Spring Tonics

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Here are a couple of spring tonic formulas, courtesy of the latest American Herbalist Guild newsletter. (Phil, I don't know anything about HTML, so if the formatting ends up wonky please fix it, thanks)

Spring Tonic Tincture

1 part Sassafras
1 part Dandelion
1 part Red Clover
1 part Burdock
1 part Nettles
1 part Astragalus
1/2 part Yarrow

Recommended dosage: 1/2 tsp 3 times a day Note: The FDA prohibits the sale of sassafras for internal consumption due to the presence of safarole, a compound found to be carcinogenic in animals. Use your own discretion.

Spring Tonic Tea

1 part Dandelion
1 part Nettles
1 part Red clover
1 part Schisandra
1/2 part licorice

Drink up to 2 cups daily.

Standard herbal disclaimers apply.

-- Sherri C in Central Indiana (CeltiaSkye@xaol.com), April 02, 2002


Hi Sherri, thanks for memories. We use to dig up sassafras root every spring and make tea out of it. The old timers said it was good for your blood! I haven't had it in years, but sure didn't know about it being carcinogin. Yikes!

-- Annie (mistletoe6@earthlink.net), April 02, 2002.

Annie, I don't know the particulars on safarole but sometimes these studies use unnaturally high amounts of a substance to "prove" that it is dangerous. Like you'd NEVER be able to consume enough in your life time to equal the amount they use for one dose. And remember, most studies are funded by someone with a profit in mind. Check out some good herbals and I doubt you'll find anything to worry about!

-- Bren (wayoutfarm@skybest.com), April 02, 2002.

Boy, I have been out of the loop just too long. I sure never heard that about Sassafras either, and we always dug it in the spring years back. I finally found a nice stand of it on the back line and intend to dig some. I think you are correct Bren.........the amounts they use in those tests are outrageous.

-- diane (gardiacaprines@yahoo.com), April 02, 2002.

I dissagree about the comments on studies. Yes, studies will give high amounts of a possible carcinogen to lab rats; this is to test what level causes cancer, if any. Once they have anumber, then they can calculate risk, but they need to explore the whole range of possible dosages. Scientists are very aware of the difficulties in extrapolating results from rats to humans. There has been a lot of studies comparing human and rat responses to different compounds, and one result has been the HERP (Human Exposure/Rodent Potency) index. This index allows the human carcinogenicity of a compound to be estimated from results of suspected carcinogen effects in rats. The effects are usually different, but that does not mean that the studies of effects in rats should be summarily discounted without review. One study showing carcinogenicity in rats does not prove that the substance is carcinogenic in humans, but it is a cause for concern. All the studies should be taken into account; many faulty conclusions have been made based on one study alone that was later shown to be flawed.

I also take issue with the statement that most studies are skewed because of the funding source. Most scientists take pride in that they are unbiased and try to take everything into account in studies. There are many funding sources that have no vested interest in the outcome of studies one way or the other. Most studies published in scientific journals are not from industries, but from universities, and ALL go through peer reviews with the intention of weeding out flawed studies before they're published. To make a general statement saying that studies are untrustworthy because of their funding source is false and denying yourself of a large amount of information. If you are concerned about such issues, every scientific article should have the source of the grant money and the place of work of the researchers in it. It is good to have skepticism of studies, but one also needs to have an open mind and take things on a case-by-case basis.

For a discussion about rat vs. human carcinogens, see this website: http://potency.berkeley.edu /herp.html
Here's an article about making rootbeer with an interesting discussion about safrole: http://hbd.org/brewery/ library/RootB.html

Skepticism aside, in the case of safrole, I do agree that it's carcinogenicity is probably overrated. According to the HERP index, the estimated danger of cancer to humans from drinking 12 oz of natural rootbeer daily is less than eating a head of lettuce once a week. There is safrole in other spices too, but they're about as carcinogenic as orange juice at average daily intakes. Almost all food can be shown to contain some carcinogen or other, especially after they're cooked, so we can't eliminate all carinogens from our diet.

-- Kayt Sted (czsjunk@yahoo.com), November 18, 2002.

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