Liza Lester's article titled "Drugs in Disguise" (Nov. 10) was welcome publicity for herbs. Although the article displayed a "negative" slant, the fact that herbs such as St. John's Wort and Kava Kava were mentioned in the Journal is a leap in the right direction. It would be educational to read articles in the Journal on the POSITIVE benefits of herbs, yoga, meditation, massage and all forms of complementary medicine.
As the director of the Northwest Institute of Ayurveda, an Arcata-based herbal school and business, I found it important to respond to this article. I wish to inform the local community, who make up our student/client base, that the institute carries USDA Certified Organic herbs whenever possible. Our products are rigorously tested by our reputable suppliers to meet or exceed the AHPA and ANSI Standard 173. For those wanting to make educated decisions about the herbs they take, we also offer herbal education programs for laypeople and professionals wishing to learn the traditional medicine of India and its 5,000-year-old methods of herbal dosage, benefits and contraindications. Lastly, Liza's article stated that "A plant is a complex mixture of chemicals." To that Ayurveda would add: Yes, and as a living intelligence, it is so much more, whose full healing potential will likely escape the understanding of modern science for decades to come.
Traci Webb, Fortuna
I am writing this letter in response to "Drugs in Disguise." It was an article in which I was interviewed. If I had been informed about the content and the focus of the article I would have pointed out some very important facts.
All supplements and herbal products do have restrictions and guidelines. Many supplement companies voluntarily followed these guidelines as early as 1999. Beginning in 2007, new FDA regulations for the dietary supplement industry aimed to eradicate consumer concern and health risks. Dietary supplement manufacturers and distributors are now required to follow Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) similar to those of the pharmaceutical industry. The FDA 21 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 111 was established to ensure the identity, purity, quality, strength and composition of dietary supplements and applies to those involved in the manufacture, packaging, labeling or holding of a dietary supplement, with the exception of retail establishments selling directly to consumers.
To become compliant with the GMP guidelines, dietary supplement companies need to perform analytical testing of their products. If testing is not performed the dietary supplement company is considered non-compliant. This has resulted in some companies going out of business.
In some ways, GMPs for dietary supplements have been considered stricter than those for pharmaceuticals. For example, many pharmaceutical compounds can be considered "pure" if they meet 90 to 98 percent of the requirement. Purity constraints for dietary supplements can be as much as 100 percent. The GMPs for dietary supplements are a combination of GMPs for both food and drugs.
GMP compliant analytical testing also includes residual solvent and heavy metals analysis. These tests are designed to ensure product quality and consumer safety, but there is a need for identity testing and potency as well. Identity and potency confirms for manufacturers that the product label accurately reflects the actual ingredients as well as potency of each batch or lot of product. In other words, "it is what it is" and the manufacturer has the compliant analytical quality control laboratory documentation to prove it.
I hope this gives consumers of herbal products some peace of mind.
Irene Lewis, Arcata