Richters HerbLetter

Date: 99/04/05
1. Canada Plans New Office to Regulate Herbal Medicines
2. Herbal Remedy Rifts Unsettle Industry; Drug Manufacturers Trade Allegations in Market Short on Regulations
3. Herbal Products Testing Methods Misleading Says Industry Association
4. FDA Rule on Dietary Supplement Labels Takes Effect
5. FDA Urged to Crack Down on Health Claims for Functional Foods
6. FDA Meeting to Discuss Health Claims on Dietary Supplement Labels
7. South Africa to Regulate Traditional Herbal Medicine
8. Experts Say Herbal Medicine Works But Checks Needed
9. U.K. Herbalists Fear New Rules Will Cut Jobs
10. Illegal Echinacea Harvest Could Bring Huge Fines
11. Sri Lankan Medicinal Plant Conservation Project Criticized
12. Amazon Tribes Fight U.S. Patent on Sacred Ayahuasca Vine
13. Workshop to Draft Law to Protect Medicinal Plant Property Rights
14. Indian Biodiversity Bill to Cover Medicinal Plants
15. Anesthesiologists Warn to Stop Taking Herbs Before Surgery
16. Mother Used Cannabis as a Herbal Remedy, Court Told
17. China Anticipating Pharmaceutical and Herbal Medicine Growth
18. New Convenient Forms of Chinese Medicines Sought
19. Japanese Herbal Medicine Maker Reviewing Overseas Business
20. Big Things Predicted for ‘Nature’s Valium’
21. Herbal Tonic May Profit South Indian Tribe
22. Africa Unites to Beat Malaria; Chinese Herb Holds Promise
23. Red Clover Extract Poised to Revolutionize Prostate Health Management
24. Taiwan To Market Cigarettes Mixed With Herbs
25. Indonesian Herbal Medicines Could Save Government Millions
26. U.S. to Encourage Growers to Tap Germplasm Resources
27. Herb Seed Pioneer Dies
28. Herb Business News

1. Canada Plans New Office to Regulate Herbal Medicines
TORONTO, Mar 28, AP -- Canada is establishing a federal office to evaluate and regulate herbal medicines and other alternative health products.

Health Minister Allan Rock, who made the announcement Friday, endorsed many of the recommendations in a recent parliamentary report that called for an easing of restrictions on the marketing and promotion of alternative medicines.

The government will allocate $6.6 million during three years to establish the office and conduct research.

"For the first time, there will be a dedicated group of professional experts who will treat the evaluation of health products with distinctiveness and flexibility," Mr. Rock said.

Herbal medicines in Canada are classified either as foods, in which case no health claims can be made, or as drugs, which means they must go through the same costly trials required for pharmaceutical products.

The parliamentary report recommended that herbal medicines be treated as a new category, distinct from either foods or drugs.

2. Herbal Remedy Rifts Unsettle Industry; Drug Manufacturers Trade Allegations in Market Short on Regulations
By Carolyn Abraham

TORONTO, Mar. 12, Globe and Mail -- Bitter divisions within herbal medicine surfaced yesterday when one manufacturer released laboratory findings it says suggest that some of its competitors are selling worthless products to consumers.

Wampole Canada Inc. reported that several brands of two popular herbal remedies contain little or none of the active ingredients believed to make them effective after running two rounds of testing in Montreal and Denver.

Wampole hired Forensic Accounting and Investigative Services to conduct the second independent, blind analysis in Denver of 10 brands of St. John’s wort, which is purported to enhance depression, and a dozen brands of ginkgo biloba, purported to enhance memory and alertness, which were all purchased at pharmacies in Ontario and Quebec.

Two of the big-name herbal-remedy producers, Jamieson Laboratories and Swiss Herbal, targeted by Wampole accused it of pulling a public-relations stunt to make a name for itself in the highly competitive herbal market.

And other industry observers said the prickly situation only highlights the need for some control over the unregulated natural health product market, which has doubled in the past two years.

Wampole found that only three of the manufacturers of St. John’s wort -- including itself -- contained the appropriate amount of the active ingredient hypericin to meet the industry-agreed standard of 0.3 per cent. It said only five of the 12 brands of ginkgo biloba contained the appropriate 24 per cent of flavanol glycosides to make it effective. Again, Wampole was among them.

The study examined one bottle of 20 to 25 pills per brand.

"Canadians have a right to know which products are worth buying," Wampole president Aubrey Dan said. He also acknowledged that some of the questionable -- and often less expensive -- products are "beginning to erode our potential market."

The Montreal-based Wampole, which did not inform competitors of the tests, has forwarded the report to Health Canada.

Robert Beland, vice-president of corporate and scientific affairs at Jamieson, also a major manufacturer of vitamins and minerals, said his company guarantees that its St. John’s wort meets industry standards despite Wampole’s allegations.

Mr. Beland said Wampole, which has produced vitamins and minerals for decades, but is a newcomer to herbal remedies -- may not understand the intricacies and differences between testing raw materials of botanical products and the finished product.

Similarly, Swiss herbal, another premium-brand vitamin manufacturer, which Wampole accused of producing substandard versions of both St. John’s wort and ginkgo biloba, disputed the validity of the tests and the "misleading implications for the natural-remedy industry as a whole."

Swiss herbal said it has so far been denied a copy of the full report.

The Wampole report is certainly not the first, however, to suggest consumers are unprotected in the herbal-remedy market. Previous studies in Europe and the United States have shown some herbal medicines are substandard.

3. Herbal Products Testing Methods Misleading Says Industry Association
MARKHAM, Ont., Mar. 12, CHFA Newsbroadcaster -- A widely reported study attempting to evaluate herbal products as if they were pharmaceutical drugs is misleading and indicative of the approach of drug companies trying to enter the market for natural health products in Canada, according to the Canadian Health Food Association.

The Association was responding to a study released by Wampole, a producer of over-the counter drugs, which inferred that leading brands of St. John’s wort and Ginkgo biloba contained little or no "active" ingredients. Wampole, which has recently entered the herbal market with its own brands of these products, said such products do not meet industry standards.

The trend to isolate single "active" ingredients is very much a pharmaceutical approach compared to traditional, holistic practice which looks at the effect of the whole plant or its parts, according to Association president Donna Herriger. "Trying to compare the two approaches in research studies is like trying to compare apples and pears. Because of this difference, Wampole’s ‘industry standard’ is their own invention and is meaningless from a research standpoint.

"It was exactly this problem that led us to pressure the government for more appropriate regulations for natural health products, rather than treating them as drugs" says Herringer. After a year of study, the federal Standing Committee of health has recommended that natural health products be regulated in a different manner than foods or drugs.

Herringer acknowledges that the need for appropriate manufacturing and labelling guidelines is one of the key reasons that changes in Canada’s regulations are needed. "Testing natural health products is complex because products are formulated on so many different ways. The fact that the Wampole study provides no detail on what kinds of products were studied is a disservice to both consumers and the natural health products industry."

The Canadian Health Food Association is Canada’s largest trade association of retailers and suppliers of natural health products and foods.

4. FDA Rule on Dietary Supplement Labels Takes Effect
By Otesa Middleton

WASHINGTON, Mar. 23, Dow Jones -- Dietary supplement labels should look more like food labels, chock full of ingredient information, from now on.

But a Washington-based food industry watchdog group says knowing ingredients isn’t enough.

New dietary supplement labels will contain a box called "supplement facts" with a complete ingredient list and the manufacturer’s suggested serving size - similar to "nutrition facts" found on most processed foods.

The new federal rule, published Sept. 23, 1997, gave supplement makers 18 months - or until March 23 - to comply. Some products already meet the new standards, and any labels made prior to Tuesday can be used until the supplies are depleted, according to a release Tuesday from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Bruce Silverglade, director of legal affairs at the consumer group Center for Science in the Public Interest, said the new guidelines won’t tell consumers whether the products do what they claim to do.

"These new regulations will make the ingredient content relatively clear for consumers, but it fails to address major concerns involving health claims on supplement labels," Silverglade told Dow Jones. "Consumers will know what’s in the product, but not whether it is safe and effective. Those questions remain unanswered."

"Our major concern has always been claims," Silverglade added.

In the FDA’s press release, the agency said it plans to examine dietary supplements on the market to ensure the new guidelines are followed. Also, the agency will distribute information to tell consumers how to use the new information panels on the labels.

"Today’s action represents yet another step in FDA’s continuing work to carry out the provisions of the new dietary supplement law," Dr. Jane E. Henney, the FDA’s commissioner, said in the release. "With this innovative label, consumers will have the information they need to make informed choices across the entire spectrum of dietary supplements."

According to the rule, herbal products will be identified by the common or usual name. The labels will tell consumers which part of the plant is used, such as the root, stem or leaf.

The front of the product’s label must identify the contents of the item. For example, some labels will say "dietary supplement" or "herbal supplement," while others will be more specific with labels that read "vitamin C supplement."

"FDA is pleased that industry has responded so positively to this new labeling provision," Joseph Levitt, director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said in the agency’s release.

5. FDA Urged to Crack Down on Health Claims for Functional Foods
WASHINGTON, Mar. 24, Reuters -- The Food and Drug Administration should tighten controls over foods whose manufacturers make unproven claims about the health benefits of herbs, plant extracts and other ingredients, a consumer group said Thursday.

The complaint by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) underscores the growing unease among consumer groups and health experts about dietary supplements, which are loosely regulated by the FDA, and so-called functional foods, which are more closely regulated.

American consumers spent nearly $13 billion on dietary supplements in 1997, with multivitamins and minerals accounting for half the sales. But a growing number of food products are making unproven health claims by adding echinacea, ginseng, garlic and other ingredients, the CSPI said.

The consumer group said there is a blurring of the line between dietary supplements and foods with added ingredients, such as calcium-fortified orange juice, the consumer group said.

CSPI cited a chewing gum that claimed to improve concentration because it contains a soybean-derived substance also found naturally in brain cells. The product is sold as a dietary supplement, and regulations do not require it to prove its claims.

Makers of functional foods must provide scientific studies and evidence to the FDA before they can make any health claim on the label. But dietary supplements are much more loosely regulated and some go too far in implying health benefits for consumers, the CSPI said.

In a letter to FDA Commissioner Jane Henney, the CSPI accused some U.S. companies of using regulatory loopholes to sell functional foods as dietary supplements.

"The FDA must beef up its enforcement actions, close the loopholes, and require that all functional ingredients are safe and that claims are valid," said Ilene Ringel Heller, an attorney for the group.

Regulators should also develop a consistent policy for advertising and labeling claims, the group said.

The FDA recently stopped McNeil Consumer Products from selling Benacol margarine as a dietary supplement rather than as a food. The product contains plant material that claimed to reduce blood cholesterol.

But the FDA has "generally failed" to require proof of safety for ingredients in other functional foods, the CSPI said.

In the complicated world of food regulations, Congress adopted a 1994 law that said dietary supplements can carry claims that a product may affect the structure or functioning of the body -- but not claims that they can treat, diagnose, cure or prevent a disease.

A spokesman for the Grocery Manufacturers of America, which represents brand-name manufacturers, said functional foods are held to a higher regulatory standard.

"None of these companies is going to make an unsubstantiated claim that would risk the brand image," said Gene Grabowski, a vice president of the grocery group. "This is unfair criticism because functional foods never pretended to be dietary supplements."

CSPI is a consumer group that focuses on nutrition and food safety issues.

6. FDA Meeting to Discuss Health Claims on Dietary Supplement Labels
WASHINGTON, Mar. 25, Reuters -- The FDA will entertain suggestions from the public on just how far the makers of vitamins, herbal compounds and other dietary supplements should go with health claims on package labels, with a move afoot for tighter restrictions on the $13 billion business.

The Food and Drug Administration said Thursday it was inviting industry groups, consumer advocates and health experts to a May 11 meeting to discuss the issue of tighter restrictions on claims made for the broadening array of supplements now being sold in the United States.

A federal law passed two years ago allows labels on foods to carry health claims and nutrient content claims based on only authoritative statements published by the National Academy of Sciences and other federal scientific groups.

The FDA said in January it wanted to extend the rule to include dietary supplements such as St. John’s wort, echinacea and coenzyme Q10 -- a fast-growing segment of the food industry. Conventional foods and dietary supplements should have to comply with the same standards for health statements on package labels, the agency said.

While most dietary supplements are bottles of multivitamins and minerals, other products are being developed with herbs, plants and other ingredients that purport to relieve pain, boost energy or give other health benefits.

Manufacturers of the supplements include well-known companies such as Bayer AG, American Home Products Corp., Warner-Lambert Co. and others.

The FDA said it wanted help in defining what was an "authoritative statement" and whether the context of its original publication in a scientific journal is important.

The May 11 public meeting will be held at the auditorium in the U.S. Agriculture Department building in Washington.

Earlier this week, the FDA ordered manufacturers of dietary supplements to begin publishing more information on labels, including a complete list of ingredients.

Federal law allows dietary supplement to carry claims that a product may affect the structure or functioning of the body -- but not claims that they can treat, diagnose, cure or prevent a disease.

7. South Africa to Regulate Traditional Herbal Medicine
By Craig Urquart

PRETORIA, Mar 31, PANA -- The South African government is studying how to register the estimated 350,000 healers in the country in an effort to establish ethical and procedural standards and weed out the charlatans.

This has been prompted by new realities and a global shift toward natural remedies that are bringing increased attention and status for the healers. Testing herbal remedies for regulation has also begun.

Already, some health insurance plans in South Africa and other countries reimburse the costs of traditional medicine.

The World Health Organisation estimates that up to 80 percent of Africans - or more than 500,000 people - visit traditional healers for some or all of their medical care.

Almost every city, town or village has a thriving market for the roots, herbs, dried chameleons and other tools of the healers’ trade.

Although social evolution has also eroded old cultures in most African countries, healers remain the strongest link to tribal cultures.

At the same time, healers have been forced to accept the changes. While some of them stubbornly hold to superstition-rooted practices of old, others have started adopting modern teaching and methods to deal with such maladies as AIDS.

Traditional healers in South Africa may soon enjoy the status and benefits of medical doctors, including access to medical aid payments and a governing body.

These are some of the recommendations contained in a report compiled by a select committee, which also recommended the formation of an interim traditional medicine council to produce proposals for a permanent council and for supporting legislation.

Dr Horatio Zungu, chairman of the National Council of Traditional Healers, said the council would function in the same way as the country’s Interim Medical and Dental Council to determine ethical conduct, training and safety standards, research and discipline.

Health products, including homeopathic, Chinese herbal and traditional African medicines, will come under the wing of an enterprising new safety and quality control system.

The new electronic listing system will be administered by the Medicines Control Council and should end months of in-fighting and delicate negotiations over appropriate controls in the complementary health industry.

Healing herbs are often used in combinations when combating an illness. They are combined to give the benefits needed from each, some to boost others, some to boost the body with healing energies.

A research group for traditional medicines - a joint venture between the Medical Research Council, the School of Pharmacy of the University of Western Cape and the Department of Pharmacology of the University of Cape Town - hope to achieve a comprehensive traditional database for east and southern Africa within a five-year time frame.

It aims to achieve a traditional medicines formulatory, laboratory screening of traditional medicines for activity in malaria and tuberculosis, development of systems for scientific understanding of the action and uses of "essential" traditional medicines in the treatment and prevention of disease.

The group will also research a collaborative network within southern Africa and Kenya, and in due course more widely on the African continent.

The Medicines Control Council, the Complementary Medicines Committee and various sub-commitees have been working together for the past two years on a control structure that will be appropriate to the disciplines, responsible and not compromise safety, quality and efficacy, and a system which would be quick and largely self-regulating.

No moratorium has been placed on the sale of illegal medicines. Therefore, companies with unregistered products need to apply for registration as soon as possible.

In December, the Medicines Control Council accepted the substances lists for the Listing Registration System.

At a subsequent meeting - called by the Chiropractors, Homeopaths and Allied Health Service Professions Interim Council - the director-general of health, Dr Olive Shisana, revoked her previous directive to compile a new Act for Complementary Medicine.

8. Experts Say Herbal Medicine Works But Checks Needed
By Patricia Reaney

LONDON, Mar. 22, Reuters -- Herbal medicines, a booming business in the United States and Europe, are effective in treating minor or chronic illnesses but studies are needed to ensure they are safe, scientists said Monday.

Medical experts at a day-long conference on the efficiency and safety of herbal medicine agreed it could complement synthetic drug treatments but said it should be controlled because the treatments are becoming so popular.

"It is important because people use it. Between 1990 and 1997 there was a 380-percent increase in uptake in herbal treatments in the United States," Professor Edzard Ernst of the University of Exeter told a news conference.

The conference coincided with a move by Britain to regulate herbal medicines. The Department of Health invited consumer groups and doctors to discuss ways to provide the public with a range of safe, high-quality herbal remedies.

People are increasingly choosing plant remedies because they are natural, they work for some ailments, they have fewer side effects than synthetic drugs, are generally cheaper and they are presumed to be safe -- which scientists said is not entirely correct.

"The general belief that natural products are always safe has been proven inaccurate," said Dr. Bart Halkes, of the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands.

Emphasizing the need to assess products for quality and safety, he said plants could be contaminated by heavy metals such as lead and mercury, or pesticides. The original material in the medicine could also be substituted, through ignorance or incompetence, with something else that could be dangerous.

"Herbal medicine products should be adequately controlled," Halkes said, adding that the use of known toxic plants should be restricted.

Although the remedies have been around for thousands of year, a desire for alternatives to synthetic drugs has increased demand for herbal medication. A market research report estimated total sales of herbal medicines at $1.8 billion in Germany and $1.1 billion in France.

Research has shown that ginkgo biloba can improve memory in patients with Alzheimer’s disease and St. John’s Wort can relieve mild and moderate depression. Scientists are conducting a long-term study on the effectiveness of crataegus extract for treating patients with heart failure.

9. U.K. Herbalists Fear New Rules Will Cut Jobs
By Maxine Frith

LONDON, Mar. 22, PA News -- Herbal practitioners and consumer groups were meeting health minister Baroness Hayman today to discuss greater regulation of the alternative medicines industry.

The meeting comes after herbalists warned that European Commission plans to licence all herbal remedies would drive hundreds of products off the shelves.

Baroness Hayman said today that the Government wanted to play a "constructive leading role" in tightening regulation surrounding herbal medicines.

At present, some herbal remedies which contain only natural ingredients are unlicensed and do not have to comply with any safety or quality standards.

Lady Hayman said: "The Government’s overall objective for herbal medicines is that the public should have access to a wide range of safe and high quality herbal remedies, with appropriate information about the product and its use.

"The present regulatory arrangements have some limitations. There is a sharp contrast between the rigorous requirements to demonstrate safety, quality and efficacy which apply to licensed herbal medicines and the limited regulatory requirements which apply to unlicensed herbal medicines."

She added: "We are taking an open consultative approach and welcome constructive views on the issue of how to achieve a balance between consumer safety and consumer choice."

Lady Hayman has asked the Medicines Control Agency, which ensures medicines available in the UK meet safety and quality standards, to meet EC officials to discuss their proposals.

The health minister said that she believed the EC licensing plans would have a "relatively limited" impact on the UK industry.

But herbalists claim that the plans would drive hundreds of shops and centres out of business and could result in the loss of thousands of jobs.

Licences for medicines can cost up to 1 million to obtain and the industry says the plans would mean the UK would have to accept European recommended daily limits on vitamins which are currently much lower than in this country.

The changes could double the cost of essential vitamins and mineral supplement, it is claimed.

Five million people a day use treatments such as garlic extract, ginseng and evening primrose oil.

Britain’s 350 million-a-year herbal medicine industry employs 5,000 people and the use of some remedies, such as St John’s Wort, has increased by 3,900% in the last three years.

James Fearnley, commercial development director of Leicester-based The Herbal Apothecary, which supplies a range of remedies, said: "We want to see a change in the regulations that will protect the consumer but the EC proposals are totally inappropriate.

"You cannot regulate herbal medicines in the same way you regulate regular medicines."

He added: "With something like aspirin, you have a number of synthetic ingredients that can be subject to clinical trials and monitored.

"With a herbal headache remedy such as Fever Few, you have natural ingredients that will vary widely depending on things like soil conditions, the time of harvest, climate and hundreds of other things.

"Herbal remedies are completely different and much more sensitive and holistic."

Mr Fearnley said that at the moment regulations are preventing herbal medicine manufacturers from giving consumers information.

Unless scientifically proven, remedies cannot state on the label what conditions they can treat or cure.

He said: "The current regulations are preventing information from getting through to the consumer.

"We want to see better labelling and regulation but it has to be appropriate to the industry."

He added: "Ideally, we and the rest of the industry feel that we would like to be regulated by the Food Standards Agency rather than under the Medicines Act because we feel that would be more appropriate to what we do."

10. Illegal Echinacea Harvest Could Bring Huge Fines
By Ron Wilson

BISMARCK, North Dakota, Mar. 18, Bismarck Tribune -- Conservationists are cheering a bill that would allow huge fines for those who illegally harvest purple coneflowers in North Dakota, but they’re worried about how well it can be policed.

"I think it’s wonderful that people have stood up for something that is happening in their backyards, something they care about," said Monika Heinbaugh, a purple coneflower, or echinacea, advocate who attends the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks. "The fact is, enforcing the law will be really difficult because our state is so big, so rural. Hopefully, the size of the fine will deter people from doing it in the first place."

Under the bill, HB1200, a person would be guilty of a class A misdemeanor and subject to a fine of up to $10,000 if they’re found removing or attempting to remove the native flower from private property without landowner permission. The same would go for those who willfully possess any stolen echinacea.

The bill has overwhelmingly passed both houses and awaits a signature by Gov. Ed Schafer before becoming law.

The bill took root after a number of landowners in western North Dakota reported busted fences and mounds of dirt left behind by poachers digging in the hard, dry soil for coneflower roots, which have become a top seller on the herbal medicine market.

Rep. Earl Rennerfeldt, R-Williston, one of the bill’s sponsors, said some of the landowners in his district, an echinacea hotbed, have had some serious problems with trespassers.

Roland Marmon, owner of Wild Heart Herbal Co. in Williston, said he supports the bill because private property should remain just that unless entrance is granted by the landowner.

He does disagree with some conservationists, however, who believe harvesting, legal or otherwise, has beaten the coneflower population way down.

"This plant is not close to extinction or anything," said Marmon who, along with his two brothers, sell an encapsulated echinacea mixture nationwide for $8.50 per bottle. "The people who I talk to that dig it, have an affinity for the plant. They care for it."

Marmon said they harvest most of the echinacea they use on their land but do buy some from other harvesters. He said they’ll continue to be careful who they buy from in the future, considering the seriousness of fines involved.

"We’re going to have to get (harvester’s) names, where they got it and police it ourselves," he said. "If we get any complaints from farmers or ranchers, we’ll check it out ourselves. If we find out people are picking on land illegally, we’re not going to do business with them."

Heinbaugh, who is doing her undergraduate thesis on overharvesting of echinacea in North Dakota, said she doesn’t think there should be a moratorium on echinacea digging.

"I don’t know if we will reach a point where we need a temporary moratorium so we can catch our breath and see where we are," she said. "But there certainly does need to be some manageable harvest."

Marmon believes that there already is. He said tales of harvesters going in and wiping out an entire coneflower stands are just that -- tales.

"The misconception is that people go out and pick it all," he said. "The only way they can make money is by weight. So, they’re going to only go for the big ones, not the little ones. It’s too much work."

Marmon expects the coneflower business to heat up to new levels in North Dakota this summer. Right now, he said, dried roots are selling for about $16 per pound.

"If they wipe the plant out by digging too much, there goes their economic opportunity," Heinbaugh said.

1. Montana to Impose Three Year Moratorium on Wild Harvest of Herbs
By Conrad Richter

GOODWOOD, Apr 4 -- A bill to place a temporary three year moratorium on the wild harvesting of herbs on state lands was passed in the Montana House of Representatives.

Bill SB 178 would impose a fine of $1,000 a day on anyone caught harvesting wild Echinacea angustifolia, Lewisia redivia, all species of Cypripedium, Lomatium dissectum, all species of Ligusticum, all species of Drosera, and Trillium ovatum on state lands. The bill also sets up a Governor’s task force on to study the problem of overharvesting endangered wild medicinal plants. The vote in the House of Representatives was 73-27.

The bill takes aim at commercial wildcrafters who are accused of harvesting medicinal plants using techniques that could deplete wild stocks, damage a potentially valuable sustainable industry, and endanger the ecosystem.

Public land managers such as the Montana Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service have tried to control commercial harvesting of medicinal plants on their lands using their own systems of wildcrafting permits. The new law will provide some much-needed bite to bring the free-wheeling medicinal herbs wildcrafting industry under control.

Native American legislators were split for and against the bill. The harvest of wild medicinal plants such as echinacea is an important source of income on tribal lands but concerns about unsustainable harvest of plants has prompted calls for controls among some native Americans.

11. Sri Lankan Medicinal Plant Conservation Project Criticized
COLOMBO, Mar. 30, IPS -- A project to safeguard Sri Lanka’s wealth of medicinal plants, jointly funded by the World Bank and the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), threatens the well-kept secret of traditional remedies, warn environmentalists here.

"Our objection is to the collection of traditional knowledge without proper benefits to locals," points out Hemantha Withanage, senior environmental scientist of the Environmental Foundation Ltd (EFL), a well-known local group.

The $5 million project, "Conservation and Sustainable Use of Medicinal Plants," was launched last August and will identify plants and encourage villagers to grow them in home nurseries if necessary.

Somewhat belatedly Sri Lanka created an Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) committee in which non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are members -- partially allaying their fear that all ancient knowledge would be leaked through the project.

World Bank’s Sumith Pilapitiya said that the committee, chaired by EFL chairman Ravi Algama, was appointed in January this year and it would formulate IPR guidelines before data collection of medicinal plants gets underway.

"There is an understandable worry that because international agencies are involved in the project, the data would go out. To calm these fears, we began a dialogue with environmentalists and they suggested IPR guidelines to ensure that data collection was adequately monitored," he said.

Pilapitiya said this process has also helped in the setting of a general committee comprising of NGOs, government agencies and other stakeholders in the Bank’s other environment programs.

"We believe environmental NGOs have a lot to offer in terms of knowledge and research," he said. The project is part of a global GEF program to conserve medicinal plants.

In Sri Lanka, a socio-economic survey would also be carried out to find out the dependence of villagers on the collection of medicinal plants. The survey would also recommend other ways of self-employment and income-generating activities.

An ethno-botanical survey, aimed at gathering an in-depth understanding of the role of medicinal plants and other forest products in community livelihoods, will also be undertaken. This survey is however a cause of concern to environmentalists.

"We don’t know what kind of data they would collect in this survey and that is one of our worries," said EFL’s Withanage. Though there have been assurances that data collection would first be sanctioned by the IPR committee, Withanage says some data was collected last year -- before the committee was set-up.

EFL says that it is necessary for an IPR law for plant species, which Sri Lanka does not have at the moment, to be promulgated to regulate the collection of biological resources.

"We are not opposed to the project because sometimes these medicinal plant resources can be wasted if not properly utilized by villagers. But we don’t want a situation where valuable data - - like the source of various herbal medicines and its preparation -- goes abroad without our people benefiting," Withanage added.

The conservation program which will run over a five-year period has identified five forest sites -- Bibile, Ritigalla, Rajawake and Naula in dry zone areas in the central region, and Kanneliya in the southern region, where poor villagers have exploited the forests for economic reasons.

"In Naula, for instance, valuable medicinal trees are cut for firewood while in other parts, there is encroachment in forest areas," says Cyril Pallegedera, project coordinator attached to the Ministry of Environment, which is handling the program.

Indigenous doctors, called ayurvedic physicians, make use of the thousands of local medicinal plants to treat simple ailments such as fever, aches and pains, broken limbs and the more serious ones like heart disease, paralysis and skin diseases.

The art of collection and preparation of medicines can vary in the ayurveda system of medicine, but this knowledge has been zealously guarded and passed on from generation to generation

In one rural town, an indigenous doctor is treating heart patients at a fraction of the cost of surgery, which is at least 300,000 rupees ($4,600) in hospitals here.

This lush, tropical island in the Indian Ocean has like other developing countries a wealth of plant species, sought after by pharmaceutical transnationals who patent it as original formulas to earn billions of dollars.

Though the export of medicinal plants or their extracts is banned, local entrepreneurs have found ingenious ways of smuggling the plants out of the country. At least 40 percent of western drugs contain Asian plant extracts.

Salacil Reticulata, the scientific term for a local tree named Kothalahimbutu, is well-known for diabetes control. Patients are advised to drink water left overnight in mugs and jugs made of its wood.

According to reports, last year a Japanese company patented a product based on this herb through the American Chemical Society.

12. Amazon Tribes Fight U.S. Patent on Sacred Ayahuasca Vine
WASHINGTON, March 30, Reuters -- Amazon tribes asked the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday to revoke a patent granted to an American businessman on their most sacred plant, a vine that grows wild in the jungle.

Shamans of the Amazon rain forest believe the vine called ayahuasca has medicinal properties and they use it to make a potent hallucinogenic brew for their religious rituals.

"Ayahuasca gives shamans the power to heal our sick, meet with spirits and divine the future," wrote native leader Antonio Jacanamijoy in a petition to cancel the patent granted in 1986 to Loren Miller. Jacanamijoy is an Inca from southern Colombia.

"Commercializing an ingredient of our religious and healing ceremonies is a profound affront to more than 400 cultures that populate the Amazon basin," said the request presented by two shamans from Ecuador and Colombia who wore headdresses of parrot feathers and necklaces of wild boar teeth.

COICA, the umbrella organisation of Amazon tribes that Jacanamijoy heads, has been protesting against the patent ever since a Canadian environmental organisation discovered its existence in 1995.

Miller, whose California-based International Plant Medicine Corp. looks at the pharmaceutical and cosmetic potential of plants, has not actually marketed any ayahuasca product based on the patent.

Native rights and environmental lawyers said it was the first time any native group has sought to revoke the patent on a product based on its medicinal and ceremonial qualities.

The case raises ethical and moral questions, they said, about intellectual property rights involving the traditional knowledge and materials of native cultures.

"This patent is utterly flawed and should be revoked," said David Downes, senior attorney at the Centre for International Environmental Law.

Cancelling it would set a precedent that future patent applicants cannot simply take knowledge and materials of indigenous people and claim them as their own, Downes said.

Plant Patent 7,751 issued to Miller in June 1986 claimed rights over a novel variety of the vine he named "Da Vine."

But a leading expert on this plant family, William Anderson, director of the University of Michigan Herbarium, said the features described in the patent were typical of the species.

Ayahuasca is a word in Quechua, the language of the Incas, meaning "vine of the dead" or "vine of the souls."

13. Workshop to Draft Law to Protect Medicinal Plant Property Rights
HARARE, Mar. 22, Xinhua -- A three-day regional workshop on Intellectual Property Rights and Patents started in Harare Monday with an aim of drafting regional legislation to guard against bio-piracy.

The workshop seeks to come up with a legal statute to protect African knowledge of medicinal plants which were often not documented.

The workshop is being attended by government representatives from Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe’s Lands and Agriculture Minister kumbirai Kangai urged African countries at the opening ceremony to formulate legislation to protect their genetic resources.

"We must convert our rich bio diversity and genetic raw materials to process value added goods to improve our competitiveness on internal commodity markets," he said.

Kangai said countries in the region needed to formulate new pieces of legislation or improve the existing ones to be able to exploit their genetic resources.

The workshop would come up with a paper stating Southern Africa’s position on adopting a common law that would protect the people’s practice.

14. Indian Biodiversity Bill to Cover Medicinal Plants
NEW DELHI, Mar 23, Asia Pulse -- Conservation of medicinal plants constitutes an important part of the biodiversity bill, expected to be introduced in the current session of parliament, Indian minister for environment and forests Suresh Prabhu said here.

"A more important question that needs to be tackled is on the sustainable use of the medicinal plants, while preserving the local knowledge," Prabhu said Monday, inaugurating a seminar on sustainable usage of medicinal plants.

A biodiversity action plan had also been put in place, which also dealt with this issue among others, he said, pointing to the need to seriously consider the environmental impact of excess exploitation, both in the wild and cultivation on a commercial scale.

"Putting an economic value to the medicinal plants is not enough. What we must see is its conservation in the wild so as not to disturb the ecolgical chain," the minister said.

In this context, he said, his ministry was setting up a biodiversity board at national level to determine the commercial exploitation of medicinal plants, including their export.

15. Anesthesiologists Warn to Stop Taking Herbs Before Surgery
PARK RIDGE, Ill., Mar. 24, PRNewswire -- The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) is cautioning those who use herbal medications to stop taking these "natural" products if they are going to have surgery.

Recent findings disclose that seven out of 10 herbal medicine users never tell their physicians about the products they are taking. Most believe that since the products are "natural" they must be safe. ASA president John B. Neeld, Jr., M.D., however, cautions, "Just because a medicine is called ‘natural’ or ‘herbal’ does not mean it is harmless or completely safe." Many of these products are quite potent and can be dangerous, especially if the patient’s anesthesiologist or surgeon does not know that the patient is taking them, he said.

Americans will spend about $5 billion this year on herbal products to treat such conditions as depression, to raise their energy level or to improve their memory. ASA is concerned that while the use of these products grew by 60 percent in a one-year period, they are not subject to Food and Drug Administration testing like prescription drugs.

ASA does not take a formal position on the therapeutic properties of herbal medications. "All we want to do is make the public aware that these products could pose a serious health risk if they are taken prior to surgery," Dr. Neeld said. A number of anesthesiologists have reported significant changes in heart rate or blood pressure in some patients who have been taking herbal medications. These herbal products include:

-- St. John’s wort, which is taken by more than 7.5 million Americans to treat anxiety, depression and sleep disorders but may intensify or prolong the effects of some narcotic drugs and anesthetic agents.

-- Ginko biloba is used by almost 11 million Americans to improve their memory and increase blood circulation. Ginko biloba may reduce platelets, which are needed for blood to clot after surgery. The herbal feverfew also appears to interfere with blood clotting.

-- Ginseng, one of the most popular herbal preparations in the world, has been associated with episodes of hypertension (high blood pressure) and tachycardia (rapid beating of the heart).

Dr. Neeld advises patients to stop taking herbal medicines at least two to three weeks before surgery. This should be enough time for the herbals to be cleared from the body. If there is not enough time to stop your herbal medication before your surgery, bring the product, in its original container, to the hospital so the anesthesiologist can see exactly what you are taking.

"While anesthesiologists have made anesthesia care in this country safer than ever before, it is very troubling to see our patients use products believing they will provide a health benefit but, in fact, may jeopardize their lives during surgery if they don’t tell us they are taking them."

16. Mother Used Cannabis as a Herbal Remedy, Court Told
GOLD COAST, Australia, Mar. 24, AAP -- A 78-year-old woman, who with her two sons was arrested yesterday on cannabis production charges, used the illegal plants in a herbal remedy, Southport Magistrates Court was told today.

In a bail hearing for Bob Mason, 46, and Alec Bond, 44, of Coomera, the court was told that their mother, who will appear in court in a month’s time on the same charges, was very ill.

Duty solicitor Jason Buckland said Mason and Bond’s mother recently had major surgery and had a gall bladder and kidney removed.

He told the court she used the cannabis plants as a herbal remedy.

"She would convert the plants into an ointment to be used externally on her," Mr Buckland said.

Police allege they found up to 80 mature plants and 70 seedlings in a hydroponics set-up at Glen View Road, Coomera.

The mother and sons were charged with producing a dangerous drug and possession of a dangerous drug, possession of implements used in the production of a dangerous drug and permitting premises.

Mason and Bond entered no plea and were each bailed to reappear at Southport Magistrates Court on April 7.

17. China Anticipating Pharmaceutical and Herbal Medicine Growth
BEIJING, March 30, Xinhua -- China’s pharmaceutical industry is expected to grow 14 percent this year to 186 billion yuan, according to the State Economic and Trade Commission (SETC).

The SETC also projected the sector’s value added this year at 49 billion yuan, up nine percent, and sales at 120 billion yuan, up 10 percent. But profits will continue to drop to an estimated 250 million yuan.

SETC sources said that imports will continue to fall due to China’s reform of the existing medical care system, but the fall will slow down.

Joint-venture products are expected to increase their market share this year despite dips in profits, and sales of domestic products and herbal medicines will also rise.

Medical equipment is expected to enjoy higher growth, while the rural medicine market remains to be tapped. Enditem 30/03/99 08:11 GMT

18. New Convenient Forms of Chinese Medicines Sought
By Renee Schoof

BEIJING, Mar. 30, AP -- Chinese doctors for centuries have prescribed herbal mixes to be boiled up at home to help cure or prevent illnesses, a time-tested but time-consuming method.

But in the modern Chinese world of long work days, fast food and widely available Western-style drugs, herbal companies are scrambling to find new forms for traditional medicines that are more convenient.

The traditional method of brewing herbal cures takes time and smells terrible, said Liu Fusheng, a surgeon trained in Western medicine who also uses Chinese herbal remedies. "Kids won’t touch it."

"Chinese medicine has been used for 2,000 years and has great potential, especially when combined with Western technology," said Liu, consultant to one company trying to bridge the gap, Metabolife International Inc.

Metabolife, the San Diego, Calif.-based maker of a dietary supplement for weight loss, has started a venture in Beijing to market Chinese herbal mixes for pain, cold symptoms and stomach ailments in tablet form in the United States and China.

"Our company sees Chinese traditional medicine as its future," said Michael J. Ellis, the company’s founder.

The Aodong Pharmaceutical Group Ltd., in northeastern China’s Jilin province, spends up to 10 percent of its $70 million in annual sales revenues to research high-tech ways to remake tonics into tablets, instant drinks, injections and sprays, company director Li Xiulin was quoted as saying recently in the Science and Technology Daily.

Many Chinese put great faith in herbal medicine, and some travel long distances to see well-known traditional doctors. More than 500,000 traditional doctors in China serve more than 200 million people each year.

The doctors are trained to select from among hundreds of herbs to treat allergies, arthritis, kidney stones, cancer and many other health problems.

Herbal or homeopathic remedies have caught on in the West ever since the back-to-nature ethos of the 1960s.

Millions of Americans take dietary supplements, particularly herbal ones, and the Food and Drug Administration leaves the market alone, unless a supplement proves hazardous or is marketed as a drug.

U.S. companies are searching China for more herbal products to sell, he said.

Pharmanex, for example, imported red yeast powder from China and marketed it in the United States as a cholesterol-cutting product, Cholestin.

The Food and Drug Administration banned imports of the powder because it contained a compound identical to a synthetic drug Mevacor, which is prescribed to lower cholesterol. A U.S. federal judge in February ordered the FDA to lift the ban, saying Cholestin was a dietary supplement, not a drug.

Some Chinese companies are scouring the West for new natural health products as well. The Delisi Group, famous for sausages in China, buys seals hunted in Canada and produces a "Sea Dog Oil" capsule that it advertises as being good for the kidneys, sexual performance, the blood, skin and general fitness.

The enormous mix of medicines in China is regulated by the State Drug Administration and the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine, but Chinese press reports say problems abound.

A nationwide inspection of medicine quality at the end of 1998 found 13 percent of 387,000 batches of medicines inspected were substandard, the China Daily reported last month.

In a three-month period last year, 191 pharmaceutical manufacturers and traders were punished for making, selling or advertising substandard or fake medicines, the report said. Of these, 12 had their production permits revoked.

19. Japanese Herbal Medicine Maker Reviewing Overseas Business
MUNICH, Mar 29, Comline -- Tsumura & Co. is reviewing its plan for herbal medicine operations in the West as Sanofi (France) with whom Tsumura conducted and finished feasibility studies last year on sales of such medicines in Europe has given up its sales project. In addition a revised, stricter guideline for dietary supplements will be enforced in March in the U.S., making it difficult to introduce herbal medicines as a dietary supplement.

Tsumura, a leading Chinese herbal medicine maker in Japan, now believes it necessary to develop herbal medicines that can compare with Western drugs whose efficacy has been scientifically proved, while it will continue to examine the feasibility of selling such medicines in the West as dietary supplements.

In a bid to proceed with studies on its medicines, Tsumura will offer herbal medicine Gosha-jinkigan to the Research Unit for Japanese Phytotherapy (Kampo) which has been set up in the International Medicine Department of Munich University Medical School (Germany) employing herbal medicine-specialist physicians who have lived in Japan for long time.

The German clinic plans to conduct a clinical study on the medicine for application to nervous trouble caused by diabetes.

Tsumura says that the Chinese government has recently become keen in applying for U.S. approval for clinical tests on traditional herbal medicines, and this may help stimulate the understanding of such drugs in the States.

20. Big Things Predicted for ‘Nature’s Valium’
By Philip Jackman

TORONTO, Mar. 12, Globe and Mail -- It could be Canada’s next blockbuster natury remedy. Following the sales success of St. John’s wort -- billed as a natural Prozac -- comes kava kava, a tropical plant touted as nature’s Valium.

In the South Pacific they have been using it for centuries as a ceremonial drink. It’s made from the root of a pepper plant and is said to soothe anxiety without causing drowsiness.

The remedy is relatively new to north America, where it’s available in capsule form. Nevertheless, Americans spent $15-million (U.S.) on kava kava in 1996, and twice that much in 1997, according to the Nutrition Business Journal. Final sales figures for 1998 are expected to come in at around $50-million.

Gerry Harrington, director of public and professional affairs for the Non-Prescription Drug Manufacturers Association of Canada, says there are numbers available yet here, but the popularity of kava kava is definitely on the rise.

However, one obstacle could hamper its ascent. Unlike St. John’s wort, which had a proven clinical record in Europe, kava kava may not be approved as a drug in Canada because of its history of recreational use. Manufacturers could still sell as a food, they couldn’t make any claims about its benefits.

A word of caution: Skin problems can result from heavy use of kava kava and the extract should not be taken with alcohol or drugs such as Valium or Xanax.

21. Herbal Tonic May Profit South Indian Tribe
By Neelesh Misra

AGASTYAVANAM, India, Mar 31, AP -- Scientists huffing and puffing on a trek up a southern Indian mountain noticed their guides from the Kani tribe didn’t look tired at all.

They also noted the guides were plucking and eating berries from a plant growing on the slope.

Asked about that, one of the guides, Kutti Mathan Kani, said the berries gave them an energy boost and came from the "divine" Arogyapacha plant, which grows only on Agastyavanam Mountain in Kerala state.

The trek by vacationing researchers from the Tropical Botanical Garden Institute in Trivandrum, the state capital, was a decade ago, and it has led to a venture that may transform the Kanis’ impoverished lives by using the plant to produce a commercial herbal tonic.

"We eat its fruit when we go hunting," said Kani, who often roams bare-chested with a wooden bow used to shoot birds and fish with poison arrows.

"It gives a sudden burst of energy. We don’t feel hungry for several hours; we don’t feel thirsty or tired. And it seems we can walk and run on the mountain for hours again," he added in a recent interview.

Palupu Pushpangadan, director of the botanical institute, says the institute plans to give the Kanis half the earnings from the sale of a tonic based on the Arogyapacha plant.

After years of research and development, though, the scientists and Kanis have run into a bureaucratic delay. They couldn’t get commercial quantities from naturally growing plants and now are awaiting government clearance for commercial cultivation.

Returning from the vacation trek, Pushpangadan conducted clinical trials he said show that the Arogyapacha, with its large green triangular leaves and long stem, has a remarkable ability to fight fatigue and stress.

Anil Aggarwal, director of the New Delhi-based Center for Science and Environment, the country’s top environment think tank, said, "The plant is almost like cocaine in terms of its energy boost, without being addictive."

Pushpangadan’s findings were published in 1996 and his financial proposal was hailed by his peers as an example of how tribespeople could profit from their ancient lore.

Environmental activists say hundreds of rare plant varieties from India have been shipped to Western laboratories where scientists search for medicinal and other uses, sharing none of the profits with local people who have nurtured the plants for centuries.

"Thousands of plants are known to us, but this knowledge is going away," Pushpangadan said.

Aggarwal said the convention on biodiversity requires governments to share such profits with local people but it rarely happens anywhere in the world.

"I think this is the only project of its kind in the world," he said. "This is the first real effort of its kind."

Dr. P. Rajsekharan, head of the scientific team working on the project at the institute, said many of the Arogyapacha plant’s active ingredients have not been determined.

But he said glycolipids identified in the plant seemed to be linked to the anti-fatigue properties.

He also noted that unlike with modern pharmaceuticals, it is not required to identify all active ingredients before a herbal drug can go on the market.

The institute signed an agreement with a leading Indian company, Arya Vaidya Pharmacy, to produce an herbal tonic. The contract calls for the institute and the Kanis to share a 2 percent royalty on sales.

The company calls the Arogyapacha compound Jeevani, or "life-giver." The first bottles of Jeevani pills went on sale in India last year and quickly sold out, but stocks of plant material quickly ran out.

Scientists then worked out an ambitious plan to commercially cultivate Arogyapacha on 2,000 acres near the Kanis’ forest.

The government has so far refused to allow the tribe to cultivate the rare plant outside the forest, but talks are continuing and Pushpangadan believes the project will be cleared later this year.

"There is multimillion-dollar potential and we can tap it, but politicians have no interest," he said.

22. Africa Unites to Beat Malaria; Chinese Herb Holds Promise
By Greer van Zyl

JOHANNESBURG, Mar. 26, Mail and Guardian -- Scientists at the largest malaria conference ever held in Africa, which took place in Durban last week, were upbeat about forming alliances to fight malaria on the continent.

From humble beginnings in Dakar two years ago, the Multinational Initiative against Malaria (MIM) has burgeoned into a global movement aimed at controlling the disease that kills at least one million Africans - many of them younger than five - and infects up to 500-million people every year. The MIM conference showed that malaria cannot be treated as a country-specific problem and scientists and control staff committed themselves to working together to find solutions to the public-health problem the disease posed.

KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Health Zweli Mkhize announced a tripartite programme involving the governments of South Africa, Mozambique and Swaziland to fight malaria in the region.

Many new approaches and breakthroughs came out of the conference. One particularly effective method of preventing malaria is the use of old- fashioned bed nets. Researchers showed that bed nets cost less than residual spraying of houses with insecticides and may be as effective.

Scientists were optimistic that a vaccine against malaria will be a reality in the next 10 years. However, they stressed there had to be an understanding of the parasite at its most fundamental level.

"The life cycle of Plasmodium falciparum is one of the great mysteries of biology, and understanding its genetic blueprint will help solve one of the most fascinating problems," said Professor Harold Varmus, director of the United States National Institutes of Health. A vaccine which covers all the stages of the parasite’s life is already being tested.

"Drug resistance has complicated an already dangerous disease, and we need to educate rural people about drug compliance. We also need to empower African scientists to develop new drugs, so we need to keep capacity in Africa. Collaborative work will bring down the cost of clinical trials, and it’s easier to get help from South Africa than Europe," said Professor Ayo Oduola of the University of Ibadan in Nigeria.

A major breakthrough has been the discovery of a herb that has excellent cure rates. The herb is known as quinhaosu - common wormwood - but the active ingredient, artemisinin, appears only in certain species of the weed found in China and parts of Africa. When taken in conjunction with other anti-malarial treatment, artemisinin derivatives produce better cure rates and are the faster acting than other anti-malarial agents. The drug is effective against multi-drug resistance.

WHO is working on an artemisinin derivative, artesunate, in suppository form, which is useful for seriously ill patients in rural areas who have no access to injectable anti-malarials, and who can use it as emergency medication while they get to hospital.

Artemisinin derivatives are not freely available in South Africa, but can be released on a named patient basis through the Medicines Control Council. However, this may prove to be extremely expensive for the= individual.

Greer van Zyl is head of media liaison at the Medical Research Council.

23. Red Clover Extract Poised to Revolutionize Prostate Health Management
STAMFORD, Conn., Mar. 26, Business Wire -- A new natural dietary supplement made by isoflavone-technology pioneer Novogen is poised to revolutionize prostate health management for the 14 million American men that are currently experiencing declining prostate health.

Trinovin was formally launched this March at the Natural Products Expo, in Anaheim, California, the most important trade show for the four billion dollar botanical or herbal products industry, and is currently available at health food stores nationwide at a suggested retail price of $24.99 for a month’s supply. In addition, Trinovin is scheduled to be rolled out to more than 28,000 drug stores throughout the U.S. in 1999.

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, about 14 million American men suffer from an enlarged prostate, a condition which affects men over 50 and is known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). According to the National Institute of Health, an enlarged prostate can impair the flow of urine, resulting in a frequent urge to urinate, particularly during sleeping hours, a nagging sensation that the bladder is not empty, and difficulty in starting to urinate.

Of the 14 million who suffer from BPH, about four million will go untreated and roughly another seven million will opt for "watchful waiting" or passively monitoring their prostate health. With no known side effects, Trinovin represents a viable new option for promoting healthy prostate and urinary function.

Aimed at the one in three aging male baby boomers, Trinovin promises to be a worthy follow-up to Novogen’s Promensil, the best -selling botanical product targeted to women in mid-life currently available at health food and drug retailers. With Promensil, Novogen pioneered the use of isoflavone technology to create a completely natural, clinically proven dietary supplement with no known side effects.

Isoflavones are a group of plant compounds found in legumes such as clover beans, lentils and soy. Scientific studies have shown that four dietary isoflavones - biochanin, genistein, formononetin and daidzein - also work in a complementary fashion to promote normal prostate health by inhibiting the factors that contribute to prostate enlargement.

Trinovin is made from a formulation containing all four of these isoflavones with an emphasis on biochanin, an isoflavone which the Company believes to be especially important for promoting prostate health. This combination of dietary isoflavones reduces the cell overgrowth in the prostate that is responsible for prostate enlargement.

Novogen Chairman Dr. Graham Kelly was among the first scientists to identify and explore the link between diet and low incidence of prostate health problems in Asia, where men typically eat more legumes than their Western counterparts. Indeed, Western men are up to 30 times more prone to prostate problems than their counterparts in some Asian countries.

Recognizing the need to have all four isoflavones in a dietary supplement, Novogen manufactures Trinovin from red clover, one of the richest sources of all four dietary isoflavones among human foods. By contrast, soy provides only two of the dietary isoflavones, neither of which are biochanin.

"It is worth noting," adds Kelly, "that Asian men eat other legumes apart from soy, and those other legumes are providing a balanced mix of all four isoflavones. In order to get the full amount of dietary isoflavones necessary for prostate health, Americans would have to consume about 3 pounds of baked beans, 17 ounces of soy milk or 10 ounces of tofu a day. Trinovin delivers the same amount of isoflavones in a single daily tablet. As such, Trinovin represents a complete source of isoflavones which is more compatible with American lifestyles and preferences."

Trinovin clinical trials have demonstrated that one tablet maintains isoflavone blood levels and is well tolerated in men. The results of multi-centre open trials are currently being conducted in the United States and will be available later this year.

Trinovin is manufactured by Novogen Limited, a research-driven pharmaceutical and health supplement company devoted to the discovery and development of isoflavones. Together with Promensil, Trinovin, which was introduced last year in Australia, has helped drive Novogen sales almost nine-fold for the first six months of the FY99 period ending in 1998 to A$9.0 million (approximately US$5.6 million), as compared to A$1.3 million (approximately US$0.8 million) in the six months ended December 31, 1997.

Trinovin is derived from isoflavone rich red clover processed at Novogen’s own factory under strict quality control. There is now a significant body of scientific evidence that isoflavones or plant compounds can benefit human health and well-being and are integral to the functioning of the human body. Novogen researchers collaborate internationally on clinical research and development with external consultants, hospitals and universities. The company is based in Australia, with US headquarters in Stamford, Conn.

24. Taiwan To Market Cigarettes Mixed With Herbs
TAIPEI, Taiwan, Mar. 23, AP -- Taiwan’s tobacco monopoly will market a new cigarette that will mix herbs in with the tobacco to overcome consumers’ fears about the health hazards of smoking, officials said Tuesday.

The Taiwan Tobacco and Wine Monopoly Bureau did not claim the cigarettes will be any safer than regular brands, but antismoking groups immediately said that some people could be fooled into harming their health by smoking more.

The tobacco monopoly says the new brand will contain more than 10 herbal extracts, including loquat leaves and orange peels that are said to be good for the respiratory system.

The brand, to be marketed in the summer, will be named after Shen Nun, the Sacred Farmer, China’s first herbal medicinal doctor of around 2,500 B.C.

25. Indonesian Herbal Medicines Could Save Government Millions
JAKARTA, Mar 23, Asia Pulse -- Indonesia’s herbal medicine and traditional cosmetic industries have used only 20% of around 2,000 plants having medical efficacy in the country, a local daily reported.

A health official was quoted as saying the government could save hundreds of millions of US dollars a year if 50% of the generic medicines could be replaced with traditional medicines.

This year the government set aside US$116 million in subsidies for medical raw materials.

Indonesia has an estimated 40,000 types of plant and 2,000 of them are believed to have medical efficacy.

26. U.S. to Encourage Growers to Tap Germplasm Resources
PULLMAN, Wash., Mar 26, M2 Communications -- A budding cooperative project of researchers, organic growers and others that [began] this week could help replenish the nation’s seed banks. More important, it could create market opportunities for new public and heirloom crop varieties.

The Agricultural Research Service, USDA’s chief scientific agency, maintains the National Plant Germplasm System. Its 27 repositories now hold about 437,000 specimens of germplasm--seed, cuttings and other tissue. Thousands of accessions are added each year. Researchers worldwide use the germplasm to breed crops with improved yield, nutrition, resistance to pests, disease and environmental stress or other traits.

ARS is cooperating with the Farmer Cooperative Genome Project to test a new way for organic growers, farmer cooperatives and small seed companies to tap into this storehouse of genetic diversity. FCGP members will grow fresh supplies of germplasm, following NPGS guidelines. These ensure, for example, that regenerated seed is true to type--not contaminated by pollen from nearby crops of the same species.

FCGP members will also develop marketable new varieties from germplasm they may never have known about otherwise. For example, an ARS repository in Corvallis, Ore., has more than 400 heirloom pear varieties. In Pullman, Wash., ARS maintains more than 200 lines of garlic. These represent most of the crop’s genetic diversity. Only a few varieties account for nearly all commercial production, according to horticulturist Richard Hannan. He’s based at ARS’ Western Regional Plant Introduction Station in Pullman.

On March 27-28 in Salem, Ore., Hannan, Corvallis ARS plant pathologist Joseph Postman and other scientists [were] among scheduled panelists at FCGP’s first general meeting. Other plants with FCGP potential include heirloom varieties and wild relatives of tomato, lettuce, bean, broccoli, Egyptian onion, radish, blue and other Native American corn, blackberry, strawberry, Turkish grain legumes and little-known herbs such as black cumin.

More than 200 small family farmers, organic farmers, seed producers, breeders and others [were expected to] participate in FCGP, according to J.J. Haapala. He is research and education director of Oregon Tilth, a growers’ group in Salem that certifies organic growers and processors. Haapala administers a USDA Fund for Rural America grant to the FCGP.

27. Herb Seed Pioneer Dies
By Conrad Richter

GOODWOOD, Mar. 21 -- A well-known American herb seed specialist passed away March 19. Dean Pailler, owner of The Flowery Branch Seed Company in Flowery Branch, Georgia, was known for his large selection of rare and hard-to-find herb and flower seeds. Herb growers came to rely on Pailler for seeds, and for news on trends in breeding and in the development of new varieties. Pailler is credited for introducing new herbs and everlasting flowers to the U.S. market.

Pailler was the founder, along with his then-wife, of the Catnip Acres Herb Farm, a mailorder supplier of herb seeds and plants. Later, after parting with his wife and leaving Catnip Acres, he established The Flowery Branch.

The cause of death was apparently liver disease.

A recording on The Flowery Branch telephone line states, "We do not know what the future of the company will be." Customers requiring assistance on outstanding orders are requested to leave a message.

28. Herb Business News
Burns Philp: Won’t Sell Herbs and Spices Division

SYDNEY, Mar. 30, Dow Jones -- Australian food ingredients company Burns Philp & Co. said Tuesday that it isn’t about to sell its herbs and spices division, despite media speculation to the contrary.

The company isn’t in talks with any party about the sale of the operations, and is "committed to continuing the turnaround in that business, proceeding satisfactorily," it said in a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange.

Also, Burns Philp said it isn’t aware of any proposed takeover bid for the company, again addressing an issue raised in the Australian media in recent weeks.

House Foods: New Line of Freeze-Dried Herbs

TOKYO, Mar. 25, Comline -- Freeze-Dried Herbs by House Foods is a new series of freeze-dried herbs which are made by freeze-drying carefully selected herbs and retain the color and aroma of freshly picked herbs. This product series comprises 9 items such as Sweet Basil (Y400 for 3g), Italian Herb Mix (Y400 for 4g), Parsley (Y300 for 3g), Oregano (Y300 for 1.5g) and Thyme (Y300 for 3.5g). The range of products are used for pasta/pizza/tomato sauces, Italian dishes, French dishes, fish/bean curd dishes, etc.

==== Receives Working Capital to Finance Growth

BOSTON, Mar. 23, Business Wire -- Inc., the leading online retailer and information source for natural products, including vitamins, supplements, minerals and herbs, Tuesday announced that it has received a $500,000 working capital line of credit and merchant card services from the Emerging Growth Division of Imperial Bank, the principal subsidiary of Imperial Bancorp.

" has been growing at a phenomenal rate of 30% a month and we are enthusiastic about the far-reaching prospects of the e-commerce and natural products industry," said Michael Bayer, chief financial officer of "We are pleased to have Imperial Bank supporting’s rapid growth." is currently undertaking an aggressive outreach marketing program that includes a newly launched $8 million radio, print, outdoor and transit advertising campaign, a totally revamped Web site, an expanded product line that will include natural beauty and home items, as well as continually updated health information.

In addition, the site sends an explorer to India March 17 to research ayurvedic medicine -- the Indian approach to herbal health -- and his findings are being sent back to visitors and users of the site.

"Imperial Bank is pleased to provide customized financing to rapidly growing companies like and work with them to help them reach their ultimate business potential," said William Sweeney, vice president in Imperial’s Emerging Growth Division in Boston. "We are excited about this new relationship and look forward to continuing to support the company as they grow."

- About Inc. - has been doing business on the Internet since 1995 and is the leading online retailer of vitamins, supplements, minerals, and other natural products, with a selection of over 30,000 items, or seven times the assortment of an average natural products store. is also a leading provider of health information on the Internet, with personalized information delivery and contributions from a panel of medical experts. The company maintains its corporate office in Acton, Mass. and a distribution center in Southampton, Pa.

Madera: Unveils New Line of Natural Products Made from Amazonian Herbs

CORAL GABLES, Fla., Mar. 22, PRNewswire -- Madera International Inc. announced today that the company has finalized the acquisition of a new natural products laboratory in Brazil that effective March 17th began processing an exciting new line of herbal dietary supplements that will be sold initially through the Company’s new web site.

These new products include Una de Gato, Abuta, Copaiba, Catuaba, Guarana, Iporuro, Maca Andiroba, Pau D’Arco, Chanca Piedra and others, some of which Madera is introducing into the international market for the first time. Maca and Catuaba are both becoming known and widely-used worldwide as energy boosters and sexual fortifiers without any of the side-effects common to chemical medicine.

Ray Fernandez, Chairman of WOOD, stated that, "we found during our negotiations with suppliers of these Natural Products in South America that the most feasible alternative to ensure production on a timely delivery basis was to acquire and install our own lab and hire an administrator with a chemical engineering degree and natural herb background, to bring the lab into production to our specifications under a new management staff. As of last Monday, agreements were signed by our representatives in Brazil for the purchase of Produtos Naturais Do Trapezio Do Amazonas, Ltda. This new laboratory has the capacity to process up to 30 tons of raw plant material weekly and since last week began producing 24 products made from 100% dry natural single plants to our specifications. These products are harvested from Company-owned properties, bottled, and labeled under the name of Madera Herbs, a fully-owned division of Madera International. The next step will be to promote these new products, but so far demand seems to be solid for some like Guarana, Una de Gato, Copaiba, and Abuta."

Raul Ceullar, Production Supervisor of WOOD, said that "many of these plants, now processed and bottled in our new lab in Tabatinga, have just recently been proven effective in the treatment of many of the most lethal diseases known to humans, such as: Cancer, AIDS, High Cholesterol, Diabetes, Arthritis, Asthma, and Osteoporosis. This is a win or win situation since the harvest and production of these plants is 100% environmentally friendly and sound and in no way damages the integrity of the Company’s rainforest property."

Paracelsian: Announces Completion of Herb Tests

ITHACA, N.Y., Mar. 22, PRNewswire -- Paracelsian, Inc. announced today the completion of the initial phase of its collaborative research program with the Southern Research Institute. Under the collaboration three herbal samples from Paracelsian’s extensive collection of Traditional Chinese Medicines were evaluated in an in vivo model for anti-cancer activity against human breast and prostate tumors implanted into mice.

The in vivo experiment, the cost of which was paid by SRI, was subsequent to a demonstration of significant anti-tumor activity for all three samples in an vitro testing done at both Paracelsian’s laboratory and at the Roswell Park Cancer Research Center in Buffalo, New York. The high level of anti-tumor activity seen in the laboratory however was not reproduced in the animal model in the SRI study.

According to Dr. Hira L. Gurtoo, President of Paracelsian’s Drug Development Division, "the compelling results in the in vitro studies suggest that the biological activity of these materials is, in each case, associated with the parent, unaltered molecule, whereas the results obtained in the SRI study suggest deactivation of those molecules in the animal’s bodies due to biotransformation. Therefore, to successfully develop these herbs and their active constituents as effective chemotherapeutic agents, additional studies will be needed to investigate the mechanism of biological alteration of the molecules and accordingly develop approaches to retain the biological effectiveness of the molecule in vivo comparable to the levels seen in vitro." "Results like these are common, and in my years of experience as a cancer researcher I’ve learned that some of the most effective pharmaceuticals are a result of a systematic process of scientific experimentation over time," he added. "I continue to believe that these materials will, over time, yield potentially valuable chemotherapeutic agents of great benefit in treating cancer," he concluded.

"We intend to continue our collaboration with SRI without interruption and we maintain our confidence in the value of our drug development program" stated Bernie Landes, Paracelsian’s President and CEO. "We are not discouraged by these results, but rather see them only as the first step in the process. We look forward to developing effective methods to retain in vivo, the in vitro activity that was the basis for this ongoing work," he added. "Under the leadership of Dr. Gurtoo and with the collaboration of the world renowned specialists in cancer drug development at SRI, we fully expect a successful outcome to this endeavor," he concluded.

Jenny Craig: Uses Internet to Sell Nutritional and Herbal Supplements

LA JOLLA, Calif., Mar. 22, PRNewswire -- Jenny Craig, Inc. today announced the online launch of a new, proprietary line of vitamins, minerals and herbal dietary supplements. Called Advanced Nutrients by Jenny Craig, the nutritional supplements were developed for the Company by Dr. Art Ulene, who is recognized by millions of television viewers as "America’s Wellness Doctor" after nearly 20 years of appearances on NBC’s TODAY show. Initially, Advanced Nutrients will be offered exclusively via the Internet through, a new e-commerce site designed, developed and implemented for Jenny Craig by USWeb/CKS (Nasdaq: USWB).

Jenny Craig will support the supplement launch with an online promotional campaign including optimization of leading search engines and banner advertisements on key Internet sites serving women’s health issues. Elements of the Company’s offline promotional campaign include broadcast and print advertising, direct mail, and point-of-purchase materials distributed at more than 520 Jenny Craig Centres in the U.S.

"The Internet is fast-becoming a popular resource for consumers seeking information on natural ways to enhance their health," said Phil Voluck, President and Chief Operating Officer for Jenny Craig. "Unfortunately, there’s a lot of confusion as to which nutritional supplements one needs, how much to take, and which products are safe and supported with scientific research validating their use. Our new Internet site provides credible, reliable information to help consumers make informed decisions on which products they should use. By partnering with a respected medical expert like Dr. Art Ulene on both product formulation and development of educational materials, and by utilizing the Internet as the vehicle to market and educate, we’re confident we can fill a void that currently exists in the marketplace."

Manufactured for Jenny Craig by Natural Alternatives International, Advanced Nutrients includes eight proprietary formulations that combine various nutritional supplements to support specific areas of health and wellness, including cardiovascular health, joint comfort and healthy joint function, strong bones, vision health, and mental acumen. These products also include two complete nutritional formulas that address the specific health needs of women at various stages of their lives, from their 20s through post-menopause. In addition, Advanced Nutrients includes five vitamin and mineral supplements and nine herbal products. Among the nutritional supplements are soy isoflavones, glucosamine, vitamin C, vitamin E, and co-enzyme Q-10. Herbal supplements include cranberry extract, echinacea, ginger root, ginkgo biloba, kava kava, saw palmetto berry, Siberian ginseng, and St. John’s wort.

"Jenny Craig and I share common views regarding health and wellness," said Dr. Ulene, who describes the ingredients of Advanced Nutrients as "mainstream cutting edge," meaning they have been scientifically validated to enhance an individual’s wellness or support a specific function of health. "Through the unique product formulations and convenient availability via the Internet, I believe we can be more effective in our efforts to educate consumers and serve their health and wellness needs through all stages of their lives."

Founded in 1983, Jenny Craig, Inc. is one of the largest weight management service companies in the world. The Company offers a comprehensive weight management program that helps clients develop a healthy relationship with food, build an active lifestyle, and create a more balanced approach to living. The program includes personal, one-on-one consultations at nearly 770 Jenny Craig Centres located in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Puerto Rico.

Natural Alternatives International, a leader in the field of nutritional science, provides strategic partnering services to a growing base of Fortune 1000 customers. As a supplier of turnkey client-support programs, the company offers a wide range of services such as clinical studies assessment, customer-specific nutritional product formulation, product testing and evaluation; marketing management and support; packaging and delivery system design; and international product registration assistance.

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