An Herb is More Than its Active
When I first started researching alternatives and herbs, etc, I
ran across the work of
Professor James Duke, a leading herbalist. In
his career he's investigated, tested, and categorized more herbs
than possibly anyone. He's all over the web today, he still teaches
and writes, and his books are often recommended and quoted.
I read a short article by him that has never left me. Every
choice I make in wellness is influenced by Dr Duke's simple words. I
am honored to pass his message on to you. I'm sorry that I cannot
reference this article; I've remembered the meat, not the packaging.
I'm sure the good doctor will forgive me.
We live in a world of reductionism. The reigning demigods of
science are constantly searching for a key component. In any study,
"science" wants to know what factor worked. For example, I had been
told for years that holism (treating the entire person, rather than
the illness with everything it takes to heal body, mind, and soul)
cannot be tested because we would never know "what worked."
If a patient is healed using holism, what was it that worked? Was
it this? or that? or the other? Science wants to know. The patient
When it comes to medicines, many of which come from herbs, here
again we have reductionism, for the pharmaceutical industry does not
use an herb, but rather the herb's "active ingredient."
The entire herb is reduced to an active ingredient.
Here is where Dr Duke gives (in a paper I found but did not save) a great example: the May Apple.
The May Apple is toxic, well parts of it. It has been used as a
cancer cure among early Native Americans. The May Apple has also
been used to protect potatoes from potato bugs. It is ground up and
placed over the plant and around the plant, and potato bugs stay
Reductionists, or scientists, decided to hunt for the active
ingredient and, as always, they eventually found it, created a
powder from it, which they placed over the potato plant and around
it, and sure enough, the bugs stayed away. Everyone popped open
Champaign bottles and they celebrated.
That is, till the next year.
The second year that the powder was placed over and around the
plant, the bugs came back.
This does not happen when the entire plant is used: ground up and
placed over and around the potato plant. The bugs do not return. Not
the second year, not the third, not ever.
There is just something about an entire herb that you will not
get in the active ingredient only. It is as if all phytochemicals
within a plant, within an herb, within a fruit, work like a finely
tuned orchestra. The orchestra plays a much more robust rendition
than any solo performance, and can even drown out a single
Duke introduced me to a concept called synergy. Synergy means the
sum is greater than the parts. Or mathematically, one plus one is
greater than two (1 + 1 > 2).
We see it in the May Apple, and you can see it in a carrot. A
carrot has many wonderful phytochemicals. A large carrot can have 4
mg of vitamin C; 13 mcg folate; 8666 IU vitamin A; .5 mg of vitamin
E (alpha-tocopherol); 10 mcg of vitamin K; 4157 mcg of Beta
Carotene; 2028 mcg of Alpha Carotene; 1.4 mcg of lycopene; and 149
mcg of lutein + zeaxanthin. [From the USDA web site:
Now 4 mg of vitamin C isn't much to write home about, or .5 mg of
vitamin E. You can get a lot more beta carotene in a pill than in
one carrot. But a carrot was created by, depending on your belief
system, nature or God. Whether you believe in natural selection or
creationism, the food we have is the best possible source of
nutrition these bodies need. Anything we do to this food can only
bring down the nutritional value. The benefits from a carrot are
more than all its parts added up. You won't get as much as from a
pill, but you will get what your body needs in the best form and the
best way your body needs it. You can't ask more than that.
And as to the studies on holism...
I used to answer the critics who bombarded me with, What will you
prove? you won't be able to prove what worked," by saying, well,
let's compare all our unknowns to your known, and see which works
Dr Gonzalez, a one time conservative oncologist who believed
thoroughly in chemotherapy and radiation, is performing a study
right now that is very close to what I'd suggested (above). Dr
Gonzalez studied the food therapies of Gerson and Kelly and has
created a food therapy for some of the deadliest cancers around.
He's doing a study right now comparing the life spans of patients
using his food therapies against the life spans of those patients
(with the same cancers) using standard chemo and radiation. He is
not doing this study to find out "what worked," but rather which
works best. The study is ongoing. When it is completed, you will be
among the first to hear about it.
If you have or know someone who has liver or pancreatic cancer
and has not started chemotherapy and would like to know more about
Dr Gonzalez's study, they should call his office at: (212) 213-3337
or visit his site at
UPDATE: Dr Gonzalez's study has ended because
the good doctor has passed away.
In the meanwhile, eat your carrots.