Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Industry’ Category

Herbal medicine as substrate for art

I recently watched an instagram video loop of a lovely young herbalist chopping roots from a wildcrafted plant. Her feed is full of poetic and intimate photographs of herbs. I feel her sense of wonder and awe of the natural world by the way she chooses to portray them.

I pause when these artistic tokens enter my screen. Not only do they imbibe the viewer with a sense of beauty and connection to nature- the use of herbal materials and techniques for art also spurs a curious contrast with the use of herbs as medicine. Read more

On Ghost pipe and respect

Ghost pipe (Monotropa uniflora) has received a lot of attention on the blogosphere in recent years. As a mycoheterotroph (takes nutrients from both trees and fungi) it does not photosynthesize, giving it a ghostly, ethereal white appearance. It’s simply breathtaking.

It’s lovely to photograph and share on social media. Yes, the tincture is a breathtakingly beautiful violet color. Yes, it is effective as an analgesic and anxiolytic herb. But it’s become too popular, and stands are disappearing. It’s being misused. Read more

Herbal medicine, according to stock photography

Curious about the public perception of herbalists and herbal medicine, I searched the iStock photo library. To be honest, I expected image results that were closer to a caricature than an actual living, functioning herbalist. But we see people touching plants, plants scattered about on trays and counters and things. These photos highlight the plants themselves, and direct connection with them. Nice.

The images of herbal medicine themselves were expectedly mild, nice, trim and prim. (Albeit with an overuse of mortal and pestles.)

Scroll below for some results. Regard the people in the photos: do you notice a slight pattern? It’s not exactly an daunting task to deduce the demographics associated with herbal medicine in the public eye.

stock-photo-59531388-healing-herbs-in-hessian-bags-and-bottles-of-essential-oil stock-photo-42019874-women-with-medicinal-herbs

Read more

How to email people

I’ve had the pleasure to work for several high-impact and well-known figures in the mycology and medical fields. Over the years of being a research assistant and science educator, I’ve handled an extraordinary amount of email inquiries: speaking and interview requests, research collaboration proposals, business proposals, technical questions, requests for personal advice and mentorship. And throughout that time, I’ve come to understand what makes emails compelling and engaging, and how to effectively communicate a message or request. Here are some of the key points to consider when you’re emailing someone for the first time. Read more

The AncientBiotics Project – testing medieval remedies to treat contemporary pathogens

Researchers at the University of Nottingham in the UK investigated a formulation was a 10th century remedy for eye infections from Bald’s Leechbook to treat MRSA. The main ingredients include garlic, alliums, wine, and oxgall (cow bile), steeped for 9 days.

So far, the research seems promising. The data is not yet available, but the investigators claim that Bald’s eyesalve-

  • eradicated of 90% of MRSA cells in vivo (murine wound infection model),
  • penetrated biofilms,

Furthermore, a dilution did not eradicate but inhibited quorum sensing and the ingredients tested as sole agents did not demonstrate the same antimicrobial effects. 

Now, this is preclinical in vitro and in vivo research–the clinical significance is not clear. The mechanisms of action have not been elucidated by the team, but they suspect the complex array of antimicrobial compounds target bacterial reproduction and biofilm formation in several ways. And from our knowledge of phytochemical complexity and systems biology, this would seem to make sense. The findings were presented the findings at the Annual Conference of the Society for General Microbiology on 3/30/15.

Not only do I find this type of research collaboration (medieval studies and microbiology) fascinating, but I think the applications to antibiotic resistant bacteria are very relevant and important. I think future treatments for antibiotic resistant bacteria will be complex and target multiple aspects of the infection cascade. This is a great partnership and promising field–and I look forward to more developments.

UK Dept of Health report on herbal medicine regulations

The UK Department of Health just released a report entitled Advice on regulating herbal medicines and practitioners for the purpose of advising the government on the regulation of herbal practice. The Herbal Medicines Working Group, the responsible party, seems to not have included all stakeholders (with the exception of a few Ayurvedic practitioners). None of the NIMH herbalists are listed as having any participation in the discussions.

One of the conclusions of this report: there is insufficient evidence to allow herbalists to self-regulate. Ergo they must be regulated. The situation in the UK is complex, and I leave my seasoned English colleagues to offer more insightful commentary. But this is clearly one more step among many that is stilfing and suffocating herbal practice. Read more

The Sustainable Herbs Project

As an herbalist who helps formulate and develop herbal supplements, sourcing, supply chain and quality control are paramount. I want to help educate others on what constitutes good quality products and maintain quality standards in the industry.

Anthropologist Ann Armbrecht (who brought us the Numen film) is creating a new documentary called the Sustainable Herbs Project, which explores these facets of herbal trade and product development. They want to make it available for free. To do so, they’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the project. Please consider making a pledge (I did!) to make this documentary a reality and raise awareness about what goes into herbal supplements.

A Double-take on Herbal Adulteration

As an herbalist who works in the herbal product industry, I care about quality and adulteration in herbal trade. But what happened earlier this week just bugs me. Issues of herbal adulteration are good reasons to use local herbs and develop relationships with suppliers. My problem with this is that adulteration is not even confirmed in this case–it’s findings from only one lab, using methods that aren’t even considered acceptable for validation of herbal extracts.

James Schulte was commissioned to perform DNA barcoding on supplements from 4 retailers across NY state. The samples were sent to one lab and many failed DNA testing, leading to conclusions of herbal adulteration. The New York Attorney General subsequently issued cease and desist letters to Walmart, Target, GNC, and Walgreens to remove herbal products from their shelves that failed DNA authentication. Read more