Bacterial resistance update

Triclosan, a chlorinated polyphenolic compound found in a range of consumer products, has been touted as "antibacterial" and somehow linked, by extension, to providing safety and reducing infection in hospitals and homes. Thus, it's found its way over the last twenty years into soaps and cleansers, and more recently toothpaste (scary).
Scientist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor reviewed relevant research on this chemical and the products that contain it, and came to the inevitable conclusion: it doesn't really work at reducing infection rates in hospitals, nor is it any better than regular soap at reducing bacterial levels on hands. And, of course, they tracked and documented cross-resistance amongst bacteria exposed to Triclosan and those who've never tasted the stuff: these ubiquitous antibacterial preparations are contributing to bacterial adaptation and resistance. Our environment is awash in these types of substances already, and bacterial resistance is increasing. Antibiotics, which can be lifesavers in emergency situations, are one thing (overused, granted). But no one should be purchasing these Triclosan-containing products which are ineffective and dangerous to the environmental balance.


Spring in Italy - pt. 1

We returned to Italy in the last two weeks in April (mud season up here in Vermont), and got an amazing jump on Spring. For me it was a chance to see all my family again - it had been way too long! - and reconnect with old friends. Along the way, of course, we found many old friends of a different sort, like this flowering pink peony (Paeonia spp.)

Wild Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea)

Flowering Hawthorn (Crategus spp.)

Figs (Ficus carica)

Flowering Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

Hawthorn for a failing heart

Hawthorn (various Crategus species) received an endorsement in another Ernst-and-friends metareview. The review included 14 trials, and focused on hawthorn's ability to improve the maximum workload of the heart, and improve various cardiovascular markers during exercise-induced strain. The bottom line: hawthorn leaf and flower extract helps. A lot. Even if added to existing medication regimens.
Just to be clear, no new clinical research is coming out of this review. Rather, it attempts to collate existing studies and compare them using a common denominator. Further details on the data are below, but for now my opinion continues to be that hawthorn, either as a berry, a tasty jam, or as a leaf-and-flower extract (or tea), should always be considered as part of the protocol for cardiovascular weakness or imbalance. In fact, I might go further to say that most colorful berries would accomplish similar effects and that, in fact, a nice cocktail of all sorts of berry fruits is probably the best way to go for managing blood pressure, improving capillary integrity, and increasing the efficiency of the heart muscle. Eat well!


Canadian herbal product regulation

There's a somewhat alarming development afoot in Canada relating to the sale, use and dispensation of herbal medicines and "natural" supplements. We've been following the discussion on herbal product regulation here in the United States, and looked briefly at the impact that Canadian legislation passed in 2004 (very similar to the FDA's current rules) and the impact it's had on herbalists.
Now, the Canadian Ministry of Health is attempting to pass a bill that would radically step up enforcement of the new, stringent rules. These regulations are largely based on the framework of the Codex Alimentarius, a global agreement designed to 'harmonize' the preparation and dosing of various medicinal substances, from vitamins to herbs. Therefore, herbal products would have to be of ineffective potency and completely divorced from any health claims to be able to skirt this new legislation. No longer interested in regulating only drugs, the Canadian government wants to broaden its scope of oversight to all 'therapeutic substances' with this new law. Oh, and it steps up resources for enforcement and lowers the requirements for search and seizure (beware the herb police).
Many are showing righteous concern (here's a good legal summary from a concerned perspective). If the trends continue, we could see this coming in the United States soon.