Richters HerbLetter

Date: 2000/01/31
1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration Changes Dietary Supplement Rules
2. U.S. Food and Drug Administration Unveils Dietary Supplement Strategy
3. Double-Blind Study Shows Confirms Kava Kava’s Anti-Anxiety Effect
4. Study Shows Andrographis Could Be Better Than Echinacea for Colds
5. Drugstore Chain Tracking Customer Herbal Supplement Use
6. Herbalist to the Stars Premieres Website at Sundance Film Festival
7. U.S. Firm Believes Single Line of Chinese Herbal Remedies Will Sell in Both China and U.S.
8. The Viagra of the Valleys: Israeli Liqueur Made with Mandrake Hailed as "Sensational New Aphrodisiac"
9. Cyprus Monks Revamp Peasant Herbal Cold Cure as Upmarket Aperitif
10. Chinese Lab to Study Tibetan Medicine and Natural Herbs
11. African Traditional Medicine Men to Meet in Nairobi
12. Tanzania Warns Proliferating Chinese Clinics About Unsafe Medicines
13. Herbalists Aim to Save Malawi’s Trees
14. Fibroids Increasing in Ghanaian Women; Herbalists Making Problem Worse
15. New Co-operatives Law to Promote Speciality Crops in Saskatchewan
16. Provencal Jams Made with Herbs Debut in U.S.
17. Herb Business News

1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration Changes Dietary Supplement Rules
WASHINGTON, Jan. 11, Medical Tribune and [Toronto] Globe and Mail -- U.S. makers of vitamins, herbs and dietary supplements may not market products for such complaints as morning sickness, hot flashes and memory loss in aging without proving they are safe or effective. The decision by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is part of a strategy to increase consumer confidence in the safety of supplement labelling. The policy change is in line with a new U.S. law that distinguishes between products claiming to "affect the structure or function of the body" and those that claim to prevent, treat or cure disease.

2. U.S. Food and Drug Administration Unveils Dietary Supplement Strategy
By Conrad Richter

WASHINGTON, Jan. 3 -- Joseph A. Levitt, Director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, revealed the U.S. government’s overall dietary supplement strategy for the next ten years.

Built on the "twin pillars" of law and science, the FDA plans to implement by 2010 a "science-based regulatory program" that will provide consumers with "a high level of confidence in the safety, composition, and labeling of dietary supplement products," Levitt wrote in an announcement posted on the FDA’s web site.

The 10 year plan is the culmination of a year of stakeholder consultations in 1999, with sections on safety, labeling, enforcement, science, outreach and "boundaries," under which the FDA will attempt to better define the boundaries between dietary supplements and foods, drugs and cosmetics.

Under "safety", the FDA plans to implement or expand adverse event reporting, good manufacturing practices, a dietary supplement safety database, internet surveillance and other safety areas. Under "enforcement" the plan includes coordination with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, which recently waded into into dietary supplement regulation by shutting down a number of Internet web sites it said were making unsubstantiated claims for commercial products. Under "science", the FDA plans to step up research into dietary supplements and to oversee human studies.

The FDA also plans to improve "outreach" to stakeholders, including industry, consumers and academia, and plans to form an advisory board. The FDA will also consider the possibility of small business exemptions in the area of labelling.

Levitt wrote that a ten year implementation period is needed to deal with all the issues and areas of dietary supplement regulation that were identified in stakeholder consultations. The strategy can be "accelerated or decelerated, depending on resource availability and safety concerns," according to Levitt. He also said that the FDA will seek additional funding for the plan.

3. Double-Blind Study Shows Confirms Kava Kava’s Anti-Anxiety Effect
PORTLAND, Jan. 24, PRNewswire -- An important study comparing the herb, kava kava, to benzodiazepines (a category of prescription drugs, such as Xanax(R), used to treat anxiety, panic attacks, and other conditions) has been published in Healthnotes Review of Complementary and Integrative Medicine (HNR), a clinical review journal of scientific research in complementary and alternative medicine. Kava is a member of the pepper family and is native to many Pacific Ocean islands. The rhizome (underground stem) is used in standardized herbal extracts.

The study was conducted at the University of Erlangen-Nurnberg in 1993. This is the first time the results, which appear in HNR’s Winter 1999 issue, have been published in the United States.

The clinical trial was carried out as a randomized reference-substance-controlled double-blind study over a period of six weeks and involved 172 patients. The researchers found that the patients who received 100 mg of a standardized kava extract three times a day experienced a significant decrease in anxiety comparable to that experienced by patients who took benzodiazepines.

"This is the first study to directly compare kava to benzodiazepines in persons with mild to moderate anxiety," explains Dr. Donald J. Brown, Healthnotes Review’s Editor-in-Chief. "The results represent an important addition to the general knowledge of how kava works and its potential as a safe and non-addictive therapeutic alternative to benzodiazepines."

Dr. Brown, a licensed naturopathic physician, is one of the foremost experts in the United States on evidence-based herbal medicine. He is the author of Herbal Prescriptions for Better Health (Prima Publishing, 1996) and the co-author of the newly released Clinical Essentials Vol. 1: Drug-Herb-Supplement Depletions/Interactions and Vol. 2: Conditions, Herbs, and Supplements (Healthnotes, Inc., 2000).

To review a complete copy of "A Comparison of Kava Special Extract WS 1490 and Benzodiazepines in Patients with Anxiety," go to

4. Study Shows Andrographis Could Be Better Than Echinacea for Colds
ROSEVILLE, Calif., Jan. 24, PRNewswire -- Echinacea is the most famous herb for colds, but another herb, Andrographis paniculata, might be even better. In a new study published in Phytomedicine, andrographis was found to significantly improve cold symptoms.

The 4-day double-blind placebo-controlled trial of 158 adults with colds found that treatment with andrographis reduced symptoms such as earache, sleeplessness, nasal drainage, and sore throat. Participants were given either placebo or 1,200 mg daily of an andrographis extract standardized to contain 5% andrographalides. People given the actual treatment experienced significant improvements in symptoms as compared to those in the placebo group.

"We’re always searching for properly designed studies, such as this one, to help substantiate the efficacy of medicinal herbs. Although still a relatively little known herb, this study tells us that andrographis deserves to be taken seriously as a cold treatment," says Steven Bratman, M.D., medical director of

Andrographis is popular in Scandinavia as a cold and flu treatment. This recent study follows other positive double-blind studies of andrographis that enrolled a total of more than 250 participants. Putting it all together, the case for andrographis as an effective treatment for colds is beginning to appear reasonably strong.

What might be the most promising news about andrographis is that it appears to both reduce cold symptoms and also, when taken at a lower dose, help prevent colds -- Echinacea does not.

Another study reported in the same issue of Phytomedicine is relevant for the cold season. This study on Melissa officinalis found that an ointment made from this herb can help cold sores disappear faster.

5. Drugstore Chain Tracking Customer Herbal Supplement Use
By Rachel Zoll

PROVIDENCE, R.I., Jan. 21, AP -- One of the nation’s top drugstore chains has begun tracking herbal supplements used by customers in an effort to avoid potentially risky combinations with prescription drugs.

CVS Corp. of Woonsocket is asking customers to tell their pharmacists what herbal supplements they use. The information is entered into a computerized program that cross-checks them for adverse combinations.

"We are deeply concerned that an increased use of vitamin and herbal therapies can lead to an increased chance of potentially dangerous drug interactions," said Chris Bodine, a CVS vice president for pharmacy.

For example, the supplement St. John’s Wort, taken to relieve depression, reduces the effectiveness of some heart medications, Bodine said Thursday.

Herbal supplements, largely unregulated, have grown into a $1.5 billion annual industry and health care providers have been struggling to educate people about using the remedies safely.

Pharmacist Felicia Rauchle of the independently owned Barrington Pharmacy, said she watches the alternative remedies shelf across from her counter and makes sure to ask customers what they’re buying.

"We talk to all of our patients. If we don’t think something is good for them to take, we tell them," said Rauchle, who has seen supplement sales at her store skyrocket in the last year.

CVS, the nation’s second-largest drugstore chain in terms of sales behind Walgreens, will distribute forms to customers and then hold the information on what they’re taking in a confidential patient profile.

When the patient gets a prescription filled, the computer system automatically will list possible reactions from mixing the drug with a supplement. CVS has started a national advertising campaign encouraging customers to use the service.

Walgreens is developing a database that will offer the same service, company spokesman Michael Polzin said. Walgreen pharmacists currently use online reference material to check drugs against herbal supplements.

The computers at the Rite Aid chain cannot check prescriptions against herbal supplements, but the chain does train pharmacists about possible harmful combinations so they can warn customers, Rite Aid spokeswoman Allison Costello said.

6. Herbalist to the Stars Premieres Website at Sundance Film Festival
PARK CITY, Utah, Jan 28, Internet Wire via Comtex -- What do Mel Gibson, Woody Harrelson, Sharon Stone, Danny Glover, Sumner Redstone, Rebecca Romign Stamos, Ben Vereen, John McEnroe, Arnold Palmer and Mick Jagger all have in common? It’s not a movie, who they’re dating or their designer clothes. The answer is the herbs that they have used during their careers to provide peak performances and to power their success. That’s why Master Herbalist Ron Teeguarden’s Dragon Herbs Elixir Bar is being featured at the Interactive Lounge on Main Street at the Sundance Film Festival, which includes and Entertaindom.

For a number of years, Ron Teeguarden ran the nation’s most successful herbal Chinese tonic elixir bar in Venice, California where he was known as "the herbalist to the stars". His exotic storefront on Abbott Kinney Avenue attractedA-list stars, directors, producers, writers, recording artists and media moguls who sat sipping Ron’s rejuvenating infusions after a hard day at the studio or on the set. His reputation as the herbalist who always has the highest quality herbs quickly spread. Articles appeared in major publications including Time, The New York Times, Mademoiselle, Entertainment Weekly and TheHollywood Reporter. Teegaurden, author of "Radiant Health - The Ancient Wisdom of Chinese Tonic Herbs," (Time Warner) is considered the leading autority on Chinese Tonic Herbalism in the western world.

After living in China for four years, Teeguarden is now at Sundance to premier his new state of the art website, The site was over a year in the making with Teeguarden enlisting the assistance of some of the top website developers in the county. The site is especially signicant beacause it represents the convergence of the two fastest growing sectors of the U.S. economy, theinternet and health products. Teeguarden notes, "I think people will be amazed by the amount of information we are providing through We are making available to the world, over the internet, the most ancient wisdomof how to naturally promote Radiant Health. This is our gift to the world."

One of Teeguarden’s most popular formulas is a centuries old tonic, called Creative Qi. This formulation was designed for the Emperor of China,who happened to have over 3,000 concubines. It’s a formula that Teeguarden has found extremely beneficial for creative individuals. In fact, after taking the formula for nearly a year, Mel Gibson called from Scotland during the shooting of "Braveheart" to request enough Creative Qi for theentire cast and crew. "It makes sense." Teeguarden says, "The health of cast and crew are vital to the smooth production of a movie. A star or cameraman’s coming down with the flu can set a schedule back weeks and cost millions."

Some of Teeguarden’s most regular clients have been some of the top pop singers as well as opera stars, who take his herbal tonics to make it through recording sessions free of illness. The Rolling Stones, known as the rock band with the most longevity, had Teeguarden ship herbal elixirs to them on their world tours. Many other musical performers take advantage of Ron’s herbs as well.Jackson Browne, Iggy Pop, Lenny Kravits and Barbara Streisand have been Ron’s clients.

"It’s not unusual that the most successful and creative people are attracted to Chinese tonic herbs." Teeguarden continues, "In ancient China, three main groups of people developed and utilized these herbs to optimize their performance. The first were the Buddhist and Daoist monks who were interested in attaining the highest states of spiritual development. Next, the warrior class, who were interested in developing maximum power and performing at their best. And the final group, the Emperor and his family, who had the responsibilityof managing the entire country of China. People today, whether they work in the high tension entertainment industry or not, are looking for the same benefits; greater clarity of mind, reduced stress, greater awareness and improvedperformance."

7. U.S. Firm Believes Single Line of Chinese Herbal Remedies Will Sell in Both China and U.S.
By Ian Johnson

BEIJING, Jan. 31, Wall Street Journal -- Can a U.S. company make a single line of traditional Chinese medicines appeal to consumers in both countries? Michael Ellis has been on a three-year, $11 million quest to find out.

Both the U.S. and China have a huge appetite for herbal medicines, but their vastly different concepts of medicine have stymied companies that want to unlock both markets with one product. Mr. Ellis, the chief executive of San Diego-based Metabolife International Inc., is gambling he can do so, hoping Americans are ready for a more sophisticated use of herbs and Chinese a more simplified approach to their herbal heritage. The effort culminated Saturday with the launch of a new line of herbal medicines called Chinac.

Until now, most dietary-supplement companies in the U.S. have hawked just one Chinese herb at a time, such as dangui (Angelica sinensis) for menstrual problems or ginseng to provide energy. In China, however, herbs are almost always mixed together in formulas that are sold in a dizzying number of combinations depending on specific symptoms. A typical Chinese pharmacy, for example, offers dozens of herbal cold formulas depending on symptoms such as the amount of phlegm or its color.

Instead, Mr. Ellis selected five ailments - the common cold, arthritis, headache, premenstrual syndrome and upset stomach - and asked a team of Chinese doctors to come up with one formula for each. He then had Metabolife researchers analyze the formulas, identify the active ingredients and put them in pill form.

The result is a stripped-down form of Chinese medicine, one that offers U.S. consumers a mixture of herbs like in medicine sold in China but without the variety found in a Chinese pharmacy. For example, the cold pill, called Immune Health Formula, is a blunderbuss of herbs aimed at relieving a typical winter flu.

But Metabolife figures Americans and Chinese are becoming more similar in their approach to herbal medicine. For Americans, Chinac offers a quick and easy entree into what is for most consumers an unfamiliar field of medicine. For Chinese, Metabolife may offer a welcome change to the confusing choices they face in a Chinese pharmacy. "Chinese don’t understand all those traditional terms anymore, so something simple will sell well," says Yang Congrong, who works for Tianjin Lerentang, a traditional-medicine factory that will help market Chinac in China.

The two countries are also similar in their growing fascination with dietary supplements. Last year, Americans spent more than $15 billion on dietary supplements, double the amount of five years earlier. In China, sales this year are estimated by the government to top $6 billion, up 20% over last year, as rising incomes feed an increasing concern with well-being and appearance.

Those health obsessions were on full display in a Beijing suburb recently as Mr. Ellis sat for several hours listening to the six participants in a focus group talk about their attitude toward Chinese medicine. The overwhelming opinion was that Chinese medicine is good but too much trouble and that a modernized form would be welcome. "Just listening to them, you can see that they don’t like pharmaceuticals because of the side effects and want herbal medicine," Mr. Ellis says. "They just want it modernized."

Not too modernized, however. Zhu Yuhua picks up a light green box and looks critically at the plastic-wrapped caplets inside. "They’re white," she blurts out. "How can Chinese medicine be white? It’s supposed to be natural."

Jotting notes behind a two-way mirror, Mr. Ellis says the final product will be brown and packaging will feature prominent Chinese doctors who helped devise the formulas.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Ellis visited one of those doctors, Chen Wenbo, director of the Yanhuang Hospital of Chinese Medicine. Dr. Chen nods sagely when asked if the formulas he devised for Metabolife aren’t simplifications of what his hospital already offers. "Yes, but this will help people who don’t have time to come into the hospital." he says. "For example, the premenstrual formula should take care of 90% of most women’s problems."

Whatever the formulas’ merits, the key to success in both countries is likely to lie in marketing. In the U.S., Mr. Ellis turned a $15,000 loan in 1995 into a company that last year had revenue of $1 billion (Metabolife doesn’t release detailed figures). The quick success has largely been built on Mr. Ellis’s marketing approach of using radio testimonials by local disk jockeys.

In China, too, Mr. Ellis has planned a U.S.-style media campaign featuring radio testimonials by prominent announcers. He’s also signed up Mr. Yang’s Lerentang to produce and market Chinac. In five years, Mr. Ellis said he hopes the new line can double Metabolife’s revenue.

Mr. Yang said Chinese companies would like to match Metabolife’s manufacturing and marketing savvy but aren’t able to. "Lerentang has invested heavily in isolating the active ingredient, but Metabolife has done it much better," he said. "We can’t reach that level - the level of Western pharmaceutical principles - on our own, so we need to work with them."

One of Metabolife’s main innovations has been to standardize production so each pill contains nearly an identical amount of active ingredient. For years, that’s stymied Chinese scientists because the potency of Chinese medicines depends on the quality of the herb, which can vary according to soil type and harvesting methods.

Mr. Ellis hopes the higher standards also help stimulate better regulation of herbal medicine. U.S. laws forbid dietarysupplement companies to make specific health claims, so as to prevent them from making excessive claims. But these rules also prevent Metabolife from giving patients a full explanation of how Chinese medicine works. In China, too, labeling is confusing and sometimes misleading.

"There’s been a lot of rip-offs with Chinese medicine," says Mr. Ellis. "We’re just hoping consumers haven’t been scammed too many times to appreciate the real thing."

8. The Viagra of the Valleys: Israeli Liqueur Made with Mandrake Hailed as "Sensational New Aphrodisiac"
By Matthew Kalman

JEZREEL VALLEY, Israel, Jan. 5, [Toronto] Globe and Mail -- The book of Genesis records how Leah and Rachel tussled over the right to sleep with Jacob after picking mandrakes from the fields. Leah won and quickly conceived two sons and a daughter.

In the Middle Ages, mandrake, whose twisted roots resemble the lower part of the human body, was a staple ingredient of love potions. The ancient Arabs called its berried "satan’s apples" and "devil’s testicles." Shakespeare waxed lyrical about it’s magical properties, and even Harry Poter, the modern-day children’s literary sensation plants baby mandrakes at the Hogwarts school for wizards and witches. But while prized for it’s potentcy, mandrake has also been used as an anesthetic and feared for its power as a poison.

Now, Micha Linn, a 74-year-old farmer on a kibbutz in northern Israel, is using the root to create Mandragora, a sweet liqueur that not only tastes good and is safe to drink, but is being hailed through the valleys of the Galilee as a sensational new aphrodisiac.

Mr. Linn, who has lived on Kibbutz Mishmar Ha-Emek since he was born, hit on the idea of producing a liqueur from mandrake fruit after reading in the Bible of it’s mystical sexual properties.

"The mandrake grows naturally in the wild in this region and the fruit smells so good I wanted to do something with it," he says. He approached alocal winery and, after considerable experimentation, produced a first batch in 1992.

"It was no good," he recalls. "They used a process which involved boiling the drink instead of fermenting it. It destroyed the natural flavour of the fruit."

By 1996, with some help from another winemaker, he had perfected the drink, and Mandragora (the Greek name for the mandrake) was launchedon a modest scale.

Now hundreds of people are flocking to the tiny workshop to buy the distinctive triangular bottles of the golden liqueur which tastes fruity and medium-sweet, with a kick. Many of them are repeat customers.

Reuven Salev, a twice-married 54-year old who lives near the kibbutz in northern Israel, says Mandragora took him by surprize.

"I don’t believe in all this nonsense, but I bought a bottle for my girlfriend and we decided to try it," Mr. Shalev says. "She’s 10 years younger than me. Micha told me to drink one cup and give her two I didn’t feel anything in particular, but when we went to bed, she went absolutly crazy. I’d never seen anything like it. I felt good but she was something else. She said, "I don’t know what happened to me." Then she told me to go out and buy another 10 bottles.

"I don’t know what’s in that stuff, and I don’t care," he adds. "I’ve been married twice and I’ve been around a bit, but I’ve never seen anything like. She was very creative."

Mr. Linn spends most of his time ploughing the fields of the kibbutz. He has planted about three acres of mandrake, which he tends between his other duties. At this time of year, all that can be seen of the plant are it’s large, broad, deep green leaves lying flat on the ground. In the spring, the waxy yellow fruit will grow and then he will harvest this year’s crop.

Last year, he produced about 2,000 bottles, each one a fifth of a litre, which he sells from the kibbutz for around 45 sheckels ($16) each. (In a normal year, he can produce 20,000 bottles, but the receint lack of rain has hurt the crops.)

From his mandrake field, he has a stunning view over the Valley of Jezreel, a historic crossroads for the batallians of invading armies who fought for control of the Holy Land since the inasion of the ancient Israelites led by Joshua.

Behind the kibbutz tower the legendary slopes of Mount Megiddo, the biblical Armageddon, which according to the New Testament’s Book of Revelations, will be the site of the mother of all battles before the end of days. It seems a fitting location to grow a crop whos mysterious legends reach back to biblical times.

Mr. Linn says he sells drinks, not legends, but his satisfied customers keep coming back for more, bearing tales of enhanced potency and new heights of sexual satisfaction. They tell him that it’s doing wonders for their sex lives, increasing sperm counts and curing impotence.

Scientists are baffled. While they agree the mandrake is poisonous, they have been unable to find any reason that it should work as an aphrodisiac. Stories about the kibbutz love-potion have whistled through the hills and valleys of northern Israel, while half the population are Arabs.

Samir Absawi, who runs the Ibn Sina Pharmacy near Mary’s well in Nazareth, 50 kilometers away, says he has sold many bottles of Mandragora to satisfied customers and has seen scientific evidence of its effectiveness. "I’m a pharmacist, so I knew about this plant and it’s effect," Mr. Absawi says. "There is scientific evidence that it can help sexual activity both for men and for women."

"One of my customers had been married for three years and he couldn’t have children. His sperm count was too low. I told him about Mandragora and he started taking it. I saw the results of his lab tests after a few weeks and his sperm count had doubled. I’ve seen improvements in other cases, too, as well as all the customers who use it with their wives or girlfriends and say it has a very good effect on their sex lives," Mr. Absawi added.

Mr. Linn also tells of the elderly Haj, a religious Muslim who has made the pilgrimage to Mecca, who came to him after hearing the liqueur could cure impotence.

"As an observant Muslim, he’s not supposed to drink alcohol, but he took me into his confidence and said he was at his wit’s end," Mr. Linn says. "He took several bottles, and phoned me sometime after to say his life had changed completely."

Then there was the Christian Arab who told Mr. Linn he was a hunter of wild boar, famous in his community but impotent. "He bought three litres," Mr. Linn says. "After two months he came back and said ‘You’ld be surprized how good I am now.’ He must have been pleased - he bought another three litres."

Mr. Linn has heard dozens of such stories from the middle-aged lovers, elderly Arabs and young kibbutzniks who keep coming back for more.

"Micha, we just can’t stop making love," one young man told him. "We’ve been doing it so much we can hardly stand." He also tells of one client who sells the liqueur in her hotel and has been trying to get pregnant for 10 years. Three weeks after she started drinking Mandragora, she conceived.

However, scientists are not convinced about the mandrake legend. "There is no evidence whatsoever for the fertility or aphrodisiac effects ascribed to the mandrake by previous generations," says Prof. Zohara Yaniv of the Volcani agricultural research centre in Israel, which approved Micha’s fermentaton process for public consumption. "The active alkaloid compounds which make the mandrake effective as a medicine or poison are only present during certain seasons. When the fruit is ripe to eat, the compounds are absent, so I’m afraid there is no chemical present to cause fertility or anything else." But Minna Feran, an expert on Israeli plants an herbs, says more research should be done into the use of mandrake as an aphrodisiac. "When you have so many stories over such a long period of time, there is usually something at the bottom of it," she says.

Mr. Linn is at pains to stress that he does not vouch for the aphrodisiac or medical effects of his liqueur. Nonetheless, he spent three years researching how to make Mandragora without poisoning anyone.

His process has been approved by the Israeli authorities and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. He refused to reveal the details of his recipe, except that it involves the flesh of the yellow mandrake fruit, lemon and sugar to help the fermentation process. The finished product contains 17 per cent alcohol, is completely organic and is certified 100 per cent kosher - even for Passover - by a local rabbi.

The mandrake grows naturally in the wild in the Middle East, but Mr. Linn believes he is the first person to cultivate the plantcommercially and he has taken out a worldwide patent on the process. He has developed a particular strain that gives extra fruit, which has been registered as the Micha Linn Mandrake. When you ask him if he really believes he has discovered a Viagra of the valleys, he just shrugs his shoulders, his grandfatherly features breaking into a broad smile.

But from the tiny workshop and it’s shelves stacked with bottles of the precious potion, Micha’s call rings clear across the ancient battlefield: "Make Love, Not War."

- The Mandrake and the Myth -

Mandrake (Mandragora officianum) is indigenous to the lands around the Mediterranean Sea and Southern Europe. It’s plant was descrived by Gerard in his 1597 Gerard’s Herbal, The History of Plants as follows:

The male Mandrake hath great broad long smooth leaves of darke greene colour, flat spred upon the ground: among which came up the floures of a pale whitish color, standing every one upon a single small wnd weake foot-stalke of a whitish greene colour: in their places grow round Apples of yellowish colour,smooth, soft and glittering, of a strong smell: in which are contained flat and smooth seeds in fashion of a little kidney, like those of the Thornapple. The root is long, thick, whitish, divided many times into two, or three parts resembling the legs of a man, as it hath been reported; whereas in truth it is no otherwise that in the roots of carrots, parseneps, and such like, forked or divided into two parts, which Nature taketh no account of."

The plant is mentioned as early as Genesis 30:16 "And Jacob came out of the field in the evening, and Leah went out to meet him, and said, Thou must come in unto me; for surely I have hired thee with my son’s mandrakes. And he lay with her that night."

According to Juliana Codex, Dioscorides received the mandrake from Heuresis, goddess of discovery, illustrating the early belief in it’s sacred nature. Early Christians believed the mandrake was a precursor of Adam in the Garden.

In the secret catechism of the Druses, the sons of God create men by descending to earth and animation seven mandragoras - mannikins.

The Roman historian Joselphus wrote that the foul stench, shrieks and terrible groans made by a mandrake being uprooted would cause sudden death.

Shakespeare refers to its sensual and mystical properties in several works, including Antony and Cleopatra: "Give me to drink mandragora/That I may sleep out this great gap of time my Antony is away."

9. Cyprus Monks Revamp Peasant Herbal Cold Cure as Upmarket Aperitif
By Michele Kambas

KYKKOS MONASTERY, Cyprus, Jan. 25, Reuters -- Cyprus’ best-kept secret cold cure is being revamped as an upmarket aperitif by a group of enterprising monks.

Honing recipes kept under wraps for years and passed down from generation to generation, the monks of the Panayia Kykkou Monastery have invested in a modern distillery and winery and hope to fight more expensive imports with home-grown zivania.

Once banned by former British colonial rulers and sometimes used to clean windows, the drink distilled from grapes is making a comeback, sold in fancy bottles with new labels.

"Zivania never had prestige before. Now it is served by ministers. We’ve hit the whiskey sales," said Michalis Ktistis, manager of the Kykkos Monastery Winery.

The 10th century monastery is renowned in Cyprus for its sweet and dry zivania. The drink has a red tinge due to the addition of cinnamon and mountain herbs.

"They are a bit difficult to come by these days but we still manage to find them," Father Makarios said. At 78 he still remembers the days when zivania was made in iron vats over wood fires before they were replaced with the winery.

"We would give it to our guests. It was never for sale."

Older monks say the drink has been produced without interruption at the monastery for at least 400 years, with the recipe a closely guarded secret passed down by monks. It has been produced there commercially only for the past two years.

"The market is mainly for white at the moment ... red is used usually as a present to take to someone," Costakis Fournaris, the plant’s technical manager, said.

- Hitting the Bottle -

Traditionally distilled in large household vats in the Pitsillia mountain region in central Cyprus, the usually clear, odorless alcohol has been known as more of a villagers’ drink than one a city dweller would ever serve a guest.

The old bootleg variety was also known as the best window cleaner around, while tossing some in the frying pan would give an extra bite to sausages.

Many are firm believers in its therapeutic powers; with temperatures falling to freezing in winter months, villagers swear it is the perfect way to kill a cold. "Just a sip is enough to bring a tinge to your cheeks ... use it as a rub and it works wonders," said one local who has plenty of bottles stashed in her freezer.

Banned commercially in 1947 because of concerns that some of the home-produced variety could cause poisoning from high levels of methanol, its marketing through private enterprise was approved by authorities in 1998.

"We have set standards for the product ... the law allows between 51 and 52 percent pure alcohol. We produce 49 percent," said Fournaris as he stood in the lab next to equipment used to analyze the drink.

The monastery winery produces 60 to 100 tons from grapes it buys locally each year, an important source of income for farmers in the region 60 miles northwest of capital Nicosia.

Some of the drink is exported to Britain, Germany and Russia and the rest absorbed by the local market. "Sales are picking up. It is quite fashionable nowadays," Fournaris said.

10. Chinese Lab to Study Tibetan Medicine and Natural Herbs
LANZHOU, Jan. 30, XINHUA -- A laboratory to test Tibetan medicines and natural herbs has opened in Lanzhou, capital of northwest China’s Gansu Province.

The laboratory, the first of its kind in China, was jointly established by the Lanzhou Chemistry and Physics Research Institute under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and the Qizheng Tibetan Medicine Group.

With high-tech equipment and outstanding scientists, the lab will make basic studies of the components of traditional Tibetan medicines and natural herbs, and offer scientific support to their pharmacology to aid them in entering the international market.

The Qizheng Group is a private high-tech enterprise with two large facilities producing traditional Tibetan medicines, one in Tibet and the other in Gansu. It also owns a 666-hectare natural herbs reserve in Tibet.

The Lanzhou Chemistry and Physics Research Institute of the CAS has long history of researching natural herbal medicines. As early as 1986, it began research on the components, structure, and pharmacology of a number of natural herbs growing in northwest China and the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.

Its research in this area has scored several achievements, according to local medical experts.

With these two strong entities joining hands, the laboratory is expected to make a great contribution to research in this area, and tap the potential market for these medicines, the experts added.

11. African Traditional Medicine Men to Meet in Nairobi
DAR ES SALAAM, Jan. 31, TOMRIC Agency -- Tanzanian traditional medicine-men who claim to have a treatment for AIDS and other incurable disease, with their counterparts from elsewhere in Africa, will have a forum to exhibit their medicines in a forum scheduled in Nairobi, Kenya.

The Nairobi, Kenya-based Environmental Liaison Centre International and the Global Initiatives for International Systems on Health, University of Oxford, UK, in collaboration with other organizations are holding a four day medicinal plants traditional medicine in Africa in May of this year.

The conference will be held parallel to the fifth meeting of the conference of the parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity to convened in Nairobi.

According to the a statement from the UN International Centre in Dar Es Salaam, the conference will focus on issues relating to medical plants for traditional human and veterinary medicine, plant-derived pesticides and cosmetic plants.

It is expected to bring together government and donor representatives, scientists, researchers, policy-makers, conservationists, NGOs, health professionals, herbalists and traditional practitioners.

The meeting comes at the time when it is said that information relating to medical plants and traditional medicines can be found in documents and databases in a wide range of disciplines including botany, ecology, medicine, among others, but few publications report on them.

The meeting also comes at the time when the WHO estimates that 80 percent of the population in developing countries rely on traditional medicines, mostly plant drugs, for their primary health care needs. Also modern pharmacopoeia still contain at least 25 percent drugs derived from plants and many other which are synthetic analogues built on prototype compounds isolated from plants.

Demand for medicinal plants is increasing in both developing and developed countries and, surprisingly, the bulk of the material traded is still from wild harvested sources on forest lands, and only a very small number of species are cultivated. In Tanzania thought most of them and their products not certified by the ministry of health, but herbal medicine and traditional healers are receiving attention from mainstream health officials medical research centres.

A number of international organizations now have started to support projects and programs within Africa which are drawing on the cultural acceptability and economic accessibility of safe and effective traditional medicines.

12. Tanzania Warns Proliferating Chinese Clinics About Unsafe Medicines
DAR ES SALAAM, Jan. 28, TOMRIC Agency -- The Tanzanian Ministry of Health has warned that it will take legal measures against Chinese clinics found to be administering unsafe medicines to patients.

The warning was made recently by the Ministry’s Deputy Minister, Tatu Ntimizi, when explaining the recent mushrooming of Chinese clinics in the country, particularly in Dar Es Salaam.

She said however that so far there was nothing wrong with the clinics and people were free to seek medical services from them.

The Deputy Minister stressed that what was expected from these medical establishments was to ensure safety of their customers and stay away from false advertising of their treatments.

There are a number of Chinese clinics in Dar Es Salaam and they operate almost all parts of the city. According to advertisements placed in local newspapers, the clinics claim to treat and cure chronic ailments such as asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis and opportunistic infections caused by AIDS.

In addition, some of these clinics have been sending their medics produced conventionally from herbs to traders fairs in Tanzania. A survey by the TOMRIC Agency shows that not all medicines have been approved by the National Pharmacy Board (NPB) or the World Health Organization (WHO).

The Deputy Minister said that anyone going for medical attention to these clinics was doing so at his own risk. According to her, her ministry would only be concerned when there was evidence of danger posed by them.

Nevertheless, the survey did not indicate any complaints from patients cheating by these clinics, even though many of the chronic illnesses which these clinics claim to cure can only be managed in modern health facilities Flowing massively in these clinics are the AIDS patients and according a survey by TOMRIC Agency, many still believe in Chinese traditional medicines, now selling a lot in Dar Es Salaam.

At the Muhimbili referral hospital in Dar Es Salaam, there is a Chinese Centre where Chinese medicines are being tested including those believed to cure AIDS and its related complications. Labels of some medicines reads; "This medicine cures AIDS."

13. Herbalists Aim to Save Malawi’s Trees
MALAWI, Jan 27, African Eye News Service -- Malawi’s traditional healers have teamed up to save the small central African country’s indigenous medicines from extinction, African Eye News Service (South Africa) reports.

The medicines come mostly from plants facing increasing pressure from Malawi’s population, which grows by 3,5% a year. And the government, heavily dependent on donor aid, is battling to provide social services, including medical facilities and medicines, to its 10 million people.

State hospitals often have to turn patients away because there are no medicines. In most cases, people are told to go to private clinics they cannot afford.

Now the National Herbalists’ Association of Malawi says decimation of indigenous trees is threatening their profession, and they have begun replanting indigenous forests.

Chairman Joseph Gangire told a recent plant resources workshop 12 gardens had been established in various ecological zones across the country.

"The aim is to preserve trees and herbal species for medical use and research purposes, and we have also planted some vegetative species in botanical gardens," said Gangire, whose association receives assistance from various UN agencies.

The herbalists’ efforts coincide with the government’s new efforts to plant more trees.

An annual tree-planting week has been declared, starting on the second Monday of each January.

This year it was January 10. Inaugurated by President Bakili Muluzi, it saw more than 40 000 seedlings planted.

"The programme involves reduction of deforestation, management of indigenous forest resources, avoiding of wanton cutting of trees, especially in steep hilly areas, and adopting alternative energy resources like electricity and biogas instead of charcoal," said director of forestry Kenneth Nyasulu.

The new initiative, according to forestry officials will see 7 000 hectares of forest planted annually, compared to 50 000ha cut down yearly.

Statistics show that Malawi, due to its high population growth, leads the chart in deforestation in the Southern African Development Community region.

The tree planing week will reduce bare land from 50 000ha to 15 000ha.

14. Fibroids Increasing in Ghanaian Women; Herbalists Making Problem Worse
By Linda Asante Adjei

ACCRA, Ghana, Jan. 26, PANA -- There is no doubt that women play very important roles in all aspects of human endeavour. Unfortunately, they suffer from many diseases that impede them from playing their natural role as mothers and home makers.

High blood pressure, cancers of the cervix, womb and breast are some of the common diseases that plague women.

However, fibroid, a tumour of muscle fibres of the womb, the most recent and complicated, is a disease that affects women of all ages, particularly those above 20 years.

The tumour is usually associated with female hormones in the system but medical research has so far not been able to identify the exact cause of the disease.

Statistics available at Ghana’s Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital indicate that as at June, 384 out of 726 major selective gynaecology operations carried out at the hospital were fibroid.

This sounds quite alarming as many more women who suffer from the disease do not report to the hospital because they do not know that they have it.

Local gynaecologists say fibroid is very difficult to identify at the early stage.

"One has to go through a series of tests and examinations before it can be detected and diagnosed for treatment," Dr. Kwabena Nkyerkyer, a gynaecologist at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, said.

However, he dismissed speculations that fibroid was the cause of barrenness in women, especially those beyond 30 years.

"Though fibroid may cause a delay in childbearing if not removed, it is not the cause of barrenness. Most women get the disease after having their first or second child while other women do not bear any children," he stated.

He explained that the chances of women with fibroid having children depends on the size of the tumour and on exactly where it grows in the womb.

The moment the tumour starts growing, symptoms such as excessive menstrual bleeding, anaemia, frequent passage of urine and delay in pregnancy will occur.

The fibroid can be treated by monitoring and assessing the tumour when it is small and not giving the patient any problem.

"Secondly, it can be done through myomectomy. This is where the fibroid is removed leaving the womb intact for the woman to be able to have children," Nkyerkyer said.

However, gynaecologists say there is a 15-percent chance of the tumour growing again.

Another treatment is by removing the fibroid and the womb which is known as hysterectomy. With this type of fibroid, the tumour has become huge and destroyed the womb, thus making it impossible for the woman to bear children again.

This is mostly found in women who do not report to the hospital in time.

The patient can also be put on medication. With this kind of treatment, the patient is given drugs to reduce the size of the tumour by 50 percent. The reduction takes about three months.

Nkyerkyer said this method is only to make surgery easy and without trouble.

He noted that drugs used for this type of treatment, mostly practised in developed countries, are very expensive.

Nkyerkyer said the cause of the disease is not spiritual as some people would want to believe.

"It is very unfortunate that some people relate this disease to spiritual powers and, instead of going to the hospital for treatment, they go to see herbalists who have no idea of the disease. Those women are wasting their time," he added.

He cautioned that fibroid "can happen to anybody, be you a lawyer, doctor, engineer, housewife or a schoolgirl."

"It is, therefore, advisable for women to see a gynaecologist when they notice any of the symptoms instead of going to a herbalist who will insert some concoctions into the vagina, which, in the end, will make treatment difficult, delayed and expensive."

Madam Ama Bonsu, a 37-year-old fibroid patient, who has been married for nine years, had this to say: "I am married and ready for children but they are not coming."

Though she does not attribute the difficulty to conceive to fibroid, her husband, a pastor, has convinced her to pray over it. "So I am waiting for a miracle," she said.

There are some pastors in Ghana and elsewhere who believe in miracles and will not advise their members with the disease to go for medical treatment but would rather prefer taking them through prayers.

But Nkyerkyer cautioned that though some may be healed, the case of others may worsen.

Pastor John Akwesi Amankwa, whose church is in Accra, explained that though he believes in miracles, he would advise such patients to go for medical treatment after prayers.

Madam Yaa Dentaah, a 48-year-old trader, is another victim who was rather happy to have had a child at the age of 22 before she was attacked by the disease. She had an operation in 1999 to remove the fibroid.

She said before the operation, her stomach began to bloat and she started experiencing delays in pregnancy.

Doctors who attended to her initially treated her for a different disease without knowing it was fibroid.

"Later, I consulted herbalists for treatment but it rather worsened my situation. My condition became so serious that I nearly lost my life. It was at this time, after excessive bleeding, that I went on admission at another hospital where the disease was finally diagnosed," she recalled.

"I am waiting to be pregnant again now that I have had a successful operation," she said.

As a challenge in the new century, women organisations should organise seminars, workshops and conferences to educate women, especially those in the rural areas, on the seriousness of this disease and others that hinder their progress and slow down their health.

15. New Co-operatives Law to Promote Speciality Crops in Saskatchewan
SASKATOON, Jan 27, M2 Communications -- The first page of an exciting new chapter in the history of Saskatchewan’s co-operative movement was written today with proclamation of the New Generation Co-operatives Act.

New generation co-operatives provide Saskatchewan agricultural producers with a new structure for creating opportunities in processing, for both domestic and export markets. The co-ops are financed primarily through the sale of shares to members, who deliver predetermined amounts of product to their co-operatives for processing. These co-ops also allow non-producer investment in their enterprises.

"Saskatchewan producers have taken it upon themselves to diversify and new generation co-ops give them a framework to take their products to another value- added level," Economic and Co-operative Development Minister Janice MacKinnon said. "We’re also opening the doors for them to form partnerships with non- producers to explore exciting new processing opportunities in rural Saskatchewan."

MacKinnon noted producers in emerging specialty markets such as bison, pasta, wild boar, berries, herbs and spices have expressed interest in forming new generation co-operatives.

Today [Jan. 27] was also the first day of a major, two-day new generation co-operatives conference in Saskatoon.

"Building the New Saskatchewan" is bringing together producers and co-operative leaders to focus on how they can develop, own and operate value-added businesses using this new co-operative structure.

"Co-operatives have played a key role in the development of this province and this is especially true in rural Saskatchewan," Justice Minister Chris Axworthy said. "The legislation being proclaimed today supports innovation for our strong co-operative movement."

16. Provencal Jams Made with Herbs Debut in U.S.
SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 24, Business Wire -- In keeping with the company’s ever increasing distribution -- 250 stores nationwide -- life in Provence continues to grow their product offering to meet the diverse needs of their customers. At the San Francisco Fancy Food Show, life in Provence introduced five authentic Provencal jams, prepared using the old-fashioned recipes of "grande mamans" -- with a unique twist of flavor to please both traditionalists and trend setters. They will also showcase a new herb collection featuring Herbes de Provence, Thyme and Rosemary.

Peter Mayle, the New York Times best-selling author of "A Year in Provence", commented on the new life in Provence jams, "These jams are classics, thick and juicy. I think they taste even better than home made."

In Provence herbs grow wild on the hills to deliver the smell of the sun-soaked land and its richness to passersby. Thyme/Thym and Rosemary/Romarin are both versatile and popular cooking herbs which are delicious for seasoning just about anything - game, poultry, grilled meat, fish, bread or a simple tomato-and-onion sauce. The life in Provence Herbes de Provence is a careful melange of flavors that delivers the most classic combination: rosemary, thyme, basil, marjoram and savory.

"We want to share our passion for the relaxed and refined Provencal lifestyle through our foods, so that everyone can find the Provencal in themselves," said Julien Ninio, Co-President, life in Provence. Adds Donatien Monod, Co-President: "being Provencal means knowing what’s important... living in harmony with the land... not taking things too seriously... a certain relaxed sophistication... it’s more a lifestyle, not just a place, and everyone can be Provencal."

17. Herb Business News
Omni Nutraceuticals: $5 Million Equity Financing

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 25, Business Wire -- Omni Nutraceuticals Inc. today announced that it has completed an equity transaction with a private investment group that will provide up to $5 million of capital to the company and its wholly owned Internet subsidiary

Commented Omni Nutraceuticals Chief Executive Officer Louis Mancini: "We are extremely pleased to have completed this transaction that will provide working capital for Omni. These funds will be used to reduce debt, fund ongoing operations, and finance our product advertising and marketing campaigns -- particularly our first-quarter media campaign for Inholtra."

Included in the transaction will be up to $2 million of funding, which will be invested in, the company’s Internet e-commerce subsidiary. HealthZone will use these proceeds to invest in marketing and the development of its infrastructure to ramp up its Internet operation.

Mancini added: "We believe that this first infusion of financing into will allow this e-commerce division of the company to further develop its business model, enhance its competitive edge and position it for future expansion."

Omni Nutraceuticals is a leading formulator and supplier of natural health, herbal and nutritional supplement products for consumers.

Its product lines include popular brand name market leaders such as Diet System Six(TM), Nature’s Secret(R), Harmony Formulas(R), Applied Nutrition(TM), Dr. Linus Pauling Vitamins(R), Inholtra(R), Lifestyle Control Formulas(TM), and the 151 Nutraceuticals Bar(TM). The company’s products are sold through mass retail and specialty natural health, nutrition and food retail stores worldwide.

Twinlab: Names Vice President of Operations

HAUPPAUGE, N.Y., Jan. 25, BW HealthWire -- Twinlab Corporation today announced the appointment of Brian Richmond as Vice President of Operations.

Richmond, with 30 years of manufacturing experience in the pharmaceutical and nutrition industries, most recently served as Director of Manufacturing, Nutrition and Cosmetics, for BASF Corporation.

In this newly created position, he has responsibility for Twinlab’s facilities in Ronkonkoma and Bohemia, New York; American Fork, Utah; and Tempe, Arizona.

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

Herbalife: Founder Extends Buyout Offer

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 25, Business Wire -- Herbalife International, Inc. reported today that MH Millennium Acquisition Corp., an entity controlled and beneficially owned by Mark Hughes, the Founder, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Herbalife, has extended the expiration of its previously announced tender offer to 5:00 p.m., New York City time, on Monday, February 14, 2000.

Hughes indicated that he and his advisors are continuing to address the financing of the transaction. In addition, the Company noted that under the terms of the agreement governing the transaction, Hughes has the right to further extend the tender offer. As of the close of business on January 24, 2000, approximately 892,420 shares of Herbalife’s Class A stock and 1,812,484 shares of Herbalife’s Class B stock had been validly tendered and not withdrawn in response to the tender offer.

On September 13, 1999, Herbalife announced that its Board of Directors accepted a definitive offer from Mark Hughes to purchase all company shares not owned by Hughes for $17.00 per share in cash.

Herbalife International, Inc. markets nutritional, weight-management and personal care products in 46 countries worldwide. Herbalife products are available only through a network of independent distributors who purchase the products directly from the Company.

Wild Oats and eNutrition: Online Marketing Alliance

WOODLAND HILLS, Calif., Jan. 24 -- Wild Oats, Inc., the nation’s largest chain of natural foods markets, and eNutrition, the Internet’s complete resource for nutritional products and information, today announced a strategic alliance to create a joint online store at Products to be sold include vitamins, minerals and supplements, as well as other items from Wild Oats’ Natural Living category. Revenue from product sales over the Internet will be recorded by eNutrition and Wild Oats can earn equity in eNutrition as customers make purchases online.

In addition to a $1.5 million equity investment in eNutrition by Wild Oats, Wild Oats may earn additional equity in eNutrition through customer conversion programs, co-marketing efforts, coordinated buying programs and by providing other goods and services to eNutrition. In addition, Mike Gilliland, CEO of Wild Oats, will be appointed an observer to eNutrition’s board.

The online store will offer all skus currently available at eNutrition, plus Wild Oats’ private label line of vitamins, minerals and supplements. The site will be developed and powered by eNutrition, which will also oversee product distribution and customer order fulfillment. Customers will benefit from cost savings and product selection achieved through the purchasing power of the two companies with leading distributors.

According to Packaged Facts, the vitamins, minerals, supplements, herbs and sports nutrient market generated sales of $15 billion in 1998 and is expected to grow at double-digit rates during the next five years. Both Wild Oats and eNutrition experienced tremendous success in 1999 which supports those predictions. Wild Oats reported $478 million in revenue for the first nine months of 1999 and conducts an estimated 40 million sales transactions annually. 1n 1999, Wild Oats grew from 63 to 106 stores and currently operates 107 stores in 22 states, with 20 more stores in various stages of development.

Since its launch last March, eNutrition has continued to build on its initial success. In the fourth quarter of 1999 alone, eNutrition experienced more growth than during the previous seven months combined: the customer base more than doubled in size; average monthly revenues have increased approximately 185%; the company generated over $1 million dollars in sales; and visits to the site more than doubled.

"Our relationship with Wild Oats gives us access to a large, targeted customer base which will accelerate our long-term strategy of customer acquisition, as well as help expand our product offerings to enhance eNutrition’s customers’ online shopping experience," said Randy Gale, president and CEO of eNutrition. Gale adds, "The vitamin, mineral and supplement category is estimated to bring in approximately $120 million in revenue for Wild Oats in 1999, and if we convert only 5% of that to online sales, this deal represents $6 million in revenue to us in the first year alone."

"With competition in the Internet health and nutrition category heating up, objective information and lots of it will be the key weapon in bringing our existing customers online while also winning over new customers," said Mike Gilliland. "This alliance with eNutrition gives our customers access to the most reliable and current information in the industry, while also allowing Wild Oats an immediate and significant presence on the Web. While timing is critical, taking care of our customers is more so and eNutrition’s reputation for putting the customer and their nutritional needs first makes them the ideal partner for us."

While the specifics of joint marketing efforts are yet to be determined, preliminary plans include an eNutrition presence in Wild Oats stores through bag stuffers, demonstration kiosks, discount cards and eNutrition experts.

Planet Medica: Major New Pan-European Web Site Network

LONDON, Jan. 20, M2 Communications -- Planet Medica, the first pan-European health portal on the web, has today unveiled plans for the consumer launch of a pan European network of e-health sites in the UK, France and Germany in April 2000. The business has secured GBP12.5 million in total GBP7.5 million in seed capital from private investors in October 1999 and now GBP5 million in first round funding from a leading international venture capital firm, Atlas Venture, which specialises in both Internet and Healthcare investments.

Designed to avoid using obscure academic or technical language, Planet Medica will offer consumers the widest possible range of health related information available from a dedicated team of qualified experts. This information - ranging from serious health and medical information to advice on maintaining a healthy lifestyle - will be presented under a series of headings allowing users to browse an area of interest such as diet and nutrition, medical conditions or the latest news. The sites will also feature up-to-date medical reports to keep users informed of new developments.

The site will provide symptom severity assessment tools, aimed at helping users to assess the seriousness of their condition and whether treatment is required. Country specific information will be made available across each of the European sites in local languages.

Dr. Sou tre, co-founder and CEO of Planet Medica said, "Our vision is to provide a wealth of health related information allowing people to become better educated on medical issues and to take the initiative in creating a healthy lifestyle. By putting the user in the driving seat and providing information in both breadth and depth in a user friendly format, we are confident that will become the definitive pan-European e-health brand in this space."

"Simultaneous multi-country launches have become increasingly important when creating online brands to ensure that sufficient presence is created quickly in customers’ minds, giving the brand credibility and stature. Once we have gone live in the UK, France and Germany we will quickly be rolling out other pan-European launches - including Italy, Spain and the Netherlands".

Rob Zegelaar, who leads the investment team at Atlas Venture added, "As experts in the e-health sector, Atlas is well placed to understand what is required to make a successful venture. Planet Medica has a well defined and extremely strong consumer proposition and we are delighted to be working with them on this project."

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