Arnica montana is one of the most valuable homeopathic remedies. Also known as Leopard’s bane, this member of the Compositae—or Sunflower —family is used as a specific to reduce bruising and swelling, particularly after physical traumas such as falls or blows. It can be applied in a cream, gel, salve, or tincture, or taken internally.
Used by Native American and Europeans for centuries, Arnica was first described in the sixteenth century by the naturalist Tabernae Montanus, for whom it is named. The plant grows in the mountains in Europe and Siberia, where the grazing goats and oxen eat it. The yellow flowers, which are the medicinal part of the plant, are two to three inches in diameter and look similar to a daisy, hence its name Mountain Daisy. Because Arnica requires specific soil conditions, it has proved difficult to cultivate and the natural supply has become endangered.
Arnica is a wonder drug for treating trauma. It can be used to aid injuries from accidents and hemorrhages, both internal and external. Arnica can be given to treat the acute and chronic effects of injuries, but its main area of effect is for shock and trauma. It offers quick relief of concussions and contusions, aiding in the reabsorption of blood from injured tissues.
Inflammation is a reaction caused by damaged cells. It produces chemicals that cause tissue to swell and dilate. This reaction allows more blood to reach the effected area, to bring nutrients and oxygen to speed healing. This is a healthy reaction, but in times of great trauma, the increase in pressure caused by the swelling can be damaging in itself, for example in head injuries. And when the inflammatory process is continual, as in chronic disease, the swelling begins to deteriorate the tissue because of the continued overheating caused by the inflammation.
In recent years, newspapers have been trumpeting the news that vitamins C, D and E—as well as multi-vitamins preparations—do not prevent heart attack, stroke or cancer. These reports have led to a great deal of confusion and disillusionment among health-conscious consumers, many of whom already take supplements and are genuinely interested in practical ways to bolster their health and well-being. But is it really true that vitamin supplements are a waste of money and possibly even harmful for you? What are we to make of recent media pronouncements that most people are popping these pills without deriving any benefit whatsoever?
First of all, it’s important to understand that the vast majority of these negative reports are, in reality, old news wrapped in tabloid-style headlines. Many news reports fall woefully short of telling the whole story about a scientific study or about the conclusions of the scientific community regarding a specific issue. Media reports often present a study’s findings in a scattershot, fragmented manner, and without the proper scientific context—for example, by failing to acknowledge the many studies that have, in fact, found vitamins to be beneficial to the people who take them.
Jane Brody’s Personal Health column in the 24 March 2009 edition of the New York Times is a case in point. The report was titled “Extra Vitamin E: No Benefit, Maybe Harm.” Because Brody is widely respected as a health journalist, her messages are often taken as gospel. But those who understand the fundamentals of nutrition and the science of supplements can read between the lines. For example, before discussing the vitamin E research, Brody makes this comment: “Some vitamin E enthusiasts object that the clinical studies used what they consider the wrong form of the vitamin, saying that each of the vitamin’s eight forms has its own biological activity. But the kind of vitamin E used in most studies, alpha-tocopherol, is the most active form in humans, according to the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH’s) Office of Dietary Supplements.”
Merck was in trouble. In 2002, the pharmaceutical giant was falling behind its rivals in sales. Even worse, patents on five blockbuster drugs were about to expire, which would allow cheaper generics to flood the market. The company hadn’t introduced a truly new product in three years, and its stock price was plummeting.
In interviews with the press, Edward Scolnick, Merck’s research director, laid out his battle plan to restore the firm to preeminence. Key to his strategy was expanding the company’s reach into the antidepressant market, where Merck had lagged while competitors like Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline created some of the best-selling drugs in the world. “To remain dominant in the future,” he told Forbes, “we need to dominate the central nervous system.”
His plan hinged on the success of an experimental antidepressant codenamed MK-869. Still in clinical trials, it looked like every pharma executive’s dream: a new kind of medication that exploited brain chemistry in innovative ways to promote feelings of well-being. The drug tested brilliantly early on, with minimal side effects, and Merck touted its game-changing potential at a meeting of 300 securities analysts.
Behind the scenes, however, MK-869 was starting to unravel. True, many test subjects treated with the medication felt their hopelessness and anxiety lift. But so did nearly the same number who took a placebo, a look-alike pill made of milk sugar or another inert substance given to groups of volunteers in clinical trials to gauge how much more effective the real drug is by comparison. The fact that taking a faux drug can powerfully improve some people’s health—the so-called placebo effect—has long been considered an embarrassment to the serious practice of pharmacology.
Ultimately, Merck’s foray into the antidepressant market failed. In subsequent tests, MK-869 turned out to be no more effective than a placebo. In the jargon of the industry, the trials crossed the futility boundary.
At the end of 2007, the U.S. dietary supplement industry recorded sales of $23.7 billion, according to Nutrition Business Journal. With roughly 33,000 dietary supplements on the U.S. market, it’s no surprise that with today’s nutritionally challenged diet there were 192 million Americans using supplements in 2007, a number that is expected to keep growing.
In addition to wanting to provide a basic nutritional “insurance policy” offered by a multivitamin, people take nutritional supplements for a variety of health-promoting reasons. In a 2000 survey conducted by Yankelovich Partners and commissioned by the Natural Products Association (NPA), seven out of 10 Americans take supplements because they make them feel better.
With the December 22nd, 2006, enactment of the Dietary Supplement and Nonprescription Drug Consumer Protection Act (often called the Serious Adverse Event Reporting [SAER] Law) and the August 24, 2007 implementation of the final rule on Current Good Manufacturing Practices (often called the cGMPs of federal GMPs, 21 CFR Part 111) — along with complementary and innovative industry self-regulatory programs—consumers have arguably never been better protected.
Not so, says a new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), entitled Dietary Supplements: FDA Should Take Further Actions to Improve Oversight and Consumer Understanding.
Broadly, the GAO report recommends: “…that the Secretary of Health and Human Services direct the Commissioner of the FDA to request additional authority to oversee dietary supplements, issue guidance on new dietary ingredients and to clarify the boundary between dietary supplements and foods with added dietary ingredients, and take steps to improve consumer understanding of dietary supplements.”
“I am troubled that the FDA lacks the basic information necessary to protect consumers from unsafe dietary supplements […] The FDA clearly needs more resources to give consumers real protection,” announced Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-CA) upon release of the report.
His colleague, Rep. John D. Dingell (D-MI), added: “FDA needs the resources and adequate authorities [sic] so the agency can start addressing this problem.”
Among the report’s many conclusions, the GAO notably recommends that the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) “direct[s] the [FDA] Commissioner” to require dietary supplement companies to “report all adverse events related to dietary supplements.”
The SAER Law already well protects consumers and has already demonstrated its ability to provide a signal to the FDA for action. The number of serious adverse event reports is in the hundreds, as compared to the hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of serious adverse events for drugs and foods.
Why then would the GAO report require the reporting of all dietary supplement adverse events when this is not required for foods or drugs? This simply does not make any sense.
On top of this, the FDA itself doesn’t even think this makes sense. In its response to the report, the FDA wrote: “[…] it is not clear that all the information would actually enhance product safety.”
Finally, to top it off, did you know that the GAO, in fact, works for Congress? The head of GAO, the Comptroller General of the United States, is appointed to a 15-year term by the President from a slate of candidates Congress proposes, so clearly its reports are developed to provide support for agenda-driven “requests” from Senators and members of Congress, including the ones who requested this report. Ergo, it’s not always, or necessarily, the independent watchdog it’s often thought to be.
Gormley Take-Away: Lawmakers grandstanding and the GAO report notwithstanding, dietary supplements are by far much safer than foods and drugs. What happened to the facts?
1. Some have stated that the dietary supplement industry is largely “unregulated”.
My response: This is not really a fair statement considering that recent regulatory efforts – supported by that same industry – have clamped down on the industry’s freedom to operate outside the regulatory system. Drug and dietary supplement regulation are becoming more and more similar, though the safety records of the two types of products are remarkably distinct. The dietary supplement industry is now largely regulated, with more and more regulations closing the gaps. Indeed, the industry strongly supported the law to ban steroid precursors from being sold as dietary supplements, making all such products illegal drugs. And the 2006 passage of a law to require all serious adverse events to be reported to MedWatch within 3 weeks – now in effect – is an appropriate method of monitoring safety and determining problem areas needing increased monitoring or official action; though we should not confuse raw AERs with actual evidence of causes-and-effects. The implementation of the long-delayed current good manufacturing practices (cGMP) regulations (that were actually authorized by the oft-maligned DSHEA law in 1994) now requires all supplement manufacturers to be cGMP compliant over the next two years, but with the largest manufacturers required to follow that standard no later than this coming June (2008). cGMP regulations are forcing manufacturers to have quality controls on raw materials and finished goods throughout the manufacturing process, including identity and safety testing. The FDA already prohibits all adulterated products, and has in fact used its authority to act against known offenders, as noted by the agency itself.
2. There are claims that “the Institute of Medicine and the Food and Drug Administration have found that supplement health claims are largely unsupported”.
My response: The FDA clearly regulates supplement label claims and requires manufacturers to submit all label claims and maintain proper documentation. The agency apparently does not review this information unless there is a problem; meanwhile making manufacturers submit such information to it while requiring a contradictory label disclaimer that the FDA has not reviewed the claims. I guess that’s what’s called “plausible deniability”. However, the vast majority of responsible manufacturers are careful to present adequate documentation to the FDA, and the cGMP regulations require well-documented justification of all processes, including the writing of label claims. DSHEA requires preapproval of all new dietary supplement ingredients with an eye to proving safety, though manufacturers are allowed to use existing ingredients if they first submit their new label claims to the agency. All new drugs need pre-approval, as do all new supplement ingredients, but drugs are approved for specific uses (though often used for other unapproved “off label” conditions) while supplements are not allowed to make any disease claims, with very few exceptions for FDA-approved health claims. www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/supplmnt.html
Once again, a widely distributed article has savagely attacked the safety and efficacy of natural products; including vitamins, minerals, and herbs. That this article may be more commentary than journalism is immediately revealed by the author inexplicably linking energy medicine (with admitted health benefits for patients) with a concocted image of “shooing evil spirits”, even when performed by technicians in a top trauma hospital. The ignorance of journalists and medical experts is exposed when they claim that natural products are intended as cures and treatments. These products are actually prohibited by law from claiming this; allowed only documented claims to support healthy body structures and functions. Ironically, this is the same law – the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, DSHEA – that is falsely mischaracterized as “deregulation” of the industry. In fact, this law prohibits new ingredients without FDA pre-approval; empowers the agency to regulate manufacturing, advertising, and label claims; prohibits unsafe, adulterated, and mislabeled products; and even allows banning a product based on only theoretical risks. A recent companion law requires all serious adverse events be reported to the FDA; generating far fewer reports than expected.
The erroneous assumption that dietary supplements should be considered as potential treatments or cures has resulted in many negative reports. One problem is that some medical researchers, perhaps too used to drug studies using novel substances, sometimes base reports mainly on supplementation levels but fail to properly understand or explain other relevant variables such as dietary intake and relationships to other nutrients that affect body levels and functions of the targeted nutrient. The synergies of natural substances in the diet are complex and interactive, but many researchers design simplistic studies that generate incomplete or misleading data; often leading to dramatic conclusions that the pharmaceutical advertising-dependent press eats up. A press that fails to investigate and present all of the relevant facts and perspectives in a sensational negative report may be accused of laziness, if not bias. Rigorous studies refuting negative reports about the safety of vitamin E, beta-carotene, herbs, the use of supplements with cancer treatments, and drug-nutrient interactions have been noticeably absent from the same media that eagerly broadcasts reports attacking nature’s own nourishing substances. Sadly, there is no matching eagerness to set the record straight.
Let’s keep this in perspective. We have all seen drugs pulled from the market because of unforeseen safety issues, medical schools and authors of articles published in peer-reviewed journals accused of being on the take from pharmaceutical companies, contaminated drugs as well as hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of hospitalizations caused by pharmaceutical side effects each year. Foods cause hundreds of deaths and millions of illnesses annually. Compare this to dietary supplement safety, where proven deaths are extremely rare. Supplement users believe in the healing power of nature, at odds with the often unproven treatments of conventional medicine. The goal of Integrative Medicine is putting aside traditional institutional medical bias to allow science to dictate the comprehensive treatment of an individual patient, including quality of life issues. Many millions of Americans choose to use natural products in order to protect and improve their own health and vitality. Reasonable people will reject these sensational assaults on natural health (including dietary supplements), recognizing that conventional medicine sometimes fails without a little help from Mother Nature.
Like most herbs, there are two sides to oregano: the culinary and the medicinal. For centuries people have used plants and herbs of all sorts for their apparent health giving qualities. How convenient that something so healthy can also add so much flavor to our daily diets.
To explore the two sides of oregano, we’ve enlisted the help of Brenda Hyde, editor of SeedsOfKnowledge.com, a website dedicated to creating and sharing family memories, and Lucinda Jenkins, editor of GlenbrookFarm.com, a comprehensive herbal website.
We’ve filled this article out with some recipes from right here at FabulousFoods.com, so you can experiment with the distinctive flavor of oregano yourself. Find them in the related recipes section below.
The Culinary Side of Oregano
By Brenda Hyde
Oregano is an herb everyone is familiar with in some form or another. It’s an easy to grow perennial with some controversy surrounding it.
I was told long ago that true oregano has white flowers, but many times we end up with a plant that has pinkish flowers. This is actually wild marjoram. I have two large oregano plants that are probably not true oregano but sure do work well in all recipes, vinegars and the flowers are wonderful dried and used on wreaths. To be sure of what you are getting talk to someone at your garden center that understands the difference.
Oregano can be used fresh with sautéed zucchini and onions, or is a welcome addition along with cilantro to black beans.
For a simple elegant appetizer, carefully grill thick slices of provolone cheese that have been sprinkled with oregano. When the cheese is warmed and starts to melt spread on crusty fresh bread with a butter knife.
Add oregano to your fresh salsa recipes, or any Mexican dishes as well as Italian recipes.
The leaves can be dried on the stem and crumbled into jars, or frozen in individual bags, then used as fresh.
One oregano plant that is put in full sun, fairly dry soil and harvested frequently will supply all that you need. It does grow quickly and spread, but that will allow you to pot up some oregano for your windowsill and for your friends!
The Medicinal Side of Oregano By Lucinda Jenkins
Oregano: origanum vulgare
Heard the spicy news about oregano? There is a lot of research going on right now with this common kitchen cupboard herb. It seems to be able to land a knock punch to free radicals those awful compounds in our body that cause us to age and get sick.
In a recent study sited by James Duke in his book the Green Pharmacy, Oregano a member of the mint family out ranked over 100 mint family herbs in delivering rosmarinic acid.
Action and uses: Rosmarinic acid is a compound in oregano that is
antibacterial: will kill bacteria
anti-imflammatory: will ease swelling
antioxidant: means anti-aging
anti-viral: it will kill a virus
So not only is oregano tea good for helping to heal from a cold ,it is helpful with arthritis.
I read a comment on the internet that Oregano essential oil is strong enough to treat sewage, meaning it could kills all the nasty bacteria in sewage. I can’t back that up but thought it was an “interesting” claim.
Oregano is currently being studied by the Delaware State Univerisity with federally funded dollars, which means there is something to the powerful claims made by Scientist W H Martindale in 1910, documented that the essential oil of oregano is the most powerful plant-derived antiseptic known. He showed it was 26 times more active as an antiseptic than phenol (a powerful disinfectant).
WakeupWalmart.com supports the use of generic prescription drugs as a safe alternative to expensive, name-brand medications. Walmart’s use of a corporate bad actor to cut costs, however, deserves significant scrutiny.
Walmart is heavily promoting a program of 30-day supplies of generic drugs for $4, pointing to the program as an indicator of the company’s leadership on making healthcare more affordable. To profit on $4 dollar prescriptions, Walmart is importing drugs from foreign countries, including India. Walmart competitor Costco went a different direction in late 2006, when it ended its $4 dollar prescription drug plan because it was losing money selling prescription drugs at such a low price. Costco switched to selling 100 pills for $10.
One of Walmart’s Indian drug suppliers, Ranbaxy Laboratories, LTD, has been repeatedly investigated by the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Justice for “inadequate” safeguards against contamination, falsification of records and submitting false information to the FDA. Eight months before the FDA inspected Ranbaxy’s Paonta Sahib plant and found significant violations, Walmart awarded the company a “Supplier Award” for improving shipping times and performance.
In 2008, the FDA banned importation of drugs manufactured at two of Ranbaxy’s plants, and in 2009, the FDA halted review of applications to import drugs manufactured at the Paonta Sahib plant. Soon thereafter, Canada followed suit and banned importation of drugs manufactured at that facility.
Yet Walmart still imports generic drugs made by Ranbaxy at its other Indian facilities.
If retailers ask their customers about dietary supplement safety, they’re bound to get a variety of responses, especially considering that quality and safety often go hand-in-hand.
In terms of quality, Vitamin Retailer magazine’s 2007 Annual Retailer Survey showed that the percentage of retailers who identify “high quality” as the most important element of their store’s success nearly doubled from the previous year—from 13.9 percent to 27 percent.
While a 2008 survey sponsored by the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) tells us that over 80 percent of American consumers are confident that they are buying high-quality and safe dietary supplements, bad press is likely to discourage potential, fence-sitting shoppers from hopping off that fence and going into their favorite health food store, especially if yet another scientific study has just been misrepresented by researchers or misreported by media.
A public-service ad that first aired in December 1993 showed camouflaged Federal agents equipped in full Special Forces gear, including night vision and weapons converging on Mel Gibson, who says, in defense, as he holds up a supplement bottle: “Hey. Guys. Guys. It’s only vitamins.”
This call-to-action video warned consumers that the Federal government is “actually considering classifying most vitamins and other supplements as drugs. The FDA has already conducted raids on doctors’ offices and health food stores. Could raids on individuals be next?”
Near the end of the ad, as Mel Gibson’s character is being arrested, he says in desperation: “Vitamin C, you know, like in oranges?”