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In Memoriam: Jim Duke

Citizens for Health regrets the loss of a dear friend and champion of the health freedom movement, Jim Duke. A renaissance man in the truest sense of the word, and as frequent collaborator Steven Foster notes, “His impact and inspiration for the last three generations of all aspects of the herbal community cannot be overstated.” He worked for the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service for almost 30 years as a botanist, developing one of his most enduring legacies, the Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases to which scientists still turn to support their research.

We share here an obituary from the American Botanical Council, a link to his Green Farmacy site, and other items of interest.

Ethnobotanist and Herbal Medicine Advocate Jim Duke Dies at 88

News provided by American Botanical Council

Austin, TEXAS (December 11, 2017) — Jim Duke, PhD, an esteemed ethnobotanist, author, and a co-founder of the American Botanical Council (ABC), died at his home last evening. He was 88 and had been in declining health.

“He was a brilliant, dedicated, funny, and humble man, who earned the admiration, respect, and love of thousands of scientists and herbal enthusiasts,” said Mark Blumenthal, ABC’s founder and executive director. “Jim’s huge body of work, love of plants and people, sense of humor, and generosity of spirit are positive examples for all of us.”

Duke authored hundreds of articles and an estimated three dozen books, both popular and technical. He compiled botanical data from all types of sources for his “Father Nature’s Farmacy” database, and was a humble botanist who preferred to walk barefoot in his extensive medicinal plant garden, or, when possible, the Amazonian rainforest.

Born in Birmingham, Alabama, on April 4, 1929, Duke studied botany at the University of North Carolina, where he received his undergraduate and doctoral degrees in 1955 and 1961, respectively. Postgraduate work took him to Washington University and the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis. It was there where he developed what was, as he put it, “my overriding interest: neotropical ethnobotany.”

Early in Duke’s career with Missouri Botanical Garden, his work took him to Panama, where he penned painstaking technical descriptions of plants in 11 plants families for the Flora of Panama project published in the Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden. He also studied the ethnobotany of the Choco and Cuna native groups, which culminated in his first book: Isthmian Ethnobotanical Dictionary, a 96-page handbook describing medicinal plants of the Central American isthmus.

In 1963, Jim Duke took a position with the USDA in Beltsville, Maryland. From 1965 to 1971, he worked on ecological and ethnological research in Panama and Colombia for Battelle Memorial Institute. Duke returned to USDA in 1971, where he worked on crop diversification and created a database called the “Crop Diversification Matrix” with extensive biological, ecological, and economic data on thousands of cultivated crops.

His interest in medicinal plants never waned. In 1977, he became chief of the Medicinal Plant Laboratory at USDA’s Agricultural Research Service in Beltsville, and then chief of USDA’s Economic Botany Laboratory. At the time, USDA was under contract with the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to collect plant materials from all over the world for screening for anti-cancer activity. After the program ended in 1981, Jim Duke continued his work at the Germplasm Resources Laboratory. Duke served on the board of the Amazon Center for Environmental Education and Research (ACEER) in the early 1990s, and the nonprofit created a fund in his honor to support its educational programs in 2007. Duke also received the ACEER Legacy Award in 2013.

Duke established the Green Farmacy Garden in Fulton, Maryland, in 1997 as a teaching garden with approximately 300 species of medicinal plants. For several years, Duke hosted the AHPA-ABC HerbWalk as a part of Natural Products Expo East.

Duke retired from USDA in 1995, but retirement was in name only. Shortly thereafter, The New York Times published a profile on Duke. (HerbalGram published a bio on Duke in issue 77.)

“His impact and inspiration for the last three generations of all aspects of the herbal community cannot be overstated,” said Steven Foster, an author, photographer, and collaborator with Duke on multiple books. “He was a renaissance man in the broadest sense.”

Duke is survived by his wife Peggy, daughter Cissy, and son John.

About the American Botanical Council

Information regarding services and donations can be found here: A note from the family: Jim Duke’s Legacy


The ABC reports they will be creating a tribute to Jim and his life very soon, and have shared the following, from botanist and long-time Jim Duke collaborator Steven Foster’s personal comments and brief biography of Jim:

It is with great sadness to learn the news of the passing of one of the giants of the herbal movement of the past century, James A. Duke, PhD, who died peacefully on the evening of December 10, 2017.

Jim, as he was known to all, served as one of the founding members of the Board of Trustees of the American Botanical Council. His impact and inspiration for the last three generations of all aspects of the herbal community cannot be overstated.

Perhaps more than any other individual, Jim Duke, personified the coalescing of science with traditional knowledge on medicinal plants, which he freely shared with passion and heart. He was a prolific “compiler” as he referred to himself, of data on medicinal plants, which he shared an estimated three dozen books, both popular and technical.

Jim Duke, was a key figure of the “herbal renaissance,” a phrase coined by Paul Lee, PhD. He was a renaissance man in the broadest sense.

Born in Birmingham, Alabama, on April 4, 1929, Jim Duke was a bluegrass fiddler by age 16, even appearing at the Grand Ole Opry, in Nashville, Tennessee.

An interest in plants was not far behind his interest in music. In 1955, he took a degree in botany from the University of North Carolina. In 1961, the same institution conferred a doctorate in botany upon him. Postgraduate work took him to Washington University and Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis. It was there where he developed what was, as he put it, “my overriding interest — neotropical ethnobotany.”

Early in Duke’s career with Missouri Botanical Garden, his work took him to Panama where he penned painstaking technical descriptions of plants in 11 plants families for the Flora of Panama, project, published in the Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden. During his years in Panama he also studied the ethnobotany of the Choco and Cuna native groups. The Choco are a forest people who lived scattered along rivers, and the Cuna live in villages. Another fruit of these years was his first book — Isthmian Ethnobotanical Dictionary, a 96-page handbook describing medicinal plants of the Central American isthmus.

In 1963, Jim Duke took a position with the USDA in Beltsville, Maryland, focusing on tropical ecology, especially seedling ecology. From 1965 to 1971, he worked on ecological and ethnological research in Panama and Colombia for Battelle Columbus Laboratories. Duke returned to USDA in 1971 where he worked on crop diversification, creating a database called the “Crop Diversification Matrix” with extensive biological, ecological, and economic data on thousands of cultivated crops.

His interest in medicinal plants never waned no matter what unrelated tasks government bureaucrats pushed his way. In 1977, he became Chief of the Medicinal Plant Laboratory at USDA’s Agricultural Research Service in Beltsville, and then Chief of USDA’s Economic Botany Laboratory. At the time, USDA was under contract with the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to collect plant materials from all over the world for screening for anti-cancer activity. After the program ended in 1981, Jim Duke continued his work at USDA as Chief of the Germplasm Resources Laboratory, collecting data and plant material on food crops from around the world.

During the Reagan Administration, he was also charged with the unenviable, and as Jim Duke himself admits, “impossible” task of finding a replacement crop in the Andes for coca, the ancient Inca stimulant and source of its abused alkaloid, cocaine.

Dr. Duke retired from USDA in September of 1995, but retirement was in name only.

—Steven Foster


For Further Reading:

James A. Duke Wikipedia

The Green Farmacy Garden

The Medicine Hunter: Dr. James Duke

Making the World Safe for Cancer

By Alison Rose Levy via www.healthjournalist.com

When it comes to increasing cancer rates, we’ve done everything right. We couldn’t have done it better if we’d actually planned it.

That’s the takeaway from the President’s Cancer Panel. Legislatively mandated back in 1971, this prestigious panel just issued its 2009 report. Reading it is an eye-opening experience. I’ll synopsize the basic findings here (along with others from other sources) so that if other societies (or other planets) want to replicate our outstanding results in making the world safe for cancer, they can roll up their sleeves and do just what we’ve done:

• For 35 years, pour billions of dollars into vested institutions aiming to self-perpetuate via a perennial “war on cancer” featuring intense and costly treatments, which, according to a GAO report, failed to substantively increase actual survival rates once you factor in reductions in lung cancer deaths thanks to smoking cessation

• Run massive P.R. campaigns to distract the gullible public (with more birthday cake?) until that lucky day when a “cure” is found. (According to AdWeek, the American Cancer Society, which disputes the Panel Report spends $17 million annually on ads.)

That’s just for starters. Then the next step is to:

• Fail to look for causes

• Invoke “prevention” as a buzzword while doing nothing substantive

It takes a little work, but if dedicated to the cause, one can:

• Overlook numerous studies that reveal a wide range of cancer causative factors, including pesticides, toxins, metals, pollutants, food additives, industrial chemicals, endocrine disruptors and other carcinogens–80,000 of them in wide use (PCP)

• Allow widespread exposure to these carcinogens (PCP)

• Rather than concede the overall weight of both research and empirical evidence, quibble over a study detail to assure an implacable entrenchment in treating the problem when it’s too late

• Pay for your own study if your company has deep pockets. Then play “dueling studies.”

New Alarm Bells About Chemicals and Cancer

By Nicholas Kristof via New York Times

The President’s Cancer Panel is the Mount Everest of the medical mainstream, so it is astonishing to learn that it is poised to join ranks with the organic food movement and declare: chemicals threaten our bodies.

The cancer panel is releasing a landmark 200-page report on Thursday, warning that our lackadaisical approach to regulation may have far-reaching consequences for our health.

I’ve read an advance copy of the report, and it’s an extraordinary document. It calls on America to rethink the way we confront cancer, including much more rigorous regulation of chemicals.

Traditionally, we reduce cancer risks through regular doctor visits, self-examinations and screenings such as mammograms. The President’s Cancer Panel suggests other eye-opening steps as well, such as giving preference to organic food, checking radon levels in the home and microwaving food in glass containers rather than plastic.

In particular, the report warns about exposures to chemicals during pregnancy, when risk of damage seems to be greatest. Noting that 300 contaminants have been detected in umbilical cord blood of newborn babies, the study warns that: “to a disturbing extent, babies are born ‘pre-polluted.’ ”

It’s striking that this report emerges not from the fringe but from the mission control of mainstream scientific and medical thinking, the President’s Cancer Panel. Established in 1971, this is a group of three distinguished experts who review America’s cancer program and report directly to the president.

One of the seats is now vacant, but the panel members who joined in this report are Dr. LaSalle Leffall Jr., an oncologist and professor of surgery at Howard University, and Dr. Margaret Kripke, an immunologist at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Both were originally appointed to the panel by former President George W. Bush.

“We wanted to let people know that we’re concerned, and that they should be concerned,” Professor Leffall told me.

The report blames weak laws, lax enforcement and fragmented authority, as well as the existing regulatory presumption that chemicals are safe unless strong evidence emerges to the contrary.

“Only a few hundred of the more than 80,000 chemicals in use in the United States have been tested for safety,” the report says. It adds: “Many known or suspected carcinogens are completely unregulated.”

Industry may howl. The food industry has already been fighting legislation in the Senate backed by Dianne Feinstein of California that would ban bisphenol-A, commonly found in plastics and better known as BPA, from food and beverage containers.

Scientist: FDA Suppressed Imaging Safety Concerns

By MATTHEW PERRONE
AP Business Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) — A former Food and Drug Administration scientist said Tuesday his job was eliminated after he raised concerns about the risks of radiation exposure from high-grade medical scanning.

Dr. Julian Nicholas said at a public hearing that he and other FDA staffers “were pressured to change their scientific opinion,” after they opposed the approval of a CT scanner for routine colon cancer screening. Nicholas said that he objected to exposing otherwise healthy patients to the cancer risks of radiation.

After FDA officials pushed ahead with plans to clear the device, Nicholas, now a physician at the Scripps Clinic in San Diego, said he and eight other staffers raised their concerns with the division’s top director Dr. Jeffrey Shuren last September. The device apparently is still under review.

“Scientific and regulatory review process for medical devices was being distorted by managers who were not following the laws,” Nicholas said. A month later Nicholas’ position was terminated, he said.

Nicholas does not think there was undue influence by the manufacturer in his ouster, but that his more cautious stance was in opposition to that of FDA higher-ups.

The allegations about suppression of scientific dissent come at an inopportune time for the agency.

The FDA announced an effort to improve scanning safety in February after three California hospitals reported hundreds of acute radiation overdoses last year, with many patients reporting lost hair and skin redness.

Tuesday’s meeting was designed to kick off that campaign. The agency is seeking input from physicians and manufacturers on additional safety controls and training to improve CT scanners and other medical imaging devices.

Hundreds of studies have linked certain types of radiation, including the type used in medical imaging, to cancer that can surface decades later.

FDA medical reviewer Dr. Robert Smith, a colleague of Nicholas who also presented at Tuesday’s public meeting, said he hoped the FDA would learn a lesson from Nicholas’ testimony.

“Science must not be ignored, suppressed or distorted as that endangers the public,” Smith told the audience.

Smith, who still works for the agency, supported Nicholas’ conclusion that CT scanning for colon cancer should be rejected on safety grounds.

Agency spokesman Dick Thompson said in a statement the FDA’s inspector general looked into allegations of retaliation against agency scientists and did not pursue further action or investigation. The agency’s policies do not allow staffers to be penalized for expressing scientific views, he added.

Scientists Crack ‘Entire Genetic Code’ of Cancer

By Michelle Roberts Health reporter via www.news.bbc.co.uk

lung cancer

Scientists have unlocked the entire genetic code of two of the most common cancers – skin and lung – a move they say could revolutionise cancer care.

Not only will the cancer maps pave the way for blood tests to spot tumours far earlier, they will also yield new drug targets, says the Wellcome Trust team.

Scientists around the globe are now working to catalogue all the genes that go wrong in many types of human cancer.

The UK is looking at breast cancer, Japan at liver and India at mouth.

China is studying stomach cancer, and the US is looking at cancers of the brain, ovary and pancreas.

The International Cancer Genome Consortium scientists from the 10 countries involved say it will take them at least five years and many hundreds of thousands of dollars to complete this mammoth task.

But once they have done this, patients will reap the benefits.

Professor Michael Stratton, who is the UK lead, said: “These catalogues are going to change the way we think about individual cancers.

“By identifying all the cancer genes we will be able to develop new drugs that target the specific mutated genes and work out which patients will benefit from these novel treatments.

“We can envisage a time when following the removal of a cancer cataloguing it will become routine.”

It could even be possible to develop MoT-style blood tests for healthy adults that can check for tell-tale DNA patterns suggestive of cancer.

Russian Roulette

The scientists found the DNA code for a skin cancer called melanoma contained more than 30,000 errors almost entirely caused by too much sun exposure.

Most of the time the mutations will land in innocent parts of the genome, but some will hit the right targets for cancer

The lung cancer DNA code had more than 23,000 errors largely triggered by cigarette smoke exposure.

From this, the experts estimate a typical smoker acquires one new mutation for every 15 cigarettes they smoke.

Although many of these mutations will be harmless, some will trigger cancer.

Wellcome Trust researcher Dr. Peter Campbell, who conducted this research, published in the journal Nature, said: “It’s like playing Russian roulette.

GAO: FDA Not Pulling Unproven Drugs

Government Accountability Probe Finds Poor Follow-Up by Drug Watchdog on Fast-Tracked Medications

fda

(AP) The Food and Drug Administration has allowed drugs for cancer and other diseases to stay on the market even when follow-up studies showed they didn’t extend patients’ lives, say congressional investigators.

A report due out Monday from the Government Accountability Office also shows that the FDA has never pulled a drug off the market due to a lack of required follow-up about its actual benefits – even when such information is more than a decade overdue.

When pressed about that policy, agency officials said they have no plans to get more aggressive.

The GAO says the FDA should do more to track whether drugs approved based on preliminary results actually have lived up to their promise.

The FDA responded that the report paints an overly negative picture of its so-called “accelerated approval” program, which is only used to approve drugs for the most serious diseases.

“Millions of patients with serious or life-threatening illnesses have had earlier access to new safe and effective treatments,” thanks to the program, the FDA said in its response to the report.

Fighting Cancer With Fruit

by David Servan-Schreiber, MD PhD.

fruit

New research shows our bodies are surprisingly good at fighting some cancers on their own. Dr. David Servan-Schreiber on how lifestyle changes can be as effective as surgery or chemo.

Last week, a large study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and picked up by The New York Times courageously raised the question of whether prostate-cancer screening and mammograms are really useful screening exams for cancer.

It’s a fascinating question to ponder in and of itself. But challenging the need for these common tests illuminates an even more tantalizing fact: Cancer is not the ominous downhill process it has been feared to be for several decades. Yes, cancer starts with genetically abnormal cells that begin to grow wildly. The evidence now shows, however, that many small tumors of cancer cells are perfectly well contained by our body’s natural defenses, and often even disappear on their own. Cancer, we now know, is not a one-way street. Small tumors may appear, grow a bit, and then go away.

In one study, women who were treated for their cancer had a 50 percent reduction in relapse risk if they ate five vegetables and fruits per day and practiced 30 minutes of physical activity six days a week.

What this means is that lifestyle choices that weaken or strengthen the natural defenses that protect us against cancer may play a major role in whether early tumors develop—or not—into a dangerous disease.

Yet, over the past 30 years, “early detection” has been the primary and almost exclusive mantra of our medical institutions when it comes to breast- and prostate-cancer prevention. These rather expensive—and lucrative—mammograms and biopsies were based on the assumption that cancer inevitably progresses, and had become a largely unchallenged practice. Even though most experts have known for some time that the benefits of these screenings are limited, and that the downsides of overtreatment are significant, they have been hesitant to say so publicly for lack of an alternative.

Missing from this debate is the fact that well-proven prevention methods do exist for breast, prostate, and other cancers. For example, an 11-country European study published in JAMA in 2004 observed that people who did not smoke for at least 15 years, used moderate amounts of alcohol, had 30 minutes of physical activity (e.g., walking) six days a week, and ate a diet rich in anticancer ingredients (such as the Mediterranean diet, with fish, olive oil, plenty of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and low in refined sugar and red meat) had a 60 percent lower chance of ever getting cancer. This was confirmed by another, larger study a few years later, with a similar reduction in cancer rates.

The benefits of such lifestyle intervention even extend to women who already have cancer. In a large California-based study, women who were treated for their cancer had a 50 percent reduction in relapse risk if they ate five vegetables and fruits per day and practiced 30 minutes of physical activity six days a week. Even more impressively, after conventional treatment for stage II or III breast cancer, women who participated in a lifestyle and stress-reduction program had a 68 percent reduction in mortality compared to those who followed conventional treatment alone. In the same manner, a variety of simple lifestyle interventions have been found to dramatically slow down the growth of prostate cancer, even when it is already in place. These include ground flax seeds for breakfast, pomegranate juice, green tea, tomato sauce, fatty fish, and physical exercise.

If early detection of breast or prostate cancer were used to encourage people to adopt these healthier habits instead of sending them to surgery or chemotherapy, there would be no downside. Of course, the most advanced cases would still need immediate treatment, and the others would need to be followed closely to make sure that the lifestyle interventions worked. Early detection will always have a place in cancer medicine.

The old model of cancer as a purely genetic disorder that thrives outside of our control is slowly disappearing. Even our most conventional medical institutions are beginning to acknowledge the role of the body’s natural defenses—and our lifestyle choices that support them—in controlling whether cancer cells become a threatening disease or not. Now is the time for the funds and efforts directed toward recruitment for screening programs with questionable benefits to be spent differently. We need to teach children in our schools, employees in our corporations, and physicians in our hospitals how to really prevent cancer.

David Servan-Schreiber, MD, Ph.D., is clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh and a founding board member of Doctors Without Borders, USA. He is the author of Anticancer: A New Way of Life. (Viking)

original link: www.thedailybeast.com

In Shift, Cancer Society Has Concerns on Screenings

By Gina Kolata

cancer

via www.nytimes.com

The American Cancer Society, which has long been a staunch defender of most cancer screening, is now saying that the benefits of detecting many cancers, especially breast and prostate, have been overstated.

It is quietly working on a message, to put on its Web site early next year, to emphasize that screening for breast and prostate cancer and certain other cancers can come with a real risk of overtreating many small cancers while missing cancers that are deadly.

“We don’t want people to panic,” said Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the cancer society. “But I’m admitting that American medicine has overpromised when it comes to screening. The advantages to screening have been exaggerated.”

Prostate cancer screening has long been problematic. The cancer society, which with more than two million volunteers is one of the nation’s largest voluntary health agencies, does not advocate testing for all men. And many researchers point out that the PSA prostate cancer screening test has not been shown to prevent prostate cancer deaths.

There has been much less public debate about mammograms. Studies from the 1960s to the 1980s found that they reduced the death rate from breast cancer by up to 20 percent.

The cancer society’s decision to reconsider its message about the risks as well as potential benefits of screening was spurred in part by an analysis published Wednesday in The Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. Brawley said.

In it, researchers report a 40 percent increase in breast cancer diagnoses and a near doubling of early stage cancers, but just a 10 percent decline in cancers that have spread beyond the breast to the lymph nodes or elsewhere in the body. With prostate cancer, the situation is similar, the researchers report.

If breast and prostate cancer screening really fulfilled their promise, the researchers note, cancers that once were found late, when they were often incurable, would now be found early, when they could be cured. A large increase in early cancers would be balanced by a commensurate decline in late-stage cancers. That is what happened with screening for colon and cervical cancers. But not with breast and prostate cancer.

Still, the researchers and others say, they do not think all screening will — or should — go away. Instead, they say that when people make a decision about being screened, they should understand what is known about the risks and benefits.