DNA Barcoding detects Contamination and Substitution in North American herbal products

As herbal products are mostly unregulated you need to put in your due diligence to make sure you are buying from a reputable source.  As this late 2013 study indicates, the majority of the companies tested were not delivering as promised.

Usually your herbalist will have a good understanding of which sources of herbal products can be trusted.  Regulation may not be the solution as industry in general marginalizes herbal solutions.  Do not assume the herbs you buy at a health food store are of a good quality.  Do your homework.

The University of Guelph press release about the study: http://www.uoguelph.ca/news/2013/10/study_herbal_pr.html

The Study: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7015/11/222

From the press release:

The study, published today in the journal BMC Medicine, used DNA barcoding technology to test 44 herbal products sold by 12 companies. Only two of the companies provided authentic products without substitutions, contaminants or fillers. Overall, nearly 60 per cent of the herbal products contained plant species not listed on the label. Researchers detected product substitution in 32 per cent of the samples. More than 20 per cent of the products included fillers such as rice, soybeans and wheat not listed on the label.​

From the study:

Most of the herbal products tested were of poor quality, including considerable product substitution, contamination and use of fillers. These activities dilute the effectiveness of otherwise useful remedies, lowering the perceived value of all related products because of a lack of consumer confidence in them. We suggest that the herbal industry should embrace DNA barcoding for authenticating herbal products through testing of raw materials used in manufacturing products. The use of an SRM DNA herbal barcode library for testing bulk materials could provide a method for ‘best practices? in the manufacturing of herbal products. This would provide consumers with safe, high quality herbal products.

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I Have No Name

I have no name,
I am as the fresh breeze of the mountains.
I have no shelter;
I am as the wandering waters.
I have no sanctuary, like the dark gods;
Nor am I in the shadow of deep temples.
I have no sacred books;
Nor am I well-seasoned in tradition.
I am not in the incense
Mounting on the high altars,
Nor in the pomp of ceremonies.
I am neither in the graven image,
Nor in the rich chant of a melodious voice.
I am not bound by theories,
Nor corrupted by beliefs.
I am not held in the bondage of religions,
Nor in the pious agony of their priests.
I am not entrapped by philosophies,
Nor held in the power of their sects.
I am neither low nor high,
I am the worshipper and the worshipped.
I am free.
My song is the song of the river
Calling for the open seas,
Wandering, wandering,
I am Life.
I have no name,
I am as the fresh breeze of the mountains.

–Jiddu Krishnamurti

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Dr. Bernstein and Diabetes


We have a thread on our forums about Dr. Berstein as he has helped to pioneer coherent diabetes treatment despite facing decades of resistance from the mainstream of medicine.

Anyone with diabetes or blood sugar issues would be greatly benefitted by obtaining Dr. Berstein’s book Diabetes Solution as well as looking at his other books.

The essence of Dr. Berstein’s approach is a high fat, low-carbohydrate diet along with other, non-dietary measures that help to improve outcomes.  This may not sound like a radical proposal but when viewed in the context of both the history of medicine’s approach to diabetes, and even the current day mainstream approach, it is revolutionary.

My philosophy is that diabetics are entitled to the same blood sugar as the non-diabetics. This is exactly the opposite of the policy of the American Diabetes Association. I have related philosophy that to get normal blood sugars you have to do certain things. And one of the key things is a very low-carbohydrate diet. Because nothing else works. I’ve tried it all. I’ve had 64 years of diabetes.

I got my first meter in 1969, so I’ve had plenty of time to experiment and see what works. There’s no way the ADA diet or any high-carbohydrate and low-fat diet enable you to control blood sugars.

It turns out that the kind of diet I recommend is essentially a paleolithic diet – what humanity evolved on. Our ancestors did not have bread, wheat, sweet fruits, and all of the delicious things that we have today. These have been specially manufactured. Our ancestors had a paucity of roots, some leafs, and principally meat to eat. If they lived near the shore, they had fish.

My dietary recommendations boil down to what our ancestors ate. The American Diabetes Association repeatedly says that while low-carbohydrate diets may work, it’s an experiment and we haven’t enough years of trial of these diets to see if they do any harm. But the ADA diet is an experiment. It was never based on any history. In fact, it is the cause of the epidemic of obesity and diabetes. Whereas the original diet, the paleolithic diet, has been tested for tens of thousands of years. And it’s only when you deviate from it that you end up where we are now. — Dr. Bernstein

From Sea to Land

“We evolved in the ocean, developed methods of controlling potassium, sodium, and chloride across membranes to maintain metabolism and life (using solutes in the water), and, along with land plants, we now must carry the ocean water within our skins, controlling these electrolytes, bathing the outside surfaces of our cells as if they were single-celled organisms in the sea.” — Michael Moore

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A Beautiful Talk by Jiddu Krishnamurti on Living Simply


Jiddu Krishnamurti is a spiritual figure known for his radical dedication to understanding the actuality of day to day life.  Krishnamurti emphasized a direct and perceptual contact with life and denied any necessity to external sources or authorities in one’s own self-understanding.  Krishnamurti spent his life talking to audiences in various parts of the world about the actual facts of what we are doing to the world.

This beautiful talk, from 1953, starts off with the sentence: “It seems to me that it is one of the most difficult things to live simply, and perhaps this evening we can go into it not just at the superficial level but deeply, and try to find out what, in essence, it means to live simply.”

Now, our conception of a simple life is to possess only a few things or to have no possessions at all, but surely, that is not a simple life. We look up to those who lead a simple life in the physical sense, who have few clothes and no property, as though that were something marvelous. Why? Because we in ourselves are attached to things, to property. But is living a simple life merely a matter of denudation, the putting aside of physical things? Or is it much deeper? Though we may have but few things, inwardly we are always gathering, accumulating; we are bound to beliefs, to dogmas, to every form of experience and memory, and there is in us a ceaseless conflict between various wants, longings, hopes, desires. All this indicates not a simple life but a very complex inward life. So I think it is important to find out why the mind accumulates, consciously as well as unconsciously, why it cannot meet every incident, every reaction as though it were something new, fresh. Why must it translate each experience in terms of the old, in terms of what it has known? The mind is always accumulating experiences, reactions, storing them away as memory in order to use them for its own security. And is understanding, is intelligence the result of innumerable experiences? Or is it the capacity to look at things anew, to face life from moment to moment without the darkening effect of experience, of the past?

You can view this entire talk online for free at the J. Krishnamurti Online website.

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Vitamin D


The merits of Vitamin D supplementation are well known and it has become a common practice in many parts of the world.

The Vitamin D Council are one of the main research-based advocates for Vitamin D.  The Weston A. Price Foundation has also long been promoting the Vitamin.

What remains to be clarified is what is the optimal blood levels of Vitamin D and what are the optimal co-factors (there remains debate about if the Weston A. Price foundation is using too much Vitamin A, and they would suggest others are using not enough).

Too high levels of Vitamin D may be linked to the development of kidney stones (for example, see http://www.vitamincouncil.com/newsletter/2006-aug.shtml).

This study,

Kristine Ensrud et al. Circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D Levels and Frailty Status in Older Women. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, December 2010

found that both lower and higher levels of Vitamin D were associated with increased frailty.

Like most things in life, they should not be considered in isolation, nor should they be used in excess.

A reassuring study came out 3 days ago from the Mayo Clinic.  Read about it at Science Daily: Vitamin D toxicity rare in people who take supplements, researchers report

Americans have low vitamin D levels, research shows, and as a result, vitamin D supplement use has climbed in recent years. Vitamin D has been shown to boost bone health and it may play a role in preventing diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease and other illnesses. In light of the increased use of vitamin D supplements, researchers set out to learn more about the health of those with high vitamin D levels. They found that toxic levels are actually rare.

We have a Vitamin D thread started on our discussion forums.

Oh Mr. Ornish


Scientific American recently released an article titled Why Almost Everything Dean Ornish Says about Nutrition Is Wrong.  Dean Ornish is well known for his almost 4 decades of advocating for a low-fat, carb-heavy, vegetarian diet.

This article will come as no surprise to most herbalists.  It contains a good overview of some of the recent research that debunks Ornish’s proposals.

So there’s little evidence to suggest that we need to avoid protein and fat. But what about the claims Ornish makes about the success of his own diet—do they hold up to scrutiny? Not exactly.

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Jiddu Krishnamurti on Happiness


We may move from one refinement to another, from one subtlety to another, from one enjoyment to another; but at the center of it all, there is the ‘me’, the ‘me’ that is enjoying, that wants more happiness, the ‘me’ that searches, looks for, longs for happiness, the ‘me’ that struggles, the ‘me’ that becomes more and more refined, but never likes to come to an end. It is only when the ‘me’ in all subtle forms comes to an end that there is a state of bliss which cannot be sought after, an ecstasy, a real joy without pain, without corruption.

When the mind goes beyond the thought of the ‘me’, the experiencer, the observer, the thinker, then there is a possibility of a happiness that is incorruptible. That happiness cannot be permanent, in the sense in which we use that word. But, our mind is seeking permanent happiness, something that will last, that will continue. That very desire for continuity is corruption.

If we can understand the process of life without condemning, without saying it is right or wrong, then, I think, there comes a creative happiness which is not ‘yours’ or ‘mine’. That creative happiness is like sunshine. If you want to keep the sunshine to yourself, it is no longer the clear, warm life-giving sun. Similarly, if you want happiness because you are suffering, or because you have lost somebody, or because you have not been successful, then that is merely a reaction. But when the mind can go beyond, then there is a happiness that is not of the mind.

Jiddu Krishnamurti

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