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Humorous Herbalist

Dear Humorous Herbalist,

Thank you for taking the time to research ephedra and write a knowledgeable article on the herb (Jan. 30, 2004).

It is disgusting to see the media take the stance that ephedra is going to kill you. I think the impending ban on ephedra is wrong and a threat to our freedoms as Americans. Now some writers, obviously with no knowledge of medical studies and what is required in order to show statistical significance, are jumping on a study done by the University of Connecticut that seemed to show problems with their testing of a popular ephedra-containing dietary supplement. I believe it was Metabolife.



First of all, the study group was so small that it is statistically insignificant (only about 15 people took part.). Also, the study failed to isolate ephedra as the culprit of the problem. They actually go so far as to say that the offending element in the supplement could have been the caffeine that was added to the formula.

I finally found out that the ephedra-linked deaths quoted over and over in the media suggest that 188 people died from the herb in a single year. That is incorrect.



The evaluation of ephedra started in 1997, and there have been only 188 deaths since that time, none of which can be attributed exclusively to ephedra. Also, the same people who took ephedra-containing supplements are likely to have been taking the old version of Dexatrim (phenylpropanolamine) to lose weight also. PPA (not an herb) was FDA approved at one time, but has since been pulled off the market for having dangerous cardiovascular effects.

The thing is, if you are afraid of ephedra and uneducated in its use, don’t take it. Simple as that. If you eat five pounds of lard a day, you are probably going to die from that, too. If you screw up, you made the choice. You could live in a plastic bubble, drink filtered water, exercise daily, eat nothing but organically grown foods, but you’re still going to kick off someday. Nobody gets out of life alive.

See the forum at http://www.ephedra.com. Lots of really interesting information on how the FDA is out to baby-sit us all and using our tax dollars to take our rights away from us.

Kirsten Klang (via e-mail)

Dear Kirsten,

Thank you for your letter. I appreciate the fact that you took the time to research the truth about this wonderful plant and understand the possible continuing fallout that could occur if the FDA has their way with other herbs.

As I said in my column, it is very important to understand that the whole herb that is called ephedra is not the same “ephedra” when it is placed into a pill that is geared to either keep you awake or encourage fast weight loss.

One herbalist I know wrote that any alternative practitioner who suggested taking one of these “bastardized supplements” to shed pounds should be “taken out and whipped.”

When you manipulate a plant in a laboratory, it ceases to maintain its inherent, balanced compounds which work synergistically to maintain healthy stability within the body. Manipulation creates drugs. Manipulation of the plant foxglove in a lab produced the drug digitalis. Manipulation of white willow bark and meadowsweet produced aspirin.

Oh, and manipulation of ephedra created Sudafed. Funny how the FDA is not calling for a ban on Sudafed. I mean, after all, it’s “ephedra.”

Dear Humorous Herbalist,

What’s your opinion of the various “herbal Viagra” supplements on the market?

Jerry (via e-mail)

Dear Jerry,

After reading the labels on many of these products, I have come to the conclusion that most of them are formulated to put the male body into a hyper state of stimulation that taxes the adrenal glands while activating major blood flow to the penis.

I’m not a fan of any “Viagra-like” supplement that includes large amounts of the herb yohimbe because the burnout factor on your adrenal glands is too extreme.

My advice is to stay away from any “penis enhancement” formula that is mainly made up of adrenaline stimulators (licorice root, kola nut, caffeine, or yohimbe, as mentioned above). Look for well-balanced formulas that nourish the adrenals, kidneys and pituitary gland ” all of which play a key role in getting and maintaining an erection. Herbs such as oatstraw, Tongkat Ali, ashwagandha and maca are all stable, supportive plant remedies.

One good formula I ran across, “Super-X,” is made by Chi Enterprises. I’ve met Dr. Chi, the formulator, and used his other products with great success. “Super-X” is nourishing and elevating to the body without taxing the endocrine system. Dr. Chi’s products can be purchased on the Web at http://www.chi-health.com or by calling (800) 457-5708.

E-mail your questions to The Humorous Herbalist at writer8@sopris.net.

The information in this column is not meant to take the place of your physician, nor is it intended to treat, diagnose or prescribe. Pregnant or nursing women should consult their doctor before using herbal therapy.


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