Richters HerbLetter

Date: 2002/04/30
1. St. John’s Wort Doesn’t Help Major Depression -- Study
2. Industry Group Refutes Study on St. John’s Wort and Depression
3. Ginkgo Biloba Helps Multiple Sclerosis Patients
4. Medicinal Marijuana Harvest on Hold
5. International Olympic Committee Warns Athletes about Supplements
6. Alternative Medicine Is Wave of the Future, South Carolina Doctor Says
7. Ephedrine-free Supplement Launched
8. World Health Organization Lists New Herb-Based Malaria Treatment
9. Green Tea the Answer to Liver Shortages?
10. Soy, Flaxseed Can Help Fight Diabetes and Obesity
11. Breast Enhancers Fail to Rise to the Occasion
12. Green Tea Polyphenols to Fight Parkinson’s
13. Cholesterol Reduced by Olive Oil -- Study
14. St. John’s Wort No Better Than Placebo for Depression
15. St. John’s Wort Study Misinterpreted
16. St. John’s Wort May Interfere With Chemotherapy Drugs
17. St. John’s Wort Weakens Cancer Drug
18. Green Tea Catechins to Treat Muscle Degeneration
19. Thinking of Taking Herbal Remedies? What Every Patient Should Know
20. We’re on Our Own in Deciphering Herbal Supplement Details
21. A New LSD? Mexican Herb Comes With Divine Claims, Warnings
22. Ephedra Manufacturers Implicated in Student’s Death
23. Industry Council Issues Voluntary Kava Warning Labels
24. ‘Safe’ Alternative to Kava Launched
25. Herbal Eczema Creams Contain Steroids -- Warning
26. ‘Herbal Cream’ Left Isa’s Skin Paper Thin and Raw
27. Cancer Scientists Find Drugs in Prostate Herbal Supplement
28. New USP Program to Assure Quality of Herbal Supplements
29. Call for Tighter Controls of Supplement Claims
30. Call for Body to Regulate Natural Health Care in Ireland
31. Utah Justices Rule in Sunrider Dispute
32. Hemp Industries Association Confident of Court Approval
33. Herbalife, Other Ephedra Marketers Face Soaring Insurance Rates
34. Concerns Over Supplement Scam in Ireland
35. Naturopath on Trial, Mother Recounts Daughter’s Death
36. Preserving Rwanda’s Medicinal Plants: Profile of Léopold Ntezurubanza
37. Kenyan Study Brings Hope to HIV/AIDS Patients
38. Ghanaian Government Blamed for Slow Herbal Medicine Testing
39. South African Traditional Healers to Be Recognised under New Bill
40. Kenyan Health Minister Defends Use of Herbal Medicine
41. Ugandan Herbalist Arrested for Defiling 11-Year-Old Girl
42. North American Industry-Native Symposium Leads to Collaboration
43. Indian Army Turns to Herbal Remedies
44. South Indian Farmers Increasingly Planting Vanilla
45. Gene Technology Used to Decode Traditional Chinese Medicine
46. Indian Herbal Medicine in Hepatitis Trial
47. China’s Traditional Medicine Exports Totalled Half Billion in 2001
48. Global Herbal Product Market Has Great Potential, Hong Kong Trade Council Says
49. Malaysia to Set Up Herbal Farm
50. Pepper Prices Shoot Up in India
51. Spice Trade Wary of Influence of Vietnamese Pepper
52. Nutmeg Prices Likely to Remain High
53. Indian Ginger Prices Remain Depressed
54. Indian Turmeric Prices on the Rise
55. Potential for Growth in Scottish Herb Market
56. Herb Business News

1. St. John’s Wort Doesn’t Help Major Depression -- Study
CHICAGO, Apr. 9, -- In what is claimed to be the largest clinical trial performed to date on the popular herbal supplement St. John’s wort, researchers have found it to be ineffective for major depression.

Duke University Medical Center researchers found the herb to be no more effective than a placebo for the treatment of a moderately severe form of major depression, which is one of the most common forms of depression.

In the study, published in the April 10 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers used the antidepressant sertraline, trade name Zoloft, as a "control" against St. John’s wort. Antidepressants such as Zoloft have been found to be effective in treating several forms of depression.

"Major depression is treatable, but this research suggests that major depression of at least moderate severity should not be treated with St. John’s wort," said Dr. Jonathan Davidson, director of the Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Program at Duke and lead researcher.

"Rather than self-medicate with an over-the-counter medication or supplement, patients are strongly advised to consult an appropriate health-care provider to assess the best treatment for a depressive episode," Davidson said.

Previous studies about St. John’s wort and other herbal remedies have been inadequate -- and dangerous, said Dr. Robert Califf, director of the Duke Clinical Research Institute.

"As long as these types of products remain available to the public without the protection of adequate, controlled and unbiased studies, taking them is like playing Russian roulette with your health," Califf said.

"More people are turning to St. John’s wort as a treatment for their depressive symptoms than ever before, and the majority of them do so without consulting a physician," Davidson said. He said more studies are needed on the effects of herbal supplements and prescription drugs for the treatment of depression.

Previous studies of the herb have not clearly characterized the types of depression that might respond to this treatment. The Duke-led study monitored 340 participants diagnosed with major depression at 12 study sites for eight weeks to six months.

The results showed that St. John’s wort had no better effects than a placebo.

Herbal supplements have grown in popularity during the last decade as more consumers look for "natural" medicines. However, just because a product claims to be "natural" does not mean it is safe, Davidson said. A product as gentle as baby aspirin can be toxic at high doses, he said.

"Just because St. John’s wort was found to be ineffective for this type of depression does not mean it is harmless to the body," Califf said. "Several studies have shown that St. John’s wort interacts dangerously with several medications such as those used to treat HIV/AIDS, certain cardiac conditions and even those that keep the body from rejecting organs after transplant."

Depression, if not properly treated, can cause serious complications. "It is very important to treat it early and effectively," Davidson said.

Major depression affects approximately 9.9 million American adults age 18 and older in any given year and is a leading cause of disability in the United States, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. If left untreated, this type of depression can lead to symptoms such as significant weight loss or gain, sleep disturbances, agitation or unusual slowness, fatigue or loss of energy, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, lack of concentration, or recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.

In 1998, sales of the herb in the United States were estimated to be $210 million, with that number expected to rise as more people turn to alternative types of medicines to treat disorders like depression, according to a previous study conducted at Duke.

The study was funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, the NIMH and the Office of Dietary Supplements, all divisions within the National Institutes of Health. Davidson holds stock in several drug manufacturing companies, including Pfizer, American Home Products, GlaxoSmithKline, Proctor and Gamble and Triangle Pharmaceuticals.

[Source: JAMA. 2002; 287:1807-1814]

2. Industry Group Refutes Study on St. John’s Wort and Depression
SILVER SPRING, Md., Apr. 9, 2002 -- A study on the popular herbal remedy St. John’s wort published in the April 10 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) concluded that neither St. John’s wort nor the widely prescribed antidepressant Zoloft(r) are more effective overall than placebo in treating severe forms of depression. The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) and the National Nutritional Foods Association (NNFA) are critical of the study saying that it ignores the traditional use of St. John’s wort and recent modern clinical trials that have demonstrated conclusively that St. John’s wort is effective in the treatment of "mild to moderate" depression.

"This is a quintessential case of the ‘Emperor’s New Clothes,’" said Steven Dentali, Ph.D. vice president for scientific and technical affairs for AHPA. "It is inexplicable that JAMA has created such fanfare over the fact that St. John’s wort is not shown to be effective for a condition that it was never intended to treat. The real story here is that if this study is believable it showed that a blockbuster drug, with sales of over $2 billion and prescribed to millions of Americans for severe forms of depression, may be no more effective than placebo."

St. John’s wort is one of the top five selling herbal products in the United States and is the number one antidepressant used in Germany for the treatment of mild to moderate depression. The new multi-million dollar National Institutes of Health study was conducted on 340 patients diagnosed as having major depression. The study broke patients into three groups assigning one group to take a leading brand of St. John’s wort, another group to take the anti-depressant pharmaceutical Zoloft(r) and the third group a placebo (a sugar pill). The researchers reported that neither St. John’s wort nor Zoloft(r) were significantly different from placebo.

"This research in no way invalidates the scores of clinical studies and analyses that have clearly demonstrated that St. John’s wort is effective for mild to moderate depression," said Phil Harvey, Ph.D., director of science and quality assurance for NNFA. "In fact, contemporary researchers have found evidence that St. John’s wort extracts are ‘therapeutically equivalent to’ and ‘at least as effective as’ some commonly prescribed antidepressant drugs. Researchers also note that people have better tolerance for the herb."

Relevant Facts

According to Web MD, in the U.S., approximately 10% of people suffer from major depression at any one time, and 20-25% suffer a major depressive episode at some point during their lifetimes.

According to Nutrition Business Journal, St. John’s wort sales in 2000 were $180 million. According to Med Ad News, Zoloft(r) is the third best-selling selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor and the leading antidepressant in terms of share of new prescriptions. According to IMS Health Inc., 2000 Zoloft(r) sales reached $2.14 billion.

3. Ginkgo Biloba Helps Multiple Sclerosis Patients
VANCOUVER, Apr. 19, The Province -- The herbal supplement Ginkgo biloba helps slow mental decline in people with multiple sclerosis, a researcher reported yesterday.

Although the remedy derived from the primitive, familiar tree has been used to "benefit the brain" in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years, the University of California-San Diego School of Medicine study was the first scientific test of the product in those with MS.

"We found that Ginkgo biloba, in doses of 240 mg a day, is well tolerated and may show a beneficial effect on attention, memory and functioning in patients with mild MS," said Dr. Jody Corey-Bloom.

Earlier studies have shown that ginkgo can improve mental function in patients with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia caused by strokes.

Corey-Bloom said about 50 per cent of the 300,000 Americans with MS experience cognitive problems, usually with concentration, memory and abstract reasoning.

4. Medicinal Marijuana Harvest on Hold
By Carolyn Abraham

TORONTO, Apr. 22, Globe and Mail -- Hundreds of sick Canadians awaiting the government’s first shipment of medicinal marijuana had better not hold their breath: Ottawa bureaucrats now say that they have no idea when their weed will be ready for distribution and that only a select group will be eligible to receive it.

Facing acute concern from doctors about prescribing pot as medicine and a cabinet shuffle that has landed new Health Minister Anne McLellan with a heavy agenda, the government’s much-touted medicinal-marijuana program seems to have slipped into slow gear.

Special regulations permit patients with conditions as varied as AIDS and back pain to use the illegal drug to treat their symptoms. Officials with former health minister Allan Rock said last December that marijuana growing in a northern Manitoba mine would soon be in those patients’ hands.

Four months later, more than 250 kilograms of the federally sanctioned buds have been harvested, but still have not budged. The canabis is sitting in a secure cold storage grotto, 360 metres underground, its entrances video monitered constantly by RCMP, who could easily arrive in less time than it would take an ambitious thief to travel in and out.

"They are going to have to sit around and smoke it themselves or watch it rot, because they don’t seem to want to give it to anyone," said Victoria lawyer Robert Moore-Smith, who represents three clients facing charges related to selling marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Mr. Moore-Smith, along with others familiar with the situation, say Canada’s medicinal pot program, the first of its kind in the world, is causing chaos and confusion.

Federal officials are still working out crucial details about how to run the program, which they announced more than a year ago. Among the questions is whether medicinal marijuana should be subject to the same premarket screening and regulations as any other pharmaceutical drug before it reaches patients.

"I think it’s going to take more time than anyone expected," Cindy Cripps-Prawak, director of the federal government’s Office of Cannabis Medical Access, acknowledged. "This is not an approved therapeutic product."

Ms. Cripps-Prawak would not even hazard a guess as to when the weed would be deemed ready for shipment.

The Health Minister turned down requests for an interview on the program. Her spokeswoman Farah Mohamed said Ms. McLellan is still committed to it, though she added, "there is no arbitrary time clock" dictating when the marijuana will be delivered.

So far, a total of 798 people have been approved to possess marijuana as medicine. But only 106 of them have permission either to grow the drug themselves or to have someone else grow it for them. This leaves more than three quarters of patients in a Catch-22: They are legally entitled to possess a drug that is illegal to buy.

So while cannabis accumulates in the underground cavern, patients place anxious calls to Health Canada, politicians and the Saskatoon-based company hired to grow the government’s marijuana.

NDP health critic Judy Wasylycia-Leis said she has received a "barrage of complaints" from patients worried that buying marijuana for medical purposes "puts them at risk of being charged under the current law.

"It’s a mess," she said. "But is this government going to continue to make flowery announcements and then not follow through?"

Even before television cameras filmed Mr. Rock touring the Flin Flon pot plot last summer, the government program had been well publicized. Mr. Moore-Smith suspects that as a result, underground suppliers of medicinal marijuana are facing greater police scrutiny.

"Police are saying, ‘Now that we’ve got this federal medical marijuana program, we can bust all the other games in town.’ But the trouble is the federal government’s game is a sham."

Geoff Varley, deputy chief of the Victoria Police Department, denies police are subjecting medicinal cannabis sellers to tougher inspections. Instead, he said, he worries that the public might assume police are in a position to determine which laws "should or should not be enforced."

"It’s a bad model and a slippery slope to have police acting as a de facto Parliament," he said.

Doctors, meanwhile, feel the onus has been left for them to judge the medical value of marijuana for their patients without research to back it up.

Both the Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Medical Protective Association have told physicians not to sign patients’ requests to be federally approved to possess cannabis.

"The objective is not to prevent them from having access to something that may relieve their symptoms, but to protect them against an unproven treatment," CMA president Henry Haddad said.

But Dr. Haddad, who recently had lunch with the new Health Minister, said he feels doctors’ concern is finally having an impact. "We’re pleased that they’re listening to physicians," he said. "We also have the impression that the process is grinding along, but it’s grinding along positively."

Only patients who participate in clinical trials or agree to be monitored for research purposes will receive the government-grown marijuana, Ms. Cripps-Prawak said.

But since patients are not usually charged to test experimental drugs, the government is also reconsidering whether it can recoup the $5.7-million it is spending over five years to grow its marijuana supply.

Ted Smith, founder of the Victoria-based Cannabis Buyers’ Clubs of Canada, which sells pot as medicine to 950 members, said few people are applying for the government program any more.

"The only way things will happen here is by constant, passive, civil disobedience," said Mr. Smith, who faces six marijuana-related charges.

"Most people are giving up on Health Canada. They figure, why fill out all this paperwork? Doctors have been told not to sign it for them and then there’s nowhere to get it, so what’s the point?"

5. International Olympic Committee Warns Athletes about Supplements
LAUSANNE, Switzerland, Apr. 4, International Olympic Committee -- Based on the results of a study of 634 nutritional supplements, the Medical Commission of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) today reissued its warning to athletes against their use and strengthened its call for industry and government action to ensure their quality.

Out of the 634 samples tested, 94 (14.8%) contained substances, non listed on any label, that would have led to a positive doping test. Out of these 94 samples, 23 contained precursors (building blocks) of both nandrolone and testosterone, 64 contained precursors of testosterone alone and 7 contained precursors of nandrolone alone.

In addition to these 94 samples, 66 others (10.4%) returned borderline results for various unlabeled substances.

The 634 non-hormonal nutritional supplements were gathered from 215 different providers in 13 countries from October 2000 to November 2001. Ninety-one percent of them were purchased in stores or over the Internet. The others were obtained from the manufacturers. The IOC-accredited laboratory in Cologne, Germany, tested all supplements.

The results of the analysis by country follows:

Country Number of products Number "positive"Percentage "positive"
Netherlands31 825.8%
Austria 225 22.7%
UK 37718.9%
USA24045 18.8%
Italy 35514.3%
Spain294 13.8%
Germany 12915 11.6%
Belgium 302 6.7%
France 3026.7%
Norway301 3.3%
Switzerland 13--
Sweden6- -
Hungary2 --
Total 63494 14.8%

Under the Olympic Movement’s rule of strict liability, athletes are responsible for whatever substance is found in their bodies.

The IOC Medical Commission has been warning against the potential risks linked to the use of nutritional supplements since 1997. The lack of oversight existing in some countries has prompted the IOC to intervene and to recommend to athletes not to take such products.

While the IOC has issued its warnings to elite athletes and their entourages, especially due to their liability under doping control tests, the fact that the public is unknowingly ingesting the precursors to hormones should be a matter of public health concern.

The IOC hopes the results of this study demonstrate to governments and the industry the need for greater quality control to ensure substances not found on the label are not found in the product. The IOC Medical Commission recommends controls, similar to those pertaining to the manufacture of pharmaceuticals, be applied to the production of nutritional supplements.

The IOC also will recommend to National Olympic Committees (NOCs), International Federations (IFs) and Organizing Committees (OCOGs) that they adopt a cautious stance toward forming relationships with companies that produce nutritional supplements of which the quality cannot be guaranteed.

6. Alternative Medicine Is Wave of the Future, South Carolina Doctor Says
By Jonathan Maze

CHARLESTON, S.C., Apr. 29, The Post and Courier -- Brad Keith is in his fourth year at the Medical University of South Carolina, on his way toward a career in internal medicine. As one of his electives, Keith took a rotation in complementary and alternative medicine, or CAM.

He found it unlike anything else he’s learned.

"It’s a completely different language," Keith said. "If you don’t have some experience in it, it doesn’t make any sense. I think a lack of familiarity scares a lot of doctors. I wanted to have an open mind about it if one of my patients wanted that."

Gary Nestler believes Keith’s approach is the future of medicine.

Nestler is the director of complementary and alternative medicine at the Medical University. Speaking Thursday to a group attending the South Carolina Medical Association’s annual meeting and scientific assembly, Nestler said CAM is becoming an increasing part of the medical landscape, rather than an "alternative."

"It’s not going away," Nestler said. "It’s not a trend in medicine. It’s not a revolution in medicine. It’s an evolution in medicine."

Complementary and alternative medicine includes a wide range of healing philosophies that Western, or conventional, medicine does not commonly use. Some CAM practices include acupuncture, herbal medicine, homeopathy or therapeutic massage.

They can be used alone, as an alternative, or as a complement to conventional medicine.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that in 1990, 33 percent of Americans were using one of these therapies. By 1997 that number grew to 42 percent, and could be higher today -- Nestler cited one study that found 51 percent of South Carolina’s patient population used complementary or alternative medicine.

In addition, more doctors are recommending alternative therapies. The NCCAM cited a 1994 study that found 60 percent of physicians recommended an alternative therapy at least once, and 47 percent used alternative therapies themselves.

Americans spent more than $27 billion on complementary or alternative medicine in 1997, according to the NCCAM, a number almost certainly higher today: Nestler told the medical association that CAM could be an estimated $150 billion industry this year.

Nevertheless, Nestler did indicate there are some fallacies about alternative medicine and those who practice it. "A lot of doctors want to know if I’m Chinese," he said. Nestler is not. They also ask him if he wears jeans and a T-shirt to work rather than a suit and tie.

At the SCMA meeting, Nestler wore a suit and tie. His hair was short.

Nestler discounted many of what he saw as false beliefs of CAM practices -- for instance, he said practitioners don’t leave traditional medicine behind. He spent four years training in acupuncture and herbal medicine, with the first two years spent learning Western medicine.

He also said that both Western medicine and alternative therapies could work together. Physicians can practice it somewhat themselves -- Nestler said the American Medical Association is offering doctors training in some acupuncture, for instance.

But generally, traditional physicians should include alternative therapies as an option, especially since so many have indicated a willingness to go outside the mainstream for health care.

"It’s no longer ‘alternative,’ " Nestler said. "It’s an expanded view of health."

7. Ephedrine-free Supplement Launched
MONTPELLIER, France, Apr. 8, -- Cytodyne Technologies has launched an ephedrine-free version of its Xenadrine supplement, which it claims is the number one dietary supplement on sale in the US. Xenadrine-EFX is an all-natural weight loss formula which uses catechins - the compounds which occur in products such as green tea -- to raise the body’s metabolic rate, thus stimulating a reduction in weight, the company said.

"The precise combination of natural metabolic enhancers in Xenadrine-EFX represent an even more effective formula than the original ephedrine-based product. More importantly, since the product is 100 per cent ephedrine-free, it promotes rapid fat loss without the strong stimulant effects of ephedrine," said Robert Chinery, president of Cytodyne.

Xenadrine-EFX was two years in development and a small-scale trial of the product took place in the US over the last year, Chinery said. He claimed that the volunteers taking part in the trial lost more weight in a shorter time than similar groups using the original Xenadrine. "Besides decreased appetite, the Xenadrine-EFX user group reported enhanced mental focus and clarity, increased energy and mood improvement," he claimed.

Xenadrine-EFX also contains polyphenols, powerful antioxidants which help clean up dangerous free radicals which can contribute to a number of health problems, he added.

8. World Health Organization Lists New Herb-Based Malaria Treatment
JOHANNESBURG, Apr. 26, South African Press Association -- The malaria parasite is unlikely to develop a resistance against Coartem, a new treatment listed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as an essential medicine this week.

"The Artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) are derived in part from a Chinese herb and are the most exciting prospect in new malaria treatments," a statement posted on WHO’s website said.

"They kill the malaria parasite very fast, allowing the patient to recover rapidly, and with very few side effects."

The medicine, known as co-artemether or Coartem (the brand name), is the only drug that combines artemisinin and non-artemisinin compounds.

"Because ACTs combine two medicines which work in different ways, it is unlikely that the malaria parasite -- which has rapidly developed resistance to other, single treatments -- would evolve to resist these medicine combinations," WHO said.

Artemisinin was originally developed in 1972 in China from the plant Artemisia annua L (sweet wormwood). It is the active ingredient in qinghao, a Chinese herbal tea that have been used for 150 years to treat malaria and haemorrhoids.

The malaria parasite in recent years developed a resistance to chloroquine, the best known treatment before Coartem. Many countries then averted to using sulphadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP), also known as Fansidar, but resistance to that is also spreading.

"There is new evidence that the number of child deaths due to malaria has begun to increase as a result of failing medicine and medicines of poor quality."

WHO announced on Africa Malaria Day that Coartem had been added to its Essential Medicines List. It also recommends the use of other combinations of artemisinin compounds such as amodiaquine and SP, which is still effective in some areas.

"WHO is urging countries to switch to the new type of combination therapy when there is strong evidence that existing conventional medicines are no longer working."

The organisation defines "essential medicines" as follows: "... those that satisfy the priority health care needs of the population, are intended to be available within the context of functioning health systems at all times in adequate amounts, in the appropriate dosage forms, with assured quality, and at a price the individual and the community can afford."

Dr Stephen Toovey, a medical director at the Netcare Travel Clinic in South Africa, said Coartem cost about R180 per person.

"It’s in about the same price bracket as the other drugs currently being used against malaria. It’s a realistic price," he said.

Medicinal treatment for malaria is not only way to combat the disease which kills more than one-million people each year. Most of the victims are children and nine out of 10 cases occur in Africa south of the Sahara.

A global non-profit network, Massive Effort, aimed at reducing HIV infections by 25 percent and halving tuberculosis and malaria deaths by 2010, launched a "Drop the Malaria Tax" campaign this week.

The organisation said in a statement South Africa was one of 26 African countries which had not kept their promise to drop tax on mosquito nets.

African leaders made the pledge in Abuja, Nigeria on April 25, 2000 at a summit on malaria.

Campaign spokesman Louis Da Gama said treated mosquito nets were considered one of the most effective methods to reduce malaria deaths. Research showed that it could decrease the occurrence of the disease among children by 50 percent.

"They have it in their power to drop these taxes and to do more to fight malaria in their countries," he said in the statement.

"Cost and availability are the major barriers to the use of treated mosquito nets."

The Health Department responded to the statement by saying that the process of dropping malaria tax was under way.

"The concept was submitted to Cabinet which agreed to implement it," health spokesman Sibani Mngadi said.

He said the Health Department was currently discussing the logistics with the Ministries of Finance and Trade and Industry.

Asked when the actual implementation would take place, he said it was regarded as a "matter of urgency".

Meanwhile the government was subsidising mosquito nets in KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and the Northern Province by up to 40 percent, he said.

"We are promoting the use of the nets among the affected communities as it is a relatively new concept in our country.

"We are also looking at the possibility of producing the treated mosquito nets inside South Africa," Sibani said.

9. Green Tea the Answer to Liver Shortages?
MONTPELLIER, France, Apr. 23, -- New research suggests that drinking green tea may be the answer for patients waiting for a liver transplant.

A liver transplant can be a lifesaving operation for many patients, but a lack of available organs often means that many are unable to receive the treatment they need. Furthermore, many livers are unusable, and primary graft failure, which occurs in five to 15 per cent of cases, often necessitates re-transplantation.

A major source of donor livers is brain-dead accident victims, and accidents are associated overwhelmingly with alcohol. Therefore, alcohol consumption is likely to be a common characteristic of organ donors. Unfortunately, alcohol consumption causes fatty infiltration (deposit of fat within the tissues). Fatty grafts exhibit higher rates of primary graft failure leading to higher death rate; therefore, fatty livers are often not accepted for transplantation.

Previous studies have demonstrated that production of free radicals, an atom or atom group carrying an unpaired electron and no charge, increased in fatty livers after liver transplantation. This increase has been associated with liver graft injury and failure.

Polyphenols are efficient free radical and single oxygen scavengers, and green tea extracts inhibit lipid peroxidation in experimental animals and humans. Green tea contains high levels of polyphenols including catechin, epicatechin, gallocatechin, epigallocatechin, epicatechin gallate and gallocatechin gallate. Considerable epidemiological and experimental evidence shows beneficial effects of green tea extract in reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer, most likely due to the antioxidant property of polyphenols.

The latest research, carried out by Zhi Zhong, John J. Lemasters, Ronald G. Thurman, and their colleagues from the Departments of Cell & Developmental Biology and Pharmacology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the Laboratory of Pharmacology and Chemistry, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, North Carolina, tested the hypothesis that green tea extract blocks free radical formation and thus prevents primary graft failure after transplantation of fatty livers from ethanol-fed rats.

The scientists extracted the livers of rats which had been fed alcohol to mimic binge drinking, stored them for 24 hours, then rinsed them with a solution containing green tea extract prior to implantation. They then tested the liver for free radical and lipid peroxidation evidence.

What they discovered was that transaminase or enzyme release after liver transplantation was four-fold higher in rats that received fatty grafts than in rats with healthy control grafts.

While ethanol also caused severe focal necrosis in the liver and decreased survival rates from 88 per cent to 13 per cent, the green tea extract largely blunted graft injury and increased survival of fatty livers to 75 per cent.

The researchers claim that the results of their study, presented at the annual meeting of the American Physiological Society this week, confirm the association of increased free radical formation and graft failure after transplantation of fatty livers from ethanol-treated donors. It also provides evidence that the scavenging of free radicals in fatty livers by green tea extract prevents such liver graft damage and failure.

Green tea polyphenols could thus be an effective therapy to prevent failure of fatty grafts after clinical liver transplantation and lead to the inclusion of previously rejected livers into the pool of organs available for transplantation, they concluded.

10. Soy, Flaxseed Can Help Fight Diabetes and Obesity
MONTPELLIER, France, Apr. 26, -- The phytoestrogens in both soy and flaxseed could help fight obesity and diabetes, according to studies presented last week at the meeting of the American Physiological Society.

Previous studies have suggested that soy, as a source of dietary protein, can have significant anti-obesity effects. With this in mind, a team of scientists led by Sam J. Bhathena of the Phytonutrients Laboratory at the US Department of Agriculture, carried out a study of the effects of both soy and flaxseed on rats.

Lean and obese rats were fed diets containing either 20 per cent casein or 20 per cent isolated soybean protein or 20 per cent flaxseed meal for 26 weeks. The lean rats were hypertensive while the obese rats showed symptoms of type II diabetes. Obese rats had significantly higher levels of plasma glucose, triglycerides, total cholesterol, HDL and LDL cholesterol.

Bhatena’s team discovered that both the lean and obese rats fed with soybean showed a significant decrease in total cholesterol and LDL levels, although glucose levels were not affected. The flaxseed, on the other hand, decreased total cholesterol and triglycerids in both lean and obese rats, but significantly decreased HDL and LDL cholesterol levels only in obese rats. Flaxseed also decreased glucose in lean but not in obese rats and it had greater effect on various parameters than did soybean.

Both the soybean and flaxseed affected plasma lipids and a number of enzymes. They also had varying effects on tissue weights in lean and obese rats. Obese rats compared to lean rats had significantly lower plasma creatinine but higher total bilirubin, blood urea nitrogen, alanine aminotransferase and lactate dehydrogenase. Both soy and flaxseed meal decreased total bilirubin, protein and uric acid in the lean rats, but the effects in obese rats were mixed.

11. Breast Enhancers Fail to Rise to the Occasion
MONTPELLIER, France, Apr. 17, -- So-called breast enhancement supplements are ineffective, according to the latest examinations by independent testing body

In an article published on , the organisation reviews all the current scientific literature and product information regarding these popular supplements. usually carries out laboratory tests of the products it reviews, but in this case found no evidence that any of them was even worth recommending.

"This review caused us to depart from our traditional testing of products because no product of which we are aware would merit our approval even if it contained what it claimed," said Tod Cooperman,’s president.

The review found no well-controlled clinical studies and no sound theoretical basis for any of the twenty ingredients often appearing in such products, to be effective. For example, there is no reason to believe that oestrogenic herbs (including soy, red clover, fennel, and hops) should increase breast size in young women, said, adding that if anything, they could theoretically decrease it.

However, most of the doses of these herbs used in the supplements are too small to have any effect whatsoever, it concluded.

12. Green Tea Polyphenols to Fight Parkinson’s
MONTPELLIER, France, Apr. 17, -- The powerful antioxidant properties of polyphenols in green tea could help protect against the onset of Parkinson’s disease, according to new research from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

Polyphenols in green tea have already been shown to help protect against cancer and heart disease, and indeed earlier studies had also shown that they might protect against Parkinson’s disease. However, this is the first time that the way in which they act to protect against the disease has been shown.

Speaking at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology earlier this week, the study’s lead author Tianhong Pan said that Parkinson’s disease was characterised by the selective cell death of dopaminergic neurons in the midbrain called substantia nigra and by a marked decrease in dopamine neurotransmitter produced by these neurons.

"We tested the levels of dopamine uptake density in a controlled study of mice and the protective effects on dopaminergic neurons against neurotoxin MPP+-induced injury before and after treatment with polyphenol," said Pan.

"Our results indicate the mechanism, or action, of polyphenol is to inhibit the uptake of dopamine or MPP+ by blocking dopamine transporter (DAT), suggesting that its protective effect in Parkinson’s disease is its ability to block the DAT-dependent uptake of environmental neurotoxin."

He stressed that the clinical effects of polyphenols on human Parkinson’s disease patients remain to be studied.

13. Cholesterol Reduced by Olive Oil -- Study
MONTPELLIER, France, Apr. 17, -- Olive oil has long been touted as an essential part of the healthy Mediterranean diet, but new evidence appears to show exactly why -- it helps reduce the oxidation of LDL of ‘bad’ cholesterol, linked to the hardening of the arteries.

Writing in the April edition of the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a team led by Dr M. C. Lopez-Sabater from the University of Barcelona said they had calculated that LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol levels could be cut substantially after consuming just 25 millilitres of virgin olive oil daily for one week.

Dr Lopez-Sabater’s team focused on just 16 people, all of whom were told to avoid foods such as coffee, tea, wine and vegetables for a period of four days. These types of food contain phenols, antioxidant products which can help attack harmful free radicals, and the researchers wanted to ascertain whether the oil would also increase phenol levels.

Once they had avoided phenol-rich foods for four days, the 16 subjects were given 50 mL of virgin olive oil and were then told to avoid all other foods containing phenols for a further 24 hours. After that, they simply ate regularly for the next week, although they continued to take a supplement of 25 mL of olive oil a day. The volunteers also avoided high-fat foods such as butter, margarine, cooking oil, nuts, baked foods and eggs.

After just one week of supplementation with olive oil, the blood samples taken from the participants were found to contain higher levels of antioxidants such as vitamin E and phenols. There were also higher levels of oleic acid, the predominant type of fat in olive oil, and monounsaturated fatty acids, both of which are indicative of reduced LDL oxidation rate, the researchers said.

The researchers stressed that while all types of olive oil are sources of monounsaturated fat, the fact that virgin olive oil is less processed than others means that it also contains higher levels of antioxidants.

Other types of phenols -- notably those found in products such as red wine and onions -- have been shown to help control cholesterol, but little is yet known about the potential benefits if olive oil. "Our results support the idea that daily ingestion of virgin olive oil could protect LDL from oxidation," Lopez-Sabater said in the article.

"In addition to the LDL-lowering effect of virgin olive oil, our results suggest that an intake of 25 mL/day could increase the resistance of LDL to oxidation because it becomes richer in oleic acid and antioxidants. These benefits could be achieved by including virgin olive oil daily in our diet."

[Source: European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2002;56:114-120]

14. St. John’s Wort No Better Than Placebo for Depression
By Laurie Barclay, MD

NEW YORK, Apr. 10, MedscapeWire -- In an 8-week, randomized trial reported in the April 10 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association, St. John’s wort was no better than placebo in the treatment of major depression, and sertraline was better only on a secondary outcome measure. A second study and an editorial in the same issue of the journal stress the importance of placebo controls in trials of antidepressants. "Major depression is treatable, but this research suggests that major depression of at least moderate severity should not be treated with St. John’s wort," principal investigator Jonathan R. T. Davidson, MD, from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, says in a news release. "It is vitally important to conduct well-designed studies to examine herbal supplements and other drugs for the treatment of depression."

In this double-blind, parallel group study conducted at 12 academic or community clinics, 340 outpatients received St. John’s wort 900 mg to 1500 mg daily, sertraline 50 mg to 100 mg daily, or placebo for 8 weeks, followed by up to 18 weeks of double-blind continuation treatment in responders. All subjects had a diagnosis of major depression, a score 20 or higher on the Hamilton Depression (HAM-D) scale, and a score 60 or lower on the Global Assessment of Functioning scale at baseline.

Neither St. John’s wort nor sertraline proved to be more effective than placebo on primary measures of effectiveness including change on HAM-D score from baseline to 8 weeks and rate of full response on the Clinical Global Impressions scale (CGI) or HAM-D. Full response occurred in 31.9% of patients receiving placebo, 23.9% of those receiving St. John’s wort, and 24.8% of patients receiving sertraline. Although sertraline was better than placebo on the CGI improvement scale (P=.02), a secondary outcome measure, St. John’s wort showed no effectiveness on any measure.

The extract of St. John’s wort used in this study (LI-160) was standardized to between 0.12% and 0.28% hypericin and was selected for the body of literature supporting its possible efficacy in depression.

Study coauthor Robert Califf, MD, from Duke Clinical Research Institute, emphasized possible interactions of St. John’s wort and other herbal remedies with prescription medications, including antiretroviral therapy, certain cardiovascular drugs, and immunosuppressants. "Just because St. John’s wort was found to be ineffective for this type of depression does not mean it is harmless to the body," Califf said. "As long as these types of products remain available to the public without the protection of adequate, controlled and unbiased studies, taking them is like playing Russian roulette with your health."

Pfizer provided sertraline and its matching placebo for this study and has financial relationships with some of the authors.

A meta-analysis in the same issue of JAMA notes that placebo response in published trials of antidepressants is highly variable, often substantial, and has increased significantly in recent years.

"Taken together, the two reports in this issue of The Journal return full circle to the placebo response and understanding its mechanisms of action and highlight the perplexing complexity of the placebo and its ability to cause ‘mischief’ in scientific inquiry," David J. Kupfer, MD, and Ellen Frank, PhD, from the University of Pittsburgh Medical School, write in an accompanying editorial. "This may be nature’s way of providing clues to fundamental aspects of the healing process, even as advances in medicine and the discovery of new therapies take place. It is important to learn from, rather than dismiss, the variability of the therapeutic response."

A National Depressive and Manic-Depressive Association Consensus Statement on the use of placebo in clinical trials of mood disorders, published in the March issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry, concluded that findings of equivalence between a new drug and standard treatment are not evidence of efficacy unless the new drug is also significantly more effective than placebo.

[Source: JAMA. 2002;287(14):1807-1814, 1840-1847, 1853-1854]

15. St. John’s Wort Study Misinterpreted
AUSTIN, Texas, Apr. 9, Herbal Science Group -- The American public may be receiving misleading information about the effectiveness of the popular herbal dietary supplement St. John’s wort, says the nonprofit American Botanical Council. ABC and some of its scientific advisors noted that a new clinical study being released to the media is being misinterpreted.

The long-awaited government-sponsored study on the effectiveness of the popular herb is being published this Wednesday, April 10 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study, conducted by researchers at Duke University and 11 other medical centers in the U.S., concludes that neither St. John=92s wort nor the drug sertraline showed any measurable benefit in patients with more severe forms of depression. Although the study was conducted in patients with moderate to severe depression, the herb has been tested and used mainly in patients with less severe forms of depression.

The study conducted from December 1998 to June 2000 included 340 moderate to severely depressed patients that were randomly assigned to three groups. Over an eight-week period, one group received a dose between 900-1500 milligrams of a leading brand of St. John’s wort extract, one group took the antidepressant drug sertraline (50-100 mg), popularly know by its trade name Zoloft, and the third group took a placebo, a sugar or dummy pill. Patients who responded to treatment continued to receive their assigned treatment for an additional 18 weeks. Curiously, fewer of the patients in both the herb and the drug groups responded to the treatments than did those in the placebo group.

According to Jerry Cott, Ph.D., former Chief of the Psychopharmacology Research Program, at the National Institute of Mental Health, the NIH designed this trial to include a standard anti-depression drug (sertraline) as "an active comparator" to document the sensitivity of the trial, that is, the ability of this trial to detect an actual treatment effect. "The fact that the sertraline was not effective in the primary measures of depression demonstrates (according to the NIH’s own design protocol) that this trial lacked assay sensitivity and should not be considered a successful study." Dr. Cott was involved in the original design of the trial when he worked for the NIMH.

16. St. John’s Wort May Interfere With Chemotherapy Drugs
SAN FRANCISCO, Apr. 9, Reuters Health -- St. John’s wort, a popular herbal remedy used for depression, may reduce the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs, physicians warned here at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research.

St. John’s wort stimulates the enzyme CYP3A4, which is involved in the metabolism of many drugs, including the cancer agent irinotecan (Camptosar), according to Dr. Ron Mathijssen of the Rotterdam Cancer Institute in the Netherlands. This herbal supplement reduces the drug’s potency, Dr. Mathijssen reported on Monday.

"Since about 50% of all drugs are metabolized by CYP3A4, the combination effect we found with St. John’s wort and irinotecan might occur with many other anti-cancer agents," he commented in a statement. "So the problem is potentially more widespread than this study shows."

Dr. Mathijssen and colleagues gave cancer patients a course of irinotecan, followed 3 weeks later by a second course that combined irinotecan with St. John’s wort. Another group first received the combination of irinotecan with St. John’s wort, followed 3 weeks later by irinotecan alone. The study included a total of five patients.

Pharmacological data showed that St. John’s wort reduced the amount of the drug available to the body by 40%. And this effect lasted for more than 3 weeks after the combination of irinotecan and St. John’s wort was given.

"This means people have to realize that it’s not good enough to stop using St. John’s wort just prior to treatment with irinotecan," Dr. Mathijssen said. "We do not know at this time, however, how long patients should stop using St. John’s wort before being treated with irinotecan as our study was not long enough to make such a determination."

17. St. John’s Wort Weakens Cancer Drug
By Daniel Q. Haney

SAN FRANCISCO, Apr. 8, AP -- St. John’s wort appears to interfere powerfully with a common cancer drug and can reduce its punch for weeks after people stop taking the herbal supplement, a study shows.

St. John’s wort is often taken as an over-the-counter remedy for mild depression, though its effectiveness has been questioned. Doctors also know the herb can interfere with the body’s use of a variety of other medicines.

In a small study released Monday, doctors showed that St. John’s wort decreases blood levels of one chemotherapy drug by about 40 percent. This effect lingered for more than three weeks after people stopped taking the supplement.

Dr. Ron Mathijssen of the Rotterdam Cancer Institute in the Netherlands, who directed the study, said St. John’s wort could reduce the ability of chemotherapy to knock down cancer.

"People don’t realize it is a drug because you don’t need a prescription. People think it’s harmless," he said.

Mathijssen presented the results of the study, conducted on five patients, at a meeting in San Francisco of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Despite the small size of the study, experts said the findings are believable because they fit with earlier reports showing that St. John’s wort can disrupt drug treatment.

Two years ago, the Food and Drug Administration warned that the herb can interfere with protease inhibitors, drugs that are widely used to treat AIDS.

In the latest study, researchers tested the interaction of St. John’s wort with Camptosar, a medicine used to treat many kinds of cancer.

Use of supplements is common in cancer patients. Some studies suggest that about half of them use vitamins and other over-the-counter treatments in hopes of improving their chances of beating the disease.

"We are very concerned in the medical community about the drugs our patients are taking that we don’t know about," said Dr. Karen Antman of New York Presbyterian Hospital. "I make it a point to ask, but I’m not sure my patients always tell me the truth."

St. John’s wort interferes with an enzyme called P450 that the body uses to break down about half of all drugs. Because of this, St. John’s wort is believed to inhibit many of the most widely prescribed medicines. Among others are digoxin and beta blockers used for heart disease, seizure medicines and drugs used to prevent organ rejection after transplants.

18. Green Tea Catechins to Treat Muscle Degeneration
MONTPELLIER, France, Apr. 8, -- The antioxidant properties of green tea could help fight muscle degeneration diseases such as muscular dystrophy, at least according to initial evidence from research carried out on mice.

A team of scientists from the University of Lausanne in Switzerland discovered that giving a daily dose of green tea to mice with symptoms genetically altered to display symptoms similar to those of muscular dystrophy appeared to slow the deterioration of some muscle tissue.

Dr Urs Ruegg, lead author of the study, wrote in the April issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that the catechins in the tea were thought to have combated the oxidative stress in the mice’s muscles. The antioxidant powers of green tea have been linked to preventing heart disease and cancer.

Ruegg and his colleagues suggest that the same oxidative stress which can cause these other problems could be at the root of the muscle wasting seen in Duchenne muscular dystrophy, the most common form of childhood muscular dystrophy. It is caused by mutation in a gene on the X chromosome, and it is limited almost entirely to boys, most of whom die before they reach 30.

The Swiss researchers gave the mice green tea extract over a four-week period, and found that, compared to a placebo group, they showed significantly less wasting in certain muscle tissue.

They claim that for the same effects to be seen in human, the minimum daily dosage would have to be around seven cups of green tea a day, and called for more research to back up their initial findings.

The study was funded by the Nestle Research Centre in Lausanne, and the green tea extracts were donated by the Taiyo Kagaku company in Yokkaichi, Japan.

[Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2002;75:749-753]

19. Thinking of Taking Herbal Remedies? What Every Patient Should Know
ORANGE, Calif., Apr. 15, BW HealthWire -- With all the publicity herbal remedies have received of late, one would think the public is more educated than ever on the topic. Not necessarily true says Edward C. Geehr, M.D., member of the National Scientific and Medical Advisory Board of LifeScript, one of the nation’s leaders in the distribution of personalized nutritional supplements.

"As has been demonstrated for thousands of years, herbal remedies can be a valuable addition to a person’s personal wellness regimen," says Dr. Geehr. "But knowledge is the best defense against harmful side effects or misuse, and individuals need to pay careful attention to what they are taking and why."

Nearly one-third of adult Americans use herbal products each year spending over $3.2 billion out of pocket to treat a variety of conditions, including: allergies, asthma, insomnia, lung problems and digestive problems. Many of these people seek herbal remedies as a way to gain more control over their own health decisions, coupled with a desire for a more natural lifestyle. Based in part on the preponderance of medical information now available through the Internet, there is also a vastly increased consumer interest in healthcare and in self-medication.

"The rising interest in herbal remedies is not because patients are dissatisfied with their doctor or with conventional medicine," said Dr. Geehr. "Rather, many patients simply find aspects of alternative medicine to be more congruent with their own beliefs about life and health. Unfortunately, many patients elect not to discuss their use of herbal preparations with their doctors, and this can lead to complications."

Many conventional medicines in use today and nearly all vitamins have herbal origins. Herbs have been used medicinally since early human history; and, according to Dr. Geehr, an "emerging body of evidence supports claims of effectiveness for certain conditions, such as elevated cholesterol, enlarged prostate, cold and flu symptoms, constipation and insomnia, to name a few. But it’s important to know when you should and shouldn’t use herbal supplements."

Most herbal remedies are generally regarded by the Food and Drug Administration to be safe, similar to a food product. These "safe herbs" can be found on the American Herbal Products Association’s list of Class I category herbs and can be safely consumed when used appropriately.

Yet these same herbs "may present some additional risk to patients with particular conditions or who are taking certain kinds of medication," said Dr. Geehr. Recent evidence suggests that people undergoing certain types of surgical procedures and/or general anesthesia should discontinue herbal therapy before such procedures. Herbal medications of particular concern for such patients can include garlic, ginkgo and ginseng because they can interfere with blood clotting; kava and valerian for their sedative qualities; kava’s possible effect on liver function; and St. John’s Wort because it can interfere with certain drugs.

And patients with certain conditions or undergoing certain treatments must consult with their physician prior to starting any herbal remedies. These conditions include, but are not limited to, surgical procedures, seizure disorders, cancer, coumadin (blood thinner) therapy and liver or kidney disease. And, although there is a lack of consensus, it is probably reasonable to restrict the use of herbal remedies during pregnancy, breast-feeding and in children under 12.

One of the most important things about herbal remedies, according to Dr. Geehr, is to be sure to obtain them through reputable sources, such as a pharmacy, supermarket or a personalized nutritional supplement company with high-quality and manufacturing standards. "At LifeScript, for example, all products are assayed at the time of manufacturing to assure purity, quality and potency," said Dr. Geehr. "In addition, the company’s National Scientific and Medical Advisory Board, comprised of renowned physicians and nutritional experts, provides helpful input on product formulations and alerts the company to new developments in nutrition."

20. We’re on Our Own in Deciphering Herbal Supplement Details
By Bob Condor

CHICAGO, Apr. 12, Chicago Tribune -- What we don’t know about herbal supplements is worth finding out. But that requires some doing. By law, the government doesn’t regulate herbs for safety, quality or effectiveness before products are released. The Food and Drug Administration can only warn consumers about potential harm, and it doesn’t have the authority to test products for accurate doses.

We’re left to fend for ourselves.

"The first thing to do is realize herbs are medicine," said Charlotte Gyllenhaal, an herb researcher at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s College of Pharmacy. "They are natural but potent. No one should use herbal supplements without consulting a practitioner."

Sound advice, if you can find a practitioner who is an expert on herbs. That’s not as difficult as, say, five years ago but still a tall order.

Gyllenhaal isn’t warning against herbs, just saying not to use them without measured thought _ and all of the information you can gather.

The FDA’s recent warning about the herb kava illustrates the point. In mid-December, the agency issued an alert to health practitioners about potential liver toxicity from the Pacific island herb, marketed as a natural remedy for stress and sleep problems. It asked for any adverse reactions to be reported.

The FDA was acting on reports from Europe. An estimated 25 to 30 cases of severe liver damage have been linked to kava use in Germany and Switzerland, including four transplants. As a result, several nations either banned or restricted access to the herb.

Now the FDA has issued an alert directly to consumers. In late March, the federal agency warned anyone who has liver problems or is taking drugs that can harm the liver to ask a doctor before taking kava.

The FDA has been developing its own investigation of kava. One healthy 45-year-old woman used kava and suddenly required a liver transplant. It also reportedly is studying another 35 to 40 individuals with illness linked to kava.

Kava is sold under a variety of names, including ava, awa, intoxicating pepper, kava root or pepper, kawa, kew, Piper methysticum, rauschpfeffer, sakau, tonga, wurzelstock and yangona.

No one on either side of the Atlantic quite knows how kava can damage the liver, whether the herb is harmful by itself, in combination with other medications or alcohol use or in people with previous liver damage. So it’s next to impossible for the FDA to pull it off the market.

But threats to the liver must be taken seriously. Symptoms of liver disease include yellowing of the skin or eyes, brown urine, nausea or vomiting, light-colored stools, unusual tiredness or weakness, abdominal pain or loss of appetite.

"This kind of liver damage appears to be extremely rare," said FDA supplement chief Dr. Christine Taylor. "But because it’s severe liver damage, we felt consumers needed to be aware of it."

Rob McCaleb, president and founder of the Herb Research Foundation in Boulder, Colo., brings a 20-year perspective to the kava issue. He said herbs have a "strong safety record," especially compared with over-the-counter or prescription drugs.

"A study last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed about 100,000 Americans die each year using over-the counter or prescription. And that’s when people are supposedly taking the right drugs in the right doses."

Nonetheless, McCaleb said, he recommends learning all you can about any herbal product. "When we practice self-care of any kind with over-the-counter drugs or dietary supplements, we are being our own physician," he said. "We need to educate ourselves."

McCaleb said one "encouraging" factor in the recent kava warning is the coming together of government and the industry-operated American Herbal Products Association. Both sides worked in the interest of consumers.

The Herb Research Foundation’s Internet site is one independent source to research your herbs. McCaleb also said has a comprehensive database.

Finding a practitioner who is knowledgeable is mostly trial and error in the Chicago area.

"I think naturopathic physicians are the most qualified to dispense advice about herbs," said McCaleb, identifying a group of health professionals not licensed to practice as an MD in Illinois (there are a handful of "NDs" in the entire state). "It is also possible that MDs will learn enough about major herbs used by their patients to provide insights. One thing is certain: More doctors and pharmacists are interested in herbs because they hear about their use from patients."

21. A New LSD? Mexican Herb Comes With Divine Claims, Warnings
By Dean Schabner

NEW YORK, Apr. 1, -- A Mexican herb that no one really understands and can send users on intense, brief hallucinogenic trips is being sold over the Internet touting itself as a legal way to expand your consciousness that recalls the heyday of LSD.

Little is known about the drug, Salvia divinorum, or how it works on the brain and what its longterm effects might be. But word of its existence is spreading through e-mail chains and Web sites praising its potential, which has caught the attention of the Drug Enforcement Administration. The DEA has included it on its list of "Drugs and Chemicals of Concern" and is considering whether to add the herb to its list of controlled substances.

Some researchers who have studied it and other hallucinogens doubt the DEA needs to worry much, and say they don’t believe the herb will live up to the hype seen on some of the Web sites.

Still, the Internet descriptions of the herb’s effects, albeit more subdued, would be familiar to anyone who remembers the 1960s, when Harvard University professors Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert began proselytizing for LSD’s power to help people expand their consciousness.

Then, reports of "bad trips" and allegations that LSD use would lead to chromosome damage and widespread birth defects, which were never borne out by studies of users of the drug, helped to create a backlash against "acid" that quickly led to it being outlawed.

Forty years later, the fate of Salvia divinorum, is still in the doubt. And there are many differences between it, LSD and the cultures that surround both. LSD was manmade and new, while salvia, a perennial in the mint family that is native to parts of Oaxaca, Mexico, has been used by Indians there for centuries as a healing and divining tool.

And unlike the champions of LSD in the 1960s, those running the Web sites offering Salvia divinorum are not portraying the herb as a wonder drug without any potential problems for users.

Also, while Leary and Alpert spread their words far and wide, those offering Salvia divinorum for sale, and even some researching it, are reluctant to draw widespread attention to the herb. They say on the one hand that publicity might attract users looking for a new "recreational drug," which they emphasize Salvia divinorum is not, and on the other that it could prompt the DEA to take action against it without a full review of the case.

One site posts an extensive list of academic articles discussing the herb’s use by Indians in Mexico and how it works chemically on the brain. Among the articles is Salvinorin A: Notes of Caution by Daniel J. Siebert, the ethnobotanist who runs the site.

"Salvinorin A (the major active principal of the plant Salvia divinorum) is an extremely powerful consciousness altering compound," the article begins. "In fact, it is the most potent naturally occurring hallucinogen thus far isolated. But before would-be experimenters get too worked-up about it, it should be made clear that the effects are often extremely unnerving and there is a very real potential for physical danger with its use."

Siebert did not respond to requests to be interviewed, but much of the information given on the site was confirmed by other researchers.

What Does It Do?

Smoking or chewing the leaves of the plant sends the user on a trip that according to accounts posted on various sites can be even more intense than the LSD experience, but unlike an LSD trip, which can last six hours or more, the Mexican herb’s effects usually last less than an hour, with a peak of only 20 minutes or less.

One woman who has experimented with the herb told ABCNEWS that she lost touch with her surroundings for only a few minutes, but during the experience it seemed much longer, and she found it difficult to describe everything she saw, heard and felt.

"At first I was able to tell myself, ‘This is the drug,’" she said. "Then it didn’t seem to matter so much what it was that was doing it, I just let it all come. I think there were moments when I was scared to death, but something kept comforting me."

The greatest danger, according to Siebert’s article, comes when too much of the active ingredient gets into the user’s system too quickly.

Dr. John Halpern, a psychiatrist with McLean Hospital, a teaching hospital affiliated with Harvard University, said there are other dangers with Salvia divinorum, but they are dangers associated with other hallucinogens and with alcohol when they are used by people in their late teens and early 20s, when the brain is still maturing. These substances can aggravate tendencies towards schizophrenia, said Halpern, who has received a career development award from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The enthusiasm over LSD included hopes that the drug could be a valuable tool for psychotherapy, and similar claims are made in some of the literature about Salvia divinorum, but the caution and detailed recommendations regarding dosage and preparing the proper atmosphere are a marked difference from the era of "acid tests."

"If you choose to pursue a relationship with this plant please treat it with respect and care," Siebert’s article says. "Perhaps if people can use the plant safely and responsibly it will be able to grow and thrive freely into the future."

‘Nobody Has a Clue’

Perhaps the biggest question about the drug is how it works.

"Nobody has a clue," said Purdue University professor of medicinal chemistry and molecular pharmacology David Nichols, who has studied the effects of hallucinogens on the brain for 20 years. Nichols is among the scientists who has given information about the drug to the DEA.

He said attempts to discover which part of the brain the drug works on have thus far been unsuccessful. When tests involving the most common brain receptors were performed, the active ingredient in the herb, Salvinorum A, did not seem to bind to any of them.

When asked about potential dangers, he said thus far none have been identified, other than the potential for an unpleasant experience with the herb, which he said has more of a "disorienting" effect than other hallucinogens.

"We haven’t really heard of any adverse reactions," he said. "Like LSD, when the dose is so small, unless it’s a toxin it really can’t damage most of your organ systems."

Dr. Edward Boyer, an assistant professor of emergency medicine and the director of the toxicology fellowship training program at the University of Massachusetts, said that over the last three years he has seen no cases of people suffering any toxic effect from salvia statewide in Massachusetts.

He warned, though, that there could be health concerns if it were taken along with antidepressants -- a combination he said could cause hypertension, high blood pressure or strokes.

And there is always the danger of "merging," when a person using the drug feels the need to merge with another object.

"You may try to merge with an open window and fall out," he said.

Legal Issues

A DEA spokeswoman said the administration does not comment on the specifics of its consideration of substances while they are under review. At the Food and Drug Administration, which also must review a substance before it is put on the controlled substances list, two spokeswomen said they had no record of any study being under way.

The DEA Diversion Control Program has included Salvia divinorum on its list of Drugs and Chemicals of Concern, and in a statement about the herb compares the active ingredient it contains to that in absinthe and to THC, which is found in marijuana.

"There has been a growing interest among young adults and adolescents to re-discover ethnobotanical plants that can induce changes in perception, hallucinations or other psychologically-inducing changes," the statement said. "Since Salvia divinorum is not specifically listed in the Controlled Substances Act, many on-line botanical companies and drug promotional sites have advertised Salvia as a legal alternative to other plant hallucinogens like mescaline."

Richard Glen Boire, an attorney with the Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics, said Salvia divinorum "does not meet the criteria" to be a Schedule 1 substance. "It does not have the abuse potential that other drugs that are on the DEA’s list of controlled substances," he said.

The group submitted a report to the DEA in October to make the case to keep Salvia divinorum legal, which included a survey of hospital emergency room data from across the country which found no record of anyone requiring treatment from using the herb.

Spokesmen at the Center for Substance Abuse Research and the Community Epidemeology Work Group, two drug abuse watchdog groups, said concerns about the herb have not been raised with their organizations.

Ethan Russo, a clinical neurologist and expert on psychotropic drugs who has studied the herb, said there is no evidence that Salvia divinorum causes any damage to the brain and he does not want to see it outlawed, saying that could inhibit study of the drug.

"I can say that there is no inherent danger to Salvia divinorum except that some people are going to scare themselves and it’s possible for someone to walk off and get hurt by something like falling down a flight of stairs, so somebody should always be close by," he said.

"I see no reason for this to be rendered illegal," he continued. "It’s not going to help anything. In a perverse way, if it were rendered illegal it might make it more attractive to some people. ... There is a long list of substances on the DEA list and they haven’t been eradicated."

Halpern, who emphasized that he is not a drug advocate, said he doesn’t believe that making Salvia divinorum illegal is necessary, though he also said there is no reason for anyone to fear that DEA scheduling would interfere with academic research.

"If it is scheduled, I don’t think it’s going to change anything," he said. "It doesn’t seem like there’s going to be that many repeat users."

Chemical Questions

There are still more questions than answers about Salvia divinorum. According to researchers, Salvia divinorum acts on the brain in a way that has not been seen before, and for that reason it deserves more study.

Like the peyote cactus, which contains mescaline, and psyllocibin mushrooms, Salvia divinorum has long been used by American Indians as a tool for divine visions as part of religious practices. But it is different because the hallucinations it creates are not dependent on the physical environment around the person using the drug.

Whereas a person on an LSD trip or eating peyote might see patterns or ripples appear in the walls around them -- their perception is altered - someone who has used Salvia divinorum truly hallucinates -- he sees and hears things that are not there.

Work done so far has determined that salvia operates on a receptor system in the brain that was previously unknown, and the study of the aspects of consciousness controlled by that area could lead to advances in both medicine and psychology, Russo said, pointing to the gains made through the studies of how opiates and cannabis affect the brain.

A Religious History

Ethnobiologists and anthropologists have been aware of Salvia divinorum since at least the early 1960s, when R. Gordon Wasson wrote an article published by Harvard University’s Botanical Museum, entitled, A New Mexican Psychotropic Drug from the Mint Family.

Though there are accounts of the use of psychotropic plants by the Indians of Central America dating back to the time of the Spanish conquest in the 16th century, and as early as the 1930s anthropologists recorded that the Mazatecs were using leaves to produce a tea for divination, it was not until Wasson’s expeditions in 1950s and early 1960s that salvia was identified.

The article recounted Wasson’s exploration of the remote mountainous regions of Oaxaca, where the Mazatec Indians live. He said the Mazatec used Salvia divinorum in their religious practices "as a less desirable substitute" when the psychotropic mushrooms they prefer were not available.

According to Wasson, the Mazatec often used the herb, which they called hojas de la Pastora or hojas de Maria Pastora, as a curing or divining tool -- to determine what illness a person might be suffering from or to learn the facts of a crime that might have been committed against him. In those ceremonies, though, it was usually the shaman alone who took the herb, not the patient.

An article by Leander J. Valdes III, Jose Luis Diaz and Ara G. Paul published in 1982 in The Journal of Ethnopharmacology, "Ethnopharmacology of ska Maria Pastora" provided more detail, recounting several ceremonies in which the herb was used.

According Halpern, the herb’s potential is also being explored by a group of religious people in the United States who are "finding it is useful in their practice." He said he preferred no to identify the group other than to say they are "middle-class, responsible people."

Controlling Consciousness

While accounts of experiences on the drug range from blissful, to mystically illuminating to terrifying, the issue that concerns the DEA should be public health issues, not people’s experiments with their consciousness, supporters of the drug’s legal status say.

"We see this as the government confusing its own rules with respect to drugs," Boire said. "Yes, they have a responsibility with respect to public health, but they’re confusing that with a responsibility to prevent people from altering their consciousness."

The question, he said, is deeper than the right to free speech -- it is the right to control your own consciousness. The small number of people experimenting with Salvia divinorum, and the even smaller number who want to repeat the experience, together with the lack of evidence indicating health risks make it clear that the herb is not a public health problem, he said.

"There needs to be a lot of thinking about whether doing something like this really does any good," he said. "If Salvia divinorum is made illegal, to some people it’s going to become more attractive. We worry about the knee-jerk reaction when we hear about people altering their consciousness and we think, ‘What can we do about it?’"

An Oregon man who tried Salvia divinorum said when he was younger he tried other hallucinogens such as peyote and psylocybin several times but didn’t expect to repeat the Mexican herb.

"Nothing I had done prepared me for it -- I mean I thought I knew what these things did to you," he said. "I found it valuable, I felt like it re-opened some things that maybe had started to close up in me, but I don’t think I want to go back."

"I can’t preclude there’s something special about Salvia divinorum because of the shaman connection," Halpern said. "It’s a tool that’s remained in the shaman’s bag and that’s probably where it should stay."

22. Ephedra Manufacturers Implicated in Student’s Death
MONTPELLIER, France, Apr. 8, -- A US university has filed a petition implicating three dietary supplement manufacturers in the death of one of its students.

Rashidi Wheeler was a student at Northwestern University, and his parents have taken legal action against the college over his death. In response, Northwestern has named General Nutrition Corp., Next Proteins and Cytodyne Technologies as defendants in the wrongful death lawsuit filed by Wheeler’s parents, reports the Daily News.

Ephedra has been linked to strokes, heart attacks, dizziness, psychosis and dozens of deaths, and is banned by a number of sporting associations, but its popularity as a weight loss product remains high. However, the paper reports that the backlash has already begun, with insurance premiums for ephedra makers rocketing.

With the threat of more lawsuits hanging over them, the major supplement manufacturers in the US are calling for clearer guidelines from the Food and Drug Administration.

"The bigger companies will probably want more guidelines to follow to cut out the riff-raff that’s making bad products," Sharon Lindsay, a Los Angeles consultant who specialises in sports marketing and public relations, told the Daily News. "The larger companies like EAS, Weider and MetRx are very concerned about what’s going on right now. With the threat of being sued, they’re going to be a lot more careful in their directives for use and in their advertising."

Although Northwestern University has sought to implicate the supplement manufacturers in Wheeler’s death, the student’s parents have never seen ephedra as the culprit. Instead, they claim that the university provided inadequate emergency care when the American football player collapsed during a practice session last August. This claim would appear to be borne out by the Cook County Medical Examiner’s report, which said that levels of the dietary supplement found in Wheeler’s body were not toxic.

However, even though ephedra itself might not have been the direct cause of the student’s death, it could have aggravated an undiagnosed medical condition, such as a heart problem.

The problem for Wheeler’s parents is that he should not have been using ephedra at all -- its use is banned by the American football authorities - which is perhaps why they have focused their case on the university. It also faces a problem in implicating the supplement manufacturers, the paper claims, as they are major companies with armies of lawyers, a very daunting prospect for anyone attempting to suggest a link between their products and a fatality.

23. Industry Council Issues Voluntary Kava Warning Labels
MONTPELLIER, France, Apr. 2, -- The Council for Responsible Nutrition has become the second US supplement association to issue voluntary warning labels about the potential health risks of kava kava following a similar move by the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA).

Last month the US Food and Drug Administration warned that there was a possible risk of liver damage following the use of kava supplements, basing its warning on evidence from Europe, where several countries have already banned the sale of the product.

"CRN has been engaged in an ongoing dialogue with the FDA, other associations and outside experts to assess the scientific information and adverse event reports on kava," said John Cordaro, the CRN’s president and chief executive officer. "We agree with the agency’s conclusion that even though no causal relationship has been found between kava and liver problems, a consumer advisory is an appropriate and cautionary way for FDA to inform consumers of a potential, but rare, risk. The CRN is taking the FDA’s advice further by recommending voluntary cautionary label elements for the product."

Cordaro said that he expected member companies of the CRN who adopted the label recommendations would act swiftly to implement the changes on the market place.

The wording of the CRN’s proposed label is as follows:

"Ask a health care professional before use if you have or have had liver problems, frequently use alcoholic beverages or are taking any medication.

"Stop use and see a doctor if you develop symptoms that may signal liver problems, including jaundice (yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes) and brown urine. Other non-specific symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, light-coloured stools, unusual tiredness, weakness, stomach or abdominal pain, and loss of appetite.

"Not for use by persons under 18 years of age, or by pregnant or breastfeeding women.

"Not for use with alcoholic beverages.

"Excessive use, or use with products that cause drowsiness, may impair your ability to operate a vehicle or heavy equipment."

Although it has issued the proposed warning, the CRN stressed that this did not mean that it agreed that there was a proven link between the use of kava and liver damage.

"Prior to recent reports from Europe, there was no reason for concern about kava products. The eight clinical studies that have been conducted on kava supplements do not suggest liver toxicity. A panel of independent experts assembled by CRN recently reviewed the available medical literature on kava and concluded that the product is safe as a dietary supplement," Cordaro said.

The CRN also reminded consumers that the FDA had not taken any regulatory or other action regarding kava products, and that it had not advised against the use of kava products.

24. ‘Safe’ Alternative to Kava Launched
MONTPELLIER, France, Apr. 2, -- The current concerns over the safety of popular herbal supplement kava have undoubtedly impacted sales at many supplement manufacturers. But, as is so often the case, what is bad news for one section of the industry is seen as good news for another.

This is certainly the case for Next Pharmaceuticals, which has profited from the concerns over kava to launch Relora, its own patent-pending ingredient which it claims is "a safe and more effective natural supplement for stress than kava". Relora contains two patent-pending proprietary plant extracts, one from Magnolia officinalis and the other from Phellodendron amurense.

Next developed Relora over a three-year period of screening fractions from plants around the world, conducting pharmacology and toxicology studies and running human trials. In initial human trials, eight out of 10 stressed individuals felt more relaxed, seven out of 10 enjoyed more restful sleep, and nine out of 10 said it was gentle on the stomach, the company claimed.

Next said that Relora had also been shown clinically to significantly alter the hormone levels associated with stress-induced obesity, adding that these new findings not only supported Next’s earlier studies demonstrating that the plant extracts in Relora provide significant relaxation and more restful sleep in stressed individuals, but also that Relora provides new hope for the numerous individuals with weight problems that are often stress-related.

The new findings are the result of a trial completed in January, 2002 at the Living Longer clinic in Cincinnati that studied the effects of Relora on cortisol and DHEA, two hormones related to anxiety, and at least in the case of cortisol, also related to food cravings and over eating in stressed individuals. The natural plant extract lowered cortisol levels by 37 per cent and increased DHEA by 227 per cent, the company said.

"These findings are statistically significant and support the positive results we have obtained with this ingredient over the past year," said Dr James LaValle, Living Longer Wellness Director and principal investigator for the study. "More than 20 per cent of American adults have metabolic syndrome, a type of obesity often characterised by increased abdominal and facial fat that is also associated with increased risk for heart disease, hypertension, stroke, diabetes, and cancer. This stress-related condition is associated with elevated cortisol levels.

"The new findings with Relora are very exciting because it is the first natural product for lowering cortisol, decreasing stress and its associated increase in cortisol that has been shown to cause the excess fat deposits seen in metabolic syndrome," he said.

Charles Kosmont, CEO of Next, added: "Additional studies are planned this year to continue supporting the role of Relora as a valuable dietary supplement and beverage or bar ingredient for weight control. In addition, we have a major public relations campaign planned to build consumer and health professional awareness of this new and exciting ingredient."

25. Herbal Eczema Creams Contain Steroids -- Warning
By Jenny Hudson

BIRMINGHAM, Apr. 19, Birmingham Post -- Unlicensed herbal creams used to treat children with eczema contain dangerous concentrations of steroids, a study has found.

Experts at Birmingham Children’s Hospital found potent steroids in 80 per cent of the 20 different creams which they analysed.

They are calling for tougher regulations to control alternative therapies, which are not subject to the same safety checks as licensed medicines.

Parents regarded a herbal remedy as safe and were not aware that they were exposing their children’s faces to steroids. None of the creams had labels clearly stating their contents or warnings about potential dangers.

If steroids are applied without strict control, they can cause irreversible thinning of the skin, leaving children with stretch marks on their face.

Large concentrations on the skin can result in the steroid being absorbed and affecting the child’s growth and immune system.

Most of the creams analysed were unlabelled, except for a popular type known as Wau Wa cream, which is currently being investigated by the Medicines Control Agency.

The creams were easily available from the Internet, mail order and shops within the UK and were usually recommended by word-of-mouth.

Dr Celia Moss, consultant dermatologist at the Children’s Hospital, said: "Steroids should always be used sparingly and cautiously under supervision."

26. ‘Herbal Cream’ Left Isa’s Skin Paper Thin and Raw
By Jenny Hudson

BIRMINGHAM, Apr. 19, Birmingham Post -- Concerns about herbal eczema creams first emerged last year following a series of complaints.

The Government’s watchdog, the Medicines Control Agency, began an investigation in September into remedies which include the popular Wau Wa cream.

Since then, Wau Wa cream seemed to disappear from the market -- only to be replaced in the Midlands by another substance called Muijiza.

Both creams were among the 20 different samples analysed by experts at the West Midlands Medicines Quality Control Laboratory at City Hospital, Birmingham.

Wau Wa cream and Muijiza, whose origins are unknown, were found to contain a steroid called clobetasol, known by its trade name as Dermovate -- which the most potent type of topical steroid.

It should only ever be used for a short period of time under close medical supervision and should not be applied to very young children, said Dr Helen Ramsay, a specialist registrar in dermatology, who carried out the study.

Well established side-effects include the permanent thinning of the skin, bruising and the slow healing of wounds. Large concentrations of the steroids can be absorbed within the skin, triggering problems with the immune system, muscle weakness and fatigue.

The study was prompted by concerns among specialists at Birmingham Children’s Hospital who saw 15 patients and their families who reported problems after using the cream.

Dr Ramsay said: "The most common complaint was that after they stopped using the cream, the eczema came back more severely and was more difficult to control.

"Some had noticed damage to the skin and stopped, others had stopped because they were no longer able to afford it or secure a supply."

Of the 20 creams, Wau Wa and Muijiza were the only ones which had a clear name. The other samples included one Chinese remedy and a number of products from Asian suppliers.

Further tests are being carried out to measure the exact concentrations of the steroids.

"The effects we have seem implies that there must be a significant amount of steroids in the creams," said Dr Ramsay.

Lynda and Isa Ibrahiim and their two-year-old son Isa are among the group in the study.

Isa had eczema from birth which became so distressing that he would tear at his itching skin until it bled.

Family friends recommended they should try Wau Wa. Mr and Mrs Ibrahiim paid a total of £52 for two small pots of cream labelled "Eczema Herbal Cream" from a shop selling herbal remedies in Peckham, south London.

There is no indication of the origin or manufacturers of the cream. There is no list of ingredients, although a "formula" of "Wau Wa Roots extract in cream base" is labelled.

Mr Ibrahiim, a computer engineer from Handsworth in Birmingham said: "We were desperate to find something which would stop Isa suffering."

For about two weeks, there was a dramatic improvement as the itching finally stopped. But within a fortnight, they noticed that the skin on Isa’s elbows had become terribly thin.

"It looked paper thin, with a massive tear and you could see his flesh," said Mrs Ibrahiim.

They immediately stopped using the cream, but found Isa’s condition became far worse than before, with the eczema spreading across his body.

Experts at Birmingham Children’s Hospital analysed the Wau Wa cream and discovered it contained steroids.

Mrs Ibrahiim, a home tutor who has five children, said: "There shouldn’t be any creams on the market which haven’t been tested by approved laboratories.

"It is scandalous. Isa’s skin is ten times worse than it was before.

"In the West Indian community, there is a lot of word of mouth and taking things on trust.

"The use of herbal remedies is also common. They are preying on that -- Wau Wa cream is not a herbal cure at all, it is full of steroids."

27. Cancer Scientists Find Drugs in Prostate Herbal Supplement
NATICK, Mass., April 26, PRNewswire -- Some months ago, reported on a promising herbal remedy for prostate cancer. PC SPES was achieving highly positive results in clinical studies. Now, however, cancer researchers report finding three synthetic compounds in the mix.

Robert Nagourney, MD, Director of Rational Therapeutics in Long Beach CA, told cancer scientists at the 93rd annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in San Francisco that he and his colleagues found three prescription drugs in samples of PC SPES that they analyzed:

* diethylstilbestrol (a hormone-like compound more familiarly known as DES)

* warfarin, a blood thinner, also known as Coumadin(r)

* indomethacin, a pain killer

Product success launches detective story of research

According to Nagourney, he and his colleagues initially "were delighted that an herbal product was effective against cancer and became intrigued with finding out chemically what was inducing these changes. We wanted to know what made this stuff so effective."

Knowing how PC SPES worked would be useful not only for prostate cancer but might supply knowledge for fighting other kinds of cancer as well, so Nagourney and Dr. Milos Sovak of the Bipophysicia Foundation in La Jolla CA, in collaboration with associates at the Palacky University in Olomouc, Czech Republic, decided to investigate.

PC SPES exhibits estrogenic effects, so Nagourney and Sovak began looking for an estrogenic compound among the herbal ingredients, "and that’s where we ran into trouble," says Nagourney. "We weren’t managing to explain the types of results we were seeing."

The formula for PC SPES combines saw palmetto with seven herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine, including: licorice, reishi, Baikal skullcap, rabdosia, Dyers woad, mum, and Panax ginseng. Marian Hajduc of Palacky University took extracts of these herbs and tested them for bioactivity by mixing them in test tubes with three different strains of prostate cancer cells, both singly and in combinations. None of Hajduc’s extracts or mixtures slowed growth of the cancer cells -- but PC SPES does.

Sophie Chen, PhD, of BotanicLab, Inc. (the manufacturer of PC SPES, located in Brea CA), has gone on record explaining that PC SPES consists of highly concentrated fractions derived from the plants noted above. Thus, the failure of Hajduc’s mixtures to inhibit cancer cell growth is not evidence that PC SPES contains other active components. A different extraction process or more highly concentrated mixture might slow the cancer cell growth.

Research Takes a New Direction

However, Nagourney and Sovak wanted to know "What’s different between our mixture of these herbs and the manufacturer’s mixture of herbs?" To find out, they decided to analyze the various herbs and the PC SPES mixture itself in order to identify exactly what was in each of them.

The researchers purchased samples of PC SPES from the manufacturer and took them to the Biophysica Foundation where Dr. Allen Seligson subjected them to analysis using HPLC (high performance liquid chromatography) methodology.

"HPLC tracings look like a forest," Seligson told "We compared the tracings of PC SPES with tracings of the individual herbs and mixtures of herbs. Among the several hundred peaks, we found three discrepancies between the tracings of PC SPES and the herbs." The researchers identified these three discrepancies as consisting of DES, warfarin, and indomethacin.

Synthetic Drugs or Natural Analogues?

In 2001, the New England Journal of Medicine published a letter from Weinrobe and Montgomery that said they found warfarin (also known as Coumadin(r)) in the blood of a patient who was using PC SPES (NEJM, vol 345, pages 1213-1214). BotanicLab replied that the product might contain a natural coumarin. Indeed, coumarin compounds do appear in many plants -- including strawberries, apricots, cherries, cinnamon, lavender, woodruff, and clover, so this could be a plausible explanation.

However, Nagourney states there are chemical differences between synthetic and natural coumarins. What they found was "consistent with synthetic warfarin rather than plant-based." Warfarin is a prescription blood-thinner.

Similarly, the researchers found 150 micrograms of DES per gram in their samples of PC SPES. DES is also a synthetic compound. According to Nagourney, "DES interacts with estrogenic receptors in a similar way to natural estrogens, and was used as a treatment for prostate cancer decades ago. We moved to other drugs because DES tends to cause blood clotting."

BotanicLab Rejoinder

BotanicLab did not return phone calls from However, their website states unequivocally: "DES was never an ingredient formulated in the composition of PC SPES."

BotanicLab also states on its website: "Studies performed by Peter Nelson and Michael Bonham compared the effects of PC SPES and DES on several genes involved in the growth of prostate carcinoma, and found that the compounds exhibited distinctly different activities." The website quotes Dr. Nelson as saying, "The cellular effects of PC SPES and DES are quite distinct, and I believe, based on our findings, that PC SPES kills cancer cells through very different mechanisms than those utilized by DES."

On February 8, BotanicLab issued a voluntary recall of PC SPES, after the California Department of Health announced it had found warfarin in the product. BotanicLab said its independent lab results found that the material "may instead be a phytocoumarin (a compound naturally synthesized in various green plants) that may mimic warfarin in laboratory testing."

Does processing cause chemical changes to herbs?

It can. According to Staci Eisner, Technical Director at ExtractsPlus in Vista CA, the process of transforming a plant into an extract or concentrate can create new chemical compounds and cause others to degrade. It might break a molecule in two, or alter a molecule in other specific and generally predictable ways.

So processing can change an HPLC tracing, but Eisner says, "These changes should make sense. Generally speaking, the process of extracting and concentrating herbal compounds from a plant usually would not generate a chemical compound that is the same as a patented pharmaceutical drug."

Pharmaceutical drugs are deliberately made of unique molecules that do not occur in nature or through commonly used processing methods. To be eligible for a patent, a substance has to be either man-made (synthetic) or a new use of a natural substance. Also, manufacturers want to make it difficult for competitors to reproduce their results. All three of the drugs in question began their lives as patented pharmaceuticals, although the patents have now run out and the drugs can be manufactured and sold by others.

Herbalist Perspective

Roy Upton, a leading herbalist and Executive Director of the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia, is not surprised by Nagourney’s report. He states, "Herbalists have suspected adulteration of PC SPES for some time. It was working too well and causing side effects that are not typical of the herbs in the formula." However, Upton cautions that "the jury is still slightly out" on whether PC SPES does actually contain these substances -- and if it does, why they are there.

Upton says PC SPES is not based on any formulation of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), which he practices. Instead, "it looks like a modern mixture of herbs shown to have anticancer properties, some of which happen to be Chinese herbs."

If warfarin were added to the mix, the purpose from a Western point of view would be to reduce the risk of blood clots from DES. From the perspective of Chinese medicine, however, warfarin might be added to enhance the herbs. Upton says, "In Chinese medicine, one primary means of dissolving tumors is to use substances that dispel blood coagulation and break up blood stasis. Tumors are viewed as masses of tissue that are enervated with blood, so adding warfarin to the mix could be seen as a legitimate method [from the TCM point of view] for potentiating the blood-breaking effects of these herbs."

Upton also says, "Conceptually, there’s nothing wrong with combining drugs and herbs, but in the US, supplement ingredients must be disclosed on the label. If a product contains drugs, it cannot be sold as a dietary supplement."

The Cloud and the Silver Lining

The evidence from Nagourney and Sovak’s research has not yet received the intense scrutiny that follows publication of scientific work, but soon will. Further investigation is also highly likely.

Mark Blumenthal, Executive Director of the American Botanical Council (ABC) in Austin TX and Editor/Publisher of HerbalGram, cautions that testing of botanical substances is fraught with technical difficulties. His experience in testing more than 500 ginseng products for ABC taught him how challenging it can be to develop reliable and rigorous test methods so that two independent laboratories get the same results from the same samples.

However, if PC SPES does contain these pharmaceutical drugs, its future is cloudy. If PC SPES contains drugs, it cannot be sold as an herbal supplement. Because of the recall, PC SPES is currently not available to prostate cancer patients. Ironically, however, this cloud may have a silver lining.

If PC SPES gets its results from DES plus warfarin, then any physician can prescribe these two pharmaceutical medications, as Dr. Nagourney has been doing for some of his prostate cancer patients for approximately two years now. Also, warfarin is a powerful drug. Taking too much can cause uncontrolled bleeding, a very serious and life-threatening condition. Therefore, people who use warfarin, which is often prescribed under the brand name of Coumadin(r), need to have their dosages and blood-clotting times closely monitored.

Also, if PC SPES does contain these drugs, the current regulatory framework for supplements worked. Richard Ko, a scientist at the California Department of Health, was the first to find an illegal substance (warfarin) in PC SPES, triggering a voluntary recall at the national level by BotanicLab.

The Larger Picture

PC SPES raises issues of testing and globalization of commerce that all revolve around quality. Several fledgling programs have begun to test and certify dietary supplement products and to inspect and certify the manufacturing facilities that produce them. The organizations developing these programs include:


* National Nutritional Foods Association

* NSF International

* US Pharmacopeia

Once these programs have become widely adopted throughout industry and the marketplace, it will be difficult if not impossible for a manufacturer to sell a product containing pharmaceutical drugs under a dietary supplement label. Indeed, any manufacturer who passes good-manufacturing-practice (GMP) inspections today must have a reliable process for verifying the identity of raw ingredients from anywhere in the globe. To pass these inspections, manufacturers must also establish and follow procedures that ensure ingredients do not become contaminated at any stage of the manufacturing process.

In Conclusion

If PC SPES contains prescription pharmaceuticals, there are only two ways this could happen: accidental contamination or deliberate adulteration. If PC SPES was deliberately adulterated at one or more stages in the supply, manufacturing or distribution process, then the law was knowingly broken -- which is a very different issue from whether a new supplement is both safe and effective.

An old folk injunction advises people to be careful what they wish for. Indeed, if PC SPES was adulterated, this is a case where the wished-for success attracted a level of scientific scrutiny that proved its undoing.


Mark Blumenthal; Executive Director of the American Botanical Council, Austin TX; Editor/Publisher of HerbalGram. Personal communication, 18 April 2002.

BotanicLab, Inc., Brea CA. Information from website, including press release: "BotanicLab pursues investigation of `compound’ found in PC SPES."

Staci Eisner; Technical Director at ExtractsPlus, Inc., Vista CA. Personal communication, 19 April 2002.

Robert A. Nagourney, MD; Medical and Laboratory Director of Rational Therapeutics Testing Lab; also affiliated with Memorial Medical Center and UCI Medical Center in Orange CA. Personal communication, 18 April 2002.

Allen Seligson, PhD; chemist and General Manager, Biophysica Foundation, La Jolla CA. Personal communication, 18 April 2002.

Roy Upton; herbalist, Executive Director of American Herbal Pharmacopoeia, Santa Cruz CA. Personal communication, 19 April 2002.

28. New USP Program to Assure Quality of Herbal Supplements
By Richard Harkness

BILOXI, Miss., Apr. 26, Sun Herald -- Question: You have written about the lack of quality control for herbal supplements. Do you see any changes coming to improve things?

Answer: As a matter of fact, yes. The recent announcement of USP’s Dietary Supplement Verification Program may herald a seismic shakeup for the better in the dietary supplement industry.

USP, the US Pharmacopeia, establishes standards that pharmaceutical manufacturers must meet. With this new program, USP is making its services available to dietary supplement manufacturers.

USP works closely with the FDA to establish authoritative drug standards, which are recognized as the hallmark of quality. These standards are enforceable by the FDA and the governments of other countries.

Under the new program, dietary supplement companies can submit their products to USP. USP then tests them for content, purity, and good manufacturing practices.

Products passing the stringent USP tests will be granted a certification mark that the manufacturer can display on the dietary supplement label. This assures consumers that such products:

- Contain the declared ingredients on the product label.

- Contain the amount or strength of ingredients declared on the product label.

- Meet requirements for limits on contaminants.

You may have thought such basic items were already regulated and guaranteed. Actually not. As it stands now, you can’t always be sure you’re getting what’s promised on supplement labels. As I’ve reported in past columns, spot checks have revealed that some products varied widely in dose from bottle to bottle, some did not contain the stated ingredients, and some were contaminated with unlisted ingredients.

The new USP program may be the needed antidote for such poor quality control issues.

Once a dietary supplement product is granted the USP verification mark, USP will conduct random tests on the product to assure it continues to meet the program’s strict standards. USP also will audit manufacturers for good manufacturing compliance.

Manufacturers of herbal and other dietary supplement products still are not required to prove the safety and efficacy of their products, as are manufacturers of prescription and over-the-counter drugs. That’s a separate issue.

In the future, expect to see products carrying the "USP verified" mark and products that do not. Which would you choose? Eventually, this certification process should help separate the "wheat from the chaff" in the dietary supplements arena.

That is a big step forward.

Manufacturers of questionable supplement products might well heed this wake-up call.

Who knows? We may even be seeing a welcomed decline in the use of misleading marketing ploys for dietary supplements. Well, OK, maybe we can expect only so much progress at a time.

[Richard Harkness is a consultant pharmacist who writes on health care topics. Volume of mail prohibits individual replies; selected letters will be answered in his column.]

29. Call for Tighter Controls of Supplement Claims
MONTPELLIER, France, Apr. 18, -- A member of the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has called for tighter regulations governing adverts for dietary supplements to protect consumers.

Speaking at a food-and-drug law conference earlier this week, Sheila Anthony said the passing of a law restricting the influence of the Food and Drug Administration over the supplement industry had led to a sharp increase in the marketing of supplements and in questionable claims.

"The commission has seen its workload expand in recent times in policing dietary supplement advertising," she said. "The commission has brought over 60 law-enforcement actions in the past five years challenging false or unsubstantiated claims about the efficacy and safety of a wide variety of dietary supplements, and we have many more in the pipeline."

The FTC has fought vigorously to protect consumers from the raft of false claims about the efficacy of dietary supplements -- from protecting against anthrax to the enlargement of sexual organs -- but Anthony said that the industry itself could do more to prevent such claims from ever being made.

"I believe that there needs to be more and better self-regulation in the dietary supplement industry. The industry must take a more active role in policing those in their industry who are engaged in fraud and deception, and are giving the entire industry a black eye."

Stressing that these opinions were hers alone and not necessarily representative of the FTC, she added that the media should also take a more responsible line by refusing to carry adverts which are clearly irresponsible.

30. Call for Body to Regulate Natural Health Care in Ireland
By Eilish O’Regan

DUBLIN, Apr. 18, Irish Independent -- The Government should establish a Natural Health Care Authority to take responsibility for the regulation of all natural products and practitioners, said a report launched yesterday.

The report warns that the future of natural health care is at risk and that new laws would impose regulations on traditional medicines which are more suited to modern pharmaceuticals.

It is also likely to result in the loss of many valuable natural products said the document, produced by the Irish Association of Health Stores and supported by organisations involved in complementary and alternative health.

The organisations said they are in favour of regulation but it must be appropriate regulation.

The document, submitted to the Department of Health, points to the huge public interest in natural products and complementary medicine.

31. Utah Justices Rule in Sunrider Dispute
SALT LAKE CITY, Apr. 27, Salt Lake Tribune -- Janet Peterson received about $756,000 in monthly bonuses from Sunrider Corp. and its predecessor over a period of 18 years -- even though she wasn’t buying much of the company’s herbal and dietary supplements or drumming up sales from her lower-level distributors.

The bonuses halted in 1994, after Tei Fu Chen bought Naturalife International Inc., renamed it Sunrider and auditors determined Peterson was not meeting the purchase and sales requirements for directors. Peterson sued, claiming a 1976 contract allowed her to collect the bonuses without doing the work usually required of company directors.

On Friday, the Utah Supreme Court found such contracts generally do not violate the Utah Pyramid Scheme Act, which outlaws organizations in which a participant pays for the right to make money, and their income is based solely on how many other people they sponsor into the business.

There was no evidence Peterson paid for her contract, Chief Justice Christine M. Durham wrote for the court.

"While it may be disconcerting that, under a contract such as [Peterson’s], a person could receive payments based solely upon sales made by others, this is not prohibited by the statute," Durham wrote.

The ruling sends the breach of contract lawsuit back to 4th District Judge James Taylor to examine whether Sunrider has further evidence to show the contract violates the anti-pyramid scheme act. He had previously deemed the contract was unenforceable because it violated the law.

Sunrider participants are paid commissions based on their own sales of company products and on the sales generated by those lower-level distributors they have brought into the company, according to Friday’s opinion. To reach the company’s director level, participants are generally required to buy a certain amount of the company’s products and make efforts to encourage distributors at lower levels to make sales.

In 1976, Peterson’s husband had signed the contract with the former president of Naturalife, designating Janet Peterson as the beneficiary of bonuses coming from a distributorship known as the John and Sharon Farnsworth organization. Peterson claimed the contract allowed her to become a director and to make money as if she had directly sponsored the Farnsworths, regardless of how many company products she purchased.

Chen claimed he did not know about the prior owners’ agreement with Peterson. He gave Peterson a grace period to comply with the director requirements, but his wife, Oi-Lin Chen, eventually stopped the bonus payments in December 1994.

Provo attorney Thomas Seiler, who represented Peterson, and Ogden attorney H. Thomas Stevenson, who represented Sunrider, were not immediately available for comment Friday.

32. Hemp Industries Association Confident of Court Approval
MONTPELLIER, France, Apr. 22, -- The Hemp Industries Association (HIA) in the US said it was confident that the Court of Appeals would uphold its claim that the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA’s) attempt to ban nutritious hemp foods was illegal and should be overturned.

Lawyers for the HIA argued the case before the appeals court judges last week, and a final decision is expected within the next three to nine months. In the meantime, hemp foods will remain on stores shelves.

David Bronner, chair of the HIA’s Food and Oil Committee, stated: "Hemp food companies are focused on promoting hemp seed’s exceptional nutritional profile and continuing the phenomenal market growth for their products. We’re confident that the court will permanently invalidate DEA’s rule."

In October last year the DEA issued a rule which made hemp foods containing harmless traces of naturally-occurring THC immediately illegal under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) of 1970. Because trace infinitesimal THC in hemp seed is non-psychoactive and insignificant, the US Congress exempted non-viable hemp seed and oil from control under the CSA, just as Congress exempted poppy seeds from the CSA, although they contain trace opiates otherwise subject to control.

Independent studies and reviews conducted by foreign governments have confirmed that trace THC found in the increasingly popular hemp foods cannot cause psychoactivity or other health effects, or result in a confirmed positive drug test for marijuana, even when unrealistically large amounts of hemp seed and oil are consumed daily, the HIA said.

"Hemp seeds and oil are as likely to be "abused" as poppy seed bagels for their trace opiate content, or fruit juices because of their trace alcohol content. Yet, DEA has not tried to ban poppy seed bagels despite their trace opiates that have interfered with workplace drug testing, which hemp foods do not."

Despite the increased use of hemp in products ranging from paper to car parts to ice cream, US farmers have not benefited because the federal government does not permit non-psychoactive industrial hemp cultivation. Hemp product sales in the US are worth more than $150 million a year, but all the products sold there are made from hemp imported from Canada, Europe and China.

However, fourteen states have passed hemp legislation, demonstrating hemp’s legitimacy as an agro-industrial crop, and the HIA is hopeful that if the DEA’s ruling is definitively overruled that more states will follow suit.

33. Herbalife, Other Ephedra Marketers Face Soaring Insurance Rates
By David Evans

LOS ANGELES, Apr. 11, Bloomberg -- Herbalife International Inc. continues to sell weight-loss products containing ephedra, following lawsuits blaming the substance for customer deaths, and a six-fold increase in product-liability insurance expense.

Herbalife, which faces two wrongful death suits blaming its ephedra weight-loss products, still includes the herb in its line of diet products, which made up 42.7 percent of last year’s $1.66 billion in sales, according to its annual report.

Late yesterday, the company agreed to be taken private for $685 million, or $19.50 a share, by Whitney & Co. LLC and Golden Gate Capital Inc.

Robert Hartwig, chief economist for the Insurance Information Institute, said ephedra insurance premiums have increased along with adverse incident reports and lawsuits. "You have a situation where the house is on fire," said Hartwig. "If your house was already on fire, it’s very unlikely we’d write a policy."

More than a half dozen other publicly traded companies also continue to sell ephedra products, while unable to obtain desired levels of insurance.

Herbalife said in its federal filing that its product-liability insurance premium soared from $400,000 in 2000 to $2.5 million last year, even as its deductible increased 10-fold to $5 million, and its coverage limit fell by $10 million to $40 million.

Ephedra is an herbal stimulant also used for bodybuilding. The National Football League banned ephedra last year after it was linked to the deaths of several athletes. Health Canada ordered a voluntary recall of the products in January, after finding "these products pose a serious risk to health."

Dozens of Deaths

Ephedrine, the active ingredient in ephedra, also called ma huang, is a chemical cousin of amphetamines and increases both blood pressure and heart rate, say experts. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has linked ephedra to hundreds of adverse reactions and dozens of deaths.

Herbalife, based in Los Angeles, said in its annual report it might discontinue selling ephedra products because insurance is "becoming prohibitively expensive." It said the company had "substantial defenses" to the lawsuits and said "they will not have a material impact on us."

An Herbalife spokeswoman, Tammy Taylor of Sitrick & Co., said Herbalife believes ephedra products are "safe and effective when used as directed." Francis Tirelli, company president, didn’t return telephone calls.

Nine other public companies say they sell ephedra products. Advantage Marketing Systems Inc. received 52 percent of its $28.4 million of 2001 revenue from ephedra. The company’s product liability insurance excludes ephedra claims, according to its annual report. The company didn’t indicate any ephedra lawsuits in its annual report.

Reggie Cook, chief financial officer, said the coverage would be too costly. "If I paid $100,000, I could get $100,000 of coverage," he said.

No Complaints

Natrol Inc. of Chatsworth, California, has sold ephedra supplements for 18 years, without a single complaint, said Elliot Balbert, president and founder. Still, the company can’t find product-liability insurance for the products, which include Natrol High, Metabolfirm and Therma Pro.

"We couldn’t even get a damn bid," said Balbert. "I don’t like the exposure." He said Natrol might stop selling ephedra products, which generate less than three percent of revenue.

Three other public companies said they are selling ephedra products although their insurance now provides less protection.

Wrongful Death Suit

Twinlab Corp. of Hauppauge, New York, faces a lawsuit over a customer death following use of its Metabolift ephedra product. Chattem Inc. of Chattanooga, Tennessee, cautioned in its annual report it might not have sufficient insurance coverage to cover sales of Dexatrim after its policy expires on May 31.

Weider Nutrition International Inc., which distributes diet products from its Salt Lake City headquarters, is defending three ephedra lawsuits. Daniel Thomson, Weider’s general counsel, didn’t return telephone calls. William Rizzardi, Twinlab’s chief information officer, and Scott Sloat, Chattem’s controller, declined to comment.

Four other companies that sell ephedra products don’t indicate any lawsuits in their annual reports. Nutraceutical International Corp. said its liability insurance excludes ephedra, and the Park City, Utah-based company said it recently halted sales of some ephedra products. Les Brown, chief financial officer, didn’t return telephone calls.

Mannatech Inc. of Coppell, Texas, reported selling ephedra products. Steve Fenstermacher, chief financial officer, didn’t return phone calls.

Both Natures Sunshine Products Inc. of Provo, Utah, and NBTY Inc. of Bohemia, New York, sell ephedra supplements. Harvey Kamil, NBTY’s chief executive, didn’t return telephone calls. Natures Sunshine Products executives weren’t available.

‘Natural Reaction’

Among a group of 140 FDA adverse reaction reports, 104 show ephedrine was the "very likely" cause of a medical problem, according to Ray Woosley, who examined the reports. Woosley, dean of the University of Arizona College of Medicine, said there were 10 reported ephedrine cases of "sudden death" and 15 severe strokes.

Woosley, who joined Public Citizen in its petition for an FDA ephedra ban, said he’s not surprised that insurers are shying away from companies selling ephedra.

"That’s a natural reaction to reckless behavior," he said.

34. Concerns Over Supplement Scam in Ireland
MONTPELLIER, France, Apr. 16, -- Reports in the British press claim that a convicted conman, Peter Foster, has set up fake dietary supplement sales scheme in Ireland.

Foster, who is originally from Australia’s Gold Coast, has already been convicted of fraud in both Australia and the UK, but is now thought to have resurfaced in Ireland, where he has allegedly placed ads in Irish newspapers promising to turn investors into millionaires.

The AAP news agency reports that Foster’s adverts claim that investors can make €1.3 million a year with the dietary supplement Trimit. All they have to do is pay him €200,000 for the privilege.

The scheme has apparently attracted a great deal of interest, the AAP reports, with calls flooding in from potential investors.

Foster disappeared from the UK while on day release in 1996 after serving nearly 18 months for fraud. The British police were at the time preparing to charge him with three counts of using false documents while trying to set up slimming products companies.

He returned to Australia, but was arrested there for fraud, serving 900 days in jail before being extradited back to the UK, where he pleaded guilty to the remaining fraud charges. The judge ruled he had served enough time in prison and released him to return to Australia.

35. Naturopath on Trial, Mother Recounts Daughter’s Death
By Tonya Maxwell

ASHEVILLE, Apr. 9, Asheville Citizen-Times -- An alternative medical practitioner on trial in the death of an 8-year-old girl said the child was suffering from a virus -- not juvenile diabetes as other doctors diagnosed, the child’s mother testified Tuesday.

"He told me what I wanted to hear, that she was not a true diabetic," said Marion Kolitwenzew, mother of Helena Rose "Rosie," who died of insulin deprivation in October 1999.

Kolitwenzew was the first witness to testify against Laurence Perry, a Polk County alternative medical practitioner who was treating Helena at the time of her death. He is charged with involuntary manslaughter and practicing medicine without a license.

Attorneys finished jury selection Tuesday morning and the district attorney called Kolitwenzew to the stand.

According to Kolitwenzew, Perry said Helena was toxic and needed to have her system flushed with large doses of vitamin C. He also said those doses would initially cause diarrhea, but if that stopped shortly, the girl wasn’t a true diabetic, Kolitwenzew testified.

The diarrhea stopped, and Perry diagnosed Helena with a virus that caused her sugars to be elevated, her mother said. Perry said he couldn’t rid the girl’s body of the virus but would teach her system to live with the virus and without insulin, according to Kolitwenzew.

He prescribed a regimen to reduce her insulin intake, and on Oct. 19, 1999, an employee at Perry’s clinic told Kolitwenzew to completely remove the child from insulin, Kolitwenzew testified. If she didn’t stop insulin, Perry would no longer treat Helena, Kolitwenzew said.

Kolitwenzew testified she began calling Perry daily, but in the three days before Helena’s death, she estimated that she called him between 20 and 50 times. Helena’s condition was worsening, she said, and she begged Perry to help put Helena back on insulin.

According to Kolitwenzew, Perry said the child was addicted to insulin and would have to overcome it. Prosecutors then played a tape voice mail that Perry left at Kolitwenzew’s phone the day before Helena died.

On that tape, Perry told Kolitwenzew Helena’s insulin addiction was on the verge of defeat.

"We’ve got about two more hours, and we’re going to physically beat this drug addiction we’re dealing with here with the insulin," Perry said. He later added, "We’re just about there, and tomorrow will be quite a victory day."

Asked by the district attorney if the next day was a victory day, Kolitwenzew replied, "She passed away the next day."

But Perry’s attorney, Locke Bell, told jurors that Kolitwenzew -- not Perry -- was responsible for Helena’s death.

"Mrs. Kolitwenzew, she allowed her child -- it’s tragic -- she allowed her child to die to get her off insulin," Bell said in opening arguments.

During his cross-examination, Bell attempted to portray Kolitwenzew as a mother who would go to any lengths to find a cure for Helena’s juvenile diabetes and wean her off of insulin. Kolitwenzew did not admit that she was searching for a cure for the disease.

In his questioning, Bell established that Kolitwenzew sought treatment from a host of different types of traditional and alternative medical practitioners. For one treatment, in Mexico, Helena was injected with stem cells from embryonic sharks, her mother said.

In October 1998, Helena was taken to a Transylvania County emergency room, suffering from high blood sugar. Bell asked if that was the same problem that would kill the child a year later.

Kolitwenzew replied that she didn’t know.

Kolitwenzew is expected to continue testifying today, and the trial is slated to last through the week.

36. Preserving Rwanda’s Medicinal Plants: Profile of Léopold Ntezurubanza
By Geneviève-L. Picard

OTTAWA, Apr. 19, International Development Research Centre -- The Karisoke Research Centre, located in Rwanda’s Volcano National Park, has long specialized in the study and protection of mountain gorillas. It was there, in 1974, that Léopold Ntezurubanza first became interested in the astonishing properties of medicinal plants. Working side by side with renowned primatologist Dian Fossey, the young professor of natural history carried out his field work on the slopes of the Visoke volcano.

Having been fascinated by the fact that gorillas turn instinctively to medicinal plants for their healing, he went on to study the Impunyu Pygmies living in the Gishwati natural forest, who themselves rely so heavily on medicinal plants that some stocks are now threatened with extinction.

Léopold Ntezurubanza had found his path: he proceeded to turn his passion for medicinal plants, nature, and traditional therapies into a career that would address problems linked to conservation and biodiversity.

The Early Years

After teaching for some years in the Petit Séminaire de Zaza and the Institut pédagogique national, Léopold Ntezurubanza undertook graduate studies in biological chemistry at the National University of Rwanda. His master’s thesis dealt with medicinal plants, specifically the extraction and quantification of essential oils. During the 1980s, he worked as a researcher with CURPHAMÉTRA (a university research centre on traditional pharmacopoeia and medicine, located in Butare), then obtained a doctorate in natural products chemistry at the State University of Leiden, in the Netherlands.

Returning to Africa in 1987, he pursued his work within several multidisciplinary research teams, while concurrently heading the medicinal plants department of Rwanda’s Institut de recherche scientifique et technologique. But in the conflict and upheaval of 1994, he and his family were forced to leave Rwanda. "We had to leave everything behind, including our research findings. Fortunately, a lot of the material had already been integrated into the data banks of the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi (UQAC), the University of Clermont-Ferrand (France), and the University of Leiden."

Ntezurubanza settled in Togo, where he carried out research on plant extracts, supported by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC). He later settled in Canada where he was able to recapture some of his research at the LASEVE (UQAC’s Laboratoire d’analyse et de séparation des essences végétales). And in 2000, an old dream was realized when LASEVE published his book, Les huiles essentielles du Rwanda, with the collaboration of the IDRC-supported Network on the Valorization of Plant Material in Africa. This book, part of the IDRC-supported project on Rwanda’s national reconstruction, is the first directory of indigenous plants and plant-derived products of his native country, whose local uses are then compared with applications in other African, Asian, and South American countries.

The author is convinced of the importance of his work. Rwanda’s industrialization "must necessarily be based on a rational use of primary sector resources. In this connection, the valorization of plant products, and in particular of medicinal and aromatic plants, constitutes a very promising avenue in the agro-industrial sector."

Africa’s Library of Elders

In describing the "ideal plant," Léopold Ntezurubanza points to mint, which can be made into herbal teas, lozenges, candies, perfumes, cosmetics, or medicines. Others, such as geranium or basil, can also be used as biopesticides. Obviously, not all medicinal plants are as widespread as mint or geranium: "Medicinal plants are precious; and like all things precious, many of them are rare." Léopold Ntezurubanza therefore advocates a rational, sustainable use of such plants to maintain the ecological balance of both habitats and species.

Such plant management must not conflict with traditional medical applications. Traditional therapists or "tradipractitioner" use inherited methods passed on through the centuries. When Léopold Ntezurubanza attempts to convince people to adopt more sustainable practices in harvesting and using plants, he must thereofre do so in a manner respectful of religious, cultural, and social values.

In return, there is a tremendous amount to be learned from tradipractitioners. "We must not allow the disappearance of the "libraries," the elders who die without passing on their knowledge!" he exclaims. However, such ethno-pharmaceutical research can be tricky: first one must be able to recognize the true custodians from the fraudulent ones, then convince tradipractitioners to share their knowledge, and finally identify the active agents of a given traditional plant-based medicine.

"This brings us to a further problem, that of traditional and intellectual property rights. In giving us the recipe for a plant-based remedy, the tradipractitioner may fear losing his or her livelihood." For many years, the transmission of local medicinal plant lore was a one-way process: from the community to researchers. As Léopold Ntezurubanza remarks in his book, "local communities are increasingly frustrated by the fact that they are not benefiting from their compendium of expertise. (...) [Their contributions] should afford them advantages in the area of patenting and industrial property laws." He would also like to see the creation of information networks allowing tradipractitioners to exchange knowledge among themselves.

The Road Ahead

A possible solution is to involve communities in producing essential oils extracted from the local flora. Mr Ntezurubanza is especially proud of a project supporting local communities, for which he is technical manager. The project is supported by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the Guadeloupe Foundation. Since April 2002, the people of Dzogabegan, on Togo’s Danyi plateau, have been managing a cooperative that produces essential oils and plant-based medicines from cultivated citronella, mint, basil, Gambian tea, oranges, and lemons. The cooperative generates income and the community has taken on managing resources. The cooperative’s members are then, in turn, able to assist and advise surrounding communities.

In its reconstruction efforts, Rwanda could look for inspiration to Togo, which now ranks among countries exporting basil and citronella extract. But Léopold Ntezurubanza remains realistic: "Marketing essential oils and other aromatic products is a fairly complex business: the markets are difficult to establish and fiercely competitive, all the more so with the new rules governing international trade (...) It is possible to meet market requirements only if you can guarantee stable supply levels and high-quality products."

The tragic events of 1994 have played havoc with Rwandan society and its economy. Léopold Ntezurubanza has not been able to return to his country, although he spends as much time as he can in Africa. He currently pursues his research and development work as well as focusing on the technological transfer and production aspects. Whether here or there, in the field or in the lab, bent over a microscope or sitting among peasants, he continues to unveil the secrets of Rwandan and non-Rwandan medicinal and aromatic plants.

[Geneviève-L. Picard is a freelance writer based in Ottawa.]

37. Kenyan Study Brings Hope to HIV/AIDS Patients
By Victor Bwire

NAIROBI, Apr. 7, East African Standard -- The Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri), in conjunction with a Spanish company, yesterday launched a food nutrient which is capable of reducing the viral load in Aids patients considerably.

The dietary supplement, called VIUSUD, is manufactured by Catalysis Ltd and scientifically verified by Kemri.

The efficacy and efficiency study done by scientists at Kemri dismissed the notion that Aids can only be managed by drugs and vaccines.

The study has revealed that the dietary supplement will greatly boost the country’s efforts in the management of the pandemic.

Kemri scientists, led by Dr Charles Mbakaya, made the conclusions after a 24-month study where the nutritional supplement was administered on 44 HIV-positive women.

"The clinical study has shown that the preparation VIUSUD can reach better results than all the currently known drugs for HIV patients. The results here can also be transferred to other parts of Africa," they observed.

Dr Mbakaya said the study was a major breakthrough for Kenya where antiretrovirals were now going for Sh7,800.

"The study has proved beyond reasonable doubt that lack of some mineral nutrients, especially Zinc, is major cause of loss of immunity in humans, thus a likely cause of Aids," he concluded.

He said the best news was that VIUSUD has the capacity to wipe out all opportunistic diseases such as tuberculosis, Hepatitis B and related illnesses.

Dr Mbakaya said the study was prompted by the high-prevalence of HIV in food-deficiency areas, especially Africa.

After the study, 52 per cent of the patients drawn from The Association of People With Aids (TAPWAK) experienced an absolute viral load reduction of over 50 per cent.

38. Ghanaian Government Blamed for Slow Herbal Medicine Testing
By Mohammed Osman

KUMASI, Ghana, Apr. 26, Ghanaian Chronicle -- The Managing Director of Fralena Health Products, Mr. Frank Kwadwo Amoabeng, has indicated that the slow rate at which the Ghana Food and Drugs Board is testing the potency of herbal medicines is retarding the work of Ghanaian herbalists.

"When we send our medicines to the board it takes over a year before the results are out," Amoabeng observed.

This situation, according to him, is discouraging most herbal practitioners from presenting their products to the board for testing.

He told Chronicle in an interview that indications are that the staff of the Food and Drugs Board are working around the clock to reduce the time spent on testing, but their laboratory equipment are completely outmoded.

Therefore, there is the need for the government to provide the board with new and modern equipment to meet the demands.

He observed that Ghana abounds in herbal medicine and if this is given the attention it deserves, medicines from Ghana could be exported into the West African sub-region to earn additional foreign exchange for the country.

According to him, due to the slow process of drug testing at the board, many made-in-Ghana herbal products have not caught the attention of the international market, whilst its foreign counterparts freely penetrate our local market.

He revealed that he has succeeded in coming out with herbal medicines that can cure malaria and other diseases in no time but if he decides to take them to the board it would take so long for the results to come out.

Additionally, Amoabeng was unhappy that some commercial banks in the region are not assisting the herbal medicine practitioners in terms of loans to expand their businesses.

According to him, he had acquired 15 acres of land to put up a factory for the production of large quantities of herbal medicines for export but all efforts made for bank loans have proved futile.

He, therefore, appealed to the government to bring the rural banks back to the cities to help them because they have the small-scale industries at heart.

39. South African Traditional Healers to Be Recognised under New Bill
By Edwin Tshivhidzo

PRETORIA, Apr. 23, BuaNews -- Traditional healers stand to be officially recognised as healers by the Department of Health -- should the Traditional Health Practitioners Bill be approved by Parliament.

The Bill is expected to be tabled in Parliament in May or June this year.

Its aim is to regulate the healing methods of traditional healers and to empower them in areas they lack expertise.

The Bill entails among others, the establishment of a council in which all traditional healers need to be registered. It also stipulates that medicinal remedies -- such as herbs - that they use to cure patients, be tested by professional scientific bodies such as the South African Medicines and Medical Devices Regulatory Authority (SAMMDRA).

The Bill will also allow the health department to work more closely with the traditional healers.

The department has already embarked on road shows in the various provinces, talking to traditional healers about the Bill, explaining to them what it entails and how they can benefit from it.

40. Kenyan Health Minister Defends Use of Herbal Medicine
By Barnabas Bii and William Faria

NAIROBI, Apr. 28, The East African Standard -- Public Health Minister Professor Sam Ongeri has defended herbalists against criticisms by medical doctors over possible legalisation of traditional medicine.

Prof Ongeri decried the tug of war between herbalists and doctors and called for the harmonisation of the two bodies in provision of health services in the country.

He said some countries, including Malaysia and India, have legalised the intake of herbal medicines as an alternative to conventional medicine.

"Some of these herbs have proved to be effective in the treatment of ailments and should not be dismissed in preference to conventional medicine," said Ongeri.

The Minister was speaking on Friday evening during the official opening of this year’s annual Kenya Medical Association scientific conference in Eldoret which brought together doctors from the East African region.

He said 80 per cent of Kenyans were seeking treatment from herbalists, adding that they should be encouraged in their research work.

Ongeri however said a regulatory standard should be set for herbal concoctions to regulate administering it to patients.

"Standards should be set to monitor the operations of herbalists to ensure they gave the correct dosage to their patients," added the Minister.

He said a meeting will be organised to bring together herbalists and doctors for a proper scientific approach.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health has launched a major operation to round-up and poison over 2,000 stray dogs in Marakwet district in the fight against rabies, reports Bethwel Kaino.

Medical Officer of Health, Dr Robert Pukose said yesterday the move comes in the wake of the recent incident where 13 people were admitted at Endo Mission hospital after they were bitten by wild dogs.

He urged area residents to co-operate with health personnel to ensure that all stray dogs in the district are killed.

41. Ugandan Herbalist Arrested for Defiling 11-Year-Old Girl
By Davis Weddi

KAMPALA, Uganda, Apr. 29, New Vision -- A 65-year-old traditional healer in Namungoona, west of Kampala, was arrested last week by Police over defiling an 11-year-old girl.

"He is now being held here," said Abbey Kisubi, the Old Kampala divisional Police commander.

Paul Bira Tomusange, the owner of the shrine, was arrested last week by the Police who were led to his home by the girl.

Kisubi said the girl was allegedly defiled on April 21 at Tomusange’s shrine.

The girl has been living with her aunt, Sarah Nampijja, an employee of Cardinal Nsubuga Nursery school.

42. North American Industry-Native Symposium Leads to Collaboration
By Mary Maruca

Apr. 5, Medicinal Plants Working Group -- For those unable to attend the Industrial Leadership in the Preservation of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants, I wanted to provide a brief summary of some of the actions achieved, and to update you on the status of other MPWG [Medicinal Plant Working Group] changes.

Symposium speakers shared a great deal of information with approximately 130 attendees. In addition to an information-packed agenda, the group developed and endorsed the following consensus statement:

1. We endorse the Plant Conservation Alliance (PCA), and the Plant Conservation Alliance- Medicinal Plants Working Group (PCA-MPWG) and its Mission

2. We acknowledge that we are all stakeholders in the preservation of plants

3. We recognize that we need guidance from our indigenous elders

4. We intend a more formal structure for industry participation in PCA and PCA-MPWG

5. We will hold another Industrial Leadership meeting in about one year to access our progress toward formalizing a structure.

In addition, the group agreed to move forward with an Industry Committee, cochaired by Michael McGuffin (American Herbal Products Association), and by Julie Lyke (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service). Trish Flaster (Botanical Liaisons), David Hircock (Aveda), and Ed Fletcher (Strategic Sourcing) also expressed interest. The committee will be seeking other participants to carry out the important agenda it will be developing as well as seeking industry endorsement of that agenda. Among the actions identified as first steps for the committee were:

1. a press release following up on the symposium (Partners: American Herbal Products Association, Aveda, American Botanical Council)

2. Native American spokespeople continuing to send the message that the plants are sacred.

3. an article concerning the symposium published in Herbalgram (Partners: American Botanical Council, Aveda)

4. video distribution of this event to interested herb schools

5. share existing standards for sustainable harvest shared with attendees (Partners: Rainforest Alliance and Center for Sustainable Environments)

6. 2001 tonnage survey designed and produced (Partners: American Herbal Products Associations, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Others)

7. CITES implementation for native medicinal plants (Partners: American Herbal Products Association, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

The symposium also provided an opportunity to change and, hopefully, improve the Fish and Wildlife Service’s facilitation role of the Medicinal Plant Working Group. Julie Lyke, the chair of the group since its formation in 1999, has assumed new responsibilities in another Service program. Though she remains part of the group in an advisory capacity, the chair has been assumed by Pamela Hall Thibodeaux.

Pam received a B.S. in Botany from Miami University, Oxford, OH and a M.S. in Wildlife Management from Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA. Her work experience includes positions held at the National Park Service, Youth Conservation Corps; Soil Conservation Service, National Plant Materials Center; Agricultural Research Service, Weed Science Laboratory; EG&G Energy Measurements, Nevada Test Site; and National Biological Survey, Southern Science Center. Pam has worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service since 1996. She spent 4 years in the Division of Management Authority working on Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and Endangered Species Act (ESA) regulatory and implementation issues. Currently, Pam works as a biologist for the Division of Scientific Authority and deals with the scientific issues related to CITES and ESA.

Pam is a great addition to the MPWG team. Her scientific background, skills as a strategist, and commitment to plants make her an excellent leader for this next phase of MPWG development. You will be seeing her name on the listserv more as the weeks go by, and so I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce her to you.

43. Indian Army Turns to Herbal Remedies
TIRUVALLA, Kerala, India, Apr. 19, -- The Indian Army is convinced that traditional Indian medicine based on herbal remedies can help soldiers cope with the debilitating effects of serving on the Siachen glacier, the world’s highest and coldest battlefield. It may be recalled that hundreds of Indian and Pakistani soldiers have been confronting one another on Siachen since 1984, deployed at heights of up to 21,000 feet where temperatures can dip below minus 50 degrees Celsius.

The Army’s Defence Institute of Physiology and Allied Sciences (DIPAS) is using extracts from the Aloe vera plant to treat injuries caused by extreme cold conditions, while an exercise regimen based on yoga has allowed soldiers to regulate their body temperature. Officials at DIPAS say that clinical trials of a preparation of more than 20 herbs and minerals such as Aswagandha [Withania somnifera], Tulsi [Ocimum sanctum], Brahmi [Cetella asiatica], Panax ginseng, and Ginkgo biloba -- used for centuries in traditional Indian medicine -- have shown it can alleviate physical and mental problems associated with serving at such high altitudes.

The regimen based on yoga, an ancient Indian system combining exercise and meditation, was developed for locations that do not allow soldiers to undergo physical training, and has been found to be extremely useful in places like Siachen, or in submarines, which have no space for regular exercise.

Over a period of six months, a test group of soldiers following the regimen were able to perform strenuous tasks with less exertion, lower their heart rate and improve flexibility of major body joints. The regimen also lowered levels of glucose and cholesterol in their blood.

DIPAS scientists have treated more than 250 soldiers affected by frostbite and injuries caused by cold with extracts from Aloe vera, a cactus-like plant with dagger-shaped leaves known for its medicinal qualities. They claim that the treatment had proved effective even for soldiers who had been advised to amputate their frostbitten limbs and fingers. The Aloe vera extract, which reduces pain and increases blood flow to wounded areas, is supplemented with other herbal medicines to speed up the healing process.

[Sources: Newindpress, DIPAS]

44. South Indian Farmers Increasingly Planting Vanilla
TIRUVALLA, Kerala, India, Apr. 29, -- According to the BBC, Indian farmers, particularly in the southern states of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamilnadu are increasingly turning to vanilla cultivation as the price of traditional crops such as rubber and coffee continues to decline. Farmers are not exactly replacing their existing crops, but are more likely to ‘intercrop’ -- when more than one commodity is grown in the same field at the same time. The Spices Board of India, a commodity board set up by the Government of India has been encouraging farmers to take advantage of growing demand for vanilla since the early 1990s.

The climatic conditions ideal for growing coconuts are similar to those needed for vanilla cultivation; hence the popularity of the spice in the three southern states where large amounts of coconuts have been traditionally grown. It is also possible to cultivate vanilla on rubber or coffee plantations, though tea growing regions are unsuitable because of their higher elevation.

The BBC quoted Mr. Koshy John, Director of the Spices Board as saying that there is strong demand for vanilla in Europe and the U.S., especially for organic varieties.

[Source: BBC News]

45. Gene Technology Used to Decode Traditional Chinese Medicine
SHANGHAI, Apr. 16, Xinhuanet -- Chinese scientists have launched a herbal medicine gene database project this month which is expected to combine traditional Chinese medical science with gene pharmaceutical technology.

Chen Zhu, director of the China Human Genome Center at Shanghai said on Tuesday at the ongoing 2002 International Human Genome Meeting that gene technology would be used to decode the mysterious effect of traditional Chinese medicine.

The project, named "the world’s largest native compound gene database", will detect more than 5,000 effective elements of traditional Chinese medicine and put them into the herbal medicine gene database.

"Human genome technology has brought vital changes to the bio- pharmaceutical industry, and China will make it a platform to develop traditional Chinese medical science," said Chen Zhu, also vice-president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

For thousands of years, the Chinese have used mixtures of plant and animal bones to cure disease with a success rate that continues to baffle modern science.

With the completion of the international genome research in 2003, Chen noted, scientists would fully understand the "human genetic map", making further research into genetic information relating to human disease and lifespan possible.

After the native compound gene database is established, Chinese scientists will use all the 5,000 effective elements discovered in traditional Chinese medicine to test disease-related human genes, in a bid to decipher traditional Chinese medicine.

"It’s a tremendous project," a Chinese scientist involved in the research told Xinhua. The most famous Chinese medical encyclopedia "Bencao Gangmu" (or "Compendium of Materia Medica") records only 1,892 herbs. Another medical book "Zhonghua Bencao" published in 1995 contains over 8,000 herbs, and the native compound gene database will cover the most important of these plants.

Professor Wang Qiaochu of the Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine has succeeded in curing insomnia by using leaves of groundnuts, but it’s hard for him to explain how the herb works.

"Traditional Chinese medicine has existed over thousands of years, and a qualified doctor must recite hundreds of prescriptions by heart which have been passed down for generations, before he practises medicine independently," said Wang. He added that only within the past century had scholars of traditional Chinese medicine started to probe the mechanism and effective elements of these treatments.

Sir Walter Bodmer, a gene researcher from Oxford University told Xinhua that the greatest difficulty in combining traditional Chinese medicine and gene technology was to detect which elements of traditional Chinese medicine were useful or futile.

"This is why we should build a herbal medicine database first; we must find out the pathogenesis, which is an urgent task for all the world’s top scholars gathered at the meeting," he said.

"I hope that some day a Western doctor can give a prescription of traditional Chinese medicine by using information from the herbal medicine database," said Wang Qiaochu.

46. Indian Herbal Medicine in Hepatitis Trial
MONTPELLIER, France, Apr. 3, -- Trials are to begin soon in six countries on a herbal preparation created by scientists in India to establish its efficacy in treating hepatitis B, reports the Hindustan Times. If the trials are successful, the herbal remedy could be launched in other countries.

The preparation is called virohep, and has been available in India for some time, the paper said. The new trials will take place in the UK, Italy, Germany, Korea and Thailand as well as India, and will aim to further establish virohep’s efficacy against hepatitis B.

The trials might also test whether the preparation, made from the plant Phyllantus amarus, can help combat hepatitis C.

Research into the products efficacy against hepatitis B and C has been going on in India and elsewhere since 1979, and numerous studies have already been published. The studies showed that the preparation cleared hepatitis B virus in about 54 per cent of patients, according to the paper.

The preparation acts at four levels -- it boosts immunity of the human system and has anti-viral, antioxidant and hepatoprotective properties. It also stabilises liver cell membrane and prevents their death.

Studies in the US showed the herbal preparation inhibited the synthesis of HB virus by suppressing the production of a molecule called mRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid). The mRNA is required to synthesise DNA. When used against hepatitis C, the preparation helped in attaining biochemical normal status in 80 per cent of patients while 30 per cent lost HC virus RNA meaning disappearance of the virus, the paper said.

There are no known side effects of the preparation, and it is not thought to lead to the production of mutant forms of the virus, as is often the case with patients given the usual lamivudin therapy, the report continued.

The preparation is administered over a six month period, and patients who are cleared of the disease were found to have no recurrence of the infection even after nine years. After one-year treatment with lamivudin, virus reappears in about 50-60 per cent of patients, the paper said.

47. China’s Traditional Medicine Exports Totalled Half Billion in 2001
BEIJING, Apr. 2, AsiaPulse -- China exported US$558 million worth of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) in 2001, an increase of 2.9 per cent over the previous year.

According to customs statistics, China’s TCM export to Asia and South America went up while that to North America and Europe declined. Despite the US$6.6 million drop in the export to Europe via Hong Kong and Taiwan, the export to Asia, a traditional market of TCM, maintained an increase of 4.2 per cent, or US$15.98 million. Its export to South America, a newly opened market, was up 48.8 per cent; and to Africa, the same as in the previous year. China’s TCM export to the above-mentioned areas accounted for 77.9 per cent of its total export. China’s TCM export to North America in 2001 dropped 29.1 per cent from the previous year, that to Europe dropped 6.8 per cent, and that to Oceania fell 2.3 per cent. Its export to these three areas dropped US$12.21 million.

The export of TCM drugs and health products was valued at US$102 million in 2001, up 12 per cent over the year-earlier period. Included was the export of Yunnan Baiyao, which was valued at US$700,000, up 170 per cent; painzaihuang (Anti-inflammatory and Analgesic Bolus), which was valued at US$10.31 million, up 16 per cent; Royal Jelly preparations, which was valued at US$6.38 million, up 2.1 per cent, and other traditional drugs, which was valued at US$68.9 million, up 20.4 per cent. Its export of essential oil (menthocamphorate) was worth US$11.33 million, a drop of 13.3 per cent; and the export of medicated wines was valued at US$4.27 million, a drop of 18.9 per cent.

China exported US$354 million worth of traditional medicinal materials in 2001, up 1.4 per cent over the previous year. The exported staple medicinal materials each valued at over US$10 million included processed American ginseng, which was valued at US$33.43 million, down 3 per cent; fresh royal jelly and powder, which was valued at US$16.52 million, a drop of US$50,000; and ginseng, which was valued at US$14.92 million, a drop of 9.4 per cent. The exported medicinal materials each valued at over US$5 million included gancao (liquorice) (US$7.25 million), huangqi (astragalus root) (US$6.82 million), gouji (wolfberry fruit) (US$6.78 million), bitter apricot kernel (US$6.6 million) and bajiao huixiang (star anise fruit) (US$6 million). China’s export of plant extracts was the same as in 2000.

A survey shows that 13 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions each exporting US$10 million of traditional medicine included Guangdong, Shandong, Zhejiang, Beijing, Jiangsu, Fujian, Tianjin, Guangxi, Hebei, Shanghai, Sichuan, Liaoning and Gansu. Their export value totaled US$427 million, accounting for 76.5 per cent of the total. The export value of Guangdong Province alone came to US$123 million, accounting for 22 per cent of the country’s total.

48. Global Herbal Product Market Has Great Potential, Hong Kong Trade Council Says
HONG KONG, Apr. 29, Xinhua -- The global herbal product market has great potentials as consumers become more nature-friendly, concerned about chronic illnesses and confident on the effects of herbal products, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (TDC) said in a report Monday.

The demand for herbal products in the world increased at an annual rate of 8 percent during the period of 1994 to 2000, the report said, estimating that the global sales of herbal products will amount to 2.32 billion U.S. dollars in 2002.

According to the report, Europe and the United States are two major herbal products markets in the world, with a market share of 35 percent and 20 percent respectively. Sales in 2000 in the two regions amounted to 6.9 billion U.S. dollars and 3.9 billion U.S. dollars respectively.

The Chinese mainland market is also very huge with an annual increase of 22.6 percent in the past 10 years, the report said, adding that with the opening of retail and wholesale of herbal products, the space for Hong Kong companies to develop sales business in the mainland will be greatly increased.

The report advised Hong Kong herbal product industry to focus on the herbal health-care products and beauty products in the short term as companies in this trade are mainly small and medium- sized and the cost to develop products for medical uses which meet the stringent standards of the developed countries are very high.

It also asked the local industry to develop more cooperation with mainland companies, focus on major markets of Europe, the United States and the mainland, and pay attention to quality, market needs, package, brand strategy and intellectual property protection.

49. Malaysia to Set Up Herbal Farm
TIRUVALLA, Kerala, India, Apr. 12, -- Malaysia is planning to set up a herbal farm next year at Kulim. The proposed farm, to be sited on 80-120 hectares of land, is aimed at raising the country’s profile in biotechnology and herbal remedies. To be established by the Kulim Technology Park, it will be completed with the assistance of the Universiti Sains Malaysia. The proposed herbal farm -- a potential tourist attraction for the park and the state of Kedah -- would include areas for farming, manufacturing, processing, packaging and research and development.

The farm will be set up in joint venture with either local or foreign players. Potential partners could be firms involved in traditional herbal medicines, pharmaceuticals or cosmetics. The local market for herbal remedies was reported last year as worth RM2 billion annually.

[Source: New Straits Times]

50. Pepper Prices Shoot Up in India
TIRUVALLA, Kerala, India, Apr. 17, -- Spot prices of MG 1 pepper in Cochin increased to Rs 8,600 a quintal on 15th April from Rs 8,100 last week, while that of ungarbled rose to Rs 8,200 from Rs 7,700 a quintal. Futures also increased significantly during the period. Markets remained closed on the 16th because of the nation-wide strike in India by Bank employees.

Buying activity was reported to be hectic from all over the world. Many buyers, who have been postponing their pepper purchases anticipating the prices to drop below $1,000 a tonne, have now started buying because of the current short supply. Even international players, who have committed earlier, are buying now to cover their needs. Exporters have also started buying to meet their time-bound commitments.

Arrivals at the terminal market in India have decreased. Some of the major growers and traders are holding on to their stock anticipating the prices to move up further, as the supply position has become rather unpredictable, in view of conflicting reports regarding Vietnamese pepper production. This uncertainty has now been compounded by doubts even about the Malaysian and Indonesian production this year.

51. Spice Trade Wary of Influence of Vietnamese Pepper
TIRUVALLA, Kerala, India, Apr. 4, -- The IPC Report regarding the state of the current Vietnam pepper crop seems to have had a big impact on pepper prices, including Cochin, India, where spot prices had shot up to as much as Rs. 7700 per quintal on 2 April 2002. However, we understand from very reliable sources that there is also another side to the coin. These sources indicate that the Vietnam crop has been merely delayed for several weeks, and that the market there has slowly started its downtrend a couple of days ago, with improved arrivals in the local markets. The price as on 2 April 2002 was U.S. $ 1200 per MT FOB HCM.

One of the main difficulties faced by market watchers in such situations is the absence of objective reports of ground realities by non-partisan groups who actually make the effort of visiting various producing regions in Vietnam on a regular basis. This often results in estimates based on guesswork and hearsay. Our sources in Vietnam indicate that:

1) According to official Vietnam Customs Export Statistics, Vietnam exported a little over 57,000 MT of black pepper during 2001. Domestic consumption estimates range between 2-4,000 MT. If this is added to the carry-over of 1,000 MT, pepper produced in Vietnam during 2001 must have been at least 61,000 MT.

2) According to the recent IPC Press Release, production in Vietnam for 2002 would be 20% less than in 2001, because of the drought. However, reports of such a drought started surfacing only during February 2002; there was no indication at all about this before February. While it is true that water levels in the wells are lower than usual, there is no drought as such, and farmers continue to get sufficient water to irrigate their vines. As a matter of fact, farmers in Daklak and such areas are even irrigating their coffee trees, which fetch them less than half the price of pepper. Under such circumstances there seems to be no reason to assume that farmers would not irrigate their pepper.

3) The density of the pepper coming from the farms now seems to contradict the reports of yields being affected by drought. If there was indeed a drought, the quantity of light and immature pepper would be high; in reality however, the pepper coming from the farms is extremely heavy in density, some even above 600g/l.

4) Most visitors and travellers through Vietnam tend to stick to the main roads. Some of the old pepper gardens alongside such main roads in Binh Phuoc province for example, admittedly do look less flourishing because the pepper vines here are more than 10 years old and are well past their prime production stage. If however, visitors examine newer gardens in northern and northeastern Binh Phuoc (near and on the border with Kampuchea), Daklak, and Gia Lai, they will be able to observe good, sturdy, and healthy pepper vines.

5) While our sources confirm that there has indeed been a delay in the harvest, they attribute it to the following factors:

a) A relatively late Lunar New Year: Usually Tet falls during end Jan/early Feb of the year, but in 2002 it was only from 11th Feb onwards.

b) Reduction in the number of pickings: Harvesting in Vietnam is normally done in 4-5 rounds. Most farmers hire day labour to do this for them. In order to save picking costs, Vietnamese farmers have now reduced the number of pickings to 2 or 3 rounds.

c) A cooler weather during the dry season: During the dry season which started in November, temperatures in Southern Vietnam had been a few degrees cooler than normal. Though there was ample sunshine, yet the cooler weather might have moderately slowed the ripening of the pepper.

d) Speculation by dealers and farmers: As prices are lower than previous years, it is but natural for dealers/farmers to hold on to their stocks as a speculative tool to reap in more profits. Such retention restricts supplies to the export market, thereby adding to the general feeling that there is less pepper.

Our sources have unequivocally opined that there is in reality no drought as such in Vietnam, but merely a delay in harvesting. They therefore believe that despite the recent increase in prices, which occurred mainly due to technical reasons, the Vietnamese pepper crop will be in the region of 70,000 MT, with exports of 65,000 MT.

While it is not the intention of this Report or of to pre-judge issues or influence readers in any way, we thought it best to present both sides of the picture, and leave the final judgement to our esteemed customers and readers. If our Report has in even a small way helped them in making up their minds or taking decisions on the basis of an impartial analysis of the situation, we would be more than satisfied.

52. Nutmeg Prices Likely to Remain High
TIRUVALLA, Kerala, India, Apr. 1, -- As reported by us [in February], the nutmeg crop in Indonesia is likely to be much smaller this season. Supplies are very tight due to acute shortage on all grades of Nutmeg and Mace. This decline is as much due to bad weather as to the falling production of existing trees because of their age. Many of the trees in the area are 50 years and above, and some are as old as 100 years!

Grenada too is facing problems because of inclement weather in the second half of last year. Further, the country has exhausted the entire 2001 crop and fresh supplies are not likely to be available until much later this year. All this is said to be good for India, where nutmeg is grown mainly in the southern states of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamilnadu. The prices here have risen considerably during the current year. Nutmeg prices have gone up to Rs.220/kg in recent months, from levels of Rs.167/kg in September 2001. The drop in Indonesian and Grenadan production will enable India to obtain a greater market share this year. Overall, we expect the nutmeg and mace prices to remain on the high side this year.

[Sources: ITC, Geneva;]

53. Indian Ginger Prices Remain Depressed
TIRUVALLA, Kerala, India, Apr. 25, -- India is the largest ginger producing nation in the world, accounting for almost 35% of total global output. As indicated in some of our earlier reports however, there is a likelihood that the area under ginger in the main producing states such as Kerala, might actually come down because of the present unremunerative prices.

Ginger prices have been continuing to show a drastic fall since the commencement of the crop season in October/November. The prices now hover around Rs. 2800 a quintal, whereas the cost of production is in the region of Rs.2300 a quintal. Under such circumstances, it is but natural that farmers are reluctant to take up ginger farming enthusiastically!

While it has become handy and even fashionable to blame everything on the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York, and the subsequent slowdown in the world economy, it should be remembered that there are other factors too, which are equally responsible for the price slide. There is no doubt that the higher production this year has played a major part in determining the prices of ginger. Factors such as lower demand, particularly from the northern Indian states due to the milder winter this year, would have been equally important.

All factors considered, it would be improbable that ginger prices will recover in the immediate future. If however, worldwide demand for Indian ginger goes up in the next few months, there may be a likelihood of comparatively better prices, leading to a renaissance in the cultivation of ginger in the country.

54. Indian Turmeric Prices on the Rise
TIRUVALLA, Kerala, India, Apr. 19, -- Turmeric prices in India have been consistently going up in the past one week, with prices in Delhi going up by Rs.100-250 per quintal. Prices now range between Rs.2500-2750 per quintal, thereby marking a 3-year high. This has somewhat surprised market watchers, as no great export demand has been felt, and local demand too is said to be only 50-60% of what it was last year. The price increase has been mainly attributed to hectic buying by stockists and investors who seem to be doing this for speculative reasons, fearing a smaller crop this season. As mentioned in our earlier reports, the turmeric production is likely to be considerably less this year, particularly in Erode district; consequently, prices can be expected to only increase in the coming days, with every likelihood of it crossing the Rs.3000-mark soon.

It may be pertinent to point out that there had been a slump during the last two years, when the prices had crashed from the Rs.3000 levels prevalent in 1997-98. As a result, growers had felt that it was not at all remunerative to grow turmeric on their fields. With the prices now once again taking an upturn, the farmers are enthused and happy at the turn of events.

55. Potential for Growth in Scottish Herb Market
MONTPELLIER, France, Apr. 24, -- Scottish farmers who have until recently ignored the potentially lucrative herb market, could soon respond to the growing interest in medicinal herbs thanks to a recent research grant, reports The Scotsman.

Only about 10 per cent of Britain’s herb consumption is met by home production, according to the paper, which reports that the market was valued at around £4 million in the late 1990s. It is now said to be growing at 10 per cent a year for culinary herbs and over 30 per cent for medicinal plants. The award of a £400,000 research grant to the Scottish Agricultural College, Auchincruive, (SAC) by British healthcare company Boots may help boost Scottish farmers enthusiasm in a new market.

The project, headed by Dr Katya Svoboda, is aimed at developing technologies for the extraction of essential oils for toiletries, and comes after more than a decade of government funded research into the subject of herbs.

"We have amassed a great deal of knowledge on the production of and uses for herbs over the past ten or 12 years. There is no problem about growing many of them in Scotland; the real problem is sorting out a proper marketing system," Dr Svoboda told The Scotsman.

Her warnings seem to be reflected in the number of Scottish members of the British Herb Trade Association -- a mere four, out of its 100 members are based in Scotland.

"The best way is to start out small and build your own niche market. But you have to be aware that many markets, such as medicinals, are not prepared to pay the price. For instance, dried Calendula flowers from Egypt are available here at 75p per kilo. There is no way we could match these prices," said British Herb Trade Association chairman Chris Nye.

Herb production can be labour intensive on the small scale and highly capital intensive once economies of scale are sought with a high degree of mechanisation, although machinery used in arable farming can be used to carry out many of the tasks.

"Market opportunities exist in all sectors for growers supplying a consistent standard of quality product," said Dr Svoboda. "To exploit these opportunities however, a grower should identify the appropriate organisation to whom he may be able to sell herbs of where herbs may be processed," she added.

She also noted that the scientific requirements of the customers must also be considered in terms of varieties, quality, timing of supply, quantities required and any restrictions on husbandry practices, such as controls on the use of pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers.

"To meet some of these demands it may be necessary for a number of growers to consider working together in order to increase the overall scale of their production," said Svoboda.

56. Herb Business News
Alta Natural: To Apply to Release Shares from Escrow

VANCOUVER, B.C., Apr. 26, Market News Publishing -- Alta Natural Herbs & Supplements Ltd. (the "Corporation") announces that it will make application to the TSX Venture Exchange (the "Exchange") to release, on a performance basis, a portion of the 3,000,000 Common shares that are held in escrow pursuant to the Escrow Agreement dated May 24, 1996 (the "1996 Escrow Agreement"), between 562513 B.C. Ltd., 562515 B.C. Ltd., Al Tehrani, Monireh Torabi, Intraco Holdings Ltd., Vida Montazami, Ross S. Douglas, David N. Dell, A. Barzin and Victoria Gibbons, the Corporation and Computershare Trust Company of Canada. Mr. Ten Chu Wei, a director of 562515 B.C. Ltd., is also a director and officer of the Corporation. The 1996 Escrow Agreement states that one ecrowed share would be released for each $0.20 of cash flow generated from the business of Nature’s Pride Marketing Ltd., which business now forms part of the Corporation, for a period of five years. Acceptance of the application to release is subject to regulatory approval.

Following the application for release, the Corporation will make application to the Exchange to extend and convert the remaining escrowed shares held pursuant to the performance-based 1996 Escrow Agreement to a time-based release agreement. Acceptance of the application to extend and convert the 1996 Escrow Agreement is subject to shareholder and regulatory approval. In the event that shareholder and regulatory approval is not received, the escrowed shares held pursuant to the 1996 Escrow Agreement will be cancelled.

The Corporation will also make application to the Exchange to extend and convert the 3,000,000 escrowed shares held pursuant to the performance-based Escrow Agreement dated October 30, 1997 (the "1997 Escrow Agreement"), between 562513 B.C. Ltd., 562515 B.C. Ltd., the Corporation and Computershare Trust Company of Canada, to a time-based release agreement. Mr. Ten Chu Wei, a director of 562515 B.C. Ltd., is also a director and officer of the Corporation. The 1997 Escrow Agreement states that one ecrowed share would be released for each $0.20 of cash flow generated from the business of Cartilago Products Ltd., which business now forms part of the Corporation, for a term of five years; however, no escrowed shares have been released to date. Acceptance of the application to extend and convert the 1997 Escrow Agreement is subject to shareholder and regulatory approval.

Biogenics: Censured over Weight Loss ‘Supplements’

MONTPELLIER, France, Apr. 17, -- In what it is calling a victory for consumer protection, the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has forced Utah-based company Biogenics to agree to stop making products containing drugs but sold as dietary supplements.

Biogenics, which trades as E’OLA International, has signed a consent decree that prohibits it from making products such as AMP II Pro Drops, any product containing ephedrine hydrochloride or any synthetic ephedrine alkaloid, and also any drug product that is not approved by the FDA.

The decree follows a raid on Biogenics’ headquarters last October which resulted in the seizure of $2.8 million (€3.2m) worth of E’OLA’s products, known as AMP II Pro Drops. Earlier inspections by the FDA had revealed that these products -labelled as dietary supplements for weight loss -- contravene US regulations because they contain a drug, ephedrine hydrochloride. Drug ingredients are prohibited for use in dietary supplements.

Ephedrine hydrochloride has been approved as a drug by FDA since 1948, and therefore cannot be legally marketed as a dietary supplement. E’OLA also marketed its product as a treatment for obesity, but under FDA rules products marketed to treat diseases are also classified as drugs.

Ephedrine is the chemical form of the popular herbal remedy ephedra, and the FDA’s action is seen as a clear indication that it will not allow companies to sell ephedrine products masquerading as ephedra.

John Taylor, the FDA’s enforcement officer, said: "People have masqueraded behind the claim that their product was a pure ma huang [ephedra] product. It’s a signal that we are concerned about products that are promoted as dietary supplements that are actually unlawfully marketed drug products."

The FDA said that E’OLA had also broken the law because the labelling of its AMP II Pro Drops did not give adequate directions for its intended use.

E’OLA now has 25 days to destroy all the items seized by the FDA.

Degussa: Develops Herbal Sweets with Functional Properties

TIRUVALLA, Kerala, India, Apr. 26, -- Degussa Flavours and Fruit Systems has developed herbal sweets under the brand name Maxens. These sweets, coming in a wide range with multifarious functional properties, are meant for adults. They are said to be useful for digestion, as a body coolant, as relaxants and stimulants, purifiers, and for combating stress and insomnia. A wide variety of herbs such as verbena, mint, cinnamon, vanilla, cardamom and ginger are used in the preparation of these sweets.

[Source: ]

eNutrition: Quits Supplements Business

MONTPELLIER, France, Apr. 16, -- In a major change of direction, the nutritional supplement developer and marketer eNutrition has decided to sell all its existing businesses and acquire the sports equipment supplier Torpedo Sports USA.

The deal will take the form of an exchange of stock -- eNutrition will issue 8,000,000 shares of common stock to Torpedo Sports’ stockholders to acquire all of Torpedo Sports’ outstanding shares. Completion is subject to approval by both companies’ shareholders.

Torpedo Sports is a French Canadian company which specialises in the manufacture and distribution of outdoor recreational products for children such as toboggans, baby sleds, snowboards, tricycles, scooters and skateboards.

eNutrition gave no reason for its decision to withdraw from the direct mail marketing business, saying simply that the deal required it "to divest all of its current business operations prior to the closing of the transaction". However, the current difficulties being experienced by a number of supplement companies, due to the general downturn in the US market, might be a major factor in the decision.

Health & Nutrition Systems: Future of Supplement Maker in the Balance

MONTPELLIER, France, Apr. 17, -- The continued future of the Florida-based producer of weight management products, Health & Nutrition Systems, has been called into question following a substantial downturn in profits in 2001.

The company’s auditors have said that there is "substantial doubt" over Health & Nutrition Systems’ ability to continue as a going concern in light of the significant loss from operations suffered during the year and which were caused primarily by the sharp decline in sales following 11 September.

The company reported sales of US$975,318 for the last three months of 2001 compared to US$1,384,763 for the same period in 2000.

For the year as a whole, the company reported total sales of $5,365,332, a slight decline from $5,404,253 a year earlier. Revenues in 2001 included $1,155,000 generated from the sale of the company’s Acutrim weight loss products following the acquisition of the trademark in the first quarter.

Operating profits of $84,204 in 2000 were converted to losses of $1,377,203 as a result of increased advertising costs related to three new products -- Acutrim, Fat Cutter and Carbolizer. Net losses for the year were $1,399,533, compared to net income $70,562 for 2000.

The company did not say what its next step would be, but the future looks grim for the supplement producer, and indeed for many other of the smaller players in the market. The market will inevitably recover from the sharp decline at the end of last year, but the question remains as to how many companies will still be operating when it does so?

Herbalife: First Quarter Sales, Income Up

LOS ANGELES, Apr. 30, Business Wire -- Herbalife International, Inc. today reported that net income for its first quarter ended March 31, 2002, of $19.9 million, or $0.60 per diluted share, compared to $8.6 million, or $0.29 per diluted share in the 2001 comparable quarter. Excluding the unfavorable impact of foreign currency fluctuations, diluted earnings per share for the first quarter of 2002 would have been $0.69 per diluted share.

Retail sales for the 2002 first quarter increased by 8.3 percent to $432.7 million from $399.7 million in the 2001 comparable quarter, and net sales increased to $265.8 million from $245.8 million in the 2001 comparable quarter. Excluding the impact of foreign currency fluctuations, retail and net sales increased 13.2 percent.

Cost of sales as a percent of net sales in the 2002 first quarter improved to 21.5 percent from 24.4 percent in the comparable 2001 quarter. This decrease reflects the realization of product cost savings attributed to new supply contracts.

Marketing, Distribution and Administrative expenses totaled $81.1 million for the 2002 first quarter compared with $85.6 million in the comparable 2001 quarter. The decrease is due to cost-cutting initiatives in corporate functions and international distribution centers.

The Americas

Retail sales for the 2002 first quarter increased 17.1 percent, to $175.7 million from $150.1 million in the 2001 comparable quarter. Retail sales in the United States increased 17.1 percent, to $128.6 million in the 2002 first quarter from $109.8 million in the prior-year quarter. Retail sales in Mexico continue to show strong demand and increased 22.0 percent, to $26.1 million from $21.4 million last year. Retail sales in Brazil increased 4.0 percent to $8.2 million. Asia/Pacific Rim

Retail sales for the 2002 first quarter decreased 2.0 percent, to $133.8 million from $136.5 million in the 2001 first quarter. The decline continues to be attributable to a year-over-year decline in Japan partially offset by increases in South Korea, Thailand and the recently opened China.

Japan’s retail sales of $65.5 million represented a 19.7 percent decrease from the 2001 comparable quarter. In local currency, Japan’s retail sales decreased 9.5 percent compared with the 2001 comparable quarter. India’s retail sales of $2.7 million represented a 4.9 percent decrease from the 2001 comparable quarter. The slowdown in India’s decline may reflect a stabilization in this market. South Korea’s retail sales increased by 36.7 percent to $28.3 million in the 2002 first quarter, compared with $20.7 million in the comparable prior-year period. Thailand’s retail sales increased by 124.1 percent to $6.5 million in the first quarter of 2002, compared with $2.9 million in the prior-year period.


Retail sales for the 2002 first quarter increased 9.0 percent to $123.2 million from $113.0 million in the 2001 first quarter. Within the region, Germany, Russia, the Netherlands and the UK reported increased retail sales over the 2001 comparable quarter to $23.5 million, $12.1 million, $11.7 million and $7.3 million, respectively.

Herbalife International, Inc. markets nutritional, weight management and personal care products in 54 countries worldwide. Herbalife products are available only through a network of independent distributors who purchase the products directly from the Company.

Himalaya Drug: LiverCare Approved as a Herbal Drug in Switzerland

HOUSTON, Apr. 4, BW HealthWire -- In what is believed to be the first multi-herb remedy granted regulatory approval as a drug, Liv.52 (LiverCare), the well-known hepatoprotective product of The Himalaya Drug Company, has recently been registered a safe and effective drug by the "Intercantonal Office for the Control of Medicines," Switzerland’s equivalent of the United States’ FDA.

"This outstanding feat comes at a time when lack of governmental oversight around the world has cast a shadow over the quality of many herbal products on the market," says Dr. Philip Duterme, president and CEO of Himalaya USA, the exclusive North American distributor of Liv.52 and other products of The Himalaya Drug Company. "It speaks volumes about the level of quality herbal products can reach today. The phrase ‘pharmaceutical grade herbal remedies’ is not an oxymoron any longer when considering what pharmaceutical-based natural health companies are capable of producing."

First introduced in 1955 by The Himalaya Drug Company, Liv.52 (LiverCare) is a proprietary blend of several botanicals proven to protect the liver against harmful toxins found in drugs, alcohol, food and water. It acts by regulating enzymes and optimizing assimilation in the body. It also protects the liver against possible damage caused by hepatotoxic prescription medications.

More than 300 clinical studies, many double-blind, placebo-controlled, have been performed on Liv.52 (LiverCare) since its introduction more than 47 years ago. Since then, it has become one of the most widely sold medications in the world with more than two billion tablets produced annually.

The approval of Liv.52 (LiverCare) by the Swiss Health authorities also underscores the gigantic achievement by The Himalaya Drug Company of a total quality management program that oversees the entire production process "from seed to shelf" and controls quality using the most sophisticated chromatographic "fingerprinting" techniques available.

"Himalaya USA is proud to offer such high-end herbal remedies in the United States. We have always known that we are second to none in terms of scientific evidence and our ability to maintain consistent quality. What better certification can one get than such an endorsement by a prestigious national health authority?" says Duterme.

The Himalaya Drug Company has been manufacturing pharmaceutical grade herbal products since 1930. Himalaya products combine the rich therapeutic value of an old system of natural medicine with all the processes of modern pharmaceutical technology.

Jamieson: Launches New Weight Loss Supplement Not Based on Ephedra

MONTPELLIER, France, Apr. 23, -- A new weight loss supplement which is being marketed as an alternative to allegedly dangerous herbs such as ephedra and ma huang has been launched in the US state of Florida.

Jamieson Laboratories launched Ultra Slim Down in Florida for a number of reasons, according to Kevin Edwards, the company’s vice president.

"Floridians tend to be more health and diet conscious as they wear swimsuits and lighter clothing throughout the year due to the warm weather," he said, adding that they also tend to struggle with weight issues -- an estimated 38 per cent of adult Floridians are overweight and the obesity rate has increased 94 per cent since 1986, according to recent state statistics.

Ultra Slim Down contains a combination of all-natural herbal ingredients that are said to assist in weight loss. The product requires no dietary restrictions or an increase in exercise, the company claimed. The supplement is said to be particularly helpful for people wanting to break through the ‘diet plateau’ when weight loss temporarily stops.

Ultra Slim Down contains two products: a carbohydrate and fat burner and a calorie fat absorber. The ingredients in both the carbohydrate burner and the fat absorber have been clinically proven to reduce weight by burning fat more effectively and helping eliminate carbohydrates efficiently. It is the combination of ingredients and the way they are taken that provides an effective means for weight loss, the company claimed.

The carbohydrate and fat burner, taken before meals, targets carbohydrates and fats and assists in converting them into energy. It contains Citrimax, derived from the Garcinia Cambogia tree, which helps the body convert dietary carbohydrates into energy, and Advantra-Z, a thermogenic herb that increases metabolism. The calorie fat absorber, taken after meals, works with the body’s metabolism to eliminate fats entirely. It contains Chitosan, a natural fibre extract from North Atlantic shellfish, which binds 10 to 20 times its weight in fat allowing it to pass naturally through the body unabsorbed.

The company cited a 10-week study by Dr Penny Kendall-Reed, a naturopathic medicine specialist, which showed an average weight loss of 10.2 pounds without following any diet or exercise programme. Individuals who took the product, but were also required to do moderate exercise and follow good eating habits, lost an average of 14.5 pounds, Jamieson claimed.

MacaSource: Signs Contract to Distribute Its Maca Herbal Aphrodisiac in Korea

GARDEN GROVE, Calif., Apr. 15, PRNewswire -- MacaSource, Inc., a privately held corporation, reported that they entered into a contract with S&G Korea (S&G), an importer of products to the Republic of Korea.

The contract is guaranteed for three years with minimum purchase requirements of 180k per quarter, 720k per fiscal year. In return, S&G is granted the exclusive rights as the sole distributor for the MacaSource brand of gelatinized maca herb in Korea.

"MacaSource has grown rapidly in the past six months," explained MacaSource’s CEO and Chairman, David Smith. "We recognized an opportunity in August 2001 viewing results from the 9-month Phase I human clinical trials with gelatinized maca that indicated a 180% increase in sexual libido and 200% increase in sperm count and sperm motility. At that point we focused exclusively on importation, packaging and distribution of gelatinized maca."

Smith explained that while there was a fair amount of market saturation of maca products, very few distributors carry the gelatinized maca, a highly concentrated derivative. Because it was the gelatinized version used in the clinical trials, Mr. Smith was confident that he had a competitive advantage to gain market share quickly.

"Nobody was talking about gelatinized maca," Smith explained. "They were all talking about the clinical trials but nobody was talking about the fact that their maca was not even close to the specifications of the gelatinized maca used in the study."

"Even though my costs were triple [compared with regular maca] I wanted to buy the gelatinized maca. That gave MacaSource credibility. Six months later MacaSource is the #1 brand around."

C.H. Nam, director of S&G in the Republic of Korea had this to say: "We are very honored to be the exclusive distributor for MacaSource in Korea. We are expecting a long and prosperous relationship."

The first shipment is scheduled for June at which time Mr. Nam expects to have video and airtime allotments to launch his campaign.

MacaSource is also currently in negotiations with distributors in Australia, Austria, New Zealand, Switzerland, Taiwan and the U.K. in addition to domestic distribution opportunities.

Anout Macasource

MacaSource is engaged in the import, export and distribution of the Peruvian Andes herb, maca.

Martin Bauer: Appointments to New North American Business

LOS ANGELES, Apr. 26, NPI Center -- Martin Bauer has retained Volker Wypyszyk, Stefan Wypyszyk and Chris Tower in its effort to further strengthen its commitment to the dietary supplement category in the North American market. They will head a new company, MB North America, located in Los Angeles, California.

Volker Wypyszyk brings with him an extensive knowledge of the category. His previous positions were as CEO of both Botanicals International/Zuellig North America and Hauser, Inc. Stefan Wypyszyk has held positions as regional sales manager and division manager. Chris Tower held various positions, more recently as director of sales and director of commercial extract operations at Botanicals International.

Martin Bauer and its affiliated companies, Finzelberg, Plantextrakt and Phytolab, is a leading manufacturer and provider of ingredients and services to the phyto-pharmaceutical, dietary supplement and food/beverage industries.

The existing Martin Bauer North America office located in Parsippany, NJ and headed by Allan Himmelstein, will focus its future efforts exclusively on the food, beverage and tea industries. The Parsippany office will sell decaffeinated teas, tea extracts, herbal and fruit tea extracts and tea cut raw materials.

Nature’s Sunshine: Predicts Disappointing Figures

MONTPELLIER, France, Apr. 8, -- Vitamin supplement producer Nature’s Sunshine Products has said its first quarter profits are likely to be around 50 per cent below analysts’ estimates, even before the write-down of a long-term investment.

The company blamed the overall decline in the US market for vitamin and mineral supplements, which has suffered particularly since the events of 11 September. It said it had stopped taking on new staff and had instituted a cost-cutting programme throughout the organisation.

The first quarter results reflect a 5 per cent decline in US sales revenue and an 11 per cent decline in international sales revenue, or an 8 per cent decline in total sales revenue. The company’s operations in Brazil accounted for approximately 75 per cent of the decline in international sales revenue, and both Brazil and Japan continued to experience operating losses for the quarter. The loss in Brazil, where import restrictions have adversely affected results, included expenses to restructure activities in that country.

As a result of the new measures, Nature’s Sunshine said that it expects Brazil to post an operating profit for the second quarter. Nature’s Sunshine said that it also expects more favourable year-on-year comparisons for Brazil in the second half of this year.

The first quarter results will be published later this month.

Nature’s Sunshine: Reports First Quarter Sales Decline, Loss

PROVO, Utah, Apr. 23, Business Wire -- Nature’s Sunshine Products, Inc., a leading manufacturer and marketer of encapsulated herbs and vitamins, today announced operating results for the first quarter ended March 31, 2002.

Sales revenue for the quarter ended March 31, 2002, was $75.9 million compared to $81.7 million for the same period in the prior year, a decrease of approximately 7 percent. The net loss reported for the first quarter totaled $0.9 million, or $0.05 per share, which included an impairment charge of $3.0 million associated with the Company’s investment in Cetalon Corporation as well as non-recurring expenses of $1.3 million in its Brazilian and U.S. operations. These results compare to net income of $4.0 million, or $0.25 per share, for the same period in the prior year.

For the quarter ended March 31, 2002, sales revenue for the Company’s U.S. operation was $44.2 million compared to $46.0 million for the same period in the prior year, a decrease of 3 percent. Sales revenue in the U.S. Hispanic market continued to grow, increasing approximately 10 percent for the first quarter as compared to the same period in the prior year.

For the quarter ended March 31, 2002, sales revenue for the Company’s international operations totaled $31.7 million compared to $35.7 million for the same period in the prior year, a decrease of approximately 12 percent. For the first quarter, the Company continued to achieve sales increases in South Korea and the Russian Federation, however, these gains were offset by a $3.1 million decrease in sales revenue in Brazil where the Company continues to be adversely impacted by import regulations imposed by the Brazilian government.

Nature’s Sunshine Products anticipates a return to profitability in the second quarter of this year as a result of cost-cutting measures. "The first quarter has been an unusually difficult period, but we are seeing signs of improvement," said Daniel P. Howells, President and CEO. "We believe that the cost reduction measures we are implementing Company-wide, as well as other steps to improve performance, will benefit the Company going forward."

At March 31, 2002, working capital totaled $41.0 million, including cash and cash equivalents of $30.6 million. The number of worldwide distributors at March 31, 2002, was approximately 570,000 compared to approximately 585,000 in the same period of the prior year, a decrease of 3 percent. The number of worldwide managers at March 31, 2002, was over 19,400 compared to 18,900 for the same period of the prior year, an increase of 3 percent. During the first quarter, the Company repurchased approximately 169,000 shares of common stock at an average price of $12.67 under its Board-authorized buyback program.

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, Peru, Chile, Central America, Ecuador and Israel. The Company also has exclusive distribution agreements with selected companies in Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Norway and the Russian Federation.

Nature’s Sunshine: Declares Quarterly Cash Dividend

PROVO, Utah, Apr. 30, Business Wire -- Nature’s Sunshine Products, Inc., a leading manufacturer and marketer of encapsulated herbs and vitamins, today declared a 3-1/3 cents per common share quarterly cash dividend payable May 21, 2002, to shareholders of record on May 14, 2002.

The Company has declared consecutive quarterly cash dividends since 1988 pursuant to its cash dividend policy. There are approximately 16,205,000 shares outstanding with 20 million shares authorized.

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, Peru, Chile, Central America, Ecuador and Israel. The Company also has exclusive distribution agreements with selected companies in Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Norway and the Russian Federation.

Naturewell: Launches MigraSpray Web Site

NEW YORK, Apr. 25, Market News Publishing -- NatureWell, Incorporated (the "Company") has launched, an exclusive website for its product MIGRASPRAY(R).

The Company announced to-day that it has dedicated a website to its MIGRASPRAY product which features fast and easy access to product information, patient and physician testimonials, clinical data, frequently asked questions, press releases, relief and product ordering information. This site will act as an information tool, as well as a site for consumers to purchase the product directly on line and may be accessed through

Jim Arabia, Chairman and CEO of the Company said, "This is an important step that provides a foundation for the branding of MIGRASPRAY. This stand-alone website will both educate the consumer and create product awareness in conjunction with the roll out of our national advertising campaign. The site also affords migraine sufferers the ability to purchase the product who previously may not have had access to the product at local retailers."

MIGRASPRAY is available coast to coast in over 10,000 locations, including Walgreen’s, Longs Drug Stores, Sav-On, Osco, Jewel/Osco, Snyder’s Drug Stores, Hy-Vee supermarkets and CVS Drug stores. MIGRASPRAY is a patented homeopathic spray formulation, delivered sublingually, containing the herb feverfew, intended to provide fast relief from pain and other symptoms associated with migraine headaches. NatureWell is an emerging company engaged in the development, marketing and licensing of unique, proprietary healthcare products.

Perrigo: Good Sense Products First to Qualify for NSF Certificate

MONTPELLIER, France, Apr. 29, -- Products made by Perrigo will be the first nutritional supplements to receive the new dietary supplements certificate launched by NSF International, the US-based supplier of risk-management services in public health and safety.

Perrigo claims to be the largest manufacturer of over-the-counter pharmaceutical and nutritional products in the US, and is the first retail brand to receive recognition in the NSF Dietary Supplements Certification Program.

The Perrigo Good Sense brand nutritional products that have been certified will be listed on the NSF consumer website and in NSF certified product listing books.

The NSF programme seeks to assist manufacturers in building credibility for their company and brands by providing independent testing and verification of quality for their products and processes.

To qualify for the certificate, products must pass the formulation reviews, plant audits and laboratory testing conducted by NSF to determine if products conform to its Draft American National Standard 173-Dietary Supplements.

Standard 173 was developed through a consensus process with participation from dietary supplement manufacturers, raw material suppliers, retailers, trade associations, academic researchers, public health practitioners and government officials. The standard provides methodology and evaluation criteria to verify ingredient identities and quantities. It also provides test criteria for specific contaminants and conformance to Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs).

"We feel the industry has lacked a meaningful benchmark in establishing a true definition of validating product quality and because the NSF programme is independent and based on consensus standards it offers the credibility that we are proud to support," said Scott Sensenbrenner, director of marketing for Perrigo Nutrition.

"The individual product certifications are the next logical step to follow our NSF GMP Registration for contract manufacturers, and continues to demonstrate our commitment to quality to our stakeholders including our retail partners and consumers," commented Mike Bradley, director of Nutritional Scientific Affairs at Perrigo of South Carolina.

"We congratulate Perrigo for taking a leadership position by obtaining NSF certification and GMP registration. This demonstrates a clear commitment to quality and to addressing consumer confidence," said Dr Dennis R. Mangino, president and chief executive officer of NSF.

Sabinsa: Victory in Patent Battle over Weight Loss Product

MONTPELLIER, France, Apr. 2, -- Sabinsa, a herbal products distributor, has won a patent battle in the US courts against Good Earth Nutritional Ingredients (GENI) concerning the company’s forskohlin weight loss product.

The case featured ForsLean‚ Sabinsa’s branded forskohlin composition which promotes weight loss through the generation of lean body mass. The judgement stated that the ForsLean patent was "valid and was properly issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office".

Sabinsa brought the legal action against GENI after the latter infringed its patent rights. The company said that the judgment provided for a permanent injunction prohibiting GENI from any further infringement of the patent.

GENI said it had settled the case, although it declined to comment on the sum involved. It remained defiant, however: "GENI’s decision to settle was solely based on economic considerations, not due to the merits of the case," said Ajay Patel, president & CEO of GENI. "The integrity of proprietary information is a concern within our industry. GENI is equally committed to protecting its intellectual property."

Sabinsa manufactures and markets a range of phytonutrients, Ayurvedic herbal extracts and specialty fine chemicals used for nutritional, pharmaceutical, cosmeceutical and food products.

For its part, GENI is investing heavily in clinical research associated with it own Ayurvedic extracts, and recently extended a study into its Boswellia Serrata product for an additional nine months in order to provide significant clinical evidence regarding its efficacy.

Sentex: Expands Via Natunola Deal

MONTPELLIER, France, Apr. 8, -- Sentex Systems, the Canadian agrifood group, has announced its intention to buy compatriot Natunola Health, a company which develops natural health products from flaxseed. The purchase price will be dependant on the operating results of Natunola over the next three years, and the acquisition should be completed in June.

Natunola was founded to develop and market high value-added natural health-related products for various market sectors, and has developed processes for high-margin, high volume applications in the functional food, nutraceutical and value-added feed industries. The original emphasis of Natunola was on the development and sale of patented vegetable oil gels for cosmetics and personal care products, as well as the veterinary industry.

Its core business focuses on the processing of flaxseed in order to capitalise on the rapidly growing market for foods containing omega-3 fatty acids, lignans and fibres, which are known to contribute to retinal and brain development and may play a major role in reducing cardiovascular disease. The flaxseed kernel is a primary source of omega-3 fatty acids, while the hull contains very high concentrations of lignans and fibres which may be used in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases, including cancer.

Sentex said it would invest heavily in the construction of a new flaxseed dehulling plant in Winchester, Ontario, which will enable Natunola to produce kernels and hulls from the flaxseed. The kernels and hulls will be sold as food, functional food, nutraceutical and value-added feed additives.

Natunola will continue to operate as a stand-alone entity for Sentex under the direction of its president and CEO, Dr. Nam Fong Han.

The Natunola deal will increase Sentex’ presence in the agri-biotech feed additive industry. Its wholly owned subsidiary, NutriBios, already produces additives derived from natural sources for the livestock, poultry and aquaculture industries. These products are designed to be a natural substitute for antibiotic growth promoters that are being banned in many countries of the world.

"The addition of Natunola to the Sentex group will bring increased opportunity and large new markets to Sentex," said Brian Rouleau, president of Sentex Systems.

Sido Muncul: Indonesian Producer to Export Medicinal Herbs to China

SEMARANG, May 1, AsiaPulse -- Sido Muncul, a producer of traditional medicinal herbs, plans to export its products to China in 2003, company president Irwan Hidayat said.

"Although China is well known as producer of various traditional medicinal herbs, the company is trying to expand its business to China," he said yesterday.

He believes that Indonesia, like China, has the opportunity to promote its medicinal herbs abroad.

In anticipation of tight competition with China, particularly in the large-scale production of medicinal herbs, the government should be committed to supporting the effort to promote the Indonesian medicinal herbs abroad, he added.

Before exporting the commodity to China, the company should have some representatives in China, he said.

"It is important to give first-hand information to prospective customers that Sidomuncul’s products contain no chemical subtance and are produced through accurate studies," he said.

About 10 per cent of the company’s total production, which is recorded at 800 tons per month, is to meet the demands on foreign markets including Asean countries, Russia and the Middle East countries.

"Last year, we only exported about five per cent of the total production," he said.

Regarding raw materials for the products, he said that 90 per cent of them are supplied by the domestic market.

Therapia: Launches Canadian Hemp Essential Oil

LONDON, Apr. 25, Therapia -- Therapia launches a remarkable new product, Hemp Essential Oil at Healthy Life Show [Westpoint, Exeter 27-28 April 2002]. Therapia hemp essential oil (HEO) is new to the UK market and will be of great interest to aromatherapists and other practitioners working in the field of complementary and alternative medicine due to the exciting possibilities of its main active constituents.

Until recently hemp essential oil was produced only Switzerland ^Å but Swiss HEOs invariably tested at unacceptable THC levels for most markets, including the UK. Although it comes from the cannabis sativa plant, hemp is not pot and cannot be used as a drug because it produces virtually no THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), even though it is frequently confused with marijuana due to the similar leaf shape. Now a Canadian company has succeeded in extracting pure essential oil ("essence of hemp") by steam distillation from the blooms of low-THC hemp that complies with UK regulations.

Requiring about 50 pounds of buds to produce just one ounce -- a yield of 0.01% -- of HEO, this new essential oil has the potential to become a new colour in the palette of aromatherapists as the amazing range of its medical uses and therapeutic benefits are identified. With a strong, distinctive, warm, woody smell and a base note that lingers for several hours after massage, HEO blends well with many other essential oils to produce unique blends that offer a wide range of health-enhancing benefits and is especially suited for protracted and chronic health problems and pains. More specifically, it has proven to be very beneficial in enhancing performance on long-distance running when blended with rosemary, black pepper and fennel. It was tested in April 2002 by Mark Surname, a marathon-class runner, during the gruelling "Des Sables" road race across 150km of Moroccan desert. He reported no cramp or stiffness after using a pre-performance blend of hemp, juniper, rosemary and fennel, even after running for a total of 11 hours on one day!

Therapia hemp essential oil is 100% pure, contains less than 1ppm delta 9-THC, is produced in Canada by Maple Ridge Farms Inc., and is available as a pure oil in quantities of 10, 20 and 100ml bottles or as a blend with other essential oils in 50g jars.


A Therapist’s Notes

By Marion McDonald

Hemp oil has a strong, distinctive, warm, woody smell -- a base note that lingers for several hours after massage. It blends well with citrus oils: lemon, mandarin, grapefruit, neroli, pettigrain and many other EOs. For an extremely relaxing blend it [mixes] with frankincense.

It has shown to be anti-spasmodic and analgesic and helped to alleviate spasm on stroke victims. Muscular stiffness and fatigue from ME (myalgic encephalomelitis) was greatly reduced after a massage with hemp, frankincense and neroli. Subject M, a 60-year old man who has suffered with ME for 11 years, rang when experiencing a prolonged phase of acute symptoms (muscular pains, stiffness, extreme fatigue, panic attacks and lack of confidence) that were not responding to medication or rest. I massaged him with hemp, frankincense and neroli. During the following 24 hours he reported that he felt as if he had been through a mangle but that the improvement then on was amazing. His energy levels were boosted and he was able to walk a significant distance, confidence had returned, depression reduced, muscular pain and stiffness alleviated.

Also a 70 year old woman and stroke victim with a left hemiplaegia noted a relaxation of the trapezius and sterno clino-mastoid muscles following a massage with hemp, lemon and mandarin which improved her posture and alleviated pain.

More specifically, it has proven to be very beneficial in enhancing performance on long-distance running when blended with rosemary, black pepper and fennel. It was tested in April 2002 by a marathon-class runner during the gruelling "Des Sables" road race across 150km of Morrocan desert. He reported no cramp or stiffness after using a pre-performance blend of hemp, juniper, rosemary and fennel, even after running for a total of 11 hours on one day!

Immediately following a massage patients reported feelings of extreme peace and tranquillity, followed later by increased energy and optimism, underlined by a stress-free and relaxed mood. With subjects suffering from poor self esteem it has shown a reduction in emotional tension and has an uplifting effect, restoring confidence. Patients "opened up", confessed to fears and revealed their feelings more openly. Others experienced a profound emotional release. resulting in a profound emotional release.

They also experienced peace and tranquillity and heightened awareness of colours, smells and, perhaps, other senses. As professionals working in the field of aromatherapy will know, many of these responses were also experienced by the therapists themselves

General comments: Physically very relaxing for muscles but emotional response more significant. All patients had a reduction in emotional tension and were uplifted, which left them more confident and relaxed.

The foregoing constitutes notes based upon initial and preliminary observations. These and other observations indicate that when blended with other oils, hemp may be as valuable as lavender as its increasing range of therapeutic benefits become apparent.

Twinlab: To Sell Its Health Factors International

HAUPPAUGE, N.Y., Apr. 1, Business Wire -- Twinlab Corporation today announced that it has signed a Letter of Intent to sell its Health Factors International ("HFI") Division in Tempe, Arizona to Anabolic Laboratories of Irvine Ca.

The closing of the transaction is subject to the completion of due diligence and the execution by the parties of a definitive agreement containing customary terms and conditions for a transaction of this nature.

Anabolic Laboratories, Inc., founded in 1925, provides the manufacturing of nutritional supplements to key companies serving the natural foods and mass market consumer. In addition to being recognized as a quality leader by organizations such as the National Nutritional Foods Association (NNFA), Anabolic Laboratories, Inc. is an FDA registered pharmaceutical manufacturer.

Anabolic Laboratories, Inc. provides both contract manufacturing and private label services. 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.

Twinlab: First Quarter Sales Down

HAUPPAUGE, N.Y., Apr. 30, Business Wire -- Twinlab Corporation today announced its results for the quarter ended March 31, 2002.

The Company reported net income of $3.7 million or $0.13 per share for the first quarter of 2002, versus a net loss of $(15.9) million or $(0.56) per share for the first quarter of last year. First quarter net sales were $48.2 million compared to $52.7 million in the comparable quarter last year. Net income for the first quarter of 2002 includes an income tax benefit of $6.9 million representing a Federal refund owed to the Company as a result of the recently enacted Job Creation and Worker Assistance Act of 2002 ($6.2 million received as of April 29, 2002). The net loss for the first quarter of 2001 included the loss on disposal of Changes International of $8.7 million.

The Company anticipates completing the sale and/or closure of the operations of Health Factors International, Inc. in the second quarter of 2002 for which a charge of approximately $1.0 million was recorded during the first quarter. The Company also announced today that it recently eliminated an additional 7% of its current workforce (excluding Health Factors) as part of its continuing efforts to improve profitability. The Company anticipates annualized cost reductions, in connection with these actions, will be in excess of $4.0 million, commencing in the third quarter of 2002.

Ross Blechman, Twinlab’s Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer stated "Excluding the effect of the $1.0 million charge associated with Health Factors, the Company’s loss from operations would have been $0.2 million, compared to a loss from operations of $9.9 million in the first quarter of 2001. We are beginning to realize the impact of our cost reductions and related initiatives, have generated positive cash flow from operations and reduced our outstanding debt. We recognize the need for additional measures and are committed to their implementation."

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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