don’t think there’s any problem as long as it’s subtle and tasteful," says Amina Tahiri, a young mother of two who is one of 1,200 women just recruited as representatives here for the door-to-door cosmetics icon.

Mrs. Tahiri and other sales managers held a lavish open meeting this month - complete with makeovers, door prizes, balloons, and manicures - to win potential representatives and clients over to the joys of direct marketing (not to mention matching lip gloss and nail polish).

Making some extra pocket money, notes Tahiri, isn’t against the Koran. "It’s good for my family. My husband and I help each other with supporting the family. Anyway, it’s not like before. More and more women are working in Morocco these days."

At least that’s what Avon is banking on.

Founded by an encyclopedia salesman in 1886, the company now operates in 137 countries, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Avon officials say the Morocco launch is a test for future North Africa operations, suggesting there is a trend of women entering the workplace in the traditionally male-focused Maghreb region.

But to some Moroccans, Avon is a symbol, if not a source, of a Western concept of beauty that is undermining the country’s already rich traditions and rituals.

"The woman with dark hair, wide hips, and a few extra pounds has always been the essence of beauty in Morocco," says Fatema Mernissi, a sociologist at Mohammed V University in Rabat who is considered a leading feminist in the Arab-Muslim world.

"In the East, women were once restricted by a harem [the women’s part of the Muslim household], but now they’re confined by the pressure to be too skinny. But that’s not our culture!" she exclaims.

Integral to Moroccan culture is the hamam, or Turkish bath. Each week, as part of the cleanliness prescriptions of Islam, the faithful scrub down and let clogged pores breathe in a series of increasingly hot steam chambers. Women come here with aunts, sisters, and friends to exfoliate, massage, and wash with sabon bildi, a thick, caramellike soap made from olive oil. Henna also plays a central role: Women churn the powder into gloppy masks to moisturize their bodies and to dye their hair burgundy or russet.

For weddings and other celebrations, women and girls use henna to embellish their hands and feet with intricate filigree patterns. Many indigenous Berber women get small green tattoos on their chins and foreheads at their marriage ceremonies.

And then there are the eyes. "In our culture, we say the eyes talk to you," says Khira Lansari, Avon Morocco’s national sales manager. "Do you know what our biggest seller is? Mascara. Black. Maybe it’s because with women in veils, all you can see is their eyes. Or, women in scarves might not wear makeup, but they’ll feel comfortable putting on mascara."

Ms. Lansari admits it will be hard to market the products in the rural, poor village communities. "But, maybe mascara might sell. It’s a generational thing."

"For example, even if I have Avon makeup, I still prefer to use the traditional black powder kohl for my eyes - like my mother and grandmother. But my teenage daughter will never use it. A lot of these products have lost their popularity among women in my generation, in their 40s." More than half of young women use modern makeup products in Morocco today.

Dr. Mernissi says she dabbles in both the old world and the globalized market for her own toilette and that most Moroccan women do the same. "I go to the hamam and put henna on my skin and hair," she explains. "Even when I go to New York, I let the shower run hot to create a steam hamam at my hotel. "But when I finish with the bath, I put on expensive French creams."

Avon vendor Tahiri says she and some friends also have abandoned swak twigs and kohl, "but the hamam - that we can’t give up." She proceeds to demonstrate Avon products that can be used in the hamam: Soft Pink Bubble Bath, Simply Delicate Feminine Wash.

Apparently, her clients agree. Tahiri can supplement her income, she says, with anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 dirhams (about $460 to $920), "mostly by networking through friends of friends, neighbors." In a country where the minimum monthly wage is set at less than 2,000 dirhams, that is a significant boost.

Her 16-year-old niece, Fatimzahra Laroussi, is thinking about becoming a vendor. But she says "teenagers don’t wear makeup. We’re too young; you have to respect your age. Besides, it’s not safe to get all done up if you want to walk out on the streets. Boys aren’t very well behaved. They can be like dogs sometimes."

Asmaa Salmy is looking but not buying the Avon hype. The Casablanca mom in a brown headscarf and Italian shades prefers musk stones to the Far Away talc powder she’s sniffing (3 dirhams). "I prefer our natural products, like masks made from tomato, avocado, and carrot."

Besides, she continues, "we have to look more to our origins. Tradition is more important now than ever - to be cultivated and not just made-up. It’s just like the saying we have here: ‘Talk and I tell you who you really are.’ "

44. Coriander Seed Crop Fears Start Panic Buying
LONDON, Feb. 19, The Public Ledger -- Coriander seed purchases have picked up of late as buyers begin stockpiling in anticipation of shortages due to uncertainties about the crop across Eastern Europe.

Following last year’s drought in Eastern Europe, production is expected to be substantially reduced this year. Also, with prices at fairly low levels, it is feared that plantings might be well-below average, as growers switch to more profitable crops.

With East Europeon producers half way through the season, buyers have become nervous about the prospect of another poor crop, following a bad harvest in 2000. As Bulgarian and Russian coriander are largely unavailable to importers, prices for other origins have gradually increased, with Romanian seeds now available at $530 a tonne cif whole, while Egyptian and Moroccan coriander have risen from average price of $600 a tonne to $700 and $625 a tonne respectfully.

One London trader said: "We expect the price to edge up over the next two to three months with lower acreage again from Eastern Europe. However, getting closer to the harvests should put a brake on these price rises."

45. Plants Send for Help When Hungry Bugs Strike
By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON, Mar. 15, Reuters -- Just like some cars are equipped with alarms that can alert police that a bad guy is on the prowl, some plants emit their own chemical cry for help when they are being munched on by a hungry bug, researchers said on Thursday.

A new study has shown for the first time that plants in the wild, when attacked by a herbivorous bug, release a plume of chemicals that signal insects that like to eat the marauder that a juicy meal is close at hand.

The finding not only sheds light on how plants defend themselves, but it provides potential strategies for environmentally friendly pest management in agriculture, said Ian Baldwin, director of the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany, who spearheaded the research.

The researchers found that when a species of wild tobacco plant (Nicotiana attenuata) that is indigenous to the Great Basin Desert of the southwestern United States gets damaged by a herbivore such as a hawkmoth larva, also known as a hornworm, it releases a mixture of chemical compounds into the air. Baldwin compared it to the perfume Chanel No. 5, designed to attract predators of the insect, rather than human, variety.

The chemicals function as a signal to help predatory bugs find their prey -- the hawkmoth larva -- and eat it or its eggs, Baldwin said, while also deterring adult moths from laying their eggs. The findings appeared in the journal Science.

"We Know You’re Here"

"Think of it as a car alarm," Baldwin said in a telephone interview. "What does your car alarm do for you? Somebody breaks into the window of the car and wants to steal your CD player. When the car alarm goes off, it does two things. It sends off a signal that hopefully the nearby police might pick up on. But it also gives a signal that says to the burglar, ‘We know you’re here."’

Baldwin noted, however, that police generally won’t "come eat your burglar." He added that despite a cute anthropomorphic analogy, the reality is that "it’s not as if the plant knows necessarily that there are predators out there. There’s no conscious signaling to a particular predator." The mechanism likely evolved with plants emitting a "nasty chemical defense" that insect predators then used as a marker for a good meal.

A plant’s chemical cry for help had been observed by researchers in the past in the laboratory and agricultural settings, but never before in the wild. The finding suggests that the "indirect defense" mechanism of emitting chemicals that attract crawly predators is used by many plants.

"From the laboratory, it’s known that tobacco, corn, lima beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, oil seed rape -- a whole bunch of different species -- give off these signals when they’re attacked by larvae (caterpillars). So it’s a phenomenon that probably occurs in many, many different plants," Baldwin said.

Baldwin said that harnessing plants’ defensive systems could have positive applications for agriculture.

"Let’s think a little bit about what we do in agriculture now," he said. "We’ve bred all these great plants that have incredibly high yields that are basically defenseless."

He said scientists have genetically engineered toxins back into crops to help their defenses or simply spray crops with chemicals. Baldwin noted that insect pests can rapidly develop resistance to both methods.

Baldwin said crops could be engineered to give off chemical signals as a way to provide more environmentally friendly pest control. But farmers would have to be careful not to harm the "good" insects -- the ones that the plants’ chemical signals would attract to eat the leaf-snacking interlopers.

"You have to have a crop management procedure that allows for those predators to be there," he said. "But the predators that we found in Utah, these are little guys that live on the ground, in the soil. There’s no difficulty for them being in a crop situation. You can’t hose down the crop with an indiscriminate insecticide that kills all insects. That would take care of your predators, too."

46. U.S. Supplement Firms Pledge Anti-Mad Cow Steps
By Lisa Richwine

WASHINGTON, Mar. 19, Reuters -- U.S. dietary supplements firms said on Monday they were taking steps to boost consumer confidence and make sure a mad cow disease scare does not taint the $16 billion a year supplement industry.

Mad cow disease has never been tracked to dietary supplements. But some scientists worry vitamins, minerals, herbs or other products that contain brain or other tissues from cattle glands could harbor the proteins thought to be responsible for mad cow and its deadly human form.

An industry trade association said only 0.4 percent, or about 200 of the more than 25,000 supplements sold in the United States, contained glandular materials.

Even in those products, the chance they would contain infected material is extremely low, industry representatives said. U.S. law forbids the import of any bovine ingredients from countries such as Britain, France and Ireland where mad cow disease has been found, and most companies use U.S. sources, according to the National Nutritional Foods Association.

The illness, known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), has not been detected in the United States, but its human form has killed nearly 90 people in Europe.

Some supplements contain tissues such as from the cattle brain, thymus, liver or adrenal glands. People generally take the products with the goal of supporting the functions of those glands, industry representatives said.

Brain and spinal cord tissue from cows is believed to carry the highest risk of passing along the disease.

Industry groups recently directed members to closely track and document ingredient sources. But they also said they did not want to leave an impression the industry had ignored the mad cow crisis until now.

"Companies are taking this extremely seriously. They have procedures in place. They have audited their suppliers," said Annette Dickinson, a vice president for the Council for Responsible Nutrition.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspects about 60 supplement makers each year in part to check on the origin of ingredients, said Christine Lewis, director of the FDA’s dietary supplements office.

"There is no evidence companies are using products from other countries," Lewis said. "However, there is a concern. The concern is it’s possible to be careless."

47. Black Pepper Prices Plunge as Vietnamese Harvest Peaks
HANOI, Mar. 30, Reuters -- Strong supply at the peak of Vietnam’s black pepper harvest has pushed export and domestic prices down by nearly a half in the past two months with large stocks still to come to the market, traders said on Friday.

A pepper trader in the key growing province of Binh Duong said the domestic price had dropped to around 17,000 dong ($1.17) per kg by Friday from 33,000-34,000 dong ($2,27-$2.34) in January.

Early this month, a kilo of the spice was priced at 23,000 dong from 27,000 dong in early February. It was 58,000 dong per kg last March.

"The harvest is at its peak now and will last until mid May," he said. "The quality is good but there is just too much pepper around."

Export quotations were put at $1,190-1,200 per tonne, FOB Saigon Port this week from $1,700 two weeks ago, $2,000-$2,200 in January and way down from $4,200 in March last year.

"Farmers are now holding back due to low prices," the trader said, adding that the current prices were nearing farmers’ production costs of 13,000-15,000 dong ($0.89-$1.03) a kg.

He said farmers did not intend to switch to other cash crops, even though prices were low.

"They have invested a lot of money in planting pepper. It’s not easy for them to give up just like that."

An exporter in Ho Chi Minh City estimated Vietnam would harvest 40,000 tonnes of pepper this year. The country yielded 38,000 tonnes in 2000.

The Trade Ministry has forecast Vietnam would export 42,000 tonnes of pepper this year, up 13.5 percent from 37,000 tonnes shipped in 2000. Some exports have been made up of stocks carried over from last year.

The Ministry warned in January oversupply in the world market this year would curb prices, but it predicted the average price would be around $2,500 a tonne, similar to last year’s level.

The highest FOB price last year reached around $4,400 a tonne.

The International Pepper Community said in January global exports of the spice in 2001 were expected to reach 183,000 tonnes from 172,000 last year as main producers such as India, Indonesia and Vietnam cranked up output.

Singapore is the key buyer of Vietnamese spice. Other destinations include China, the United States, the Netherlands and some other European countries.

Vietnam exported 22,400 tonnes of pepper in the first quarter this year, up 20.6 percent from the same period last year but the earnings dropped 45.3 percent year-on-year to $40.4 million, official data shows.

48. Herb Business News
AIM: Glucose Management Health Solution for Type 2 Diabetes Launched

MIAMI, Mar. 15, BW HealthWire -- The AIM Companies, leaders in dietary and whole food supplements, announced today its innovative Glucose Management Health Solution(TM), designed for individuals who are concerned about Type 2 diabetes and are looking for a holistic approach to insulin management.

Diabetes is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. Currently, 16 million Americans suffer from diabetes, 90 percent of those are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is a "disease of lifestyle" that does not exist outside of western cultures.

"Because the western diet contains high levels of simple sugars, carbohydrates and processed foods with relatively small amounts of fruits and vegetables, Type 2 diabetes has become a major health concern," said Dr. Andrew Myers, chief science officer for the AIM Companies. "AIM’s Glucose Management Program targets, through nutritional and lifestyle support, the specific risk factors and problems that Type 2 diabetics face. It looks at obesity, eating habits, exercise habits, as well as stress management, and it supplies specific key nutritional and herbal factors that are designed to improve the body’s function around the regulation of blood sugar itself."

Phase I: Preparing the Body for Fundamental Change

Barleygreen(TM) and Herbal Fiberblend(TM) are the foundational products included in the first phase of AIM’s Glucose Management Health Solution. Barleygreen has hypoglycemic or blood sugar lowering effects. It also contains key nutrients and enzymes, as well as antioxidants that help to improve the basic nutritional foundation upon which the body functions.

Lack of fiber is a primary cause of Type 2 diabetes. Herbal Fiberblend(TM) provides dietary fiber on a daily basis to facilitate liver function, digestive elimination and has a blood sugar stabilizing effect. Prepzymes(TM) are another component in this first phase. Prepzymes help improve pancreatic function so the pancreas is better able to maintain and regulate glucose levels through the secretion of insulin.

Gluchochrome(TM) is another essential AIM product in combating Type 2 diabetes. One of the key ingredients in this product is chromium, which is critical to blood sugar regulation because it binds to cells and increases their sensitivity to insulin.

Phase II: Nutritional Support and Lifestyle Changes

Type 2 diabetics are extremely susceptible to heart disease, vision and nervous system complications, and at later stages, kidney problems. Proancynol 2000(TM) is added in the second phase to help balance and support these key risk factors. Proancynol’s antioxidants provide protection for both the arteries and heart itself, as well as keeping cholesterol from being oxidized.

Phase III: Maintenance

Gingkosense(TM) is a new AIM product which helps promote circulation to the extremities and strong antioxidants that help to protect the nervous system, and sensory organs; specifically the eyes.

In this final phase, lifestyle modifications include: improved nutrition, exercise, diet and daily stress relief must become a way of life for individuals with Type 2 diabetes. AIM’s supplements and lifestyle recommendations help provide the extra support the body needs to improve its functionality.

The AIM Companies

The AIM Companies, located in Nampa, Idaho, has been the pioneer of whole food supplements since the early 1980’s, with the introduction of Barleygreen, a green powder derived from naturally grown plant food sources. In its first full year of business, AIM had $500,000 in sales. Over the years, AIM has grown into an international company with over 100,000 members/distributors in 8 countries. Throughout this period of growth, AIM’s commitment to making a profound difference in the lives of others has remained constant. Today, AIM offers a unique family of products derived from naturally grown plant food sources which utilize an exclusive nutrient rich selection system as a comprehensive means to managing whole body health.

Ajinomoto: Brazil’s New Leading Spices Producer

SAO PAULO, Brazil, Mar. 15, Gazeta Mercantil -- According to AC Nielsen, Ajinomoto’s Sabor Ami spice brand held a leading position between December 2000 and January 2001, beating Unilever’s Arisco. Ajinomoto’s market share increased from 22% in 1999 to 25% in 2000 and 27% last January, while Unilever’s fell from 29% in 1999 to 27% in 2000 and then to 25% last January. Other spice brands held together 48% of the market during January 2001. The market generates sales of R$140mil per year and has been growing by 5% per year.

Alta Natural: Company Controlled by Managing Director Acquires Treasury Shares

VANCOUVER, B.C., Mar. 7, Market News Publishing -- Alta Natural Herbs & Supplements Ltd. announced that 562515 B.C. Ltd. has acquired 1,500,000 units from the treasury of the Corporation at a price of $0.12 per unit for aggregate proceeds of $180,000. Each unit consists one common share and one warrant, with each warrant entitling the holder to acquire an additional common share at $0.15 per share for a period of two years.

As a result of this private placement, 562515 B.C. Ltd. now holds 5,102,745 common shares in the capital of the Corporation, representing 28.52% of the outstanding shares.

Mr. Ten Chu Wei, Managing Director of the Corporation, is the sole officer and director of 562515 B.C. Ltd. In addition, Mr. Roswell Wei owns and controls 50% of the voting securities of the numbered company and is a director of Alta Natural. These two individuals, and Ms. L. Wei, may be considered to be acting jointly or in concert with 562515 B.C. Ltd. One or more of these persons may continue to acquire additional shares, either through the market or privately.

Allergy Research: Herbal Liver Formula Studied for Immune-Support Use

HAYWARD, Calif., Mar 22, BW HealthWire -- Based on herbal remedies from traditional oriental medicine, Eurocel was originally developed by an Asian pharmaceutical company which researched and combined herbs used traditionally to support proper liver function. Dr. Stephen A. Levine, CEO of Allergy Research Group, Inc., announced today that additional research has been conducted on the herbal formula indicating its potential use in immune-support protocols.

In an animal study performed in Korea, mice were injected with both Adriamycin (a cytotoxic chemotherapeutic agent) and Eurocel. Eurocel was shown to prevent much of the damage done to the animals’ immune system (compared to Adriamycin alone), as measured by interleukin and interferon, important immune regulatory molecules. Eurocel was shown to have no toxicity against the immune system, as evaluated by measurement of organ weight of the spleen and thymus gland and again compared to the effects of Adriamycin alone. For a copy of the study, please contact Allergy Research Group at 800/545-9960.

About Eurocel

A recent 2-year clinical survey on ten patients with Hepatitis C showed a dramatic decrease in viral levels after use of the herbal formula, with the largest decrease occurring in the first 1-2 months of use. After 24 months of taking the herbal combination, viral levels from all subjects showed dramatic decreases. In some cases a decrease of up to one-million-fold was observed, a decline from over one billion to under one thousand. Liver damage, as assessed by elevated liver enzymes, showed improvement by eventually settling into the normal range.

About Allergy Research Group, Inc.

Allergy Research Group, Inc. is an innovative leader in nutraceutical research and product formulation. Since its inception in 1979, the company has been noted for quality, hypoallergenic nutritional supplements and supplies products to over 6,000 physicians and healthcare practitioners worldwide.

American Ingedients: Assets Sold to Pharmachem Laboratories

ANAHEIM, Calif., Mar. 20, PRNewswire -- Global Health Sciences, Inc. today announced that Kearny, NJ-based Pharmachem Laboratories, Inc. has signed a contract to acquire substantially all the assets of American Ingredients, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Global.

Both American Ingredients and Global are debtors in Chapter 11 proceedings in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California (Santa Ana Division). The transaction will be conducted pursuant to Section 363 of the Bankruptcy Code and will be subject to overbid. The closing on the transaction will occur as soon as all necessary approvals are obtained.

In a joint statement, Pharmachem President David Holmes, and Howard Simon, President of American Ingredients, commented, "This transaction enables us to bring our customers a much broader spectrum of value added products and unique services in a manner consistent with the needs of an evolving industry."

Global Health Sciences, Inc. is a developer and custom manufacturer of dietary and nutritional supplements. The Company develops and manufactures vitamins, minerals, herbs, teas and other supplements in tablet, capsule and powder form in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors, flavors and textures designed to meet customers’ specifications.

Pharmachem Laboratories, Inc. offers application-specific process technologies for value-added nutritional ingredients.

Chai-Na-Ta: Trading Halt

LANGLEY, B.C., Mar. 19, Business Wire -- Chai-Na-Ta Corp. reports that following the close of the market on Friday, March 16, it was contacted by its auditors respecting a revision that may be required to Chai-Na-Ta’s audited financial statements, which were the subject of the Company’s news release of March 15.

At the Company’s request, trading in its shares has been halted until it has an opportunity to discuss this situation with its auditors. In the event that a revision is required to the audited financial statements, the Company will request all the directors to reapprove the revised audited financial statements. The Company will issue a further news release when it has more information.

Chai-Na-Ta Corp., based in Langley, British Columbia, is the world’s largest supplier of North American ginseng. The Company farms, processes and distributes North American ginseng as bulk root, and supplies processed extract powder for the manufacture of value-added ginseng-based products.

Chai-Na-Ta: Corrected Financial Results

LANGLEY, B.C., Mar. 20, CCN Newswire -- Chai-Na-Ta Corp. today reported financial results for its fiscal 13-month period ended December 31, 2000.

This news release is a correction to the news release of the Company dated March 15, 2001 announcing financial results for the same period.

In its March 15, 2001 news release, the Company reported financial results for the 13-month period ended December 31, 2000. These financial results were derived from financial statements that were approved by the Audit Committee and Board of Directors of Chai-Na-Ta Corp. and Deloitte & Touche LLP. After the release of the March 15, 2001 news release and following the close of trading on Friday, March 16, 2001, Deloitte & Touche informed the Company that these financial statements required amendment. Prior to the commencement of trading on Monday, March 19, 2001, Chai-Na-Ta Corp. contacted The Toronto Stock Exchange to request a halt in trading of its securities until these financial statement issues could be discussed. The Company issued a news release in this regard during the course of the day on March 19, 2001.

The amendment relates to the recording of indebtedness to the parent company, or its affiliate, at an amount that approximates fair value at the date the terms of indebtedness was agreed. The consolidated financial statements have been amended to reduce the liability per the consolidated balance sheet by $2,500,000 and increased reported net income by $2,500,000. This adjustment has been discussed and agreed with Deloitte & Touche, which has confirmed to the Company that it is not aware of any other audit issues that remain to be resolved. The Company’s Board of Directors has reviewed and approved the amended consolidated financial statements.

During 2000, the Company’s fiscal year-end was changed to December 31 from November 30. Consequently, fiscal 2000 numbers represent a 13-month period from December 1, 1999 to December 31, 2000 and are compared with results from the prior 12-month period. Fiscal 2000 fourth-quarter results reflect a four-month period compared to three months in the prior fiscal year.

In fiscal 2000, revenue decreased to $12.2 million from $16.2 million in the year ended November 30, 1999. Net earnings in fiscal 2000 were $6.8 million ($0.65 per basic share) compared to a net loss of $18.2 million ($4.09 per basic share) in the prior year.

Interest and financing charges of $0.2 million in fiscal 2000 compared to interest and financing charges of $3.2 million in fiscal 1999. The Company recorded a gain on debt forgiveness in fiscal 2000 of $13.9 million as a result of the financial restructuring plan adopted in May 2000.

Working capital was a surplus of $14 million at the fiscal 2000 year-end compared to a deficiency of $22.4 million at November 30, 1999. This improvement was due to debt forgiveness under the financial restructuring plan and a $5 million capital injection by Road King Infrastructure Limited.

"We are pleased that Road King’s involvement as Chai-Na-Ta’s majority owner has brought stability to the Company and enabled us return to a sound financial position. Chai-Na-Ta’s successful restructuring strengthens our industry and is positive for root prices, which stood at historical low levels but have moved higher," said William Zen, Chai-Na-Ta’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.

"We are preparing for the future by enhancing the breadth and profit potential of our product line and the efficiency of our operations. Given our Company’s leadership in a recovering market, we expect continuing improvement in Chai-Na-Ta’s operating results," Mr. Zen said. "Our gain on debt forgiveness in 2000 will distort our bottom line financial comparisons for the next few years. However, we expect results around the breakeven level in fiscal 2001 and a profitable year in 2002."

In the fourth quarter of fiscal 2000, revenue declined to $0.4 million from $1.9 million in the same quarter of fiscal 1999. The net loss in the quarter ended December 31, 2000 was $3.4 million ($0.24 per share), compared to a net loss of $14.5 million ($3.21 per share) in the quarter ended November 30, 1999.

During the fiscal 2000 fourth quarter, interest and financing charges were $0.1 million compared to $0.8 million in the fiscal 1999 fourth quarter. Other loss of $0.6 million in the fiscal 2000 fourth quarter compared with a loss of $13.6 million in the previous year period.

Chai-Na-Ta Corp., based in Langley, British Columbia, is the world’s largest supplier of North American ginseng. The Company farms, processes and distributes North American ginseng as bulk root, and supplies processed extract powder for the manufacture of value-added ginseng-based products.

Chai-Na-Ta: Chairman Arrested for Corruption in Hong Kong

LANGLEY, B.C., Mar. 22, Business Wire -- Chai-Na-Ta Corp. has been informed that six persons employed by Wai Kee Holdings Limited, including Mr. William Zen Wei-pao, who is also the chairman of the Company, were arrested and subsequently released on bail by the Independent Commission Against Corruption of Hong Kong in relation to a Government Private Sector Participation Scheme Project in Hong Kong.

Wai Kee, a Hong Kong-based publicly listed company, is the largest shareholder of Road King Infrastructure Limited, another Hong Kong-based publicly listed company, which has control of a majority of the outstanding shares of the Company.

The Company is not involved in any way with the Project and does not expect that the arrests will have any impact on the day to day operations of the Company or its subsidiaries. The Company will make further announcements as and when appropriate.

Chai-Na-Ta Corp., based in Langley, British Columbia, is the world’s largest supplier of North American ginseng. The Company farms, processes and distributes North American ginseng as bulk root and supplies processed extract powder for the manufacture of value-added ginseng-based products.

Emerald Seed and Schouten: Distribution Agreement for "FenuLife"

AVONLEA, Sask., Mar. 18, Emerald Seed -- Emerald Seed Products Ltd., a Saskatchewan company, has been on the leading edge of research and development for the production and processing of value-added products from fenugreek since 1995. Emerald is pleased to formally announce a comprehensive agreement for the distribution of its fenugreek extracts with Schouten USA Inc. a subsidiary of the Royal Schouten Group N.V. of the Netherlands.

Schouten is a respected international company in the nutraceutical and food ingredient industries, and is a recognised leader in soybean isoflavone extracts with its "SoyLife" product line. Under the agreement, "FenuLife" will be marketed to the nutraceutical and functional food sectors, initially targeted to the diabetic, cholesterol, and weight loss markets.

"This agreement creates a unique alliance that is a great fit for both companies", said Cal Kelly, President of Emerald Seed Products. "Schouten is well positioned in the nutraceutical market with excellent distribution to supplement and food ingredient companies in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia, and Japan". He noted, "The alliance ensures comprehensive market development for FenuLife, front-line distribution, product development, clinical work, and technical support for the product.

FenuLife is formulated from non-GMO fenugreek, utilising patented technology. FenuLife is a highly concentrated form of the unique fenugreek soluble dietary fiber, or galactomannan, and is completely tasteless and deodorized. This makes it ideal for use as a diabetic dietary supplement, functional food ingredient, or diet product.

Fenugreek galactomannan has a unique molecular structure which allows it to efficiently bind sugar and fat. Clinical evidence demonstrates that fenugreek consumption decreases the glycemic index of foods/meals consumed. When taken before a meal FenuLife helps diabetics maintain healthy blood sugar levels. The galactomannan in FenuLife acts to slow down gastric emptying and thicken intestinal contents. This delays the absorption of glucose and fat, decreasing the spikes of sugar entering the blood following a meal.

Weight loss has also been associated with fenugreek galactomannan because it causes individuals to "feel full". Additionally, when sugars are bound by the galactomannan and the "sugar spikes" are reduced, less insulin is required, which is associated with reduction of obesity.

Facts & Comparisons: Offers Drug, Herbal, and Interaction Products in XML Format

ST. LOUIS, Mar. 29, BW HealthWire -- Facts and Comparisons(R), the pharmacist’s primary source of drug information and a provider of professional and patient information products, has expanded its data licensing initiative to offer drug, herbal, and interaction products in XML format for Web Site, CD-Rom, and PDA Developers.

The four datasets now available in the highly sought eXtensible Markup Language (XML) format include:

-- A-Z Drug Facts -- a concise and comprehensive prescribing guide on over 2800 medications

-- The American Drug Index -- a detailed drug dictionary of brand names, and manufacturers with over 22,000 drug entries

-- Drug Interaction Facts -- a unique interactions guide to over 20,000 drugs interactions

-- The Review of Natural Products -- the authoritative, primary literature referenced herbal guide detailing over 350 natural products

"Our XML initiative was a result of client requests and market trends," said John V. Levon, PharmD, Facts and Comparison’s e-Commerce Business Development Manager. "We modified our SGML data into XML within weeks, as opposed to months or years, to demonstrate our commitment to providing clients with the content they need in a format they can use."

"XML is quickly becoming a standard for electronic content delivery," said Doug Rudder, SGML expert and XML programmer for Facts & Comparisons. "We are utilizing this technology to continue to provide timely and integral drug information to the health care community."

For two years, Facts & Comparisons’ Data Licensing Series (DLS) has been the online industry’s one-stop resource for drug, interaction, herbal, and consumer information. Nearly every brand name, generic, OTC, herbal agent, drug interaction, side effect, and unlabeled use are presented. The DLS also includes tablet/capsule images, chemical structures, and a lab value analyzer that covers drug, disease, and situational factors that can alter over 100 common lab values.

Facts & Comparisons Data Licensing Series is utilized by specialty and consumer health care sites, and large and small companies. In addition to XML, the DLS is available in a wide variety of other formats including Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML), Hypertext markup language (HTML), MS Word, and delimited ASCII files for database population.

For more than 56 years, Facts & Comparisons has been at the forefront of developing and maintaining the most comprehensive, timely, and authoritative drug-related information. Today, through partnerships with companies such as,,, and Facts & Comparisons is quickly becoming a leading creator and distributor of drug information content to thousands of consumers, professionals, and students around the world. Facts & Comparisons’ unique Web Licensing Series features an unmatched array of over 20 databases on drug, interaction, patient, herbal, and drug therapy information.

As a Wolters Kluwer International Health & Science company, Facts & Comparisons is part of a collective effort to become the leading creators and distributors of online health and medical content to professionals and students around the world. Wolters Kluwer International Health & Science is a Philadelphia-based group of publishing and information companies offering specialized publications and software in medicine, nursing, pharmacy science and related areas. In addition to Facts & Comparisons, WKIHS includes Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Philadelphia, Ovid Technologies, Inc., New York; Kluwer Academic Publishing, Dordrecht, Netherlands; and Adis International, Chester, UK.

Glaxo: Launches Herbal Remedy for Menopause

LONDON, Mar. 8, Reuters -- Pharmaceuticals giant GlaxoSmithKline Plc took an unusual tack into the world of herbal remedies on Thursday with the U.S. launch of a supplement for menopausal women.

The world’s largest seller of prescription medicines said Remifemin, which contains an extract of black cohosh, was one of the most widely studied herbal supplements and had been shown effective in placebo-controlled trials.

"We recognise that there is much confusion about -- and tremendous interest in -- herbal remedies for menopause symptoms. This product provides an evidence-based option that women can feel confident using," said Paul Lindsay, director of marketing at GSK.

Remifemin was developed and is marketed internationally by Schaper and Brummer, based in Germany, where it has been used for more than 40 years to relieve hot flushes and other menopausal symptoms.

It has proved a popular alternative to hormone replacement therapy (HRT) which is not suitable for all women. HRT replaces female hormones, which decrease after the menopause, but it has been associated with a number of side effects, including nausea.

Herbal and other alternative therapies are becoming increasingly popular and accepted, even by a once sceptical medical establishment, leading to a fast-growing market for a range of over-the-counter products.

Integrative Medicine: Release of Professional ACCESS 2.0 Database

NEWTON, Mass., Mar. 27, PRNewswire -- Integrative Medicine Communications, the nation’s premier provider of peer-reviewed, science-based clinical information on integrating conventional and alternative medicine into mainstream medical care, announces the latest release of its highly acclaimed Professional ACCESS 2.0 service.

ACCESS 2.0 is an unparalleled, interactive database of cutting-edge reference materials designed specifically for the professional healthcare community including physicians and other healthcare providers, physician networks, and health systems. ACCESS 2.0 enables professionals to electronically retrieve in-depth reference information on medical conditions, alternative treatment modalities, herbs, supplements, and prescription medications. Each monograph in Professional ACCESS 2.0 has been put through a rigorous peer-review process by the extensive, expert advisory board of over 80 healthcare professionals.

"ACCESS 2.0 gives physicians and providers the facts about alternative therapies and how they may be used effectively in conjunction with conventional treatment programs -- taking the guess work out of this field for doctors who want to know," says Jan Thaw Bruce, CEO of Integrative Medicine.

The new sections introduced with this release of Professional ACCESS 2.0 establish a new industry standard for integrating complementary and alternative content in mainstream healthcare information. Sections include:

Integrative Treatment Strategy -- An innovative section designed to help the practitioner prioritize conventional and complementary treatment options based on the most current scientific evidence. ACCESS 2.0 is now the only service in the marketplace that provides clinical information on alternative and complementary medicine that originates from a conventional perspective. "Conventionally trained practitioners want evidence-based, objective information. We initiate each topic review from a solid conventional foundation, and thereby provide a context for understanding how complementary and alternative medical practices fully integrate with conventional care," says Jacqueline Hart, MD, Senior Medical Editor of Integrative Medicine.

Pediatric Dosage -- A new pediatric section is now included in all herb and supplement monographs. This is a continuation of efforts to address the growing need for a reliable source of information regarding safety and effectiveness of natural substances among special population groups.

The Professional ACCESS 2.0 service is designed to offer maximum flexibility with regards to customization, integration and updates. Available in multiple formats, including HTML and XML, the content can be provided as either individual documents, or as a complete turnkey solution including a customizable user interface.

About Integrative Medicine

Integrative Medicine Communications is an information services company empowering healthcare professionals, consumers, and executives to combine the best of conventional and alternative medicine for optimal healthcare. The company delivers a suite of unbiased, science-based clinical information to professionals and consumers as well as unrivaled business intelligence and advisory services. The company serves individual healthcare providers as well as large institutions, professional associations, and information providers including Health Forum, a subsidiary of the American Hospital Association,, HealthGate, the American Society of Health System Pharmacists, the American Academy of Physician’s Assistants, and Health Trust Alliance. Integrative Medicine Communications’ products are not sponsored by any manufacturer and are peer-reviewed by an 87-member board of health professionals.

Jamieson: Natural Weight Loss Aid Back in Stock

TORONTO, Mar. 20, Canada NewsWire -- Jamieson Laboratories’ Ultra Slim Down(TM) is back on the shelves of Canadian drug and health food stores. Sales of the new natural weight loss supplement rocketed overnight following media reports about the product’s remarkable effectiveness. The supplement sold out across Canada in less than 24 hours.

"At Jamieson Laboratories, we focused production over the weekend to ensure we could meet the overwhelming consumer demand for Ultra Slim Down(TM)," said Kevin Edwards, Jamieson Laboratories. "We have now shipped quantities of Ultra Slim Down(TM) to stores across Canada to satisfy our customers needs."

Ultra Slim Down(TM) is a safe, effective ephedra-free product ideal for Canadians looking to shed unwanted pounds. This natural weight loss solution uses a new combination of herbal ingredients shown to help eliminate diet "plateaus" and assist in weight loss.

A 10-week marketing study, conducted from September-November 2000 by Toronto-based naturopath, Dr. Penny Kendall-Reed, showed an average weight loss of 10.2 pounds for those who took Jamieson’s new Ultra Slim Down(TM) without following any diet or exercise program. Individuals who took the product but were also required to do moderate exercise and follow good eating habits lost an average of 14.5 pounds.

Jamieson’s Ultra Slim Down(TM) package contains two products: an Herbal Carbohydrate Burner and a Fat Absorber. The ingredients in both the Carbohydrate Burner and the Fat Absorber have been clinically proven in numerous studies to reduce body weight by burning fat more effectively and helping eliminate carbohydrates efficiently. However, it is the combination of ingredients, and the way in which they are taken, that provides an effective means for weight loss.

The Herbal Carbohydrate Burner was taken by the study participants three times daily, 30 minutes before breakfast, lunch and dinner. It contains Citrimax(TM), derived from the Garcinia Cambogia tree, which helps the body convert dietary carbohydrates into energy; Advantra-Z(TM), a thermogenic herb that increases metabolism and Kola Nut to increase energy levels.

The Fat Absorber was taken immediately following breakfast, lunch and dinner, and contains: Chitosan, a natural fibre extract from North Atlantic shellfish which binds up to 12 times its weight in fat; and Nopal Cactus another natural fibre, which binds 10 to 20 times its weight in fat allowing it to pass naturally through the body, unabsorbed.

Jamieson’s Ultra Slim Down(TM) kit contains a 30-day supply and is available at Canadian pharmacies and natural health food stores at a suggested retail price of $35.99.

Established in 1922, Jamieson Laboratories is Canada’s largest manufacturer and distributor of advanced natural health-care products. With 300 employees, Jamieson’s state-of-the-art pharmaceutical manufacturing laboratories are located in Windsor, Ontario. The company is a world leader in the vitamin and nutrition industry, exporting to over 30 countries including the USA, China, Japan, Hong Kong, Korea and Singapore.

Jamieson: Sales Rocket for Canadian Weight Loss Aid Now Available in USA

TORONTO, Mar. 21, PRNewswire -- A new natural weight loss supplement is causing quite a stir north of the border. In Canada, sales of Jamieson Laboratories Ultra Slim Down(TM) rocketed overnight following media reports about the product’s remarkable effectiveness. The supplement sold out across Canada in less than 24 hours.

Now Jamieson, the leader in natural health products in Canada, is making Ultra Slim Down(TM) available to people in the United States seeking a safe and effective solution to taking off those unwanted pounds.

Ultra Slim Down(TM) contains a new combination of herbal ingredients that was shown to help eliminate diet "plateaus" and assist in weight loss -- even without diet restrictions and increases in exercise.

"Canadians recognize that Ultra Slim Down(TM) is a safe, effective solution for healthy weight loss," said Kevin Edwards, Jamieson Laboratories. "We have increased production to offer this product to Americans seeking an all-natural, ephedra-free diet aid that works."

Toronto-based naturopath, Dr. Penny Kendall-Reed conducted a marketing study from September-November 2000 on the effectiveness of Ultra Slim Down(TM). The results showed an average weight loss of 10.2 pounds for those who took Ultra Slim Down(TM) without following any diet or exercise program. Individuals who took the product but were also required to do moderate exercise and follow good eating habits lost an average of 14.5 pounds.

"I would highly recommend Ultra Slim Down(TM) to anyone who is struggling to take off a few pounds," says Dr. Penny Kendall-Reed. "I was extremely impressed with its safety profile and effectiveness -- participants were losing weight quickly, safely and were able to break the dreaded "plateau" that accompanies most standard diets."

Jamieson’s Ultra Slim Down(TM) package contains two products: an Herbal Carbohydrate Burner and a Fat Absorber. The ingredients in both the Carbohydrate Burner and the Fat Absorber have been clinically proven in numerous studies to reduce body weight by burning fat more effectively and helping eliminate carbohydrates efficiently. However, it is the combination of ingredients, and the way in which they are taken, that provides an effective means for weight loss.

The Herbal Carbohydrate Burner was taken by the study participants three times daily, 30 minutes before breakfast, lunch and dinner. It contains Citrimax(TM), derived from the Garcinia cambogia tree, which helps the body convert dietary carbohydrates into energy; Advantra-Z(TM), a thermogenic herb that increases metabolism and Kola Nut to increase energy levels.

The Fat Absorber was taken immediately following breakfast, lunch and dinner, and contains: Chitosan, a natural fibre extract from North Atlantic shellfish which binds up to 12 times its weight in fat; and Nopal Cactus, another natural fibre, which binds 10 to 20 times its weight in fat allowing it to pass naturally through the body, unabsorbed.

Study participants noted that the product had helped curb their appetite and increased their motivation because they were able to eat foods that they normally restricted from their diets due to higher fat and/or carbohydrate content. Additionally, none of the participants reported any side effects from using the product. Kendall-Reed was pleased with the results of the product only group but noted that a sound weight loss program should also include the elements of a proper diet and regular exercise. The product "should not be used as a license to eat," says Kendall-Reed.

Established in 1922, Jamieson Laboratories is Canada’s largest manufacturer and distributor of advanced natural health-care products. With 300 employees, Jamieson’s state-of-the-art pharmaceutical manufacturing laboratories are located in Windsor, Ontario. The company is a world leader in the vitamin and nutrition industry, exporting to over 30 countries including the USA, China, Japan, Hong Kong, Korea and Singapore.

McCormick: Reports Increase in First Quarter Sales and Profits

SPARKS, Md., Mar. 19, PRNewswire -- McCormick & Company, Incorporated today reported a 15% increase in sales and 9% increase in net income and earnings per share for the first quarter of fiscal 2001.

Earnings per share for the quarter ended February 28 increased 9% to 38 cents from 35 cents in 2000. The Ducros business diluted earnings per share for the quarter by 4 cents per share, slightly better than expected. Excluding dilution from the Ducros acquisition, earnings per share for 2001 were 42 cents, an increase of 7 cents versus the prior year. On a per share basis, this was achieved through 5 cents of higher operating profit, 1 cent in reduced net interest expense and 1 cent from a lower effective tax rate.

Sales for the quarter were $534 million, up 15% over the first quarter of 2000. Excluding foreign exchange and the Ducros business, sales increased 2.4%. Gross profit margin for the quarter was 39.1%, 3.7 percentage points over last year. This increase resulted from a shift in product mix to higher margin, more value-added products, including the recently acquired Ducros business, as well as cost reduction initiatives. Operating profit margin for this year’s quarter reached 8.4% versus 7.8% in 2000.

Consumer Business

Sales for McCormick’s consumer business rose 33% over last year’s first quarter and increased 1% excluding the impact of Ducros and foreign exchange. In local currency, consumer sales were down 1% in the Americas, up 3% in Europe (excluding Ducros) and up 4% in Asia. This quarter, consumer sales in the Americas were lower than anticipated. Following our fourth quarter sales, the first quarter reloading of stores by our customers was below the level experienced in previous first quarters. Operating income for the quarter increased 10% to $27.2 million. As a percent of net sales, operating income decreased to 10.1% from 12.1% including the dilutive effect of Ducros.

Industrial Business

Industrial sales increased 1% versus last year’s quarter and 3% excluding foreign exchange. In local currency, industrial sales increased 1% in the Americas, 8% in Europe and 11% in Asia. The strongest increases were achieved in sales of snack seasonings and sales to food service customers. Operating income for the quarter increased 31% to $19.5 million versus last year. As a percent of net sales, operating income increased to 8.9%, which compares to 6.8% in 2000.

Packaging Business

The packaging business reported third party sales up 7% for the quarter over last year, with the increase again in our tube business. Operating profit (including intersegment business) was $5.2 million, a decrease of 1%. As a percent of net sales, operating profit decreased to 9.6% from 10.4% mainly as a result of higher resin costs.

Chairman’s Comments

Commented Robert J. Lawless, Chairman, President & CEO, "Our first quarter has provided a strong start to fiscal 2001. Sales exceeded our 12-14% target range with Ducros results above expectation and an improved industrial performance. While sales in our Americas consumer business were impacted by customer inventory adjustments, we continue to be encouraged by the fact that growth of our branded products is outpacing that of the product categories in which we compete. We are well on our way to reaching our goal of a 40% gross profit margin. Our 9% earnings per share increase in the first quarter was better than expected and positions us well to meet our growth target of 8-10% for the year.

"Our strategies for growth are delivering positive results in a number of areas. Integration of the Ducros acquisition is proceeding well, and this business has outperformed our expectations. The Beyond 2000 program is in full swing, on plan and already contributing to gross profit margin improvements.

"McCormick is committed to delivering superior financial results and building shareholder value. The momentum gained over the last few years is building, and all signs are positive for another excellent year for the Company and our shareholders."

McCormick & Company, Incorporated is the global leader in the manufacture, marketing and distribution of spices, seasonings and flavors to the entire food industry - to foodservice and food processing businesses as well as to retail outlets. In addition, the packaging group manufactures and markets specialty plastic bottles and tubes for personal care and other industries.

McCormick: Declares $0.20 Quarterly Dividend

SPARKS, Md., Mar. 21, PRNewswire -- The Board of Directors of McCormick & Company, Incorporated today declared a quarterly dividend of $0.20 per share on its common stocks payable April 12 to shareholders of record April 2.

This is the 77th year of consecutive dividend payments by the Company.

McCormick is the international producer of spices, seasonings, flavorings, and specialty foods.

National Health Stores: Extension of Closing Date to Acquire Spartan Nutrition

KINGSTON, Ont. Mar. 8, CCN Newswire -- National Health Stores Inc. announced that the closing date for proposed asset acquisition from Spartan Nutrition and Fitness Inc. has been to April 23, 2001. The arm’s length acquisition, previously announced in the press release dated January 8, 2001, has been conditional approved by the Canadian Venture Exchange subject to filing final documentation standard for transactions of this nature.

Consideration for the acquisition will be cash in the amount of $800,000. The acquisition will not impact on employees or existing franchisees of either NHS or Spartan, with the exception of the proposed hiring of Joseph Esteves from Spartan to NHS as outlined below. No finder’s fee will be paid in connection with the Spartan acquisition.

Spartan is a twelve (12) franchise retail health store chain operating throughout southwestern Ontario. Spartan’s franchised stores carry a wide range of health related products including nutritional supplements, herbs and weight loss products. Spartan also operates a growing wholesale division which distributes its own private label brand of nutritional supplements through its Ontario franchisees. Spartan, a privately held company, has been operating in Ontario for over 6 years with an enviable track record of success and profitability. Spartan recently sold its 13th franchise store in St. Thomas, Ontario, which is due to open in May, 2001. In addition, negotiations are currently underway by Spartan with interested parties for additional Spartan franchise stores located in Amherstberg, Sarnia, St. Catherines, and Woodstock, Ontario.

Upon closing of the Spartan acquisition, NHS will have 17 franchised stores, not including a franchise located in St. Thomas, Ontario which is scheduled to open in June, 2001. Not including the Spartan acquisition, NHS anticipates opening at least six (6) additional stores Ontario over the next 12 months.

In other news Mr. Joseph Esteves has agreed to a management contract with the Company, such contract to take effect upon the closing of the Spartan acquisition. Mr. Esteves is currently Vice-President Operations, of Spartan and is considered largely responsible for the growth and success of Spartan to date. The addition of Mr. Esteves to the Company’s Management team will be a significant boost to the Company’s plans to expand its franchise network throughout Ontario.

Padma: Unites Tibetan Tradition With Swiss Quality

FORT LEE, N.J., Mar. 8, PRNewswire -- The PADMA company shows that ancient Tibetan formulations are efficacious and safe.

For 30 years, one company, Padma, Inc. of Switzerland and now its U.S. division, Padma Health Products, in Fort Lee, New Jersey, has worked to bridge eastern and western medical knowledge. Padma is the only company producing Tibetan herbal supplements commercially in the western world according to Swiss quality standards, backed by stringent experimental and clinical research.

Padma Basic is their first product designed specifically for the needs of an aging generation. It supports healthy circulation*, particularly in the legs and has been medically researched in several countries with positive results. It has the additional benefits of supporting the immune system and providing protective antioxidant activity*, which helps people to stay active longer.

The formula is composed of 21 selected all natural botanical and mineral ingredients that function together to balance the body. PADMA BASIC is an example of an herbal product of high quality being researched and used by physicians in the US and Europe.

Swiss Quality Control

Padma products are manufactured in Switzerland to state of the art GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) and GLP (Good Laboratory Practices) standards. Padma Basic is an example of a Gold Standard for the production of a multiherbal, carefully balanced formulation.

"Our herbs are grown and harvested according to biological guidelines in Switzerland, others come from different areas in Europe and India," says Susanne Geistlich, head pharmacist of Padma Inc. in Switzerland. "Besides the herbs’ identification the content of certain beneficial substances is strictly controlled. The method used to test Padma Basic is commonly known as ‘chemical fingerprinting.’ The fingerprinting technique is a way to identify the components in a product based on their chemical constituents, such as tannins or flavonoids. In addition all herbs are carefully tested regarding possible residues such as pesticides, heavy metals and aflatoxins. Our products do not contain artificial colorings, stabilizers or preservatives."

By doing so, Padma adheres to the principal of natural ingredients as handed down by Tibetan tradition.

SMI: European Report on Vitamins, Minerals, Herbal Supplements and Tonics

LONDON, Mar. 26, M2 Presswire -- "Vitamins, Minerals, Herbal Supplements and Tonics in Self-Medication in Europe," the largest and most up-to-date strategic analysis of the dietary supplements and tonics market in Europe with 630 pages, 557 graphs, tables and figures, is available to purchase from SMi Group.

Twinlab: Announces Class Action Settlement

HAUPPAUGE, N.Y., Mar. 9, Business Wire -- Twinlab Corporation announced today that it has reached an agreement in principle to settle a series of shareholder securities class action lawsuits filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York in late 1998 and early 1999.

Under the agreement, which is subject to approval by the court, the company will pay $26 million, all of which is covered by existing insurance.

A Twinlab spokesperson commented, "while we vigorously deny any wrongdoing, we believed it best to put these lawsuits behind us and move on."

Twinlab Corporation, headquartered in Hauppauge, N.Y., is a leading manufacturer and marketer of high quality, science-based, nutritional supplements, including a complete line of vitamins and minerals, nutraceuticals, herbs and sports nutrition products.

Xechem: Signs Cooperation Agreement with Shanghai Fudan Taxusal

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J., Mar. 23, Business Wire -- Xechem International, Inc. and Xechem Pharmaceutical China Ltd. today announced that they have signed a cooperation agreement with Shanghai Fudan Taxusal New Technology Co., Ltd. located within the Science and Technology Industry Park of Shanghai Universities. This agreement’s objective is the co-development of new paclitaxel soluble analogs and other natural products isolated from Chinese traditional medicines. The signing ceremony was held on February 17, 2001 in Shanghai during Dr. Ramesh Pandey’s visit to Peoples Republic of China.

According to Dr. Ramesh Pandey, Xechem’s President & CEO, "We are excited with this alliance which is going to be very beneficial to all the parties. Shanghai Fudan Taxusal New Technology Co. is involved in the isolation and purification of paclitaxel and preparation of the next generation of paclitaxel. They have the necessary alliances and contracts with the Taxus yunancesis growers for the raw material and with Fudan University, one of the three top universities in China. The President of the Shanghai Company, Professor Wei Runbai, has the foresight, vision and resources to bring these products to the market."

On signing the agreement, Professor Wei Runbai said, "Xechem has contributed significantly to the development of paclitaxel, its analogs and a number of other natural products. We take it seriously to cooperate with Xechem. This alliance will speed up the research and development of Chinese Herbal Medicines and promote pure-compound products into international markets. It will play an important role to introduce the technologies and new natural products."

Mr. C.K. Wong, President of Xechem Pharmaceutical China, Ltd. stated, "This cooperation will accelerate the ongoing studies between Xechem International and Xechem Pharmaceutical China, Ltd.."

Xechem International of New Brunswick, NJ, with subsidiary companies in USA, India and joint venture partners in both Hong Kong and Peoples Republic of China, is a biopharmaceutical company of which Xechem, Inc. (a U.S. subsidiary) is engaged in the research, development and production of generic and proprietary pharmaceuticals from natural sources, specializing in the development of niche, generic, difficult to replicate anticancer, antiviral (including Human Immuno-deficiency Virus, HIV) and antifungal compounds. The Company also screens extracts and pure compounds from China and India for their therapeutic use. (See February 14, 2001 press release).

XetaPharm (another U.S. subsidiary) develops quality controlled nutritional products as GinkgoOnce(R), GinsengOnce(R), GarlicOnce(R), Gugulon(TM), and Co-Enzyme Q-10 and numerous products, which are under development.

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