Countries all over the world, and especially the developing world, are taking a different approach to their herbal traditions than the American approach, which seems focused primarily on protecting the medical monopoly of doctors, drug companies and insurance companies.
In another example of the more enlightened approach being taken elsewhere, renowned herbal medicine specialist Dr Gunnaram Khonikar appealed to the Government of Assam “to include and introduce herbal medicines in the school syllabus so that students would be able to identify medicinal plants with their medicinal properties and cultivation as well as preservation.”
Report from the Assam Tribune brought to you by the Hindustan Times
August 18, 2007
The Economist highlights the efforts of the Golden Triangle Partnership and their work in India to conduct clinical trials on herbal treatments in India:
Most Indian herbal remedies are based on the Ayurvedic system of medicine, although Tamil-based Siddha and Unani, which has Persian roots, are also used extensively. Proving their worth is a daunting task. There are 80,000 Ayurvedic treatments alone, involving the products of some 3,000 plants. More than 7,000 firms make herbal compounds for medical use. Establishing the active ingredients and exactly how they work would thus take some time.
The Golden Triangle Partnership is not, however, looking for new molecules to turn into chemically pure drugs. Instead, it proposes to make herbal medicine itself more scientific by conducting clinical trials of traditional treatments for more than 20 medical conditions. These include arthritis, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, malaria and psoriasis.
To do that means getting the country’s drug companies to take part in what is, for them, the non-traditional activity of traditional medicine. One of these firms, Ranbaxy, has already opened a small research and development division for herbal medicine and is beginning to look at remedies for conditions such as diabetes.
To encourage such developments the project’s partners are trying to identify how the potency of herbs varies with exposure to the sun, the type of soil in which they are grown, and when and how they are harvested. With that information, they can define standard doses and clinical trials can begin. If the trials succeed, the treatments that result should be patentable–unlike the traditional formulations.
The article points out that the Indian government is also concerned that several of the medicinal plants harvested from the wild are endangered.
It was formed in 1998 in the wake of the mass backlash by organic comsumers against the U.S Department of Agriculture’s (USDA)controvercial proposed regulations for organic food.
Last year, they launched boycotts against several of the larger organic dairies, protesting “factory farm” conditions instead of the “family farm” operations they support. They say:
While USDA bureaucrats drag their feet on closing key loopholes in national organic organic standards, retailers, wholesalers and major “organic” brands are continuing to sell milk and dairy products labeled as “USDA Organic, even though most or all of their milk is coming from factory farm feedlots where the animals have been brought in from conventional farms and are kept in intensive confinement, with little or no access to pasture.
Horizon Organics counters:
ALL of our products are certified organic. Organic is all we’ve ever done and all we’ll ever do.
- We have been farming organically for 15 years.
- Our founders worked with other industry leaders to develop the USDA Organic Seal.
- We only operate farms and work with farmer partners who are certified organic and compliant with the standards.
Well, I’d like all the cows to have lots of pasture and the workers to have AC too, but seriously folks, if we want hundreds of millions of people to have organic milk and other organic products, things are going to get pretty large scale. And that’s a good thing, right? More organic feed means less agrochemicals in the environment and less pesticides in dairy products. I’ll admit it. I’m in it for the environment, and the people, not the cows. Sorry.
So why is this on Herb News? Because now OCA is taking on supplements too in their so-called Nutri-Con campaign. They claim some supplements contain partially hydrogenated oils, which they say is “one of the most toxic food ingredients known to mankind.” Oh please! Few supplements contain them, and the amount in an entire bottle would be less than a slice of pie. Oops, I mean a tablespoon of the crust of a slice of pie. Why the scare tactics, guys?
OCA has joined the shrill, pharma-sponsored attacks on dietary supplements. While they do highlight some companies they consider ethical and who do not use such ingredients, the net effect of attacks on supplements is an erosion of public and professional confidence in them.