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Don't Regulate Herbs




While I commend your concern for the health of North Coast citizenry, your "Drugs In Disguise" article (Nov. 10), was a one-sided and somewhat condescending opinion piece. The author, a Washington D.C. resident with a doctorate in molecular and cellular biology, seems to suggest that mere folks are not capable of using herbal "folk medicine" safely and effectively without regulatory assistance. Your author likens herbalists to fundamentalists, "their minds slammed shut." Actually, herbal medicine has a history of evidence-based efficacy dating back thousands of years, and it is relatively safe.

She frighteningly states,"pennyroyal has killed people." (Four people in 30 years; certainly tragic.)  If, however, the concern is people dying, then, as the Journal of American Medical Association reports, there are 106,000 deaths each year attributed to (non-error) adverse effects of medications. Adverse drug reactions are the fourth-leading cause of death after heart disease, cancer and stroke, yet, the author didn't mention this.

According to our dear scientist-turned-author, herbal supplement companies have it too easy. That may soon change. The Food and Drug Administration has recommended new dietary ingredient guidelines, including complex and expensive new testing protocols that will benefit large drug companies, which can patent synthetic analogs of natural botanicals. Big drug companies want a share of the natural supplement market, and they have the lobbying clout in to affect legislation. In 2010, pharmaceutical companies spent $240,385,934 on lobbyists.

Dr. Lester mentions the "Free Speech About Science Act" (HR 1364) in a condescending manner, as if disseminating truthful health benefits of natural products was wrong. Many double-blind, placebo-based scientific studies have been done with herbal products on real people. (Not just with petri dishes.) Shouldn't consumers have access to all scientific information? Tell your representatives to support HR 1364.

Obviously, modern medicine does miraculous things, saving lives, especially in emergencies. But people are not stupid and can use herbal products wisely.  We are blessed in our area with herbalists who are happy to help with expertise and guidance. If that article was any indication, we may again have to fight for our right to use natural, herbal medicine.

Jeffrey Haloff, Eureka

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