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Saturday, November 26, 2005

New Echinacea Study Not Relevant to Informed Practice

When you are searching for an effective echinacea product, contact the leaflady. Our echinacea is made from root and flowers of fresh herb plants and has been proven to be highly effective.

Now for the hype to keep you from good natural health products -

A much publicized article recently featured in the New England Journal of Medicine claims to establish that Echinacea has no effect in the prevention and treatment of the common cold. In the study, the authors compared the effect of different preparations of Echinacea angustifolia root on rhinovirus infection. The infection was artificially induced using a strain of rhinovirus type 39 which is considered to be safe. The dose of Echinacea root used was 900 mg per day for 7 days before the virus challenge and then 5 days after. The study evaluated both preventative and treatment effects of the various Echinacea preparations on the rhinovirus infection and found no significant results for either. An important consideration was that the dose was not adjusted for the acute infection phase of the study. The Echinacea angustifolia root was extracted under different conditions in order to compare the effects of the different phytochemical profiles that are typically found in Echinacea products.

The study has been widely condemned, especially in terms of the low dose of Echinacea used. To put this in perspective, the daily amount of Echinacea used in the trial was the equivalent of around one half of a MediHerb Echinacea Premium tablet. (This assumes that the extract the authors made themselves was at least comparable to the patented product we produce under pharmaceutical GMP. Since we have tested products worldwide and found not one that even comes near the levels of alkylamides in Echinacea Premium, this assumption in the authors’ favor is unlikely to be the case, making the relative dose used in the trial even lower). In contrast, MediHerb recommends 2 tablets per day as a preventative dose for immune support and 3 to 4 times this amount (6 to 8 tablets) during acute infections. No wonder the study found no benefit from the low dose of Echinacea used. It is like taking one quarter of a headache tablet and wondering why your headache is still there.

In defense of the dose used, Dr. Ronald Turner has recently claimed that: “There is no evidence from prior studies that the dose of Echinacea would have changed the outcome…”. But, in fact, a study published as far back as 1992 suggests that this is not the case. In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, 180 patients with upper respiratory tract infections received the equivalent of 1800 mg per day or 900 mg per day of E. purpurea root as a tincture, or placebo. Patients receiving the high dose experienced significant relief of symptoms. However patients receiving the lower dose (900 mg) were not significantly different from the placebo control. Also the doses recommended in professional herb texts are clearly higher than 900 mg per day.

Even one of the article’s authors has acknowledged that the amount of Echinacea used in the study may have been insufficient. David Gangemi, PhD, of Clemson University responded to a question posed about this research at last month’s Medicines from the Earth Symposium in North Carolina by stating, “I think in retrospect if we go back and we look at some of the other products that are out there maybe we're only one tenth the level we should be.”

Another aspect of this study which limits the generalization of its results to all users of Echinacea was that an artificial infection was induced in young, healthy volunteers. This could be irrelevant to the real life situation where people with compromised immunity are exposed to a range of constantly evolving viruses and bacteria.

Unfortunately, this trial represents a waste of money and a missed opportunity to better understand the real clinical value of Echinacea.

If only someone had asked an herbalist!

Sunday, November 13, 2005


TOKYO - Two teenage boys who took the antiviral drug Tamiflu exhibited abnormal behavior that led to their deaths, with one jumping in front of an oncoming truck last year and the other falling from the ninth floor of a building earlier this year, health ministry and other sources said Saturday.

The drug in Japan carries a note listing impaired consciousness, abnormal behaviors, hallucination and other psychological and neurological symptoms as possible serious side effects. The ministry is considering making a fresh warning about them, following its decision to increase the stockpile of the drug amid growing fears about a possible pandemic of a new type of influenza as bird flu deaths rise across Asia.

© 2005 Kyodo News. All rights reserved.

Mercury (CAS#7439-97-6)
Sources of exposure: Mercury occurs primarily in two forms: organic mercury and inorganic mercury. Inorganic mercury occurs when elemental mercury is combined with chlorine, sulfur, or oxygen. Inorganic mercury and elemental mercury are both toxins that can produce a wide range of adverse health affects. Inorganic mercury is used in thermometers, barometers, dental fillings, batteries, electrical wiring and switches, fluorescent light bulbs, pesticides, fungicides, vaccines, paint, skin-tightening creams, vapors from spills, antiseptic creams, pharmaceutical drugs and ointments (Thimerisol is the mercury used in vaccines) (ATSDR, 1989a). Inorganic mercury vapor is at high concentrations near chlorine-alkali plants, smelters, municipal incinerators and sewage treatment plants. The organic form occurs when mercury is combined with carbon. The most common form of organic mercury is methyl mercury, which is produced primarily by small organisms in water and soil when they are exposed to inorganic mercury. Humans also have the ability to convert inorganic mercury to an organic form once it has become absorbed into the bloodstream. Organic mercury is known to bioaccumulate -- or pass up the food chain due an organism's inability to process and eliminate it. It is found primarily in marine life (fish), and can often be found in produce and farm animals, processed grains and dairy products, and surface, salt-, and fresh water sources (ATSDR, 1989a; Brenner and Snyder, 1980). Occupational exposure to mercury containing compounds presents a significant health risk to individuals. Dentists, painters, fisherman, electricians, pharmaceutical/laboratories workers, farmers, factory workers, miners, chemists and beauticians are just some of the professions chronically exposed to mercury compounds.

Target tissues: The absorption and distribution of mercury compounds depends largely upon its chemical state. Organic mercury compounds are absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract more readily than inorganic mercury compounds, with the latter being very poorly absorbed. After absorption in the gastrointestinal tract, organic mercury is readily distributed throughout the body but tends to concentrate in the brain and kidneys (Goyer, 1991b). Approximately 80% of mercury vapor is absorbed directly through the lungs and distributed primarily to the CNS and the kidneys (Friberg and Nordberg, 1973). Inorganic and organic forms of mercury have also been seen in the red blood cells, liver, muscle tissue, and gall bladder (Peterson et al., 1991, Dutczak et al., 1991, ATSDR 1989a).

Signs and symptoms: Mercury exposure can result in a wide variety of human health conditions. The degree of impairment and the clinical manifestations that accompany mercury exposure largely depend upon its chemical state and the route of exposure. While inorganic mercury compounds are considered less toxic than organic mercury compounds (primarily due to difficulties in absorption), inorganic mercury that is absorbed is readily converted to an organic form by physiological processes in the liver.

The acute ingestion of inorganic mercury salts may cause gastrointestinal disorders such as abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and hemorrhage (ATSD 1989a). Repeated and prolonged exposure has resulted in severe disturbances in the central nervous system, gastrointestinal tract, kidneys, and liver. Daivs et al. (1974) reported dementia, colitis, and renal failure in individuals chronically poisoned due to the ingestion of an inorganic mercury containing laxative. Inhaled inorganic mercury can cause a wide range of clinical complications in individuals including corrosive bronchitis, interstitial pneumonitis, renal disorders, fatigue, insomnia, loss of memory, excitability, chest pains, impairment of pulmonary function and gingivitis (Goyer 1991b, ATSDR 1989a). Chronic inhalation of inorganic mercury compounds may result in a reduction of sensory and motor nerve function, depression, visual and/or auditory hallucinations, muscular tremors, sleep disorders, alterations in autonomic function (heart rate, blood pressure, reflexes), impaired visuomotor coordination, speech disorders, dementia, coma and death (Clarkson 1989; Goyer 1991b; Fawyer et al. 1983; Piikivi and Hanninen 1989; and Ngim et al. 1992). Ngim et al. (1992) have shown that a group of dentists exposed to mercury vapors occupationally perform significantly worse in neurobehavioral tests that measure motor speed, visual scanning, visuomotor coordination and concentration, verbal memory and visual memory. Kishi et al. (1993) have found that smelter workers exposed to inorganic mercury compounds continue to experience neurological symptoms-tremors, headaches, slurred speech-senile symptoms and diminished mental capacities eighteen years after the cessation of mercury exposure.

Our understanding of the effects of methyl mercury poisoning comes primarily from epidemic poisonings in Iraq and Japan. In iraq, more than 6,000 individuals were hospitalized and 459 died as a result of methyl mercury poisoning. Adults experienced symptoms including parasthesia, visual disorders, ataxia, fatigue, tremor, hearing disorders (deafness) and coma (Bakir et al., 1973; Mottet, Shaw, and Burbacher, 1985). Neuropathologic observations of exposed individuals have shown irreversible brain damage including neuronal necrosis, cerebral edema, gliosis, and cerebral atrophy (Mottet, Shaw, and Burbacher, 1985). Iraqi children poisoned through the consumption of methyl mercury containing food products (grains treated with mercury containing fungicides) exhibited nervous system impairment, visual and auditory disorders, weakness, marked motor and cognitive impairment, and emotional disturbances (Bakir et al., 1973; Bakir et al., 1978). Individuals in Japan experienced many of these same symptoms after the ingestion of fish containing large amounts of methyl mercury. Similarly, autopsies conducted on deceased Japanese in the Minamata Bay have shown pronounced brain lesions, cerebral atrophy, edema, and gliosis in the deeper fissures (sulci) of the brain, such as in the visual cortex (Takeuchi 1968). The Japan and Iraq epidemics have clearly established mercury as an agent that can disrupt developmental processes in the unborn, and infantile, individual. Methyl mercury can pass through the placental barrier and produce many deleterious effects on the unborn fetus (Mottet, Shaw and Burbacher 1985). Children born to mercury poisoned mothers were of smaller total weight, had decreased brain weights at birth, had fewer nerve cells in the cerebral cortex, and experienced an abnormal pattern of neuronal migration (Choi et al. 1978; Takeuchi 1968, Amin-Zake et al. 1974). Of those children that survived the epidemic, many experienced severe developmental effects like impaired motor and mental function, hearing loss, and blindness throughout their childhood (Amin-Zaki et al. 1974). Researchers have also observed a heightened incidence of cerebral palsy in children born to mothers in the Minamata Bay (Matsumoto, Koya, and Takeuchi 1965).
Mercury has recently been implicated as being a contributing factor to the increasing prevalence of autism in American children. The Autism Research Institute has focused on mercury containing vaccines (TMS) and their relationship to autism. Over 2 million individuals are affected with autism, a neurodevelopment syndrome that typically produces impairment in sociality, communication, and sensory/perceptual processes, and recent evidence has found a positive correlation between complications seen in autistics and complications seen in mercury poisoned individuals (Bernard et al., 2000). While it is difficult to ascribe causation in this case, it should not be altogether dismissed. Mercury poisoning has been implicated in the development of many other human dysfunctional states for many years. Among these are cerebral palsy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, psychosis, and chronic fatigue syndrome (Adams et al., 1983; Bernard et al., 2000; Dales 1972) .

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Supreme Court RejectsCell Phone Radiation Appeal

Well folks, here we are, getting closer to the cell phone facts that harm your health. These harmful radiation emitting units will never be looked at in the same way again. This is, as I predicted, tobacco II.

Class action lawsuits against cell phone makers over radiation emissions will be able to go forward, after the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear an appeal by the companies.

The high court rejected hearing an appeal by companies like Nokia and Cingular Wireless challenging a decision by a U.S. appeals court that reinstated the lawsuits that argued manufacturers knew about and hid the risks of radiation emissions wireless phones posed to users.

Wireless phones are radios that emit frequency radiation, and in the United States the Federal Communications Commission must approve any device that sends out such radiation.

Exposure to high levels of radiation can cause adverse health effects, but it is less clear the impact on a wireless phone user who is exposed to low levels of radiation when a phone is held to an ear directly.

Health advocates have expressed concerns about radiation causing problems ranging from headaches to tumors. But the wireless industry has pointed to U.S. government statements that scientific evidence so far has not shown any health problems associated with wireless phone use.

Five class action lawsuits were filed in state courts seeking damages, including money for wireless users to buy a headset or reimburse those who had already had purchased one.

A U.S. district court judge dismissed the five lawsuits on the grounds that state regulation of wireless phone emissions was pre-empted by the FCC, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit overturned that decision and reinstated the cases.

The wireless industry is worried about being required to adhere to numerous different emissions requirements imposed by states, something the service providers and manufacturers argue would wreak havoc on the industry and consumers.

"This court's intervention is necessary to prevent the balkanisation of network standards...which will, if uncorrected, undermine the ability of consumers to use an FCC-approved wireless telephone in every state of the union," they said in their appeal to the high court.

Other companies that joined in the appeal include Motorola and Qualcomm. Cingular Wireless is a joint venture of BellSouth and SBC Communications

As a result of the high court's action, one lawsuit will go forward in federal court while the four other lawsuits will go forward in state court.

Copyright © 2005 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.