Richters HerbLetter

Date: 96/09/12
1. Two Charged with Ginseng Trafficking
2. Horseradish is a Family Business
3. Patent Issued for Possible AIDS Treatment Derived from Mistletoe
4. Herbalist Invents AIDS Mixture in Benin

1. Two Charged with Ginseng Trafficking
ALBANY, N.Y., Sept. 12 (UPI) -- Two men faced charges Thursday of illegally trafficking in ginseng, a popular medicinal root widely believed to have health benefits and aphrodisiac qualities.

Officials at the New York state Department of Environmental Conservation said police charged the two men after raids on their homes last week turned up more than 11 pounds of wild American ginseng valued at about $5,000.

New York instituted stiff wild ginseng harvesting rules in 1987 when the herb saw a boom in popularity that drove prices to $400 to $500 a pound and threatened to deplete the state’s natural supply of the plant.

Cultivated ginseng sells for $30 to $60 per pound at wholesale markets.

New York limits wild ginseng harvesting to Sept. 1 to Nov. 30 and forbids the sale of dried wild ginseng before Sept. 15 each year.

Leon Wilbur, 59, of Dresden, N.Y., and Alec Alberti, 52, of Windham, N.Y. were charged with buying ginseng before Sept. 15 and purchasing ginseng with the intent to sell without a dealer’s permit. The crime is punishable by 15 days in jail and up to $250 in fines for each plant recovered.

"This DEC investigation and enforcement action is intended to help protect ginseng and other vulnerable plant species from being exploited into extinction in New York state," said Andrew Liddle, the DEC’s assistant commissioner for public protection.

"The action also puts traffickers in the multimillion-dollar ginseng trade on notice that they must play by the rules and respect property owners’ rights," he said.

2. Horseradish is a Family Business

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (AP) -- The eve of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana, was once a time of tears for women like Morris Gold’s mother and grandmother.

Rosh Hashana meant gefilte fish, and gefilte fish meant horseradish -- the powerful condiment that stings the eyes and clears the sinuses.

Gold, 77, recalls watching the women of the family sitting on milk crates by the window of their Brooklyn apartment, peeling and cutting up horseradish and beets.

And crying.

Housewives (and husbands) at the turn of the 21st century need not cry over horseradish anymore -- mostly because of the Gold family, by far America’s greatest purveyors of bottled horseradish.

"We’ll do the crying for you," proclaims Morris Gold.

Gold’s started selling horseradish in the Depression, and now has accounts in virtually every state (Hawaii yes, Alaska no). It sends horseradish to England, Australia, Israel, South Africa, Russia and Brazil.

Now reaching into a fifth generation of Golds, the privately held firm estimates its share of the U.S. market at about 70 percent, with annual sales between $15 million and $20 million.

"`Fresh, fresh, fresh,’ my father has always preached to me," Morris’ son Marc says over the din of machinery in the company’s Long Island plant, where 75,000 pounds of horseradish roots are ground and bottled each day. "That’s the key to our success."

A combination of the grated horseradish root with vinegar and salt (with beets for the slightly weaker red version) is all there is to the mixture that has been called everything from magic elixir to aphrodisiac.

"People are uneducated about horseradish," explains Marc, 48, who runs the business with brother Steve and cousins Neil and Howard, all of whom have had their teen-age daughters working summers at the plant for the last couple of years. "It perks you up because it opens your pores and makes you sweat. Try mixing it with mustard or on a tuna sandwich and you’ll never go back to eating without it."

Though mostly known for use around Rosh Hashana and Passover, horseradish also has strong sales for Easter, Christmas and Thanksgiving.

"Horseradish is by no means just a Jewish item," says Marc Gold, a true horseradish evangelist. "It works on turkey, on steak, in salad dressing. Since you can enjoy it on virtually any type of food, the uses for it are unlimited."

Named for "galloping roots" which grew in the wilds of Eastern Europe, horseradish comes mostly from the Midwest and eastern Canada. The gnarled roots are shipped to Gold’s in burlap sacks or 1,300-pound wrapped pallets and are kept in a storage room at 34 degrees.

The horseradish is shredded, mixed with salt and vinegar and then crammed into Gold’s patented six-sided glass jars at a rate of 180 jars per minute. It takes about 2 minutes for an empty 6-ounce jar to be filled, capped, labeled, sealed and boxed.

In the room where the boxed bottles await pickup, the aroma of horseradish is so strong that eyes water within minutes.

Gold’s began in 1932 with Morris’ father Hyman, an immigrant from Poland. After a cousin who grated vegetables in front of a Brooklyn storefront became embroiled in a dispute with his landlord and was tossed in jail, Hyman bailed him out and wound up with the discarded grinder. He took it home to wife Tillie and from their apartment, they decided to grind horseradish and sell it on the streets of Brooklyn.

"My father went out in the neighborhood and would take orders for three jars here and four jars there and we kids would deliver them by bicycle," recalls Morris, who built the business to what it is today with brothers Manny and Herb.

"One time I gave away an extra bottle after selling a case (24 bottles) and my father yelled at me because that was the profit, that 25th jar. After all, this was in the middle of the Great Depression."

Sales also were made in neighborhoods too far to reach on foot.

"My father and I go by train and he would sell the horseradish to merchants in the area," Morris adds. "But I would stay in the station on train side of the turnstile because the profit would be that nickel fare."

The whole family played a role.

"My mother would fill the bottles on a table in our hallway," he remembers. "She developed a technique in which she had the freshly ground horseradish in a big pot. She would take a funnel and scoop up the stuff. With her other hand she would pick up an empty jar, place it under the funnel and give them both a shake. Boy was she fast!"

Later came the special jars, modern machinery and a main production plant on McDonald Avenue in Brooklyn, which functioned from 1956 to 1994.

Gold’s also makes borscht, mustard (about 3,500 gallons a day), cocktail sauce, duck sauce, sorrel soup, salsa, even ketchup and steak sauce. But horseradish -- and tradition -- are Gold’s bread and butter.

"We finally have the space we need in the new place," Marc Gold says. "But we’ve kept some items around, like the old jar cappers. They still work and it is neat to know that we can blend the old and new."

3. Patent Issued for Possible AIDS Treatment Derived from Mistletoe
IRVINE, CALIF. (Sept. 11) BUSINESS WIRE -- A first-of-its-kind patent -- a pharmaceutical version of mistletoe to address HIV -- was announced Wednesday and two other related patents are expected before year-end, according to ABT Global Pharmaceutical (NASDAQ:ABTG). Until this patent, no multiple molecule herbal medicine has ever been successfully patented as a pharmaceutical. This lack of patent protection has prevented herbal medicines from applying for the FDA clinical approval necessary to make them available to physicians for prescription to their patients.

ABT believes that its patent opens the door for hundreds of already known and demonstrated active herbal medicines to be standardized, clinically tested and commercialized as pharmaceuticals.

Specifically, the new patent is the first application of technology called "ABTG bioprinting" for the development of pharmaceutical versions of herbal medicines. The technology was developed at the University of Southern California and commercial rights are held by ABT Global Pharmaceutical Corp. First Patent

The first patent (US5,547,674) was issued for successfully bioprinting and accurately replicating a mistletoe-based compound called T4GEN. Mistletoe is already used on an unregulated basis in the treatment of some cancer and AIDS patients in Europe, but previously could not be pursued as a pharmaceutical because it could not be patented, standardized, precisely dosed and clinically tested as a pharmaceutical for FDA approval.

The principal scientist from the USC School of Medicine behind T4GEN and the underlying bioprinting technology is Dr. Tasneem A. Khwaja, now chairman and chief scientific officer of ABT.

The company said it expects before year-end additional patents for a second pharmaceutical version of an herbal medicine as well as the initial patent on the bioprinting technology itself -- with a succession of subsequent patents in the future. Economics

Consumer Reports magazine estimates that herbal medicines now being sold on an unregulated basis through U.S. retail stores represent a $1.5 billion market growing at more than 15 percent annually. ABT said it believes the demand outside the United States is much larger.

"As herbal medicines previously could not be patented, standardized, clinically tested, FDA approved or manufactured under controlled conditions, their sale has been limited and often without professional medical direction," according to ABT President and Chief Executive Officer Elliot Friedman.

"By making versions of effective herbal medicines that are pharmaceuticals which can be tested, approved and prescribed by doctors and regulated by the FDA, we believe the ultimate demand will be some multiple of present sales." Clinical Trials

According to Friedman, Phase I and Phase II proof of concept clinical trials using the same mistletoe plant as the now patented T4GEN compound (IND No. 32,829) involved 50 AIDS patients in Berlin and were completed in August 1994. These trials suggest that the active lectins in T4GEN will stimulate cells that function as directors of the AIDS patients immune system, although the trials did not test T4GEN per se.

He said the company is seeking approval to conduct Phase I and Phase II clinical trials on T4GEN in Thailand during the fall of 1996. These would be the world’s first clinical trials of a pharmaceutical version of an herbal medicine. Friedman expects ABT will seek approval for U.S. Clinical trials in the first half of 1997.

In related activities, the company has entered into an agreement with the Canadian National Research Council to manufacture initial quantities of T4GEN and subsequent candidate compounds for other products, to develop standard operating procedures for each of the manufacturing processes, to validate each process used in the bioprinting technology, to quantify each of the active lectins and their bioactivity, and to establish a toxicology profile for each pharmaceutical, according to Friedman. Bioprinting Product Rights

Friedman said that ABT owns all rights to commercialize any proprietary products such as T4GEN emerging from the bioprinting technology via an exclusive license with the University of Southern California. USC helped found the company in 1994 and owns about 3 percent of its common stock. ABT completed a $15 million initial public offering in August underwritten by M. H. Meyerson & Co. Inc.

In addition to the compounds ABT is developing with USC to address AIDS, it has entered into an agreement with the University of Miami and Dr. Fazal Ahmad to use bioprinting to develop a pharmaceutical version of an natural medicine derived from saw palmetto berry extracts presently being used on an unregulated basis to treat benign prostate enlargement.

Friedman said the company is currently in discussions with other universities and principal scientists for the development of pharmaceutical versions of other natural medicines using ABT’s bioprinting technology. Bioprinting

ABT’s proprietary bioprinting uses separation technologies such as HPLC, gas chromatography, electrophoresis, and two-dimensional SDS PAGE and integrates these technologies with in vitro bioactivity models such as L1210 cell inhibition. Through these methologies, ABT characterizes the active components of any herbal medicine.

To develop pharmaceutical versions of herbal therapies, according to Friedman, bioprinting technology makes the following steps possible:

-- Screen herbal medicines for indications of overall effectiveness.

-- Produce standardized, precisely dosed compounds.

-- Test components for bioactivity and disease-specific biologic effects.

-- Establish precise standards for each active component by percent weight, bioactivity and/or biologic effect.

-- Established precise toxicity standards. Other Involved Scientists

In the company’s prospectus dated Aug. 14, 1996, ABT announced the following members of its scientific advisory board:

Dr. Ivor Ralph Edwards, professor and director of Drug Monitoring for the World Health Organization’s Collaborating Center for International Drug Monitoring.

Dr. Toshikazu Oki, formerly president of Bristol-Myers Research Institute, Japan, and current professor of exploratory biotechnology research, Toyama Prefectural University.

Dr. Peter Schutz, a director of Ciba-Geigy Ltd.

Dr. Clive R. Taylor, professor and chairman of the department of pathology and laboratory medicine at the USC School of Medicine, and president-elect of the American Association of Pathologists. Forward-Looking Statements

The company notes that any forward-looking statements in this document are subject to change based on factors including without limitation changes in the trends now supporting increased demand for natural medicines, competition and technical barriers. Additional information on potential factors that could affect the company’s financial results are included in the company’s prospectus dated Aug. 14, 1996.

ABT Global Pharmaceuticals has headquarters in Irvine, and owns commercial rights to the only patent for a pharmaceutical version of an herbal medicine and the bioprinting technology underlying that patent.

The company was established in conjunction with the USC School of Medicine to develop, manufacture, test, gain FDA approval for and sell or license a growing body of pharmaceutical versions of natural medicines addressing many pathologies including cancer, heart disease and AIDS.

4. Herbalist Invents AIDS Mixture in Benin
By Robert N. Kizito

NAIROBI, Sept. 10 (All Africa Press Ser via Africa News) -- A cure is yet to be found for HIV/AIDS. But as scientists and researchers continue to search for a curative drug, trends show increased prevalence among rural folks, who arguably are more vulnerable to fake treatment. Hence the need for more awareness and education programmes. Meanwhile, from Benin comes another herbal invention from a Ghanaian herbalist who claims to "completely clear" all AIDS symptoms.

Unlike other concoctors of drugs and herbal mixtures, who have publicly announced they have discovered a cure for the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), there are no frantic or anxious crowds at Haurana Ogoungbe Appiah’s doorstep.

He has not gone fully public. In any case, his operational base is in one of the least affected countries on a continent where AIDS is believed to be rampant.

Yet from his headquarters in Cotonou, capital city of Benin, Haurana, 42, treats AIDS patients with a concoction, the AKPU, that he calls "the anti-HIV herbal mixture," which the Ghanaian government’s reputable Centre for Scientific Research into Plant Medicine (CSRIPM) has passed as safe for human use. Other Ghanaian herbalists have used, or more categorically abused, such certification of safety to claim government approval of the therapeutic efficacy of their concoctions.

Haurana claims that of the few patients he has treated in Benin some have been referred to him by medical doctors trained in the rigid and strict Western tradition. The same is true of other patients treated at a clinic in Ashiaman near Tema in Ghana, run by his eldest brother Toussaint Ogoungbe Appiah, 48.

Both Toussaint and especially Haurana remain cautious because "treating AIDS is very complicated." You deal with both the disease and the mind of the patient as well as with his or her relatives and friends, says Haurana. He is "still researching" further into the efficacy of the mixture and related reactions, after which "I will go fully public."

But security also worries him. He cites Nana Drobo, another Ghanaian AIDS herbalist who was shot by unknown people about two years ago. Drobo who drew crowds to his house, was allegedly able to cure AIDS.

Part of Haurana’s fear is people’s "unrealistic anticipations of 100 per cent results" with herbal treatment, especially where AIDS is involved. "The same is not true of modern medicine and patients continue to die in hospitals when their time has come but relatives and friends do not complain." Hence the need for caution and security, for which he has written to the Government of Benin.

In other countries such as Malawi, Uganda, Zambia and Ghana itself, thousands of patients literally stampeded to claimants who said they had found a cure for AIDS. Mostly from the more highly affected countries, a majority of claimants have been traditional healers.

A few of these "inventors" in countries such as Kenya, Uganda and Zaire have been medical doctors or conventional researchers. Yet others have been fanciful dreamers inspired by visions that come to them in sleep or otherwise.

Unfortunately for the patients, a majority of these claimants have been proved liars, consciously or unconsciously. A few have been found to be crooks out to make a quick buck.

But even more damning, none is known to have willingly offered their concoctions for analysis for subsequent clinical trials. Nor have they disclosed the composition of their mixtures or other drugs.

Other than water, Haurana too will not disclose the nine ingredients that make up AKPU. He is, however, prepared to accept "any serious and honest analyst or analysis that will not take credit or any other accruing benefits from me."

Presently he admits his mixture can only but "completely clear all symptoms". However, the "cured" patients do not convert to HIV- negative status as medical tests have shown. Saying that this was a step in the right direction, he claims that none of the patients treated with AKPU for the last two years have shown any recurring symptoms.

Indeed, some of the patients like Antaru Awudu of Ashiaman have not only recovered but are also "now strong enough" and have resumed their normal economic activities, he claims.

An interesting aspect of Haurana’s treatment is that he insists on patients producing copies of the results of their HIV-positive status for those who have them. He then fills out his own treatment forms that clearly indicate the patient’s complaints.

He also points to the appetite boosting side-effect of his medicine that is taken three times a day after meals. "Appetite is good especially for AIDS patients and they should eat each time they feel hungry." He recommends less sugar and oil or none at all and no alcohol or tobacco.

According to a treatment form, among the patients he treated around August last year was former Benin soldier Bruno Ediko Gbessou, who went public on television in December of the same year to announce he had AIDS. And as for a woman patient, 38, at Akpakpa Dodome, a poor suburb of Cotonou "if it wasn’t for this man (Haurana) I would be dead by now."

The woman’s elder brother jovially testifies to the claims. The brother contacted Haurana through Haurana’s first cousin with whom the brother works at an oil company in Cotonou.

Born of a Ghanaian mother, Denise and a Beninois father, Albert Ogoungbe Appiah, Haurana is the third in a monogamous family of nine children. The family lived in Ghana until about 11 years ago when the elder Albert Agoungbe returned to resettle in Benin with his Ghanaian wife and some of the children.

Two sons have since settled in Italy and England respectively, while Haurana came to Benin about five years ago. One sister is married in Cote d’Ivoire. It is the son in England who led APS to Haurana . The family is strictly Catholic and boasts of one nun belonging to order of the Sisters of St. Augustin in Benin.

But Haurana was later to convert to Islam not long after dropping out of school to join Toussaint, the eldest of Albert Agoungbes’s children, in trading in motor vehicle spare parts. Though, as he admits, he left school because of illness, "unknown voices frequently" told him not to return to school.

In recent years the same voices over which he prayed a lot as he does with his medicine returned to him. They urged him to look for a cure for AIDS.

These are characteristics easily identifiable with an unstable mind. Yet Haurana for all practical purposes seems a very steady man with a stable family background, and a steady family of his own consisting of a wife and three children.

"He is either genuine, simply a smart crook or a confused man who may be afflicted himself," one skeptical government official told APS. Haurana, however, insists he is genuinely interested only in alleviating the suffering of people. To prove his case, he allowed APS to take a sample of his medicine for "any testing."

A research officer of the CSRIPM at Mampong-Akwapim, about 50 kilometres from Accra, told APS that AKPU was tested only for its toxic safety, a facility the research centre offers to all herbalists. About 70 per cent of people in Ghana and elsewhere in Africa depend on herbal medicine. This makes the CSRIPM which operates under the Ministry of Health an important arm of government.

The research officer, a British trained pharmacologist with a masters degree, explained that of the AIDS herbal medicines they have tested for toxicity, on further investigations two have shown some therapeutic efficacy, but only in laboratory tests so far.

As for AKPU like all other herbal mixtures, "further work needs to be done on them in order to examine their therapeutic safety and effectiveness and to provide grounds for assessment of possible measures to be introduced before conducting clinical studies." The centre normally directs herbalists with introductory letters, to two national research laboratories for such further investigations.

Most, however, do not take this rather lengthy follow-up action "because they are not researchers who are normally very patient. Instead, herbalists are too eager to prove their worth and make money," the research officer noted.

"Perhaps it is time herbal medicine was taken more seriously and preliminary (as the CSRIPM is doing) and further tests carried out in all African countries. Herbalists already abound on the continent," he further said.

But in the absence of a cure and given the prohibitive costs of modern AIDS drugs, argued the researcher, treatment with herbal mixtures should be allowed provided patients know they are not a tested cure or remedy for AIDS. "Meantime AIDS awareness and prevention must be intensified especially in the rural areas."

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