Richters HerbLetter


Date: 2001/05/31
Contents
1. Over Forty Percent of Echinacea Products Fail Review
2. Tapioca Tea Trend Brewing in U.S.
3. Green and Herbal Tea Fueling Growth of Tea Sales in Canada
4. Viagra Users Search for Other Alternatives, New Survey Finds
5. Herbal Supplement Sales Down
6. Use of Herbal Supplements Increased 350% in Three Years
7. Ginseng Lowers Blood Sugar Levels in Patients with Diabetes
8. New Study Says Green Tea Helps Stomach Disorders
9. Herbal Medicines on Menopausal Symptoms Induced by Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone Agonist Therapy
10. Prehistoric Ginkgo Finding Supports Global Warming Theory
11. China Ready to Launch Crop-breeding Experiments in Space
12. Plant Hormones Form Basis of New Anti-Cancer Drugs
13. Harvard Creates New Institute to Study Alternative Medicine
14. Black Cohosh Safe and Effective for Menopausal Breast Cancer Patients
15. Danger Seen in Rising Herb Use
16. Amazonian Shamans Set Up a Code of Ethics to Fight Shams
17. WIPO Pledges to Protect Traditional Knowledge of Poor Countries
18. Jury Awards $2 Million in Malpractice Case Involving St. John’s Wort
19. Echinacea Farmer Wins $50,000 in Lawsuit
20. Ghana Warns Unregistered Herbalists to Stay Away from Health Product Fair
21. China Cracks Down on Fake Doctors, Medicines
22. China Revamps Traditional Medicine to Meet Global Standards
23. Centuries-Old Firm Adapts Traditional Chinese Medicines
24. China Urged to Modernize Traditional Medicine
25. Chinese Scientists Find Magic Drug Against Senility
26. Gene Research Facilitates Development of Chinese Herbs
27. Some Chinese Manufacturers Are Misleading Consumers about FDA Approval
28. China’s Yunnan Province Plans to Develop Plant-Based Products
29. Thousands Flock to Indian Boy Wonder for Herbal Remedies
30. Pakistan Removes Duty on Medicinal Herbs Imports
31. Ginseng Growers at Root of Problem: Oversupply Has Driven Prices Down
32. Ontario Ginseng Growers Show Support for Association
33. West Paterson, N.J., Business Supplies Medicinal Herbs from Ecuador
34. Mustards, and More Mustards
35. Basils are Excellent Herbs to Grow in Containers
36. Try Planting a Decorative Knot Garden
37. Herbs: Good for What Ails You
38. Herb Business News

1. Over Forty Percent of Echinacea Products Fail Review
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., May 7, PRNewswire -- ConsumerLab.com, an independent evaluator of dietary supplements and nutrition products, today released results of its Product Review of echinacea supplements. Echinacea is widely used as a short-term immune system stimulant to reduce the severity and duration of colds and flu. Annual sales of echinacea products in the U.S. were estimated at $193 million in 1999, according to The Hartman Group, a market research company, although sales are believed to have dropped recently. Twenty-five echinacea products were purchased for evaluation of their echinacea content and potential microbial contamination. Neither the FDA nor any other federal or state agency routinely tests echinacea products, or other supplements, for quality prior to sale.

Eleven, or 44%, of the twenty-five echinacea products did not pass ConsumerLab.com’s review. Six products did not provide sufficient label information to identify the amount, species, or plant parts used (all of such information is required labeling by the FDA) and were dropped from further testing; four products had insufficient levels of specific marker compounds that would be expected from their claimed echinacea ingredients (including two products with no detectable levels); and one product exceeded the World Health Organization limit for microbial contamination.

"Too many echinacea products don’t say enough on their labels or don’t contain what their labels claim," commented Tod Cooperman, M.D., ConsumerLab.com’s President. "These are important consumer issues and may be a factor in the declining sales of echinacea and other herbal products," he added.

The complete list of products that passed the review as well as ConsumerTips(TM) on buying and using echinacea are now available to ConsumerLab.com’s online subscribers at www.consumerlab.com . General findings and examples of approved products are also available for free from the Web site. Similar information is available from ConsumerLab.com from its Product Reviews of Asian and American ginseng, calcium, chondroitin, CoQ10, creatine, ginkgo biloba, glucosamine, multivitamins/multiminerals, SAM-e, saw palmetto, St. John’s wort, and vitamins C and E. Other Product Reviews scheduled for release this year include soy/red clover isoflavones, valerian, MSM, omega-3-fatty acids and protein/energy bars. ConsumerLab.com’s Buyer’s Guide to Supplements is to be published in print later this year. To further assist consumers, ConsumerLab.com licenses its flask-shaped CL Seal of Approved Quality (see The CL Seal) to manufacturers for use on products that have passed its evaluations.

ConsumerLab.com is a leading provider of consumer information and independent evaluations of products that affect health and nutrition. The company is privately held and headquartered in White Plains, New York. It has no ownership from or interest in companies that manufacture, distribute, or sell consumer products.


2. Tapioca Tea Trend Brewing in U.S.
By Jon Herskovitz

NEW YORK, May 10, Reuters -- It is vibrant in color, brewed with leaves perfected over the centuries and chock full of gummy balls that slide up a thick straw when you drink it.

Get ready for what might be the newest drink trend: tapioca tea. The frothy drink made from green or black tea is shaken like a martini and contains chewy tapioca balls at the bottom.

It takes a lot of lung power to consume the drink, but tea bar operators who recently set up stores in the United States are hoping tapioca tea has staying power.

Tapioca tea, also known as "boba," bubble or pearl tea, took Taiwan by storm over the past decade and has made inroads in other parts of Asia. Now tea bars that sell it are sprouting up in places such as California, New York and Chicago.

Operators hope to start a tapioca tea trend that will be an alternative to popular gourmet coffee bars such as Starbucks.

For the uninitiated, tapioca tea presents a few challenges. First there is the choice of a green tea or a black tea base. Then there is the decision whether to have the tea sweetened and mixed with fruits such as green apples, lychee, strawberries or passion fruit.

But the toughest part is how to drink it -- and eat it. The straw, more than twice as thick as a typical straw, requires more suction to get the drink into the mouth and especially to get the tapioca balls up through the tube.

Then comes the strangest part, knowing when to drink and when to chew the tapioca, typically made of glutinous yam.

"It’s great. I’m telling all my friends to try it," said Vickie Renataro, a customer at a New York tea bar.

Tapioca Tea Wars

The first skirmish in the tapioca tea wars in New York are being fought in Chinatown. About six tea bars have opened there in the last few months, including one of the area’s venerable tea shops that specializes in traditional Chinese hot tea.

Ten Ren Tea and Ginseng Co. is among the new entrants with its store, called TenRen’s Tea Time, after seeing good results with tea bars it helped start in California. Ten Ren has stores around the world and been a staple in Chinatown for more than 40 years selling premium teas, with its top offerings going for about $144 a pound (.45 kg).

Ten Ren’s president Mark Lii said its new tapioca tea offerings have a traditional tea base. "This represents a new sense of tea, but no matter what the product you need good tea to make a good drink," he said.

Lii said young people have shied away from traditional tea, which is meant to be savored and served in an atmosphere that allows for long conversations. But he hopes the tea bar will help people develop a taste for more traditional teas and has seen some spillover of customers from his tea bar to his tea store nearby. "These two stores are helping each other grow."

Along with the tapioca tea, Lii is selling seven varieties of premium Chinese hot tea with takeout packaging as well as whipping up a new menu of foods made with tea such as sticky rice, hot noodles and cheese cake.

"Bubble Tea Has More Legs"

Tapioca tea sells for about $3 to $4 a cup, which can be more than the grocery store price for a box of 100 tea bags.

But Joe Simrany, president of the Tea Council of the U.S.A., said, "These tea bars certainly have potential because they are attracting a much younger customer base."

The tea bars are great for the industry because they help shake off the image some have of tea being a drink for older people by offering a hip new drink that has scored with nontraditional tea drinkers, he said.

"I think that bubble tea has more legs than some other recent tea products because it is so unusual," Simrany said.

He is waiting to see if the tea bars can make the crossover from their locales in communities with large Asian-American populations to a greater cross-section of the United States.

According to figures provided by the Nation Coffee Association, about 25-30 percent of American adults drink tea on a daily basis, while daily coffee consumers account for 53 to 55 percent of the adult population.

Coffee association spokesman Gary Goldstein said they do not consider tea to be in a competition with coffee, but the growth of specialty coffee bars has helped spur a growth in American coffee consumption.

In 1991, there were fewer than 500 specialty coffee stores in the United States. Within about 10 years, their numbers topped 8,500, with coffee bars sprouting up almost everywhere.

Now it is time to see how high bubble tea can bounce.


3. Green and Herbal Tea Fueling Growth of Tea Sales in Canada
TORONTO, May 15, Canada NewsWire -- Canadian tea drinkers are having a love affair with tea, with 22 per cent drinking more tea than they did two years ago. This according to a new ACNielsen survey of 2000 Canadians conducted in March 2001 and released today by the Tea Council of Canada. And while regular black tea continues to be the most popular among Canadians, green and herbal teas sales are fueling the growth within the tea category.

British Columbia leads the nation with the highest percentage of green tea drinkers in the country -- 27 per cent compared to the national average of 19 per cent, while the Atlantic provinces have the lowest percentage -- just seven per cent. Herbal teas are most popular with Albertans and British Columbians, and least likely to be consumed by Maritimers, who are the leading black tea drinkers in the country.

Almost one half of all Canadians (45 per cent) believe that tea offers significant health benefits and awareness is most evident in Ontario and the West and also among women rather than men.

"Over the past few years, scientific research on the health benefits of tea has been very encouraging," says Louise Roberge, president of the Tea Council of Canada. "This good news is a strong motivator for many Canadians and it has led to an increase in tea consumption."

Other Survey Highlights

- Younger Canadians, aged 18 to 34, are more likely to have increased their tea consumption in the last two years.

- Alberta has the highest percentage of iced tea drinkers -- 50 per cent, compared to a national average of 33 per cent.

- More than one-half (53 per cent) of Atlantic Canadian tea drinkers, like to have a cuppa, when they wake up, compared to only 31 per cent of the rest of the nation who choose to drink tea when they rise and shine

- As for specialty black teas like Darjeeling, Assam and Earl Grey, Western Canadians are consuming more of these types of teas than other Canadians.

- British Columbians must like a peaceful night’s sleep, since 15 per cent drink decaffeinated teas -- a greater percentage than other Canadians. At only four per cent, Quebeckers are the least likely to drink decaffeinated teas.

Tea Drinkers Reveal Their Thoughts on Restaurant Tea

The survey also asked Canadians about their tea drinking experiences in restaurants:

- Almost one quarter (24 per cent) of Canadians are willing to experiment with a new type of tea when eating out.

- More than half (57 per cent) of Canadian tea drinkers had positive comments about the quality of teabags used in foodservice establishments, with Atlantic Canadians most satisfied. (71 per cent)

- While a majority of Canadians, (74 per cent) are not fond of drinking tea at fast food restaurants, British Columbians and Quebeckers are even more discerning -- 85 per cent vs. the national average of 78 per cent say this is not the place for a proper cuppa.

- Tea service is more important to Canadians than the brand of tea that is served. Seventy-two per cent believe that using boiling water is important and 66 per cent like to have the tea bag served to them in a package.

New Data Confirms Continued Growth in Sales

The latest ACNielsen data shows that total sales of hot and iced tea in Canada are estimated at $267.3 million. Total tea bag sales rose to an estimated $153 million in 2000, up 7 per cent from 1999. Green tea is fueling growth, as sales hit $7.7 million up 88 per cent from 1999. Sales of ready-to-drink iced tea in cans were approximately $35.8 million, up 5 per cent and herbal tea sales were just over $28 million, up 13 per cent from 1999.

The Tea Council of Canada is a not-for-profit association of leading companies and producing countries including, Sri Lanka, Kenya, India, Malawi dedicated to the promotion of quality tea to Canadians. Visit the Web site at www.tea.ca and Take The Tea Challenge.


4. Viagra Users Search for Other Alternatives, New Survey Finds
MARBLEHEAD, Mass., May 23, PRNewswire -- A new survey of 230 users of an herbal alternative to Viagra finds that more than half of them (53%) have used Viagra. A significant majority of these Viagra users report that the herbal alternative improves their sexual performance and pleasure, whether they are "Viagra Refugees" or "Double Your Pleasure" users.

The survey was conducted and tabulated by an independent online survey firm and sponsored by Interceuticals Inc., the Marblehead, MA, based maker of BetterMAN, an herbal supplement that improves sexual functioning and decreases night-time urinary frequency in men. BetterMAN is a proprietary supplement formulated from a blend of 18 pure natural Chinese herbs and has been proven highly effective in treating erectile dysfunction in an animal study published last year in the Journal of Urology.

Of the 122 men who have used the Pfizer anti-impotency drug, 54% continue to use it while also taking BetterMAN (the "Double Your Pleasure" group). The most commonly cited reasons (by 40% of this group) for combining a pharmaceutical drug and an herbal product are that they are "experimenting" and to get "the best of the two products."

Some 46% of the Viagra users have become "Viagra Refugees" -- they have abandoned the pharmaceutical product in favor of the herbal product for a variety of reasons. The three most commonly mentioned reasons for discontinuing the usage are Viagra’s side effects (cited by 40% of the "refugees"), that it isn’t as effective as expected (cited by 38%), and the desire for an effective herbal alternative (cited by 37%).

Sizable majorities of both groups of Viagra users report improvement in their erections and spontaneity of sexual performance with BetterMAN: some 77% for the "Double Your Pleasure" group, and some 61% for the "Viagra Refugees."

For many of the Viagra users, BetterMAN isn’t their first use of an herbal alternative; 45% have previously tried other herbal supplements for sexual performance, versus only 28% of non-Viagra users.

Of the 108 respondents who have thus far not taken Viagra, the most cited reasons are that they prefer a natural approach (54%), they fear side effects (27%) and they are concerned about Viagra’s cost (20%).

The non-Viagra users are seeing a similar range of improvement from BetterMAN as the "Viagra Refugees" -- 61% report improvements in erections and spontaneity of sexual performance.

When asked how well BetterMAN did in addressing the specific sexual issues that drove them to use the herbal product, BetterMAN showed even more impressive results for all users. For example, 84% who took it to improve the spontaneity of their sexual performance found improvement, while 76% who took it to improve erections reported improvement.

According to Dr. Peipei Wishnow, an MIT-trained biochemist and founder and president of Interceuticals, "The most surprising result of this survey is that such a high percentage of BetterMAN users are Viagra users. This suggests that men are looking into an herbal supplement not only as an alternative, but also as a complementary approach, to get the best out of the two product categories -- Viagra for immediate satisfaction and BetterMAN for long-term improvement."

"The benefits users are obtaining from BetterMAN are not especially surprising, though, given the highly positive outcome of the independent animal study that was conducted on BetterMAN by a leading urologist." In the study carried out at the University of California, School of Medicine, San Francisco, and published in last November’s Journal of Urology, BetterMAN was found to reverse impotency in 100% of rats treated.

Other findings from the survey:

* Users are very discreet about using the herbal supplement, as nearly half (43%) aren’t telling their partners that they are using it.

* While the vast majority of BetterMAN users take it to improve sexual performance, a significant minority (20%) also use it to counter urination problems (decrease night-time bathroom trips and improve urinary control).

* More than 90% who are using it for urinary issues report improvement.

* The largest single segment of users (70%) is between the ages of 45 and 64, and two-thirds are married.

* The second-largest age group using BetterMAN (16%) are under 45.

* Respondents are also taking BetterMAN for improving their prostates; more than one-third (34%) cited a desire to improve prostate health, and three-fourths (76%) said they had seen improvement in this area.


5. Herbal Supplement Sales Down
May 14, Healthy.net -- Consumers bought fewer herbal supplements - such as St. John’s wort and echinicea -- last year than they did a few years ago, when sales experienced double-digit growth, a new nutrition industry sales analysis says.

Sales of herbal supplements grew only 1.5 percent in 2000, reports Nutrition Business Journal, a newsletter and market research firm based in San Diego that monitors supplement and vitamin sales.

Sales Sagged, But Still Significant

Their growth has slowed significantly since 1997, when sales rose 17 percent and from 1998, when they increased 12 percent.

Herbal supplement sales still are big business, though. Americans spent $4.13 billion on all herbal supplement sales in 2000, with $248 million on top-seller gingko biloba, a product that presumably improves memory.

They shelled out $210 million on echinacea, for its alleged immune boosting fighting ability; another $174 million on garlic, for its supposed infection-fighting properties; and $170 on St. John’s wort, the so-called natural antidepressant.

Evidence about the value of these products has been mixed.

Annette Dickinson, vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs of the Council for Responsible Nutrition, a supplement trade group, agrees with the findings of the survey. She says the industry is maturing and growth is slowing.

"No industry can expect double-digit sales to go on forever," Dickinson says. The vitamin industry, she says, only has a 3 percent to 4 percent growth rate.

Too High Expectations

Nutrition Business Journal research director Patrick Rea attributes falling sales to the lack of a blockbuster product bringing consumers to the retail outlets as they did when St. John’s wort hit the shelves in 1997 and 1998.

Manufacturers, he says, also have not done a good job educating the consumer about what to expect from these products. People believe the products will work quickly and give up when they don’t.

"People move on imperfect information," he says. "They hear news and don’t do enough research to understand how the products may work."

Companies need to educate consumers about how the different products may have their effects, Rea says. "Consumers expected a magic bullet," Dickinson agrees. "But the products don’t all work the same way."

Negative publicity about the products also has contributed to decreased sales.

Negative Publicity

Reports of products not having the active ingredients advertised on the label turned consumers off, says Dickinson. To regain confidence, manufacturers are moving to get their products certified by third parties, such as the U.S. Pharmocopeia, a nonprofit group that sets drug standards, and NSF International, a nonprofit group that develops health standards.

Finally, studies questioning the effectiveness of products also contribute to changing attitudes towards the supplements. A study in the April 17 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, for example, showed St. John’s wort does not seem to help depressed patients.


6. Use of Herbal Supplements Increased 350% in Three Years
OAKLAND, Calif., May 21, PRNewswire -- The use of herbal supplements and remedies like St. John’s Wort and gingko biloba more than tripled between 1996 and 1999, according to a study being presented this weekend at the International Scientific Conference on Complementary Alternative and Integrative Medicine Research in San Francisco.

Authors Nancy P. Gordon, ScD and Teresa Y. Lin, MPH examined data from two large health surveys conducted in 1996 and 1999 with adult members of Kaiser Permanente in Northern California. Included on these surveys were questions about use of various forms of complementary and alternative medicine

"In 1996, 3.6% of the adults we surveyed used herbal supplements or herbal remedies," says Dr. Gordon, of Kaiser Permanente’s Division of Research in Oakland, CA. "In 1999, 13.3% used herbal medicines. We saw the fastest-growing use of herbal supplements in women older than 65; in 1996, a little more than 1% used some form of ingested herbal medication; three years later, nearly 10% did. That’s an 800% increase."

Dr. Gordon noted that these statistics may actually underestimate use of herbal supplements or remedies. In the 1999 survey, they were able to compare estimates based on the herbal item in the list of complementary and alternative medicine modalities with estimates which also included information about how people answered a question about use of specific herbal supplements. They found that when members were asked about use of specific herbals such as ginkgo biloba, saw palmetto, echinacea, kava kava, glucosamine, and St. John’s Wort, the overall percentage of adults using herbals was more than double -- 31.3%. The percentage of older women using herbals nearly tripled to 28.5% using this additional information

Authors Gordon and Lin also saw a slight increase in the use of chiropractic therapy in the same time frame, from 8.5% in 1996 to 9.8% in 1999. The use of massage therapy went up, as well, from 7.5% in ‘96 to 10.7% in ‘99. However, when they restricted their analysis to people who had experienced severe back, neck, or shoulder pain, the rates of use of chiropractic and massage therapy increased from 18.4% to 21.5% and 14.6% to 19.4%, respectively.

"One of the most interesting things we saw," says author Nancy Gordon, "was that a significant proportion of adults are showing interest in individual prayer and spiritual practice, mostly to promote a general sense of well-being. That may be an important next area for our research -- the effect of incorporating ways to heal or strengthen one’s spirit in self-care and health improvement programs."

Kaiser Permanente has research centers in California, Oregon, Hawaii, Georgia, Colorado, Maryland, and Ohio. Results of research conducted by Kaiser Permanente physicians and investigators have been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the New England Journal of Medicine, the Permanente Journal, the American Journal of Public Health, Pediatrics, and other clinical journals.

Kaiser Permanente is America’s leading integrated health care program. Founded in 1945, it is a not-for-profit, multi-specialty, group-practice prepayment program with headquarters in Oakland, Calif. Kaiser Permanente serves the health care needs of 8.1 million members in 11 states and the District of Columbia. Today, it encompasses Kaiser Foundation Health Plan Inc., Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and their subsidiaries, and the Permanente Medical Groups.

Nationwide, Kaiser Permanente includes about 90,000 technical, administrative and clerical employees and about 11,000 physicians representing all specialties.


7. Ginseng Lowers Blood Sugar Levels in Patients with Diabetes
May 8, Hopeheart.org -- Researchers have found that American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) can help lower blood sugar levels in people both with and without type 2 diabetes. When taken about 40 minutes before a meal, both diabetics’ and non-diabetics’ blood sugar levels go down. When taken with a meal, blood sugar levels drop only for people with diabetes. Ginseng may lower blood sugar by slowing digestion, increasing sugar uptake in cells or by increasing insulin levels -- researchers aren’t sure of the exact mechanism. If you take ginseng -- for whatever reason -- be careful to watch for any hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) reactions.


8. New Study Says Green Tea Helps Stomach Disorders
WESTPORT, Conn., May 28, HealthScout -- Forget about Earl Grey and say no to orange pekoe. If you want your morning beverage to fight stomach disorders, a new study says the color of your cup of tea should be green.

The study of residents of a Chinese island is the first to link green tea to the rate of gastritis, a stomach inflammation that can lead to cancer.

American and Chinese experts studied how much green tea was consumed by 133 stomach cancer patients, 166 patients with colonic gastritis and 433 people with no stomach disease.

They found that people who drank one to three cups of green tea daily had a 30 percent lower rate of stomach cancer. Those who drank more than three cups had a 61 percent lower rate.

The findings are reported in the May International Journal of Cancer.


9. Herbal Medicines on Menopausal Symptoms Induced by Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone Agonist Therapy
May 29, Medscape -- Gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist (GnRHa) is applied clinically for estrogen-dependent diseases, such as endometriosis, adenomyosis, and leiomyoma, to induce lesion atrophy. This therapy causes a rapid decrease in estradiol levels and frequently induces menopausal symptoms. This study examines the therapeutic effects of Japanese herbal medicines on GnRHa-induced menopausal symptoms.

Twenty-two Japanese women were treated with GnRHa, and 17 of these women complained of menopausal symptoms, 16 complaining of hot flushes. Shoulder stiffness and headache were also common symptoms. Japanese herbal medicines are a mixture of several herbs and mainly consist of the roots of various plants, cinnamon bark, and peach kernel (the exact composition of each herbal medicine and its Chinese and product name are supplied in the article). Six Japanese herbal medicines were used and administered orally to 13 patients 3 times per day for 4 weeks. The herbal medicines are taken in amounts of 7.5 or 15 g/d.

Efficacy was shown in all 13 patients treated. All 11 patients with hot flushes found at least some relief, and 4 of the 11 reported a complete loss of symptoms. Three patients with severe shoulder stiffness were completely cured. Two participants reported skin eruptions as adverse effects, which disappeared completely with cessation of the herbal product.

There were no significant changes in serum estradiol levels in the women treated with Japanese herbal medicine for 4 weeks.

Clinical Commentary

Numerous articles reporting the benefits or drawbacks of alternative therapies appear in the literature, with conflicting results. This study examines a group of women in whom treatment of menopausal-type symptoms is a problem and reports that the patients found some relief with herbal treatments. The study design does not have a placebo arm, and the relief with the herbal treatments may well only be a placebo effect. Because most of the participants did not experience any adverse effects and, in fact, experienced some relief, this is one avenue of treatment that could be considered in women undergoing GnRHa therapy.

The pharmacologic mechanisms of Japanese herbal medicines remain unclear. It is speculated that these herbs contain certain steroid-like substances, although no effect on serum estradiol levels has been reported.

Japanese women undergoing GnRHa therapy in this study complain of shoulder stiffness as do Japanese women experiencing the menopausal transition. This complaint is not usually included in the menopausal symptom lists used by white populations. However, a high percentage of middle-aged women in these populations do complain of "aches and stiff joints," although these symptoms are not specifically related to the hormonal changes of the menopausal transition.[1]

Reference

1.Dennerstein L, Dudley EC, Hopper JL, Guthrie JR, Burger HG. A prospective population-based study of menopausal symptoms. Obstet Gynecol. 2000;96:351-358.

[Source, this report: Clinical and Experimental Obstetrics and Gynecology 2001 (Volume 28, Number 1). Original report: Tanaka T, Clin Exp Obstet Gynecol. 2001;28:20-23]


10. Prehistoric Ginkgo Finding Supports Global Warming Theory
By Lidia Wasowicz

May 16, United Press International -- Fossilized 300-million-year-old Ginkgo leaves have yielded fresh support for a modern-day view that global warming is tied to increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere -- information relevant to on-going treaty negoiations to curb CO2 emmissions and other activities that may contribute to global-warming.

The prehistoric geological data are in keeping with the notion that long-term temperatures go up and down with atmospheric CO2 levels, the scientists from the University of Oregon in Eugene, report in the May 17 issue of the British journal Nature.

The proposition that the emission of greenhouse gases such as CO2 from burning fossil fuels is fueling worldwide warming lies at the heart of the still-to-be-ratified Kyoto Protocol, aimed at curbing gases emitted by smokestacks and tailpipes from San Francisco to Sydney. While the ancient clues are too far removed in time to have direct bearing on the international dialogue, they do add to the growing body of evidence that points to carbon dioxide as at least one culprit in global warming, scientists said in interviews.

"We now have a reliable and detailed paleobarometer of atmospheric CO2 back into the geological past, one that can be improved by further sampling and laboratory studies," lead study author Gregory Retallack told United Press International. "The implications are that we need to worry about CO2 -- it warms the climate just as many have always warned."

In studying the remnants of trees alive at the time, Retallack and colleagues found the carbon dioxide-global climate tie has existed for at least the past 300 million years.

"The new data point to a long-term coupling between CO2 and temperature," said Wolfram Kurschner, paleobotanist at the University of Utrecht in The Netherlands, who analyzed the report in an accompanying News and Views article.

The scientists came to their conclusion by counting stomata-the pores that allow gases into and out of leaves-on the fossilized leaves of Ginkgo and related species of plants.

"Plants are known to adjust the density of stomates to levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. They don’t need so many when CO2 is common, but need more when it is rare," Retallack explained.

"We can see this from studies of leaves grown in greenhouses with different CO2 and also by looking at the general decline in stomatal density of leaves picked and preserved in herbaria as the CO2 levels have increased with the burning of fossil fuels over the past century." Ginkgo was particularly useful for the study because the roots of this living fossil can be traced back hundreds of millions of years, scientists said.

"The number of stomata on fossil Ginkgo leaf remains tells us how CO2 levels changed through time. We can follow Ginkgo’s past adaptation as long as this species and its close relatives first occur in the fossil record," Kurschner told UPI.

Analysis of polar ice cores and other clues can take the connection back 400,000 years or so, scientists said.

"But going further back in deep geological time, it gets much harder to uncover the history of these two important components of Earth’s climate system. Retallack’s study suggests that the long-term variation in atmospheric CO2 is larger than previous reconstructions have indicated," Kurschner said.

The study not only confirms the standard greenhouse model that couples CO2 and temperature but also shows the flaws in previous models that questioned this connection, Retallack said.

"Before my study the link between CO2 and climate was coming under attack for all time scales," he said. "The early Paleozoic climate changes -- 400 million-500 million years ago-are still difficult to understand, and my data do not help because they do not go back so far. However, it seems pretty likely that a system that worked for 300 million years also worked further back."

In terms of modern applications, the study indicates "the fundamental assumptions of the Kyoto accords are correct," he said. "We can and have changed the climate with CO2 emissions from fossil fuels." The Kyoto Protocol, worked out by 185 nations in Japan in 1997, was recently spurned by the United States and remains unratified. If approved, it would commit three dozen industrialized nations to reduce their combined greenhouse-gas releases by 2012 to at least 5 percent below what their emissions were in 1990.

The United States, with 4 percent of the world’s population, emits about 25 percent of the greenhouse gases, generated from burning coal, gasoline and oil in power plants, factories and vehicles.

According to the latest projections by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which comprises more than 2,000 climate scientists from throughout the world, global temperatures will rise by as much as 11 degrees by the end of this century, more than double the panel’s estimate in 1995. Such a scenario paints a devastating scene of melting polar ice caps and massive flooding.

The researchers plan to explore further the role that life has played in global climate. "Carbon dioxide is a product of respiration, and oxygen, of photosynthesis," Retallack said. "If the balance of these gases controls climate, then life may play a more significant role in climate regulation than hitherto appreciated."


11. China Ready to Launch Crop-breeding Experiments in Space
CHINA, May 9, ChinaOnline -- A total of 661 pounds of crops will soon take flight-a very long flight.

The Chinese government has approved a proposal to conduct crop-breeding experiments in space. Soon, the world’s first crop-breeding satellite will be launched from China, carrying 300 kilograms (661 pounds) of crops.

Among the more than 1,000 types of crops onboard will be grains, cotton, other oil-bearing crops, vegetables, herbs, flowers, fungi and medicines. The satellite will stay in orbit for 15 days, said an article in the May 3 Beijing Chenbao (Beijing Morning Post).

The Ministry of Agriculture, China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp., and the Chinese Academy of Sciences jointly submitted the proposal for the satellite, the article said.


12. Plant Hormones Form Basis of New Anti-Cancer Drugs
LONDON, May 24, Reuters -- A hormone used by plants to control their growth is being harnessed by British researchers to develop new targeted treatments for cancer, researchers said on Wednesday.

Plants need the hormone, called indole acetic acid (IAA), to bend shoots toward sunlight to help cuttings grow roots. Scientists at the Cancer Research Campaign (CRC), a leading scientific charity, are using fragments of IAA to kill cancer cells.

The hormone, which is produced by most plants, is harmless to humans. But, in early laboratory studies when scientists used bits of it and coupled them with an enzyme, it produced toxic by-products that destroyed cancerous tumors without harming healthy cells. "The fragmented molecule is only released in the tumor," Professor Peter Wardman told a news conference.

By targeting only the cancerous cells, synthetic drugs based on IAA, called prodrugs, would be highly effective in killing the cancerous cells and would not produce side effects such as hair loss and nausea as do conventional chemotherapy drugs.

"We’re really excited that a common or garden plant hormone could fulfill one of the ultimate aims of cancer research, by providing a drug that only attacks cancerous cells and leaves the rest of the body untouched," Wardman, a scientist at the Gray Cancer Institutes in southern England, explained.

In laboratory studies of cell cultures Wardman and his colleagues used an enzyme called peroxidase, which is derived from the horseradish plant, to trigger the release of the toxic by-products of IAA to destroy tumors.

Early results show that the treatment, which has been patented by the CRC, killed 99% of the cancerous cells and with different types of cancer. Scientists said tests will now have to be done on animals and humans.

"Nearly all of the cells are killed with a single treatment," said Wardman.

The scientists used the horseradish enzyme because it is cheap and well studied. It breaks up IAA into smaller chemicals which react with other molecules in the body to produce the toxins.

To direct the toxins only to the cancerous cells the scientists are using antibodies to tumor cells linked to the enzymes. Wardman said genetic techniques could also be used to direct the therapy to the cancerous cells.

The scientists are also working on developing prodrugs that can be activated by light, which Wardman said could be used during surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells after the tumor has been removed.

"It’s long been the ambition of cancer researchers to develop drugs that directly target the tumor, and thanks to these amazing plant hormones and a bit of nifty chemistry, we’re now a step closer to that ideal," said Professor Gordon McVie, the director general of the CRC.


13. Harvard Creates New Institute to Study Alternative Medicine
By Lisa Lipman

BOSTON, May 14, AP -- Harvard Medical School, acknowledging that patients are increasingly experimenting with holistic and other alternative treatments, is creating an institute for nontraditional medicine.

Harvard researchers will examine the effectiveness of such treatments as acupuncture, herbal therapies and massage, and look at how they work or interact with traditional medicine.

"You can’t practice medicine these days without knowing what patients are doing, and a tremendous amount of them are doing it," said Dr. Dan Federman, who helped start Harvard’s new program.

Harvard calls its program integrative medicine, for the combination of alternative and mainstream treatments. Americans made an estimated 600 million office visits to practitioners of integrative medicine and spent $30 billion on treatments, according to a recent Harvard study.

The school decided to start an integrative medicine program to learn more about how pharmaceutical drugs and herbal medicines interact with each other, and whether or not herbal medicines live up to their reputations.

The program, established with a $10 million gift from San Francisco philanthropist Bernard Osher and $2 million from the school, will work in conjunction with a similar one at the University of California at San Francisco.

The University of Arizona was one of the first schools to start an integrative medicine program. Founded in 1994, it now includes a month-long rotation for medical students that exposes them to nontraditional practices.

The University of Pennsylvania also has a program devoted to alternative medicines. Some other schools are incorporating naturopathic medicine, Chinese medicine and chiropractic techniques into curricula.

Dr. Monica Aggarwal of the New England Medical Center wasn’t taught about nontraditional medicine in medical school. She said she regularly sees patients who are taking some sort of herbal concoction to ease their ailments.

"I think a lot of it is hodgepodge medicine," she said. "They are taking all these medications, and they have no idea what they are and if they are causing these problems. And we don’t know what’s in whatever they’ve taken."

That kind of miscommunication has prevented Nikki Davis from choosing a new doctor. She used to talk to her doctor about herbs and other holistic treatments, but when he died, she says she couldn’t find another doctor as open-minded.

"I miss him so much, because he was really wise," said Davis, a 38-year-old counselor in Newton who advises her own clients about holistic treatments. "But it’s really hard to find someone like that. ... I prefer a doctor who speaks both languages. That’s always the best."


14. Black Cohosh Safe and Effective for Menopausal Breast Cancer Patients
PITTSBURGH, May 14, PRNewswire -- A study released today by Columbia University provides important information on the safety and efficacy of the herbal supplement black cohosh in treating menopausal symptoms in breast cancer patients, for whom hormone replacement therapy is contraindicated. This study found that taking black cohosh for two months had no effect on the level of hormones that may increase risk of recurrent cancer.

"Safety information about alternative methods to relieve menopausal symptoms is important," said Judith S. Jacobson, DrPH, MBA, assistant professor of clinical public health at Columbia University’s Joseph L. Mailman School of Public Health and lead author of the study. "We chose a particular preparation of black cohosh for the study because it has been extensively studied. The study demonstrates the value of standard clinical trials assessing this and other herbal agents."

In the study, both those taking black cohosh (RemiFemin(R) Menopause) and those in the placebo group achieved a 27% decrease in hot flashes. The black cohosh group reported significantly greater improvement than the placebo group in sweating, a common and often debilitating symptom of menopause. According to Mary Hardy, MD, an authority on women’s health with Cedars-Sinai Integrative Medical Group in Los Angeles, "The hot flashes in women being treated for breast cancer may require a management strategy analogous to salvage therapy, where any relief is highly valuable."

Previous placebo-controlled and open clinical monitoring trials with RemiFemin in healthy women, as well as worldwide use over 40 years, have shown a 70% reduction in hot flashes and other symptoms in the majority of women after 12 weeks. Based on the divergence between previous findings on effectiveness in healthy women and the results of this study, additional research is necessary. The following study conditions may help explain the differences:

-- Patients: The study included 85 breast cancer survivors (with 42 assigned to treatment with black cohosh). Fully a third were not in the normal age range for natural menopause symptoms.

-- Influence of Tamoxifen: The majority of patients in the study were taking tamoxifen, the drug most widely prescribed for breast cancer patients. A frequent side effect of tamoxifen is menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes and excessive sweating. Many experts theorize that drug-induced and natural hot flashes differ in nature and severity.

-- Duration: The study duration was only two months. Since labeling indicates RemiFemin works to fully relieve symptoms in up to 12 weeks, a full result might not be expected in this eight-week study. In addition, placebo effects -- which often factor into pharmaceutical and herbal trials -- typically, wear off with time. A longer study may have picked up a difference between active and placebo groups.

-- Dosing: The dose studied may not be sufficient for breast cancer patients taking tamoxifen. Studies are currently underway evaluating different doses, including a study at Columbia University’s Rosenthal Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

"This study confirms that RemiFemin is a safe alternative for women who cannot or choose not to take estrogen. Black cohosh caused no changes in female reproductive hormone levels," said Susan Love, MD, adjunct professor of surgery at University of California, Los Angeles and author of Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book. "Further research will help clarify its efficacy in breast cancer patients and survivors."

An unprecedented number of American women are or will be entering menopause. There is growing interest in alternative therapies among women, including breast cancer survivors, to treat the disruptive symptoms associated with menopause naturally.

"Choices to relieve the distressing physical and emotional symptoms of menopause are critical," added Dr. Hardy. "These study findings should be evaluated in the context of the totality of evidence on black cohosh and inform future research to help all women make informed choices."

RemiFemin Menopause(R), a uniquely formulated black cohosh supplement, is distributed in the U.S. by GlaxoSmithKline to reduce menopausal symptoms -- including hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, irritability and related occasional sleeplessness. The product was developed and is marketed internationally by Schaper and Bruemmer GmbH & Co. KG, of Germany. GlaxoSmithKline -- one of the world’s leading research-based pharmaceutical and healthcare companies -- is committed to improving the quality of human life by enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer.

[Source: Sensei Health]


15. Danger Seen in Rising Herb Use
WESTPORT, Conn., May 25, HealthScoutNews -- More people are using herbal supplements and remedies, a new study says. And that has one researcher worried folks aren’t treating the little pills with enough respect. "People don’t think of taking supplements as treating health problems. They consider them like vitamins, not as preventive or treatments," says study leader Nancy P. Gordon, an investigator with Kaiser Permanente’s division of research in Oakland, Calif.

They also don’t tell their doctors what they’re taking, and doctors don’t ask the right questions about supplement use to ensure proper medical care, she says

Gordon and her team examined data from health surveys in 1996 and 1999, each involving about 16,000 adult members of Kaiser Permanente in northern California. Participants were asked to answer eight pages of questions, including what homeopathic medicines, megavitamins and herbal medicines they took.

The percentage of people reporting using herbal supplements or remedies jumped from 3.6 percent in 1996 to 13.3 percent in 1999.

The 1999 survey also included questions about specific herbal supplements, including gingko biloba, saw palmetto, echinacea, kava, glucosamine and St. John’s wort.

Gordon says those supplements may have contributed to the big surge in use reported in 1999 because many people surveyed in 1996 may not have known what constitutes an herbal supplement. She says asking about specific supplements may account for why, for example, the percentage of women over age 65 who reported using supplements rose from 10 percent to nearly 30 percent in the three-year period.

"The take-home message is when clinicians do a medication history, they should give examples, not just ask ‘are you using any herbal remedies?’" Gordon says. And, they should alert patients to possible interactions between supplements and prescription or over-the-counter medications, she says.

"A big problem with supplements is the doses can be different" because the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t make any dosage recommendations. And, "in stores, people don’t have anyone to ask who’s knowledgeable" about their medical histories, Gordon says.

"For example, gingko can cause bleeding, and for those taking blood thinners, there can be potentially bad consequences. People really need to alert their doctors" about the supplements they take, she says.

"Anytime any person, whether a lay person or professional, is going to self-medicate with herbs, vitamins or supplements, they definitely need to inform their main health-care practitioner of what they’re taking," says Mindy Green, director of education for the Herb Research Foundation of Boulder, Colo.

People also need "to learn how to read the labels, to be clear on what they’re taking and the reasons why," and make sure they share that information with their doctors, Green says.

The study was presented at the recent Complementary and Alternative Medicine conference in San Francisco.


16. Amazonian Shamans Set Up a Code of Ethics to Fight Shams
By Alan Boyle

May 18, MSNBC -- For the first time, Amazonian medicine men have drawn up a code of ethics and established a union to police themselves, complete with membership cards. The union of Colombian shamans is trying to weed out people who are exploiting traditional ways for big profits and cheap thrills.

The shamans who prefer to be called "indigenous doctors" stand at the gates of what could be a biomedical bonanza, as pharmaceutical companies engage in bioprospecting to seek out new cures for maladies ranging from diarrhea to cancer.

At the same time, the Amazon has become a destination for outsiders looking for a taste of the mystical yage (pronounced YA-hay), a hallucinogenic brew used in the shamans’ healing ceremonies. Travel agencies tout yage tours over the Internet, and some entrepreneurs sell bulk quantities of the ayahuasca plant, the "vision vine" from which yage is made.

The tug of war over the Amazon’s biological riches has sparked legal battles as well as million-dollar deals with outsiders. But the 50 shamans who established the Union of Yage Healers have taken a different approach, trying to get their own house in order first.

"This big black box that so many people have profited from and so many people have written about as whites ... they don’t want that anymore," Liliana Madrigal, chief operating officer for the Virginia-based Amazon Conservation Team, told MSNBC.com.

The team’s president, ethnobotanist Mark Plotkin, emphasized that he and other outsiders simply helped guide the shamans as they went through the long process of creating a code of ethics.

"You can say it’s about 15,000 years in the making, you can say that it’s taken a year and a half," he said.

Shamans from throughout Colombia gathered to begin the process of creating a code of ethics in June 1999 in Yurayaco, near a rock that they consider a powerful place of power.

Learning the Code

In a way, the Union of Yage Healers would function like an American Medical Association for scores of shamans from seven tribes across an area the size of New England. The union’s code of ethics, which was formally presented to the Colombian government last month, lays out acceptable and unacceptable practices for shamans -- as well as the beginnings of a system for designating who is a healer, who is an apprentice and "who fails to meet the requirements of this recognition."

But the code also makes it clear that the shamans don’t want to become white-coated clones of Western physicians.

"We do not seek to use the language of modern medicine," the code declares. "We are still far from embracing the concepts underlying words such as ‘medicine,’ ‘health,’ ‘disease’ and ‘patient,’ which do not always have direct equivalents in our own languages."

Live Map: Gathering of Shamans

Madrigal said three elders -- ages 104, 90 and 87 -- head the union, with five younger shamans serving as an operating committee. An elder had to visit each of the prospective members of the union, she said.

"They both had to drink yage to figure out who was a real shaman and who was not. ... They smell ‘em, they just know. They have a special sense for Identifying these people," she explained.

Madrigal said the union would issue identification cards to its members, but probably not take any action against practitioners who were deemed unfit for membership.

The code declares that shamans should not demand a fee from people in their communities for their healing services, but may charge for the cost of procuring their medicinal plants. "For non-indigenous people, we will establish rates befitting the problem," the code states.

It also bans the consumption of alcoholic beverages during healing ceremonies, as well as the sale of yage or medicinal plants to outsiders.

Madrigal said the code is aimed not only at unscrupulous outsiders, but also at fallen-away apprentices who are trying to make a profit through their familiarity with yage culture. The shamans fear that such people could irrevocably pervert the traditional ways -- and even bring about a governmental crackdown on the use of yage.

"The union represents much more than a code of ethics," she said. "It represents a union to save themselves."

Vision of the Future

Plotkin said his team has encouraged the shamans to set down a record of their practices -- but in their indigenous languages rather than Spanish or English, to make it harder for outsiders to steal their intellectual property. The shamans are also working with Western-style physicians to teach classes at medical schools and set up joint clinics in Colombian villages, he said.

Madrigal said "the whole idea is to begin to incorporate shamanic medicine into academic circles instead of this bizarre, new-age, hippie stuff."

"They hate that," she said. "They have zero tolerance for that."

Plotkin and Madrigal say shamans in Ecuador and Brazil have heard about the efforts in Colombia and might adapt the idea to their own cultures.

Charles Grob, a professor of clinical psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, has studied Brazil’s yage culture and says the Union of Yage Healers sounds like a good idea.

"If this is a group that has a long tradition of using yage, I would say it’s positive that they’re speaking up and expressing what they feel to be appropriate standards for its use," he told MSNBC.com.

"That would minimize the risks and put the attention back on the native practitioners, where it should be."

Dennis McKenna, who specializes in the study of psychedelic drugs as director of ethnopharmacology for the Heffter Research Institute, also voiced his support for the idea of indigenous groups controlling their own shamanic heritage.

Their knowledge is basically being ripped off by the First World, the pharmaceutical companies," he said.

But he said associations such as the Union of Yage Healers could raise new dilemmas for indigenous cultures.

"Every time you try to introduce those institutional types of structures, it’s a form of control, and control tends to exclude groups that may be legitimate but aren’t part of the inner circle," he said. "All of these things are fraught with difficulties. What qualifies you for membership? How do you be inclusive while maintaining your standards?"


17. WIPO Pledges to Protect Traditional Knowledge of Poor Countries
BRUSSELS, May 16, Inter Press Service -- The world’s Least Developed Countries (LDCs) will no longer have to sit back as their traditional knowledge, folklore and genetic resources are exploited by powerful global conglomerates, says the deputy head of the Geneva-based World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Roberto Castelo.

Castelo pledged yesterday on behalf of the WIPO, a member of the U.N. system, to assist the LDCs in protecting their natural wealth.

"This is part of our contribution to eradication of poverty," Castelo told the Third U.N. Conference on LDCs (LDCIII) being held in Brussels May 14-20.

The conference, which is being hosted by the European Union, has attracted representatives of more than 120 governments.

Addressing the opening session on May 14, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said, "We are here to consider what kind of support" would be most useful to the people of the world’s 49 LDCs "and to make sure that they get it."

WIPO’s pledge assumes significance against the backdrop that traditional knowledge has provided the basis for much of modern medicine and centuries of herbalist knowledge accumulated in the early writings of travellers, clerics and historians.

"The traditional knowledge of indigenous and local communities has significant economic value in areas such as biotechnology -- including medicine and agriculture -- entertainment and education," Castelo said in an interview with IPS.

It also provides a basis for the protection and conservation of biological diversity and the sharing of its benefits, he said.

The basis of WIPO’s aid to LDCs was laid out in the Lisbon Declaration, adopted last February, following regional seminars and a high-level inter-regional round table conference for the LDCs to deliberate on the theme of Innovation, Knowledge Society.

Explaining the rationale behind the move, Castelo said, the development of human resources had become a vital strategic component in the effort to modernize and use the intellectual property (IP) system effectively for economic, social and cultural development in the LDCs.

"Given the enormous structural problems they face in institution-building in the field of intellectual property, the LDCs require a special program with the vision and resources to bring about a quantum leap in the state of their intellectual property systems," he added.

WIPO is assisting LDCs through its Worldwide Academy, which has worked out specially tailored programs in acquiring the specialized knowledge and skills with which to take advantage of the intellectual property system.

The Academy plays a central role in providing teaching, training, as well as advisory and research services in intellectual property. It creates a forum for policy and decision-makers in the LDCs to debate the importance and implications of IP in the economic and social development of their countries.

WIPO also has launched a global information network, known as WIPONet, which would benefit all member states of the organization, including the LDCs. Through the network, WIPO will provide the LDCs with office automation software including electronic data exchange services.

Explaining another aspect of the WIPO program, Castelo said that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the LDCs were often the driving force behind invention and innovation activities.

Their innovative and creative capacity was not always fully exploited, however, because many SMEs in the LDCs are not sufficiently informed, or are hesitant to seek protection for their inventions, brands and designs, and fail to take full advantage of the IP system.

"If left unprotected, a good invention or creation may be lost to larger competitors, which are better equipped to market the product or service at a more affordable price, leaving the original inventor or creator without any financial reward," argued Castelo.

Adequate protection of a company’s IP is therefore a factor in deterring potential infringements and in transforming ideas into business assets with a real market value.

WIPO’s activities for the benefit of SME’s in the LDCs will be guided by the need to look at the practical concerns and challenges faced by the SMEs.

Trademarks, industrial designs and geographical indications will be portrayed as tools with which to enhance an enterprise’s marketing strategy, including the need to market access, market segmentation and product differentiation.


18. Jury Awards $2 Million in Malpractice Case Involving St. John’s Wort
By David S. Rubsamen

SECAUCUS, N.J., April 15, Physicians Financial News -- Physicians should know what their patients are taking with regard to over-the-counter drugs, especially herbal medicines. This case is a warning in general about drug interactions when the patient is taking over-the-counter medications without the physician’s knowledge, and specifically, it requires a careful look at St. John’s wort.

The case at hand (resolved with a $2 million jury verdict several months ago) raised a substantial question of whether an interaction between Demerol and St. John’s wort produced a cardiorespiratory arrest which proved fatal. This was the defense theory, but the jury did not buy it. They accepted the plaintiff’s argument that the real cause of the patient’s death was excessive doses of Marcaine and lidocaine.

Nevertheless, the defense position was articulated by highly qualified physicians who were unambiguous in condemning the St. John’s wort/Demerol combination.

The patient was a 25-year-old hairdresser, who was married and had a small child. She was 5’6" tall and weighed 125 pounds. She visited the defendant board-certified plastic surgeon, requesting breast augmentation and abdominal liposuction. This was carried out on Feb. 26, 1998 at the defendant surgicenter.

The doctor was unaware the patient had been taking St. John’s wort. A nurse anesthetist supervised the patient’s monitoring and sedation during surgery. The surgeon administered 200 mg of Marcaine for the breast procedure and lidocaine for the liposuction.

The operation went smoothly, and the sedated patient was taken to the post-anesthesia recovery room (PAR), where she was supervised by an experienced recovery-room nurse. Was she monitored with pulse oximetry?

The nurse said that an oximeter was attached, but there was no mention in her record of oxygen saturations. It was the plaintiff’s contention that no pulse oximetry was used. An EKG monitor was at the bedside, but this was not employed.

About 35 minutes after she arrived in the PAR, the patient complained of pain. The nurse-anesthetist was called and she administered 10 mg of Demerol intravenously. She then left the room. The recovery room nurse gave the patient another 10 mg of Demerol IV several minutes later.

It is uncertain exactly when the cardiorespiratory arrest occurred, but it was recognized after an uncertain delay, shortly following the second dose of Demerol and about 45 minutes after the patient had arrived in the PAR. The nurse-anesthetist was summoned and resuscitation efforts were begun. Paramedics were called as well. There was considerable difficulty with re-starting the heart, but a normal sinus rhythm eventually was obtained with defibrillation.

The patient was then hospitalized. She did not recover consciousness and was incapable of breathing on her own. She was alive on support for 12 days and then she died.

The nurse-anesthetist had an individual malpractice insurance policy. Her risk of liability depended on her alleged inadequacy in her resuscitation protocol, plus her failure to initiate adequate monitoring. Her insurance carrier paid $200,000.

Thus, the only defendants at trial were the plastic surgeon and the surgicenter. The latter’s liability was vicarious, depending on the employment relationship between the recovery room nurse and the surgicenter.

At trial, it was the plaintiff’s position that a 200 mg dose of Marcaine was excessive for a slender woman of only 125 pounds. The plaintiff’s expert contended that the addition of lidocaine contributed to the toxicity. What about monitoring in the PAR?

This was a particularly strong point for the plaintiff. The plaintiff’s expert witness was emphatic that the sedated patient, following local anesthetic, must be monitored with pulse oximetry.

The recovery room nurse’s failure to record any oxygen saturations supported the assumption that pulse oximetry was not used. She also did not record the patient’s respiratory rate or her pulse rate. The defense conceded that although an EKG machine was next to the patient, it was not attached. Thus it appears that the patient was being neglected during the crucial 45 minutes after she arrived in the PAR, and there may have been a significant delay in recognizing the cardiorespiratory arrest.

The defense had only a single argument: The patient’s St. John’s wort, which her doctor did not know about, caused an idiosyncratic reaction with the Demerol she received and thus precipitated an untreatable cardiorespiratory arrest, even though it was recognized in a timely manner. There are cases in the medical literature describing fatal interactions between Demerol and MAO inhibitors, but is St. John’s wort actually an MAO inhibitor?

This was a hotly contested issue at trial. Highly qualified experts testified for each side on the question. The literature is conflicting. Anesthesiologists with whom I discussed this case said that they would treat St. John’s wort as a possible MAO inhibitor and withhold Demerol in this circumstance.

In fact, no one could identify with absolute certainty the cause of the cardiorespiratory arrest. But the plaintiff had an excellent argument: Regardless of the cause of the cardiopulmonary arrest, prompt recognition with competent resuscitation efforts would have saved the patient’s life and restored her to health without significant cognitive or motor deficits.

Long Road to Verdict

The case took three months to try, an unusually long time. Then the jury was out 12 days before awarding a $2 million verdict in favor of the decedent’s husband and their four-year-old daughter. Liability was divided evenly between the plastic surgeon and the surgicenter.

In addition to the warning this case presents about knowing a patient’s over-the-counter medications, there are two other important messages. The first concerns monitoring.

A plaintiff’s attorney will not have any difficulty in finding competent expert testimony that pulse oximetry is the standard of care for the sort of patient described in this case. Particularly where the patient is a good anesthesia risk, a cardiorespiratory arrest during surgery or in the PAR usually fixes the liability of the anesthesiologist, hospital and/or surgeon. The argument that "if only there had been prompt recognition of the disaster, the outcome would have been better" is enormously appealing to a jury.

Second, it should be recognized that there may be problems associated with the use of Marcaine. It must be administered cautiously, with special attention to dosage.

[Volume 19, Number 5, Physicians Financial News. Dr. David Rubsamen, M.D., LL.B., is editor of Professional Liability Newsletter and the author of two books on malpractice. He serves as an editorial adviser to Physicians Financial News.]


19. Echinacea Farmer Wins $50,000 in Lawsuit
By Dave Olson

MOORHEAD, Minn., May 19, The Forum -- A Clay County District Court jury has told county commissioner Casey Brantner to pay $50,000 for interfering with a neighbor’s property.

According to information contained in court documents, Brantner filed a civil action last year against Lee and Arlene Garner, who live near Hawley, Minn., seeking to secure ownership of a 6.5-acre area of land.

Brantner, who had purchased property adjacent to the 6.5-acre parcel about two years ago, based his claim to the disputed land on the argument that the person he bought his property from had acquired rights to the property through "adverse possession," which allows someone to claim property if they openly use and maintain it without challenge for 15 years.

According to court documents, Brantner enrolled the property in the Conservation Reserve Program.

The Garners counter sued, claiming Brantner interfered with their right to use the land to plant echinacea, a valuable plant popular for its reputed health benefits.

In a pretrial memorandum, the Garners’ attorney, Paul Sortland, stated that Brantner misused his authority as a county commissioner when he threatened the Garners with arrest if they proceeded to plant echinacea on the land in question.

The memorandum said Brantner ignored information from the Garners that the land had been surveyed and shown to belong to them.

The memorandum said Brantner seeded the property and prevented the Garners from cultivating echinacea for two years.

Sortland’s memorandum estimated the two-year delay cost the Garners $120,000 in lost revenue from seeds, $160,000 in lost revenue from root production and $24,000 in lost revenue from leaf and stem production.

In a pretrial ruling, Judge Galan Vaa limited actual damages to the reasonable rental value of the property approximately $819 ruling the damage estimates presented by Sortland were too speculative to present to a jury.

After a three-day trial, the jury returned with a verdict late Thursday in favor of the Garners, awarding them $50,000 in punitive damages and finding that Brantner acted with deliberate disregard for their rights.

Brantner declined to comment extensively on the verdict Friday, stating, "To me, it’s just a case of Robin Hood. It’s going to be appealed, of course."

Sortland said that during trial Brantner’s case rested on the assertion that he acted in good faith and had relied on advice of legal counsel to do what he did.

Sortland said he attempted to show the jury that Brantner did not disclose all of the facts to his attorney.

"The jury has definitely spoken," Sortland said. "I think it’s a clear message, particularly to Mr. Brantner, but also to anybody else like him who might try to use their positions of influence to bully other people, that you can’t do that. That’s what we asked the jury to do, to send a message, and I think it’s a significant message that they sent."

Lee Garner said Friday that he purchased the 6.5 acres in 1996 and extensively researched how to cultivate echinacea, which requires special equipment to plant.

Garner said he hopes to eventually have a successful harvest and he has planted another crop this spring. But he said he worries about what may happen to it.

"I don’t believe this guy has quit," Garner said, referring to Brantner.


20. Ghana Warns Unregistered Herbalists to Stay Away from Health Product Fair
By Fred Abrokwa

ACCRA, May 5, Accra Mail -- Nana Ofei Agyentutu ll, Deputy Director of Herbal Medicine at the Ministry of Health has cautioned herbal medical practitioners whose products are not certified by the Food and Drugs Board (FDB) to keep away from the upcoming International Medical and Pharmaceutical Fair (Medicare) that will be held in September this year.

He was responding to questions on the prospects of exhibiting herbal medicine during the Fair. The joint fair that will include Ghana Sports Exhibition (Sportex) was launched in Accra.

Nana Agyentutu explained that only herbalists whose products have gone through testing and approved by the FDB would be allowed to participate in the exhibition. This means that uncertified herbal products will miss the unique opportunity.

These revelation has come in the wake of public concern about the proliferation of quack herbalists and fake drugs on the market, with some allegedly curing all kinds of illness without any scientific proof.

Acknowledging the potency of some of the herbal medicines being produced in the country, he assured practitioners that the Ministry of Health was committed to developing and promoting herbal medicine to achieve its set goals.

Mr. T.C Corquaye, Executive Director of FDB, also admitted that some herbal medicines were effective in the cure of certain ailments and advised practitioners to submit samples of their products for a scientific proof of their claims before they could be authorised to sell them to the public.

Touching on the procedure for registering pharmaceutical companies in other countries, he noted that Ghana and Nigeria held a meeting to deliberate on how to review the system to open the market for other competitors.

Mr. Corquaye said that the current method has not helped Africa since in the face of its vast potential for medicine it account for only 5% of the volume of trade in pharmaceuticals throughout the world which was not good for the continent.

Mr. Haris Osafo-Acquah, Deputy Managing Director of Phyto-Riker Pharmaceuticals Limited, whose company operates in 16 countries on the continent, said apart from the procedures required pharmaceutical companies must also conform to current good manufacturing practices.

He explained that the pharmaceutical regulatory authorities send inspectors to their factory to ascertain the manufacturing site and the process by which their company manufacture their products.


21. China Cracks Down on Fake Doctors, Medicines
By Geoffrey Murray

BEIJING, May 18, Kyodo -- China’s medical profession and pharmaceutical industry have failed to get a clean bill of health from the government.

In fact, health authorities say a strong dose of administrative medicine is needed to clean up a mess typified by illegal medical practices and counterfeit goods.

A nationwide health-inspection campaign against counterfeiting started in early March but "more needs to be done, because the practice of making, selling and using fake goods is still rampant," Health Minister Zhang Wenkang said.

He made the remarks during a conference on the campaign.

Since March, officials seized nearly 2,500 tons of fake or inferior food, cosmetics and disposable medical devices worth more than 40 million yuan ($4.8 million). And about 1,400 illegal producers and nearly 40,000 illegal medical clinics have been closed.

As China becomes more affluent more attention is being paid to health and general well-being.

In Chairman Mao Zedong’s day, even a hint of lipstick or rouge would bring condemnation for loose morals; now, cosmetics is one of the fastest growing industries, with television flooded with programs and advertisements on the art of good grooming.

In addition, there is a boom in medicines claiming amazing powers in weight reduction, healthier living and life extension.

Despite a decision to commercialize health care by, for example, opening up military and other previously restricted hospitals to the general public, demand still far outstrips supply and those wishing to see a doctor know they face many, many hours of waiting.

Private clinics are multiplying rapidly, but many of them without properly qualified staff or the right license to operate. To many members of the public, however, the desperation to see a doctor overrides any concern about quality of treatment.

Cut-price medicines available on the market also prove attractive to those on a budget, even though the chances are high the products are either fake or have been discarded by the legitimate medical sector as beyond their use-by date.

The government has sought to counter this with a scare campaign through the print and broadcast media. Stories regularly appear of, for example, young women who have been scarred for life after using fake cosmetics containing unsuitable ingredients.

Zhang urged all health authorities to work with other supervision departments to rid China of fake food, medicine, medical devices, illegal medical practices and illegal collection of blood.

Illegal clinics and medical practitioners without official licenses were strictly forbidden to continue their business, and those involved would face heavy jail sentences, the minister warned.

At the same time, disposable medical devices, including syringes and blood devices, will be carefully inspected, he promised.

The latest official survey indicated only 85% of disposable medical devices produced by licensed manufacturers meet standards.

Zhang also pledged the ministry would continue its efforts to fight against overstated advertisements for health foods, which have angered the public in recent years.

According to an official survey, about 40% of surveyed health foods in Beijing have exaggerated their efficacy in advertisements.

In another crackdown, the Health Ministry issued a notice banning medical diagnosis and treatment via the Internet.

Web sites licensed to carry medical information can only offer consultations to would-be patients, according to the notice, "Management Methods for Internet Medical Information Service."

The notice also said only licensed medical institutions could offer consultation via the Net.

The ministry also requires medical information Web sites to get approval from health departments when applying for business licenses.

Most Web sites, in fact, have not developed to the point where they can offer diagnoses or treatment, but the government is worried that the explosive growth of Internet use will encourage unscrupulous businesses to try to profit from the interest in all things medical.

One service that stays within the law is 999.com.cn, a two-year-old Web site sponsored by the Guangzhou-based 999 Pharmaceutical Group. A spokeswoman said it did not provide online medical diagnoses but offered medical information and consultation, only with the help of hospitals. Ultimately, the aim was to ensure would-be patients were steered toward the right doctor, she said.

The government also sees the need to more closely monitor the development of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), now enjoying a strong revival as many Chinese become more aware of the possible side effects of Western-style medicine.

TCM draws on thousands of years of experience in the medicinal qualities of a huge range of natural herbs, vegetables and grains, as well as certain animal products.

But abuse has occurred because many of the effects of TCM are still not well understood and there is still an element of "magic" involved in many cures still popular in rural areas. The government, however, is keen to place TCM on a more scientific and licensed basis, partly to make TCM more acceptable overseas and boost exports.

Hui Yongzheng, vice minister of the Ministry of Science and Technology, said China’s pharmaceutical enterprises should make the best use of the country’s abundant TCM resources by turning to high technologies and modern management.

He also noted few TCM compounds have been recognized by the health care insurance systems in developed countries, partly because of skepticism about medical claims made, but also on quality concerns.


22. China Revamps Traditional Medicine to Meet Global Standards
CHINA, May 28, Peopledaily.com -- China is putting an emphasis on global standards in the production of herbal medicine and strengthening technological innovations.

The nation’s largest conglomerate of traditional Chinese medicine businesses, the China Medicinal Materials Group was set up on Sunday, indicating a shakeup in the industrial landscape.

The group, formed by a number of leading Chinese manufacturers, distributors and innovators of traditional Chinese medicine, shows the country’s ambition to have an industrial giant competing on the world stage, Monday’s China Daily reported.

Ren Dequan, deputy director of the State Drug Administration, said that China will iron out stiffer regulations this year to bring the industry up to global standards.

The fact that its products aren’t up to these standards is one of the key problems for Chinese drug firms to enter the global market.

China recently revised its law on drug administration, the latest but boldest effort ever to tighten the grip on medicine production and supervision.

The updated law strengthens supervision and keeps a closer eye on the whole process of manufacturing drugs as well as monitoring their quality, underscoring China’s bid to ensure production goes by global rules.

At the same time, Chinese government is strengthening its financial support of technological innovation in the traditional Chinese medicine sector. This has become one of the key issues on the agenda for China’s high-tech innovation plan over the next five years, according to the newspaper.

Cash will be poured into planting the raw materials needed for traditional Chinese medicine, upgrading facilities to produce them, officials said.


23. Centuries-Old Firm Adapts Traditional Chinese Medicines
SHANGHAI, May 21, AsiaPort -- Combining ancient secret recipes with high-tech and modern business management, the 330-year-old Tongrentang, China’s leading producer of traditional Chinese medicine, aims to become a global natural drug giant in the 21st century.

The company, an erstwhile royal drug firm, plans to increase its total sales value to 10 billion yuan (US$1.2 billion) within 10 years and become a multinational pharmaceutical producer, Xinhua news agency quoted Mei Qun, general manager of the China Beijing Tongrentang Group, as saying on Monday.

He made the announcement at a forum on traditional Chinese medicine, which is part of the ongoing Beijing International High-Tech Industries Week.

"We are doing new research on the ancient recipes and developing new products to cater to the world market," said Li Zhimeng, chief engineer of Tongrentang.

The large pills, bitter decoctions of herbal medicines and other traditional Chinese medicines, are being replaced by new products such as capsules, tablets and oral liquids, said Li.

The firm plans to develop more patent medicines and injections for the treatment of cancer, hepatitis and diabetes in the future, according to Li.

He attributes Tongrentang’s long-lasting prosperity to its emphasis on quality. However, lack of standard inspection methods for drugs is a major factor restricting traditional Chinese medicine from entering international markets, Xinhua reported.

Researchers at Tongrentang introduced chromatographic analysis technology to map out components of best quality medicines. Production of medicines must be in accordance with these maps.

"Each medicine has a map which is as unique as a human fingerprint. So far, this technology is the best way of standardizing the quality of traditional Chinese medicine," said Li.

Molecular biotechnology will be used to discover effective components in mineral-based medicines, and to remove heavy metal components from traditional medicines, he said.

In order to protect endangered animals and plants, Tongrentang is looking for substitutes for musk, rhinoceros horn, tiger bone and liquorice, which have been used in traditional Chinese medicines. On the other hand, the firm will invest heavily in setting up herb plant centers.

"We will establish 100 chain stores all over China within three years to compete with international pharmaceutical companies," said Mei Qun.

Ranking first among the 50 largest traditional Chinese medicine producers, Tongrentang currently roduces more than 800 varieties of medicines, and its total sales value last year exceeded 2.5 billion yuan.

The firm’s export value last year increased nearly one quarter compared with the previous year.

On the basis of the enlarging market in Southeast Asia, the company will strengthen development in he markets of Europe and the United States.


24. China Urged to Modernize Traditional Medicine
BEIJING, May 16, AsiaPort -- Some 600 experts from China, France, Germany, Canada and other countries and regions on May 12 gathered in Beijing to attend an international seminar on traditional Chinese medicine and natural material medicine.

The sponsor, the organizing committee of the ongoing Beijing High-Tech International Week, wished the experts would focus on the theme of how to hasten the modernization of traditional Chinese medicine.

Yao Xinsheng, an academician with the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said at the seminar that the new century is likely to become a "century for the use of traditional Chinese medicine." "The new century will be characterized as an aged society, and traditional Chinese medicine is especially suitable for the aged," Yao said.

Experts attending the seminar advised China to adopt more advanced western medicine methods and equipment, to enhance the protection of natural medicine herbs and to encourage the booming of the traditional medicine industry.

They also agreed that China’s entrance to WTO will provide an opportunity for China to modernize its traditional medicine sector.

China now produces some 4,000 traditional medicine products, but these medicine products hold only 3 percent of the world medicine market.


25. Chinese Scientists Find Magic Drug Against Senility
HANGZHOU, May 13, Xinhua -- Humans may no longer fear losing the battle against senility since a group of Chinese scientists announced recently that they have created a highly effective drug to retard the aging process.

Li Changling, a Beijing University professor, who led the team of scientists, said he and his colleagues have detected the existence, in their repeated experiments, of a powerful anti-oxidation substance in grape-stones, which cannot be produced by the human body.

Oxidation is a chemical reaction in which an atom loses its electron, and this change, if it happens in the human body, results in aging of human cells and tissue.

The world medical community found in the 1990s that a kind of oxygenic molecule, scientifically called free radicals left by metabolic performance, causes oxidation and is also directly involved in the development of 70 diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, cancer, and strokes.

Oligomeric Proantho Cynidins, or OPC, the natural substance extracted out of grape-stones, can sweep out redundant free radicals in the human body and so reduce the rate of oxidation. The anti-oxidation function of OPC is 50 times as effective as vitamin E, or 20 times that of vitamin C, the professor said.

The scientists made the drug developed from OPC more powerful by adding the rare Chinese medicines of lucid ganoderma sporopollen and gynostemma. This formula medicine is 30 percent more powerful at anti-oxidation than the raw substance alone.

With no toxins or side effects, the patented medicine can go into blood and be digested by the human body within 20 minutes after application, according to the professor.


26. Gene Research Facilitates Development of Chinese Herbs
BEIJING, May 13, Xinhua -- The development of traditional Chinese herbs is about to enter a new age featuring studies of the gene components of herbal medicines, according to a forum here Sunday.

Guo De’an, a Chinese herb expert at prestigious Beijing University, said that research into transgenic medicinal plants and organs, herb DNA molecule marking, and herb gene chips have emerged as some of the hottest research areas in recent years.

Scientists from the Chinese Academy of Medicine have used fungus to induce the growth of Chinese herbs and significantly increased the content of herbal tanshinone, marking important progress toward optimizing the varieties of Chinese herbs.

Sources said that the Hunan Institute of Chinese Medicine has put ginseng DNA in soybean and obtained new materials with higher medicinal contents.

Currently, incubation centers for medicinal organs transformed from some 10 herbs have been established, and key enzyme genes of arteannuin have been cloned.

Guo told the forum, which is part of the ongoing Beijing International Hi-Tech Industries Week, that genetic researches on Chinese herbs will help to facilitate as well as monitor the biological composition of the chemical contents of herbs.

The application of bio-technology in herbal research is becoming increasingly popular. Incubation of tissues and cells of medicinal plants has matured with practice over the past 20 to 30 years in China, said Guo.

He said that future research into herbal medicines should focus on cultivating cells of dying medicinal herbs and using biological methods to transform the chemical contents of key herbs.


27. Some Chinese Manufacturers Are Misleading Consumers about FDA Approval
BEIJING, May 12, Xinhua -- A Chinese expert criticized some local manufacturers of traditional herbal medicine of misleading consumers by saying that that their products are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the United States.

Whether being approved by the FDA or not is not a criterion for traditional Chinese medicine, according to Zhou Haijun, the honorary chairman of the China Pharmacy Society.

Addressing a forum on the ongoing Fourth Beijing International High-Tech Week, the Chinese expert said although the FDA is experienced in checking the quality of medicine, its expertise is for chemical and modern drugs, rather than for herbal ones like Chinese traditional medicine, he claimed.


28. China’s Yunnan Province Plans to Develop Plant-Based Products
KUNMING, May 10, AsiaPulse -- Southwest China’s Yunnan Province plans to concentrate on the development of modern drugs, health products, and garden products.

Located in the western Yunnan-Guizhou plateau and on the southern tip of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, Yunnan has the largest number of plant species in China.

According to the plan, the province will cultivate such natural medicinal plants as notoginseng, gastrodia tuber, fleabane and Chinese angelica root, as well as quality rice, vegetable, tea, and flowers.


29. Thousands Flock to Indian Boy Wonder for Herbal Remedies
GUWAHATI, India, May 23, Reuters -- Thousands of people have flocked to visit a 12-year-old boy in northeastern India who says the Hindu god Vishnu has taught him to cure any disease with herbal medicines.

Police said they had brought extra forces into Baghara in the state of Assam to control the crowds and local villagers had demanded protection for Tinku Deka, a junior school student.

"Tinku first wanted to give out the medicine everyday to the people coming in to meet him but seeing the crowd, he started distributing it on Sundays only," Rina Deka, Tinku’s mother, told Reuters.

Eyewitnesses said at least five elderly patients on their way to meet the boy wonder had died before they could reach him.

Tea stalls which have opened around Tinku’s house are packed with visitors, and the latest gossip there is that Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, who suffers from a knee ailment, will soon be one of the boy’s patients.

The 74-year-old prime minister is expected to undergo an operation to replace his right knee in Bombay on June 7.


30. Pakistan Removes Duty on Medicinal Herbs Imports
ISLAMABAD, May 17, AsiaPulse -- The Central Board of Revenue (CBR) has allowed duty-free temporary importation of medicinal herbs for subsequent exportation.

The following conditions will govern this exemption:

An application shall be made to the collector of customs giving full particulars of the goods and the purpose for which they are being imported.

An indemnity bond or in certain cases a bank guarantee equivalent to the amount of customs duty, otherwise leviable, is furnished to the collector of customs concerned, in such form as is prescribed by the collector of customs binding the party to re export the goods temporarily imported within a period not exceeding six months.

The collector of customs concerned on a written application made to him in this behalf, may, in deserving cases, grant at his discretion, subject to such conditions as he may deem fit to impose extension up to a further period of one year.

If the goods are not exported within the stipulated period, the collector of customs shall enforce the bank guarantee if furnished, or initiate recovery proceedings under section 202 of the customs act 1969.

The collector of customs may refuse entry of any goods without payment of customs duty if, prima facie, it appears to him that such goods would remain in Pakistan for more than six months.


31. Ginseng Growers at Root of Problem: Oversupply Has Driven Prices Down
By Wendy Stueck

VANCOUVER, May 21, Globe and Mail -- Mickey Hare has grown ginseng for more than 30 years, and his knowledge of the finicky crop has helped him land custom work from other operators who don’t have as much experience.

It has also led to a clear-eyed analysis of the current market.

"The problem is we grow too much," says Mr. Hare, who first planted ginseng on his southern Ontario farm in 1969. "Probably twice as much as we should."

Like other Canadian ginseng growers, Mr. Hare is experiencing the painful downside of growing a plant known for its healing properties. A crop that he sold for $85 a pound in the mid-eighties now fetches about $15. Sometimes, it’s difficult to sell at all -- he still has some of last year’s harvest in storage.

A slump in ginseng prices is hitting small growers in Ontario and British Columbia, the two provinces where Canada’s ginseng production is concentrated. It is also hammering large growers that went public when the crop’s future seemed assured.

Shares of Langley-based Chai-Na-Ta Corp., listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange since 1989, were trading in the $14 range in 1996. On Friday, the stock closed at 51 cents.

Vancouver-based Imperial Ginseng Products Ltd., public since 1994, was trading in the $12 range five years ago and closed Friday at 30 cents on the Canadian Venture Exchange.

Both companies are predicting improved ginseng prices in coming months, as some growers leave the business and others cut back on how much seed they put in the ground.

But like the crop itself, the hoped-for turnaround has been slow in coming and remains unpredictable.

Canadian producers grow North American ginseng, a plant that grows wild in some parts of eastern Canada and the United States and that has been exported from Canada since the 1700s.

The plant is harvested for its root, which is said to have beneficial properties ranging from its ability to reduce blood pressure to boosting the immune system. Agriculture Canada says about 68 per cent of all Canadian ginseng is exported, with most sold in bulk dry root form to Hong Kong buyers.

In Canada, commercial cultivation of the plant, which is grown in shade and is typically harvested in its fourth year, took off in the 1980s, driven by factors that included soaring prices for ginseng root among Asian buyers and the collapsing market for other crops, particularly tobacco.

In 1982, fewer than 25 metric tonnes of ginseng were grown in Canada. By 1999, that had soared to about 2,200 metric tonnes, making Canada the third-largest ginseng producer in the world, after China and Korea.

Lured by the promise of high prices, growers rushed to put more seed in the ground. Acres under cultivation, a few hundred in the early eighties, jumped to a total that Agriculture Canada says is now likely close to 8,600.

"When prices were at $40 or $50 or even $70 a pound, you didn’t need a calculator to see there was an alternative there," says Ken Spriet, president of the Ginseng Growers Association of Canada, which represents Ontario growers. "It looked like a no-brainer, but it was only a no-brainer if you were looking at the volume at that time."

The lengthy growing cycle of ginseng meant that much of the new crop was coming on to the market just as an Asian economic crisis hit in 1998.

Prices have been soft since, pushing many growers out of the market. Allan Smith, president of the Associated Ginseng Growers of B.C., says his group has 60 members now, compared with about 120 in the mid-nineties.

Canadian growers produce North American ginseng, which is related to the Korean strain of the plant. Both contain compounds called ginsenosides, and the two are believed to be complementary, with the North American root said to have a cooling "yin" effect that relieves stress and strengthens internal organs, and the Asian variety to possess a heating "yang" effect.

Mr. Spriet says members of his association are counting on improved prices as some growers get out of the market.


32. Ontario Ginseng Growers Show Support for Association
WINNIPEG, Man., May 18, Resource News International -- A recent expression of opinion vote shows that a majority of Ontario ginseng growers support being represented by a province-wide association.

A total of 86.8% of ginseng growers representing 64.1% of the acreage of those casting valid ballots voted in favour of the Ontario Ginseng Growers’ Association. The vote means that growers also support the association having the authority to collect a mandatory annual licence fee of $50 per acre. The funding would be used to further the association’s objectives of enhancing marketing efforts for ginseng growers, promoting markets for Ontario ginseng, and funding ginseng research.

A total of 78.4% of the 264 growers who received ballots participated in the mail-in vote, which was conducted by the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission.

The vote, held between March 26 and April 6, 2001, asked the following question:

"Are you in favor of the Ontario Ginseng Growers’ Association being designated as the representative association for all growers of ginseng in Ontario, and collecting an annual licence fee of $50 per acre on every acre of ginseng in production from such growers to finance the association’s activities to stimulate, increase and improve the marketing of ginseng in Ontario?"


33. West Paterson, N.J., Business Supplies Medicinal Herbs from Ecuador
By Monsy Alvarado

WEST PATERSON, N.J., May 18, The Record -- As a girl growing up in Ecuador, Marlene Siegel would find the medicine for her ear infections, coughs, and stomachaches in the green vegetation on the fringes of the city where she lived.

"My grandmother would get the rue plant for the ear infections and the garlic for the strong coughs," recalled Siegel, who grew up in the capital city of Quito but would spend her vacations in the jungles of the South American country. "The next day, we would be cured."

Although educational and economic opportunities led Siegel thousand of miles from her homeland to New Jersey, she never forgot the herbal teachings of her parents and grandparents.

"My children never had to take penicillin," said Siegel, 50, recalling the "energy" juices made out of beets, oranges, and parsley she would give her three children. "All of it was natural. It’s not necessary to take medicine all the time."

She found common ground with many Latinas in the United States, who would complain about the high cost of medicine in this country and longed for the natural plants and herbs from their home countries.

So about 18 years ago, she borrowed $25,000 from her husband and began a small business, bringing a few plants familiar to her South American friends and acquaintances.

Today, her modest import business has evolved into Ecuadorian Rainforest LLC, an operation based on McBride Avenue which generated $5 million in 2000, providing organic herbs, organic herbal powders, and organic powdered extracts to national health food retailers.

"I decided to open the market for these herbs and plants when there was no market for them," said Siegel, of Berkeley Heights. "In the last 10 years, it’s incredible what people’s reactions are. Every morning, we come in here and we find a bunch of faxes asking about our products."

The use of herbs to treat different ailments is nothing new. Early settlers in the United States used herbs to treat illnesses, and American physicians relied primarily on herbal remedies through the 1930s.

Siegel is tapping a growing interest in herbal and other alternative medicines. According to the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, more than $20 billion was spent by the public in 1998 for alternative medicines.

"It’s increased remarkably," said Dr. Riva E. Touger-Decker, associate professor and acting director of the Center for the Study of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine at UMDNJ. "People are more interested in being involved in their own care, and they think they can get help with a chronic disease. They feel that alternative medicine looks at a whole person, not just an ailment."

Siegel imports substances such as alfalfa, basil, parsley, rosemary, sage, mango, cilantro, papaya, and passion fruit, but also offers more exotic items: cat’s claw, sea cucumber, and chitosan, extracted from shellfish, which she said is used to lose weight.

More than 300 herbs, dried fruits, and vegetables can be found in Siegel’s warehouse at one time. Most of the items arrive in powdered form, and some of her 18 employees in West Paterson pack and ship them to customers nationwide. She said she receives more than 128 tons of material a week.

Key to Siegel’s operation is her relationship with the indigenous people of the Ecuadorian rainforests, the shuars.

Siegel said her personal relationship with the shuars, developed initially as a child, has evolved into a mutually beneficial professional relationship.

In addition to learning about the herbs from the shuars, she contracts with many of them to harvest products.

The demand for alternative medicines also has led other entrepreneurs to the rainforests of Ecuador, raising concerns about exploitation.

"Foreigners and big companies are trying to go in there and collect these materials," said a spokesman for the consulate general of Ecuador in Jersey City. "There have been legal battles, and the indigenous people of the area and the government are working to regulate them."

The spokesman added that indigenous people continue to be willing to enter into legitimate business agreements.

Siegel, who now employs more than 4,000 people in some capacity in Ecuador, speaks warmly of her relationship with the "keepers of the secrets of the forest."

She said she is dedicated to providing economic opportunities to the shuars and, as a next step, plans to provide daycare for many of the women who farm the land.

"Many of those women work very hard," she said. "They leave their children at home while they are working."

Having moved to West Paterson from a smaller Newark warehouse a year ago, Siegel has high hopes of continuing to expand the business.

Last year, she launched her own line of dietary herbal supplements. Rainforest Remedies consists of eight different products, including a vegetable medley supplement and mineral water from Vilcabamba, a sleepy town in the Andes of southern Ecuador, whose people have a reputation for living long lives.

"This water has the secret of life," she said.

The secrets, it seems, are out: Siegel recently signed a $3 million contract to sell her products in Italy, and is looking to sell in Japan.


34. Mustards, and More Mustards
By Marcella S. Kreiter

May 4, United Press International -- There’s more to mustard than what you’ll find in most stores. Just ask Barry Levenson, that’s chief mustard officer -- of the Mount Horeb Mustard Museum in the southern Wisconsin community of Mount Horeb.

Levenson, a former assistant attorney general for the state of Wisconsin, has a collection of 3,613 jars of mustard from all over the world -- and he’s about to open an 8,000-square-foot facility Memorial Day weekend to display his collection as well as the accoutrements for the mighty yellow condiment.

Levenson, 52, a Wooster, Mass., native, always liked mustard but his real love affair began in October 1986.

"The Red Sox lost the ‘86 World Series," Levenson recalled. "I grew up in New England. I didn’t know what to do with myself. So I went to an all-night supermarket. Walking the aisles, I decided I needed a hobby. And then it came to me: I’m going to collect mustards.

"At the time I had a real job, assistant attorney general. My job was to keep bad guys in prison. I did that for five more years -- mild mannered by day, mustard fiend by night. It all came together a couple of years later.

"I once argued a case before the U.S. Supreme Court with a jar of mustard in my pocket. I found it on the way to court. I think I’m the only lawyer to successfully argue a case before the Supreme Court with a jar of mustard in his pocket. It was Dickinson’s stone ground mustard in a 1.4-ounce jar. I still have it."

Levenson said he thinks the most exotic blend he has is from Nepal. It’s a powder from the Yak Spice Services Co. donated to the collection by Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson of the Wisconsin Supreme Court who had traveled to Katmandu. In fact, he said, that’s how he came by much of his collection: friends and even strangers would pick up jars on their travels and drop them off.

Why Collect Mustard?

"I used to collect baseball cards when I was a little kid," Levenson recalled. "I never had all of them but I knew it was possible. When you’ve got every baseball card in a given year, what else is there to do? There are so many varieties of mustard. People experiment with it all over the world. It’s in literature and medicine. It’s a way of glorifying the ordinary."

The museum sells 400 to 500 kinds of mustard from its gift shop and catalog, as well as fancy mustard pots and other accessories. It also offers cooking classes under the moniker Poupon U, which offers degrees such as M.D. (mustard doctor) and D.D.S (Doctor of Diddley-Squat).

Levenson doesn’t manufacture his own blends although he said he has developed some for other companies.

"Mustard is a simple product although varieties can be quite complex," Levenson said. "Mustard comes from a mustard seed. There are only a few varieties grown to make the condiment. What gets put into a jar -- minimally processed -- is basically pretty simple."

Levenson said he’s taken the business about as far as it can go in its current form and has decided to sell 300 to 400 shares at $1,000 apiece to raise capital for expansion. His plan for playing dividends is as novel as his collection: Investors will get an annual 12 percent payment -- in mustard.


35. Basils are Excellent Herbs to Grow in Containers
By Kathy Van Mullekom

NEWPOT NEWS, Va., May 10, Daily Press -- Can you imagine a garden without basil? Impossible!

Its familiar fragrance, easy care and many uses make it indispensable in herb, ornamental and container gardens -- and, of course -- in the kitchen.

A member of the mint family -- Labiatae -- as so many herbs are, basils have the familiar four-sided stems and whorled flowers of that family. They are not, however, in the least invasive, as mints can be, according to the National Garden Bureau.

The genus name of sweet basil, Ocimum, is from a Greek verb that means "to be fragrant."

In frost-free climates, sweet basil may act as a perennial, but in most areas of the country, it is an annual, dying at the first touch of frost.

There are more than 30 different species of basil, but the most common grown is O. basilicum and its subspecies. The four basic types of garden basils are the familiar sweet green basil, dwarf green basil, purple-leaved basil and scented leaf basil.

Basils are excellent herbs to grow in containers because they add such attractive colors and textures to the plantings. They look good in pots or window boxes in full sun. A container of basil by the back door or on a deck provides easy access for harvesting.

The container should have drainage holes in the bottom or sides. Fill it with a soilless mix, which is more lightweight than garden soil and also is free of diseases and weed seeds.

With mixed plantings, place most basils near the center of containers or at the ends of window boxes. Use dwarf basils to edge a container planting or on their own in smaller, 8-inch pots and place the pots around a larger planter, marching up steps or along a walk. Basils combine nicely with other herbs and annuals.

Keep the plants evenly moist through the growing season.

Basils complement many kinds of dishes. Many gardeners are unable to eat their juicy, homegrown tomatoes without fresh basil and a dash of premium olive oil. Freshly harvested basil leaves added to mesclun or lettuce salads liven up the flavors. Pesto is another favorite use for basil.

Create the classic pesto sauce, a combination of basil, garlic, olive oil, pine nuts and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Whip up basil butter. Cream together one stick of unsalted butter and 1 to 3 tablespoons of dried, crushed basil or 2 to 6 tablespoons of fresh, minced basil. Place in a covered container or roll into a cylinder shape and refrigerate for at least an hour before using.

Make basil vinegar to use in salad dressings. Heat vinegar (any type) in an enamel pan; pour it into a bottle and add several sprigs of basil. Let set for 2 weeks before using.

If you have basil left at the end of the growing season, dry the leaves. To dry basil, cut the entire plant and hang on a string in a well-ventilated room. When dry, just pluck the leaves from the stems and store in airtight jars out of direct light.


36. Try Planting a Decorative Knot Garden
By Lee Reich

May 7, AP -- Walls that surrounded medieval monastic gardens imposed their geometry upon the planted beds within. The beds usually were rectangular, and they were divided into more rectangles or other geometric shapes. Soon, people began to notice that all these lines and curves within the beds were quite ornamental, and thus originated the "knot garden."

A knot garden has neat, compact plants that draw lines on the ground. Areas defined by these lines are filled with plants with casual growth habits, or with materials such as sand, gravel or woodchips.

Though knot gardens are rarely seen today except in historic gardens, why not use one to decorate a part of a vegetable garden or a brick patio, or form a bed in a lawn with a sundial or a birdbath? Knot gardens are good homes for herb plants and well-suited to small areas.

If you want to try your hand at a knot garden, first draw your design on paper. Make the design symmetric and the pattern of either interwoven or separate shapes. Begin with rough sketches, then plot the garden out to scale, allowing for a foot or so of plant width for the lines. The next step is to indicate on the design the colors, shades and textures of plants and inert materials that you want for each part of the garden. Finally, on the basis of your notes, decide what plants are suitable.

Compact evergreen plants, at least for the lines, carry the design through the year. Some possibilities include boxwood, germander, sage, lavender, and heather. The scope of plants is widened if you don’t mind watching deciduous plants lose their leaves in the winter. Then you can use chives, basil, even parsley or lettuce. (Use leaf lettuce so you can harvest just the outer leaves, leaving plants -- and the design -- intact.)

Spaces enclosed by the lines could be filled with annual bedding plants such as petunias or marigolds. For a more subdued effect, one created by shades of green and occasional, quiet flowers, plant pachysandra, vinca, thyme, or viola. Liven the scene in spring by planting within this greenery a few small, early season bulbs such as snowdrop or crocus.

A knot garden is not a low-maintenance garden. Then again, a knot garden need not be large. Maintain the beauty of a knot garden by religiously keeping out weeds and shearing plants, as needed, to maintain crisp lines.


37. Herbs: Good for What Ails You
May 21, Healthy.net -- Getting to the root of your medical ailments may be as simple as getting to the root, or leaves, of the herbs in your garden.

Whether you are plagued by restless sleep, an annoying paper cut or a migraine, herbs can offer an alternative to a trip to the doctor or drug store.

Naturopathic medicine, the use of western herbs for medical purposes, has been practiced and studied in Europe since the Middle Ages, according to Robin Depasquale, a professor of naturopathic medicine at Bastyr University and a naturopathic physician.

Depasquale said growing herbs gives people more options concerning their health.

"I think it gives them other options, economically and medically. Things in their backyard can help them," she said.

The use of naturopathic medicine in the United States is growing rapidly, she said.

"It’s something people are really recognizing. No. 1, it seems to be very useful, it works ... No. 2, we call it the medicine of the people, people can grow these herbs in their garden. I can teach someone to grow a plant that can help them medically. People are so happy to feel more empowered."

The following herbs can be purchased at local nurseries, either in plant or seed form. Once they are in your garden, herbs can be prepared several ways, but the easiest is to make a tea, said Depasquale. When making a tea from herbs, the upper part of the plant can be steeped or the root of the plant can be boiled.

Depasquale and Debra Ching Wu, certified in herbology and acupuncture for Chinese medicine, recommended a few herbs that can be grown in the United States and safely used to treat medical ailments. 1: Mint is helpful to the gastro-intestinal system and is good for anyone with digestive problems. Mint helps dispel gas and tastes good as well. Use the leaves of the mint plant to make a tea.

2: Chamomile is a gentle, soothing herb that calms both the stomach and the nerves. The daisy-like flowers are used to make a tea. Research shows chamomile is gentle enough even for pregnant mothers.

3: Lavender is a popular plant used for its pleasant scent as well as its medical aid. Lavender is mainly a relaxant. It can be used in potpourri or in a bath. The flowers are edible and can be used in baking or in a tea. You can make a small pillow from the flower petals to treat insomnia.

4: Sage, of the mint family,. is useful in cooking. Also, the leaves of the sage plant are effective in treating hot flashes when mixed into a tea with peppermint. A tea from sage leaves is beneficial to both the heart and liver and acts as an antioxidant.

5: Garlic is a natural anti-viral agent. Planting garlic around other plants can aid in avoiding pests. Garlic can be used in soups and other foods to stimulate the immune system. The bulb of the garlic plant is used. Garlic can be effective in fending off a cold.

6: Echinacea is a popular immune stimulant that can be used to fight off infections. The root of the plant can be used to make a tea, or the whole plant can be dried to make a powder. Echinachea is more effective in preventing illness than in treating it.

7: Rosemary is calming to the nervous system, dispels gas, and is helpful with memory. The stems and leaves of the plant are used in a tea.

8: Oregano is a culinary herb that is also very medicinally active. It is often used as a gargle for sore throats. The leaves can be used to treat fungal growths on the skin.

9: Lemon balm, also in the mint family, is easy to grow. Often called the "happy plant," the leaves are used to lift the spirit.

10: Calendula is a healing plant used on cuts, scrapes, bruises, burns and rashes. Its flowers can be applied topically, made into a tea, or infused with oil to make a topical treatment.

11: The dandelion plant’s leaves are used to stimulate the digestive system, as a diuretic. The entire plant is beneficial to the liver.

12: Plantain, known as "nature’s Band-Aid," heals tissue. Chewing up plantain and placing it on a wound will aid in healing it. Placing a wad of it on the gum line will relieve a toothache.

13: Feverfew, in the daisy family, is for migraine headaches. The leaves can be chewed or prepared in a tea.

14: The blueberry, an often forgotten herb, strengthens capillary walls. It is effective in treating varicose veins, hemorrhoids and weakness in the cardiovascular system. Eating half a cup of blueberries per day is effective treatment for these ailments. The leaves of the plant are good for the urinary tract.

15: Yarrow is used to stop bleeding, using the leaves either topically or by making a tea. The whole plant is used in a tea to treat fevers by bringing on a sweat.


38. Herb Business News
Advanced Plant Pharmaceuticals: Signs Marketing and Distribution Agreement

NEW YORK, May 16, Market News Publishing -- Advanced Plant Pharmaceuticals, Inc. a company that utilizes whole plants to develop all natural dietary supplements, is pleased to announce that they have signed a trial exclusive marketing and distribution agreement with Valuecare Pharmacy, Inc. (VPI).

VPI, owned and operated by Robert Saidov a Pharmacist with strong beliefs in alternative medicine, has agreed to market and distribute APPI products to the Russian market in the United States. Under the terms of the agreement APPI has granted VPI the exclusive right to market and distribute APPI’s full-line of "Whole Plant" herbal supplements through Russian media such as television, radio, magazines and trade magazines, on a 4 month trial basis.

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Alta Natural: Announces New Executive


RICHMOND, B.C., May 7, Canada NewsWire -- Subsequent to the company’s Annual General Meeting held April 23, 2001 the Board of Directors for the ensuing year are as follows: Mr. Kim Wei, President & CEO, Mr. Ten Chu Wei, Secretary Treasurer, Mr. Adolph Huckschlag, Director and Ms. Pauline Wong, Director.

Mr. Kim Wei is the founder of the Canadian development company, Med-Tec Excellence in Healthcare Inc. For the past fourteen years, he has created clinical delivery models, for primary care medical and dental services, rehabilitation/physiotherapy clinics, ancillary service providers and diagnostic services, in partnership with the public and private sector. Mr. Wei is well known within the Canadian health care industry as an aggressive creative executive, who has initiated new ventures in Primary Care, Complementary Medicine and business partnership structures. He is recognized as a leader and is at the forefront in the Canadian development of Managed Care and the Integrated Health Model.

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Cetalon: $1.5 Million Investment From Nature’s Sunshine Products


LOS ANGELES, May 16, PRNewswire -- Cetalon Corporation today announced that it has received a $1.5 million investment from Innovative Botanical Solutions, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Nature’s Sunshine Products, Inc. (Nasdaq: NATR) at a price per share of approximately $3.27. According to the terms of the agreement, IBS will purchase approximately 10 percent of Cetalon’s outstanding common stock, or approximately 460,000 shares. IBS was also granted an option to acquire an additional $1.5 million in Cetalon shares for $3.27 during the next 180 days. In addition, Innovative Botanical Solutions, Inc. (IBS) will manufacture a proprietary, uniquely formulated line of Cetalon-branded herbs and vitamins.

As part of the arrangement, Cetalon received a warrant from Nature’s Sunshine to purchase up to 5 percent of its common stock at $11.13 per share. Cetalon will be eligible to purchase 20 percent of the warrants each year that Cetalon meets its minimum annual product purchase requirements.

"We are delighted to receive this strong endorsement of our business model from a leader in the industry," said Anthony Bryan, chairman of Cetalon. "Nature’s Sunshine will become a significant shareholder and an important supplier as we aggressively build our presence in the U.S. Nature’s Sunshine has earned a well-deserved reputation for producing high quality, natural herbal and vitamin products. We are confident that Sears Health and Nutrition Centers will benefit significantly from a private line of supplements that feature the Cetalon brand name."

"We believe that Cetalon will become an increasingly important customer for us as it expands its store within a store concept in Canada and moves into the U.S.," said Daniel P. Howells, president and CEO of Nature’s Sunshine. "We are excited about this relationship and our role in Cetalon’s growth plans. We look forward to working with both Cetalon and Sears."

Cetalon is a "store within a store" retail and direct marketing company specializing in the sale of natural vitamins, minerals, and supplements as well as health information technologies and home health care products. Cetalon owns 44 Sears Health Food and Fitness Shops located in Sears Canada department stores and has announced plans to build 10 stores in Sears U.S. department stores this summer.

Nature’s Sunshine Products manufactures and markets through direct sales encapsulated and tableted herbal products, high quality natural vitamins and other complementary products. In addition to the U.S., the Company has operations in South Korea, Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela, Japan, Canada, Colombia, the United Kingdom and Ireland, the Russian Federation, Argentina, Peru, Chile, Central America, Ecuador and Israel. The Company also has exclusive distribution agreements with selected companies in Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Norway.

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Chai-Na-Ta: Reports 2001 First Quarter Results


LANGLEY, B.C., May 7, Business Wire -- Chai-Na-Ta Corp. today reported net earnings of $166,000 ($0.01 per share) in the first quarter ended March 31, 2001, compared to a loss of $2,287,000 ($0.46 per share) in the 2000 first quarter.

Revenue decreased to $2,516,000 in the 2001 first quarter from $8,540,000 in the same period last year.

In the 2001 first quarter, interest and financing charges fell to $66,000 from $780,000 in the quarter ended February 29, 2000.

Working capital was a surplus of $10.7 million at the end of the 2001 first quarter, substantially higher than the $26.2 million deficiency at the end of the prior year period.

"The decrease in our revenues over the prior year was primarily due to our decision in 2001 to change our sales strategy by spreading our sales more evenly over the year. Currently, the ginseng market is showing some stability, with prices averaging around $16 per pound," said William Zen, Chai-Na-Ta’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. "Since we only began selling the 2000 harvest in February, inventory levels are high, but we anticipate that they will decline over the coming months.

"Our earnings performance in the first quarter is a further indication of our success in restructuring Chai-Na-Ta and establishing a solid financial foundation for growth, as we move forward. We are continuing to streamline our operations and improve efficiencies in order to enhance our leadership in our core business of ginseng farming," Mr. Zen continued.

"Our gain on debt forgiveness in 2000 will distort our bottom line financial comparisons for the next few years. However, we continue to expect performance around the breakeven level in fiscal 2001 and a profitable year in 2002," he said.

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

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Forbes MediTech: U.S. Guidelines Recommend Plant Sterols for Cholesterol Control


VANCOUVER, May 18, Saskatchewan Nutriceutical Network -- Earlier this week, the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Expert Panel in the U.S. issued updated clinical guidelines for cholesterol testing and management. One of their specific recommendations for therapeutic lifestyle changes was to encourage increased consumption of plant sterol/stanols as part of a healthy diet.

This Adult Treatment Panel (ATP) of NCEP is regarded as the highest level of opinion leadership on the management of high blood cholesterol. Their recommendations inform and instruct every physician to make their patients aware of phytosterol-enriched foods they may purchase and consume as part of their lifestyle changes to control high cholesterol.

Forbes Medi-Tech believes these guidelines are extremely positive for the Company. There are several food products and dietary supplements about to be launched nationally or test marketed in the U.S. containing Forbes’ cholesterol-lowering sterol-based food ingredient Phytrol(TM). To support the anticipated increase in consumer demand for cholesterol-lowering food ingredients, the Company is constructing,under a joint venture, a sterol manufacturing facility in Texas which will be the largest wood-sterol producing facility in the world when it is completed later this year. This facility is designed to produce up to 1,000 metric tonnes per annum of sterols and can be expanded as needed.

In its report, the Adult Treatment Panel of the NCEP: "Encourages use of plant stanols/sterols [phytosterols] and viscous solid fiber as therapeutic dietary options to enhance lowering of LDL cholesterol" (Page 2)

ATP III recommends a multi-faceted approach to reduce risk of CHD [coronary heart disease]. This approach is designated therapeutic lifestyle changes" which includes just four items:

1. Reduced intakes of saturated fats and cholesterol

2. Weight reduction

3. Physical activity

4. Therapeutic options for enhancing LDL lowering such as plant stanol/sterols (2 g/d) and increased viscous (soluable) fiber (10-25g/d) (Page 9)

"Individuals at very high risk should be treated with drugs and diet together and those at lower risk may try to reduce cholesterol with diet and exercise first" (Scott Grundy, MD, PhD an NCEP member and Director and Chairman of nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas)

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GNC: Lowers Ad Costs for Franchisees; Expanded National Ad Campaign


PITTSBURGH, May 22, Business Wire -- General Nutrition Companies, Inc., the largest specialty retailer of nutritional supplements, today announced that it recently eliminated its regional advertising cooperative contribution requirement for franchisees and is expanding its National Advertising Campaigns to focus on GNC brands. The move allows franchisees to realize significant cost savings -- instead of paying up to 6 percent of revenues they now pay no more than 3 percent -- while enjoying the benefits of a major, nationwide advertising initiative.

Developed by New York advertising firm Deutsch, GNC’s new national advertising campaign will allow for increased exposure on national television during network early morning news and on targeted national cable networks, while the print campaign includes an expanded list of national magazine titles. In addition to the national print and broadcast campaign, a fully integrated promotion will also be executed for 3 months to support a national summer sweepstakes, leveraging GNC’s NASCAR sponsorship.

In 2001, national gross media dollars spent on GNC brands will increase to $40 million, delivering 5.5 billion impressions to GNC’s main target audience, adults 25 years old and older. The increase comes from the shift in regional advertising dollars from the local markets to a more expansive national campaign. The move increases GNC’s national brand exposure while reducing franchisee expenses. The overall advertising budget remains the same.

Russell L. Cooper, GNC Franchising Senior Vice President and General Manager, said, "GNC has always listened to the concerns of its franchisees and we are responding by expanding our national advertising campaign. Not only are we supporting franchisees with advertising at the national level, we also eliminated the regional advertising requirements, allowing individual franchise store operators the choice to invest their savings into their own local marketing efforts or apply it directly to the profits of their stores."

Scott Taylor, multi-store franchise operator in Knoxville, TN and GNC Franchising National Advisory Council Representative, says, "having direct control over local market advertising while continuing to receive support from a national campaign is a great way for me to reduce my financial advertising commitment and at the same time increase my exposure. The campaign has also added value awareness of the GNC brand."

It is the mission of GNC Franchising (www.gncfranchising.com) to be a worldwide leader in franchising by developing the world’s highest quality support services and awarding license agreements to qualified candidates who share our growth and customer service objectives. GNC Franchising was recently named by Entrepreneur magazine as the number one franchise in the vitamin and nutritional supplement sector for the 12th consecutive year and ranked among the top 10 best franchises in the world in the magazine’s annual rankings.

General Nutrition Companies, Inc. (GNC), based in Pittsburgh, PA, is the largest nationwide specialty retailer of vitamin, mineral and herbal supplements, sports nutrition as well as many personal care and related products. GNC operates more than 4,500 retail outlets throughout the United States and 26 foreign markets including Puerto Rico, Canada and Mexico. GNC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Royal Numico N.V., a worldwide market leader in specialized nutrition that includes infant and clinical nutrition and nutritional supplements. Headquartered in Zoetermeer, The Netherlands, Royal Numico’s family of companies includes Rexall Sundown, Inc., a major supplier to the mass market based in Boca Raton, Fla., sports nutrition leaders Met-Rx and Worldwide Nutrition and the multi-level marketing operation of Enrich International.

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Hain Celestial: Reports Lower Third Quarter Sales and Profits


UNIONDALE, N.Y., May 14, PRNewswire -- Reflecting the impact of general economic conditions on its major natural customers and a strategic consolidation of inventories and packaging, The Hain Celestial Group, the leading natural and organic food company, today announced a net profit of $4.2 million, or $0.12 per share on a diluted basis, for its third quarter ended March 31, 2001. Net revenues for the third quarter totaled $104 million, versus $108.6 million in the prior year period on a comparative basis. EBITDA in the third quarter was $9.8 million, compared to $18.4 million in the same quarter of 2000.

Irwin D. Simon, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Hain Celestial Group said, "Revenues for the third quarter were impacted by the general economic conditions in late 2000 that caused inventory adjustments for our major natural foods customers and distributors of one to two weeks, cycling through and lowering our sales by approximately $15-20 million in January and February. However, following positive adjustments in distributor and customer purchasing patterns in January and February, we have seen strong sales in March, April and into May as these corrections cycle through to us. In this quarter, we are also faced with a comparison to the year-ago quarter which includes a load of approximately 400,000-600,000 cases of tea. Excluding the customer inventory reduction and tea deloading, we believe revenue would have increased by 17% in the quarter."

"During this third quarter, we have taken steps to better position Hain Celestial’s leading brands for long-term growth and to strengthen our brand presence in the mass market. We secured a $240 million line of credit, which we may use as we continue to identify opportunities to grow our business. In addition, we continue to consolidate warehousing into our Ontario facility, closing another warehouse and upgrading our information systems. In the process, we used the unique opportunity to strategically consolidate our inventories and packaging levels, reducing non-performing SKUs, to better enhance our focus on core brands and popular products."

The Company also reported that its third quarter earnings were adversely impacted by increased freight and power costs.

Mr. Simon concluded, "We continue to see strong momentum in many of our brands. Specifically, Terra and Garden of Eatin’ both demonstrated solid double-digit growth. Though Westsoy, Earth’s Best and Health Valley sales were flat, and Celestial Seasonings’ revenues were down compared to the third quarter of 2000, the prior year’s quarter included an unusually high tea inventory pipeline and higher comps for Westsoy and Earth’s Best, which have since resumed normal levels. In the upcoming fourth quarter, we have a number of exciting new product launches in these brands, including Westsoy Soy Shakes and Smoothies, Earth’s Best Kidz line for toddlers, and Celestial Seasonings new, revitalized herb teas, the first in over 3 years. In light of the initiatives we have underway to realize the full potential of our brands, we anticipate that 2002 results will include 20% EPS growth and double-digit revenue growth."

Hain Celestial’s balance sheet continued to improve in the third quarter, with working capital totaling approximately $120 million, cash on hand of $59 million, a current ratio of 3.5:1; debt to equity at 2.7%; and total equity of $390 million.

For the three months ended March 31, 2001, gross profit decreased by approximately $11.8 million to $42.8 million (41.2% of net sales) as compared to $54.6 million (48.8% of net sales) in the corresponding 2000 period, primarily due to the lower sales, as discussed above, as a result of the reduction in customers’ inventory levels, and the costs associated with the strategic warehouse consolidation, including the inventory and packaging write-offs related to non-performing SKU’s. Selling, general and administrative expenses decreased by $3.0 million (33.4% of net sales) to $34.7 million for the three months ended March 31, 2001 as compared to $37.7 million (33.7% of net sales) in the March 31, 2000 quarter. The dollar and percentage decrease reflected a combination of $2.5 million of synergies realized in the March 2001 period resulting from the Celestial merger, and approximately $0.5 million in other lower selling, general and administrative expense components. To date, a substantial portion of synergies from the Celestial merger have been identified and it is expected that the integration process will be substantially completed by calendar 2002. It is expected that in the next couple of fiscal quarters, the Company plans to invest in consumer spending and enhance brand equity while closely monitoring its trade spending.

About The Hain Celestial Group

The Hain Celestial Group, headquartered in Uniondale, NY, is a natural, specialty and snack food company. The Company is a leader in 13 of the top 15 natural food categories, with such well-known natural food brands as Celestial Seasonings(R) teas, Hain Pure Foods(R), Westbrae(R), Westsoy(R), Arrowhead Mills(R), Health Valley(R), Breadshop’s(R), Casbah(R), Garden of Eatin(R), Terra Chips(R), DeBoles(R), Earth’s Best(R), and Nile Spice. The Company’s principal specialty product lines include Hollywood(R) cooking oils, Estee(R) sugar-free products, Weight Watchers(R) dry and refrigerated products, Kineret(R) kosher foods, Boston Better Snacks(R), and Alba Foods(R).

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Hauser: Granted U.S. Patent for Purifying Active Compounds in Green Tea Leaves


BOULDER, Colo., May 31, PRNewswire -- Hauser, Inc., announced today that the United States Patent Office issued a new patent (U.S. Patent No. 6,210,679) to Botanicals International Extracts, a Hauser subsidiary. The patent covers a process that purifies active compounds in green tea leaves.

The process, developed by Hauser’s research and development team, purifies and isolates catechins, the active compounds found in green tea. Catechins, the most prominent one being epigallocatechin gallate (EGCg), have been cited in numerous clinical studies to provide benefits to conditions including cancer prevention and ulcer treatment. EGCg has also been shown in several animal studies to have cardioprotective and thermogenic effects, possibly making it a suitable replacement to Ephedra, a commonly used and controversial herb in diet formulations. Hauser’s green tea extract has been used in long- term chemo-prevention studies at the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

Dean Stull, Ph.D., Senior Executive Vice President of Technology and Hauser founder, commented, "Our technology provides for significant product advantages over other standardized extracts. We are able to remove caffeine and other tannins from green tea, which contribute to the body’s high excretion rate. This should also enhance the tea’s bioavailability and activity within the body and reduce the negative side effects commonly associated with higher caffeine intakes. Hauser’s process for caffeine removal is accomplished using only ethanol and water as solvents, unlike traditional processes which use harsh solvents."

The Company is currently scaling-up operations and will have commercial quantities available by the end of the Summer 2001.

Hauser, a customer connected(SM) company, headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, is a leading supplier of herbal extracts and nutritional supplements. The Company also provides interdisciplinary laboratory testing services, chemical engineering services, and contract research and development. The Company’s business units are: Botanicals International Extracts, Hauser Laboratories, Shuster Laboratories, and ZetaPharm.

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Imperial Ginseng: Long Term Debt Converted to Equity


VANCOUVER, May 17, Market News Publishing -- James S. Chang, MA, MBA, CPA, Director and President of Imperial Ginseng Products Ltd. is pleased to announce that pursuant to the terms of its previously issued Bonds, holders of $1,024,000 convertible bonds have exercised their right and converted their Bonds plus accrued interest of approximately $196,000 to Preferred Shares of Imperial. The Preferred Shares are units consisting of Class "A" Preferred Shares of the Company and Royalty Participation Units. The Class "A" Preferred Shares are non-voting, convertible shares issued with an average dividend rate of approximately 12.5% at a price of $1 per share. The Class "A" Preferred Shares are convertible to common shares of the Company at a price of $0.26 per common share with such conversion price increasing by $0.25 per common share on January 31 of each year starting January 31, 2002. Common shares of the Company issued as a result of any conversion of the Preferred Shares would be subject to a one-year hold period expiring May 16, 2002.

The 1,220,000 Royalty Participation Units issued as part of the units on a one for one basis with the Class "A" Preferred Shares, carry a royalty entitlement consisting of the proceeds from one-half acre of ginseng from each of the 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 harvests per 1 million Royalty Participation Units.

The Preferred Shares, subject to certain restrictions and penalties are, after December 31, 2001, retractable at the option of the holder and are redeemable by the Company. Dividends on the Class "A" Preferred Shares are cumulative and, like the royalty due on the Royalty Participation Units, can be paid, at the option of the Company, in cash or common shares of the Company priced at their then current price.

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McCormick: Introduces 22 New Herbs, Spices and Blends


HUNT VALLEY, Md., May 6, PRNewswire -- America’s love affair with bigger and bolder flavors is stronger than ever. Growing interest in ethnic tastes as people eat out and travel more has resulted in a more adventuresome palette. To answer America’s flavor craving, McCormick & Company, Inc. is introducing McCormick(R) Gourmet Collection(TM) -- a line of gourmet herbs, spices and blends that features a new name, new packaging and 22 new premium products -- to help consumers prepare worldly dishes at home. The line is being introduced at the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) Show.

McCormick Gourmet Collection provides an exotic flavor adventure in every bottle. McCormick’s spice experts travel the globe to find the finest, most exotic and robust herbs and spices available in keeping with today’s food trends. From the thyme plants of France to the cinnamon trees of Saigon, McCormick works with growers to harvest the highest quality herbs and spices in the world straight from the source.

"More and more consumers are tasting ethnic dishes with great flavors at restaurants," says Laurie Harrsen, director of consumer affairs at McCormick & Company, Inc. "With the new McCormick Gourmet Collection, consumers are able to add ethnic flavors to every day meals so they can create their own flavor adventure at home."

In addition to the current selection of 85 items in the gourmet line of products, McCormick is introducing 22 new herbs, spices and blends, including eight 100% organic products. Look for unique items such as wasabi, garam masala, crushed rosemary, lemon grass and chipotle chile pepper to add authentic flavor to meals.

The new McCormick Gourmet Collection will be available at grocery stores nationwide in fall 2001. The average suggested retail price is $3.98.

McCormick & Company, Inc. was founded in 1889 in Baltimore, Maryland and today is the largest spice company in the world. In the United States, it markets products under the McCormick, Produce Partners, Golden Dipt, and Old Bay brand names.

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Natrol: Launches Daytime and Nighttime Menopause Formulas


CHATSWORTH, Calif., May 14, Business Wire -- Natrol Inc., a manufacturer and marketer of branded dietary supplements, today announced the launch of Natrol Complete Balance(TM) AM/PM Menopause Formula into the $130 million women’s health segment, a category with 27% growth in 2000.

The comprehensive formula is designed to address daytime and nighttime symptoms of menopause.

The AM Formula helps combat daytime symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes and lack of energy with natural ingredients Soy Isoflavones, Ginseng and Ginkgo biloba, while the PM Formula fights nighttime symptoms like insomnia, irritability and night sweats with Melatonin, Valerian and Soy Isoflavones.

"Approximately 52 million women are currently candidates for menopause relief products, with another 20% of post-boomer women predicted to reach menopause age in the next decade. These women need a comprehensive herbal formula because the problems they face are complex and require more horsepower than the single ingredient products currently available can deliver. We feel that our formula provides our consumer a higher value and a superior product," stated Elliott Balbert, president and chief executive officer of Natrol.

Natrol’s Complete Balance(TM) AM/PM Menopause Formula is a 30-day supply of both night and day formulas and retails for $9.99. The product will be carried in leading retail outlets across the nation.

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Nelsons: Introduces Alternative First Aid Kit


May 9, PR Newswire Europe -- Accidents happen. Whether it’s bumps, bruises or a burn, more accidents take place in the home every year than in any other place. Having a first aid kit at hand is therefore an essential for every home, especially those with children, who are especially prone to mishaps.

Nelsons specialist in natural remedies since 1860 offer a range of alternative first aid treatments, which provide effective relief for a wide variety of minor first aid skin conditions.

Burns and Scalds

Over 50,000 children every year are treated in hospital for major burns or scalds, and many more are treated at home for minor burns. It is easy to see how such accidents can happen, a spilt cup of coffee, a bath that has had the hot tap running too long, or an over boiling saucepan. The first step in treating a minor burn should be to place the burnt area under cold running water until the pain subsides, then NELSONS BURNS CREAM (GBP3.95), a topical herbal remedy with Calendula and Urtica urens, can help relieve pain and promote healing. Just apply a little on the affected area and cover with a light material, which will not stick to the skin, if necessary.

Scratches and Grazes

It is almost impossible to take preventative measures when it comes to scratches and grazes as they are part of family life. A fall in the garden, or an extra rough game of five a side can leave wounds which although minor, are uncomfortable and need attention to avoid infection. NELSONS HYPERCAL CREAM (GBP3.95) or SPRAY (GBP4.30), with the healing herb Calendula and pain relieving Hypericum, offer speedy healing and relief to minor cuts and grazes. Apply hypercal cream or spray to a clean and dry wound. NELSONS TEA TREE CREAM (GBP3.95), with gentle antiseptic properties, can be applied if there is concern over infection.

Bumps and Bruises

Whether you are young or old a knock or a fall can cause a painful bruise. NELSONS ARNICA CREAM (GBP3.95) is an effective way of limiting the bruise and shortening it’s lifespan. NELSONS ARNICA CREAM should be applied as soon as possible after the injury occurs to minimise bruising. Gently massage the cream onto affected area.

Bites & Stings

Whether at home or abroad, warm, sunny weather brings out the worst in insects. There’s nothing worse than suffering from a painful wasp sting or itchy mosquito bites. NELSONS PYRETHRUM SPRAY is an essential item for any first aid kit and is the key to relieving insect bites and stings. Made from a combination of specially selected natural plant tinctures, NELSONS PYRETHRUM SPRAY offers on the spot relief for all types of insect bites and stings in a natural pump action spray. Each 30ml spray is priced at GBP4.30.

Nelsons formulated creams, and sprays are available from Boots, Holland & Barrett, Sainsburys, Superdrug and pharmacies and health food stores nation-wide.

Nelsons products can also be despatched by mail order from Nelsons.

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Nutraceutix: Signs Memorandum of Understanding with Sinphar


REDMOND, Wash., May 14, BW HealthWire -- Nutraceutix Inc., a leading provider of proven technologies and patented products for the nutraceutical and pharmaceutical industries, has announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Sinphar Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. of Taipei, Taiwan.

The two companies will co-develop dietary supplements, over-the-counter (OTC) products and prescription drugs for Japan, China, Philippines, Taiwan, Macau, Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

For Nutraceutix, the agreement allows the company to extend its products and services to the growing Asian market with the assistance of an established, respected leader in Sinphar. For Sinphar, the agreement means it can offer exclusive, unique Nutraceutix products and technologies, garnering the competitive edge in an already competitive market.

Specifically, Sinphar will co-develop CDT(TM) and probiotics products with Nutraceutix for the Taiwan market exclusively. In addition, Sinphar will represent Nutraceutix technologies and products to its existing client base in Asian markets.

Sinphar will also produce those technologies and products in its cGMP facility in I-LAN, Taiwan for export to its established territories. Sinphar’s Canadian subsidiary CanCap Pharmaceuticals of Richmond, B.C. will assume the responsibility of coordinating research activities developing products for the Asian market utilizing Nutraceutix’ patented technologies.

According to Tim Lee, Sinphar Pharmaceutical’s chairman, "Based on the existing sales network Sinphar has in 11 Asian countries, and experience of working with multi-national companies such as Takeda Chemical Industries Ltd. Taiwan, and Janssen-Cilag Taiwan, a division of Johnson & Johnson Taiwan Ltd., Sinphar has the confidence to develop and market products licensing Nutraceutix’ patented technologies in Asian markets to achieve mutual benefits."

David T. Howard, president and chief executive officer of Nutraceutix, added, "We are excited about the prospect of broadening the audience for Nutraceutix products and technologies with a leader in the Asian markets such as Sinphar Pharmaceutical. We look forward to a very rewarding arrangement for both companies."

Nutraceutix Inc. possesses proven technologies and products for the nutraceutical industry. In addition to patented ingredients like Calcium D-Glucarate(TM), Nutraceutix provides patented and proprietary technologies like CDT(TM) Controlled Delivery Technology, MDT(TM) Molecular Dispersion Technology, SET(TM) Self Emulsifying Technology and LiveBac(R) Probiotics.

Nutraceutix technologies provide distinctive supplements with tangible benefits for the consumer and competitive commercial advantages.

Sinphar is a publicly traded company that develops, manufactures and commercializes pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals and cosmetics products. Their cGMP compliant and ISO9002 certified plant produces parenterals, sterile solutions, creams, ointments, tablets, hard and soft gel capsules, etc.

They have a line of Sinphar brand name products that are widely distributed throughout Taiwan and surrounding territories such as Macau, Hong Kong and Mainland China.

Sinphar’s research and development center is in I-LAN, Taiwan and is staffed by 32 highly experienced and qualified personnel that are responsible for development of patent drugs and contract manufacturing for multinational pharmaceutical companies such as Takeda and Janssen-Cilag and other world-leading multi-layer marketing companies.

CanCap Pharmaceutical Ltd. is a subsidiary of Sinphar and is located in British Columbia, Canada. It is a GMP-compliant soft gel capsule contract manufacturer that services clientele in Canada, United States, Japan, Mexico, Philippines, Hong Kong, Taiwan and China, producing pharmaceutical, herbal, nutraceutical and cosmetic products.

CanCap is part of the Sinphar research and development center and is responsible for development of new drug products and clinical trials. CanCap is responsible for the screening and evaluation of technologies that may be beneficial to the group. For more information, please email cancapltdaol.com.

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Prolab and GNC: Sign New Distribution Agreement


BLOOMFIELD, Conn., May 22, Business Wire -- Prolab Nutrition Inc., which markets the Prolab brand of sports nutrition products to body builders, athletes and health minded individuals, today announced that it has signed a definitive agreement with General Nutrition Centers (GNC), the nation’s largest retailer of sports nutrition products, to distribute Prolab products nationwide.

Prolab is a wholly owned subsidiary of Natrol Inc., a manufacturer and marketer of branded dietary supplements.

"Prolab is a solid brand with a reputation for delivering high quality sports nutrition to men and women who are serious about fitness," said Rich Stanley, Prolab’s Vice President of Sales & Marketing.

"As the most recognizable sports fitness retailer in the country, GNC will help us broaden our customer base by allowing us to reach a larger group of consumers through its 4,500-plus stores. We intend to take advantage of this opportunity by concurrently launching Prolab’s new cutting-edge look, and advanced products, including Prolab’s EcdyVone(TM), the super anabolic accelerator, that will be available in GNC stores this summer," he added.

"GNC is extremely pleased to be taking our partnership to new heights," said Roberta Gaffga, GNC’s Senior Vice President of Marketing. "As a major retailer of sports and nutrition supplements, GNC is committed to bringing only the finest, high quality products to its consumers, and Prolab’s brand of sports nutrition meets our customers’ needs and our quality standards," she added.

General Nutrition Companies Inc. (GNC), based in Pittsburgh, Pa., is the largest nationwide specialty retailer of vitamin, mineral and herbal supplements, sports nutrition as well as many personal care and related products. GNC operates more than 4,500 retail outlets throughout the United States and 26 foreign markets including Puerto Rico, Canada and Mexico. GNC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Royal Numico N.V., a worldwide market leader in specialized nutrition that includes infant and clinical nutrition and nutritional supplements. Headquartered in Zoetermeer, The Netherlands, Royal Numico’s family of companies includes Boca Raton, Fla.-based Rexall Sundown Inc., a major supplier of vitamins, herbal and nutritional supplements to the food, drug and mass market, sports nutrition leaders MET-Rx and Worldwide Sport Nutrition, and Unicity Network, the company’s multi-level marketing operation which encompasses the former Enrich International and Rexall Showcase International network marketing organizations.

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Rocky Mountain Ginseng: Shareholders Meeting Rescheduled


VANCOUVER, B.C., May 4, Market News Publishing -- The Board of Directors of Rocky Mountain Ginseng, Inc. wish to report that the Company’s Annual Shareholders Meeting was adjourned at the May 3rd meeting due to the lack of a quorum.

Brian Hodge, president of RMGG, announced at the meeting that the Annual Shareholders Meeting will recommence on Friday, June 8, 2001, at 10:00 a.m. and will be held at the Century Plaza Hotel in Vancouver, B.C. Canada.

The Directors of RMGG urge all shareholders who did not vote to do so prior to June 8th.

Rocky Mountain Ginseng, Inc.’s head office is located in British Columbia, Canada. The Company exports American ginseng to China as well as manufactures and processes America ginseng products in China. Rocky Mountain Ginseng, Inc. holds exclusive world processing and distribution rights to several innovative value added ginseng products developed in North America.

Rocky Mountain Ginseng, Inc. purchased Fuzhou Fujian Drug Company located in China in February 1999. This acquisition included all necessary drug and hygiene licenses allowing the Company to import, export, manufacture and distribute ginseng products in all provinces of China. The Company has completed the construction of its new office and manufacturing facility in the city of Fuzhou and is currently producing traditional ginseng products for the Chinese Market. The Chinese factory employs 42 people in processing, sales, accounting and management. Rocky Mountain (Fuzhou) Drug Co. Ltd. is the first wholly owned Canadian Company in the Fujian province.

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Simmetech: Announces Acquisition of New Zealand Ginseng Company


ST. PAUL, Minn., May 2, Business Wire -- Simmetech, Inc. stock symbol (SIMH) traded on the (OTC) announced today that the Company has completed negotiations to purchase a Ginseng company in New Zealand.

Simmetech is a progressive high-tech company headquartered in St. Paul Minnesota. The company has been involved in various aspects of the telecommunication industry and prides itself in innovative developments in many areas.

"The acquisition of Ginseng New Zealand Ltd is exactly what the company needs to be well diversified," stated Rob Wasson, President & CEO. "The company has over 40 million mature ginseng plants with a current wholesale market value of three to four U.S. dollars per plant and they will be ready for harvest next year. With the current world shortage of Ginseng and the long (six to eight years) growth period, the forecast for profit is extremely high." Wasson went on to say, "The acquisition represents the first of many acquisitions planned by Simmetech this year. The Ginseng Company is dynamic with an international flavor and is currently operating profitably."

Simmetech is purchasing the Ginseng Company with stock, which will not deplete cash reserves and allow the combined company to move forward with working capital. The Ginseng Company will be acquired and operated as a wholly owned subsidiary company of the parent Simmetech, Inc. The board of directors will keep the Ginseng Company’s management in place to run day-to-day operations with the financial responsibilities being transferred to Simmetech’s corporate headquarters. This will ensure a smooth transition and will reduce administrative costs for the combined company.

Simmetech, Inc. is a Minnesota based holding company that specializes in advanced market driven technologies.

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Twinlab: Reports First Quarter 2001 Loss, Revenue Decline


HAUPPAUGE, N.Y., May 16, Business Wire -- Twinlab Corporation today announced results for the quarter ended March 31, 2001.

First quarter net sales, excluding the operations of Changes International which has been accounted for as a discontinued operation, were $53.2 million, compared to $67.0 million for the same quarter a year ago. The company experienced a net loss for the first quarter of 2001 of $15.9 million or $0.56 per share compared to net income of $2.4 million, or $0.09 per share, for the first quarter of 2000. The net loss for the first quarter of 2001 includes the estimated loss on disposal of Changes International of approximately $8.7 million or $0.30 per share.

"We have continued our efforts during the first quarter to refocus the direction of our business. This resulted in the sale of the assets of Changes International and PR Nutrition to the Goldshield Group plc." noted Ross Blechman, Twinlab Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President. "Additionally, we have reviewed and made changes to our infrastructure with the aim of reducing costs and improving operational efficiencies. We have new tools and systems in place as well as a new banking facility to assist us in this regard. While we have significant work ahead to fully realize our growth potential, with these steps, and a trusted brand, we believe we are moving in the right direction."

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

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Uni-President: Invests in Plantaceutica


TAIPEI, May 16, Reuters -- President Life Science Corp, an affiliate of Taiwan’s leading food maker Uni-President Enterprises , said on Wednesday it will invest US$3 million to take a 45 percent stake in a new herb and medicine company in North Carolina in the United States.

The new company, Plantaceutica Inc, will focus on research and development of natural products, said Jessica Lien, a President Life official.

President Life, established in March 2000, has invested more than T$1 billion in eight companies in the U.S., including US$6 million in Orchid Bioscience and US$2 million in Arena Pharmaceutical Inc .

"We have made lots of investments since last March, but our focus is also on technology transfer, and research and development," Lien told Reuters by telephone.

Lien said President Life will spend more than T$100 million to form a research company studying proteins in conjunction with a with a professor at National Cheng Kung University in the near term.

Also, the company planned to form a biotech company in Japan to study spine-related research, Lien said. But she declined to give further details.

Asked if President Life hopes for listing in the TAIEX market, Lien said "there is no such plan at the moment, but we hope the companies we invested in can list in the future."

[US$1 = T$33]




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