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Reductionist vs. vitalist views.

Date: Sun, 17 Jul 1994 01:17:01 EDT
Sender: "Medicinal and Aromatic Plants discussion list <HERB.TREARN.BITNET>
From: Jtreasure.AOL.COM
Subject: Galen was a vitalist (was remedy)

mostly for Rob.../steve marsden/leighton.

OH NO, I can't believe we're wheeling out the old science versus everythingelse (subjective shamanisticnonverifiablepaganistic magicalmumbojumbowiccanvitalist etc etc) debate.

At least Rob is not throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

The problem with reductionist/materialists who believe in <the religion of> scientific method is that they actually think that their truth is THE one and only OBJECTIVE blah blah TRUTH. (monadology)

C'mon guys lets talk about herbs then since y'all so scientifically minded. So - who is <by anyone who studies such things> regarded as the first Scientific western herbalist?

Probably Galen, right?

Where did Galen get his system from?

How did he analyse the temperaments and qualities of herbs into subdivisions of the fourth degree? Well, he watched them, harvested them, grew them, picked them, tasted them, smelled them, took them, meditated on them, hell - he probably smoked them...yes GALEN WAS A VITALIST. Galen drank urine!!!! This is the horrible truth. Western herbalism was actually started in its scientific format by a VITALIST <read his texts> - Paracelcsus was a flake compared to Galen. But of course the reductionists claim Galen, because even THEN they couldn't understand vitalism, magic or anything that wasn't under their own nose. So they turned it into a True Factual System- and left vitalism to Paracelsus (poor guy was an easy target)

Of course nowadays we're safe because Real Science has gotten hold of plants and is is cleaning up the act along with the FDA, and various reductionist naturopaths and herbal product manufacturers (the bastyrds)

Personally Rob, I long since gave up arguing with rank reductionists.Why bother? What about Homeopathy??? How can a plant preparation that is diluted beyond Avogadro's Number be so active, ie there is not ONE SINGLE molecule of the plant in a homeopathic preparation.... tell us how that works gurus of the active constituents . And what about Flower Essences???? Seriously? Place a flower!!! in water, then dilute that 100x and take 1 drop????? Ever heard of Rescue Remedy guys? tell us how that works pharmacists/scientists?

ssshh - I'll tell you the secret..

ITS MAGIC!!!!!!

So - back to the labs boyos, standardise your extracts, inject them into rats and rabbits to make sure they're safe. LD50 is the way forward, Objective Truth, standardised active constituents, and the FDA will probably carry the day

Meanwhile the elves and fairies will shed a tear.

jonathan treasure


From: "Mark D. Gold" <GOLD.ILP.MIT.EDU>

Well,

I'll add my $0.02 to this debate. I'm not totally clear on what Leighton was trying to say, but his post makes me very nervous.

From the book, "They Conquered AIDS" by Scott Gregory and Bianca Leonardo:

In 1934, the A.M.A. House of Delegates adopted these principles of monopoly: "All features of medical service in any method of medical practice should be under the control of the medical profession. No other body or individual is legally or educationally equipped to exercise such control."

I think that the worst thing that could happen to Herbalism (at least here in the U.S.) would be if it was taken over by holier-than-thou Herbal "Scientists." It would likely lead us to a situation where Herbal Scientists (dressed in white lab coats) would be the authorized prescription writers for phytochemical pharmaceuticals. I think it would be a major set-back for holistic healing were this to happen.

I would go to an M.D. if I wanted serious medical advice. I would go to a holistic healer (Naturopath, Oriental Medical Doctor, etc.) if I wanted serious holistic healing advice including herbal advice. But I would only go to an Herbal Scientist if I wanted a copy of the latest scientific study on a particular herb.

As far as I know there is very little scientific information on the efficacy of herbal _formulas_ for various illnesses. And probably less scientific data on the use of formulas in conjunction with other traditional healing techniques (which is the way they really should be used -- isn't it?). The scientific information I've seen is interesting and provides some useful information, but I certainly wouldn't rely upon it for herbal formulas.

I have no plans to stop passing along ideas for herbal formulas even though I'm not _officially_ trained in the "scientific" methods of Herbalism. Even though Herbalism is considered a pseudoscience by some medical professionals, I still won't be detered. Not only that, I may throw in a few nutritional ideas as well and I'm not even a Nutritionist! Be forewarned though, my nutritional ideas conflict with the scientifically recognized "ideal" of a variety of foods from the 4 ... er, 6 food groups. Sheesh! Advice from a layman that is not recognized as scientific by the A.M.A. What's this world coming to!

- Mark
gold.ilp.mit.edu

P.S. -- As I said, I may be misunderstanding what Leighton was try to say. Care to clarify?


From: Rob Bidleman <robbee.CRL.COM>

On Sun, 17 Jul 1994 Jtreasure.aol.com wrote:
> Probably Galen, right?

** According to the 'Eber Papyrus' <2000 BC> herbalism was alive and practiced throughout early Egypt by most households as well as an early census that records over 2000 herb doctors. Pull in the recorded use of herbs and acupuncture in China, the Nigerian Yoruba people's use of many herbs as early as 1000 B.C. and the Australian Aborigine <probably earliest recorded people to use herbs> and you've got Galen beat by a few thou.

> Personally Rob, I long since gave up arguing with rank reductionists.

** Guilty. I really feel for people who believe something is wrong just because they disagree with it or perhaps it doesn't exist because they don't know about it. Perhaps Howie's comments about being careful what you say <regarding the reputation of herbalists> set me off.

> ITS MAGIC!!

** So was the 'Triple Play' this evening at Dodger Stadium, did you see it?

Rob


From: "FRED W. BACH" <music.ERICH.TRIUMF.CA>

I also cannot understand the mentality of people who think that just because something has *not* been scientifically tested that it is therefore *not* true.

The way I see it, Science is supposed to be the *search* for truth. This presumes, then, that truth exists before science finds it and writes it in some journal.

There are some people who take the anthropic principle too far (it would seem that they think that they *create* truth by their discoveries).

I am glad to see that Rob seems to agree with me here.


From: Howie.AOL.COM
Subject: Re: Galen was a vita...

Well, well, well .......

Leighton,
Seems to me you should always try to educate yourself as best as possible anyway before taking herbs, and know the possible side effects, but I tend to only sell tinctures that are relatively safe...that is you could drink the whole 1 ounce bottle and get away with a stomach ache, or mild intoxication for the short term (Valerian and friends), or perhaps they may make thing worse (like taking way too much horehound tincture...cough.. .its good for your lungs..I'm real congested..cough...I'll triple the dose and get better faster... COUGH... COUGH... COUGH.).

But in general, these "middle ground" herbs are relatively safe even for the beginner. Most of the herbs discussed on this list fit into this category.

On the other hand, I hear people talking (and teaching) about tinctures of Aconite (Monkshood), Veratrum (False Hellebore), Anemone roots...etc. Now certainly these plants can easily hurt someone and should be used with extreme care and knowledge.

It all come back to:: The difference between poison and medicine is dosage!!!!! With the gentler herbs self-experimentation is safely possible. In fact the BEST way to learn an herb (in my humble opinion) is self experimentation.

Certainly you need to be cautious of herb companies literature. They can profit from it, and so may slant the issue. In the US, our hands are tied in a way that prevents us from giving out the complete picture. We can't tell exact dosages for specific illness, contra-indications, or even legally say herbs do anything, or even imply they might. Many US firms do stretch these rules.

However, do not be deceived into thinking that our scientific reasearchers are any more altruistic or objective. They might strive to be so... but the realities of deadlines, public image, funding, pressures to get that article published, etc. can easily cause a slanted view of the results, or even slanted results. I tend to disbelieve the "good scientific studies" of an herb untill the results are reproduced by other researchers. And always check out who's funding the studies!

I may be a firm believer in the scientific method...but I was taught that science = truth. In high school if you fudge some data, it was OK,, its only high school Chem. In a college Chem..it's only a grade....but this attitude can easily carry into grad work and beyond.

And the wood spirits just laugh and dance at the silly herbalists...........................still trying to prove the same obvious stuff 2000 years later

not too concerned about reputations today

Howie

"Out of my way, I'm a scientist"...Peter Venkman


From: "FRED W. BACH" <music.ERICH.TRIUMF.CA>

>I may be a firm believer in the scientific method...but I was taught that science = truth.

And therein lies the problem! An unfortuante choice of words: an over-simplification. Science is supposed to be a SEARCH for truth, not truth itself. You were being taught, unknowinly, to worship science. Just look at how the laws of physics have changed over the centuries, and are still changing slightly today.

>And the wood spirits just laugh and dance at the silly herbalists...........................still trying to prove the same obvious stuff 2000 years later

This is some kind of a backwards inferrence that herbalists are spiritists. Not all herbalists believe in wood spirits. It is unfair to lump them all together.

>However, do not be deceived into thinking that our scientific reasearchers are any more altruistic or objective. They might strive to be so... but the realities of deadlines, public image, funding, pressures to get that article published, etc. can easily cause a slanted view of the results, or even slanted results. I tend to disbelieve the "good scientific studies" of an herb untill the results are reproduced by other researchers. And always check out whose funding the studies!

Ah, a scientific skeptic! Perhaps they didn't ingrain the worship of science in you as much as they would have liked to!

>Howie
>"Out of my way, I'm a scientist"...Peter Venkman

Yeah, and bow low when I (the scientist) go by. Worship me! ;-)


From: Howie.AOL.COM

Fred,

> This is some kind of a backwards inferrence that herbalists are spiritists. Not all herbalists believe in wood spirits. It is unfair to lump them all together.

You are reading a little too deep into what I said. I am not implying that all herbalists are spiritists. I am implying that we are herbalists, though.

Howie


From: "DRC::GRAHAM" <GRAHAM%DRC.decnet.VA.DRC.COM>
Subject: Does it work?

You know, all this argument over whether herbal remedies should be subjected to "scientific" inquiry or just dispensed according to tradition seems to me to be largely irrelevant. I am a Homeopathic practicioner and I do not know exactly why the remedies, so dilute as they are, work, but one thing I do know, they do work. I know the same for many herbal preparations ... they work. What do I care for the reason, I do not. Now, I am not saying that scientists should not inuire into the reasons, but that inquiry should stand quite apart from the practice of herbal or Homeopathic medicine. The botton line is always going to be, does it work? If the treatment works, that should establish it as recommended and useful. Any science that is done on it should start from the basis that the treatment works, not try to prove if it works.

The old argument about anecdotal evidence versus scientific evidence is crap. All evidence that involves humans or any living tissue is anecdotal. The only question you can ask is, "Are you better?" "Have the symptoms abated?" If the answer is yes, the treatment is effective and science should perhaps investigate why, if the answer is no, then to hell with that treatment.

Yes, some herbs can be misused, so can automobiles and Scotch and Tinkertoys and cat food. The possibility for abuse is no reason to regulate anything. We do not live in a safe world, it is mean out there folks, and although I grieve when I hear of a person injured from wrong use of herbs, that is life and we cannot stop it without removing liberties that are, to me, sacred and irrevocable.

Personally, I enjoy both the advanced scientific research of herbs and Homeopathic remedies, and the age old prescriptions for their uses sans any scientific research at all. Both have their place, and they shouldn't interfere with one another. Science should never get in the way of healing, and the healer / Shaman / herbalist / Homeopath should not decry science, so long as it doesn't get in his or her way of ading the healing process.

In all this, to me, the government should remin silent and completely out of the way. We do not need the FDA, we don't need licensing of anyone, we don't need the government protecting us from ourselves or anyone else. Voluntary standards organizations can perfectly well do the job of regulating. Sure, without regulation, some snake oil salespeople will arise, let it be. We need liberty to treat ourselves as we see fit, and if that includes some charlatanry, well, that's life, too.

Dan Graham, the Anarchist in training



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