Herb Standardization

Dr. Rich Easterling

The common misconception that the medical effect of an herb is similar to a pharmaceutical drug-in that it is due to a single ingredient has led to a dangerous notion that in turn should allow big Pharma to patent and dispense them in a dangerous and toxic manner, not unlike the one already in place for the patent drugs that are their stock and trade in today’s “better living through chemistry” environment. The push toward standardizing herbs to the “so-called” active ingredient making them more like drugs is on.
When there is no respect for each herb as found in nature in a whole and perfect state, separating its constituents will create side effects and problems. An example is ginger (zingiber officinalis); an ancient Indian proverb declares “Every good quality is contained in ginger”. In the ayurvedic medical system it is called vishwabhesaj the universal medicine. Confucicius wrote that he was never without ginger when he ate; emperors Claudius and Nero used ginger for stomach relief; and it gained praise in the De Material Medica in 77 C.E. for its ability to “warm and soften the stomach”. In Japan it has long been used for joint and spinal pains; in Philippines used for headaches; in China for toothache and hangovers; in Brazil, the Sudan and Papua-New Guinea to treat arthritis. It inhibits cox-2 the pro-inflammatory enzyme that drugs like Celebrex have tried (with deadly side effects) to inhibit. When you can make billions what is paying settlements in the millions to survivors other than a profitable business transaction?
Speaking of ginger with, approximately five hundred identified compounds, many with known biological activities, working in harmonious complimentary fashion that have been shown to have a profound measurable benefit, ginger is a top notch herb. Each compound has a specialized effect and purpose whether influencing a particular protein, enzyme, antioxidant or being involved in synergistic or buttressing the activity of other compounds. Celebrex on the other hand, has a single molecule, isolated to do one thing. This molecule would never be found nor was it intended to be, in the human body. The side effects show you why. The same is true for drugs and standardized, one ingredient “herbs”.
On a technical level the multiple constituents in ginger inhibit the cox-2 enzyme as well as the 5-lipoxygenase metabolism of arachidonic acid thereby depriving prostate cancer cells of their fuel for growth. Ginger through its antipyretic (anti-heat) producing effects inhibits the creation of prostaglandin PGE2 an extremely pro-flammatory prostaglandin. Ginger also balances production of prostaglandins PGE3 and PGE12, which also regulate the production of compounds that dilate the arteries. The constituents in ginger restore, in a safe manner, platelet function by inhibiting the function of an eicosanoid group called thromboxanes (the main reason people take aspirin knowingly or not), ginger has 180 times the protein digesting enzymes than the well known papaya.
Too numerous to list, the qualities of ginger are the stuff of legends, however a tragedy exists in that modern allopathic medicine, its proponents and scientists feel that synthetic, patentable substitutes must be used rather than the wisdom of nature. Why? Look no further than 1 Timothy 6:10 (KJV) for the obvious answer.
Another example that is popular today is the herb St. John’s Wort (hypericum perforatum) used as a natural remedy for depression. Most over the counter varieties of this product have been standardized to the hypericin content although research on St. John’s Wort indicates hypericin is not the compound responsible for its antidepressant qualities. Like ginger, St. John’s Wort has many constituents including a number of flavinoids, and various other components that work together with hypericin to produce a profound healing effect. When an herb is standardized for an active ingredient, the likelihood of removing other beneficial ingredients is great and these other compounds may enhance the effectiveness of the active ingredients or even reduce any potential side effects through natural buffering by inherent plant wisdom.
With the focus by big pharma on the healing power of botanicals, their aim is to identify and isolate the bioactive substances. They have become experts at changing nature and making molecular modifications to an herb’s bioactive substance enabling the pharmaceutical company to produce an analog or a synthetic product that is patentable, proprietary and most importantly, highly profitable.
These products have both a plus and a minus side. On the plus side some of the most effective cancer fighting drugs have come from the ability to isolate components of herbs. The periwinkle plant (catharanthus roseus) is a good example. The alkaloids in periwinkle called vinca alkaloids have led to two of the commonly used antineoplastic agents; Vincristine and Vinblastine. Vincristine is used for acute leukemia in both children and adults and has played a part in combination therapies for Hodgkin’s disease, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Ewing’s sarcoma, neuroblastoma, multiple myeloma, and breast cancer. Vinblastine is used for Hodgkin’s disease, germ cell cancers of the testis and nonsmall-cell lung cancer.
Using botanically derived drugs such as the vinca alkaloids is a very aggressive way to treat cancer and on the positive side it can work well against aggressive fast-growing cancers while on the negative side this may not be the best approach in dealing with a less aggressive form of cancer. Although not patentable and not as highly profitable these forms of plant derived drugs are a long way from the natural plant and have the accompanying side effects and toxicity of a drug. It is a fact that many people who have the disease die from the cytotoxic agents used in the treatment rather than from the cancer itself.
The worry as well as the hope of cytotoxic plant agents being combined with all the plant’s constituents used as a whole, full spectrum medicine from the earth to help people is the hope, thus enabling cancer patients to use these botanicals to knock out cancerous cells while sparing healthy cells. The worry is that if given even more power the medical establishment especially pharmaceutical companies would be even more out of control than they are now.
I believe that our creator did not put these incredible healing plants here so that people were not important when profits were taken into consideration. These special gifts were undoubtedly put here for the healing of the nations and the betterment of mankind. In the words of Hippocrates we should let out medicine be our food and our food be our medicine.
Take Good Care,

Dr. Rich Easterling N.D. Ph. D