Ames test.

Newsgroups: alt.folklore.herbs
Subject: Crataegus herbs, carcinogens, and Bojenmi tea
From: (Daniel Dorff)
Date: 17 May 1995 00:41:31 GMT

A friend of mine who's an open-to-alternatives medical student at Harvard read the label of my Bojenmi tea and pointed out that the 1st ingredient (not the main one, just the first listed) may be carcinogenic.

On many boxes, the 1st ingredient is "Fructus Crataegi," and on the cans the 1st ingredient is "Crataegus Pinnatifida." My medical friend cites a 1994 study (An Evaluation of 55 Commercial Plant Extracts in the Ames Mutagenicity Test) published in a journal called Pharmazie, which says that "Crataegi" extract has "moderate mutagenic potential," meaning that something in the extract caused a high rate of genetic mutations in bacteria in a context extrapolatable to humans.

Does anyone know more about this type of herb, or this Ames test?

Daniel Dorff

From: (Jonathan Treasure)

>Does anyone know more about this type of herb, or this Ames test?

The Ames test cultures mutations of bugs (usually Salmonella spp) that are unable to grow without the amino acid histidine and adds suspected mutagens to the culture medium (after incubating them with liver extract to expose them to lysosymal activty). If the bugs then grow, the mutation is deemed to have reversed ( ie they now synthesise histidine) and the test substance is regarded as (ultimately) mutagenic. It is the case that the majority of known chemical carcinogens are also mutagens according to the Ames Test.

The problem is that also according to the Ames Test the prevalence of environmental mutagens is so high that the human population should long ago have been wiped out by cancer if the extrapolations were correct. (The extraplations being histidine gene mutagenicity equals ultimate carcinogenic action, and salmonella bugs equals people) This is of course acknowleged by pathologists - but seems not to be understood understood by the rank and file scare mongerors who like to appear to be *scientific* in their attacks on herbalism.

The Ames Test has been touted on this list by people who know nothing about herbal medicine, and not very much about orthodox pathology, as some sort of definitive proof of carcinogenic or teratogenic activity of medicinal plants. Please refer to my long post on side effects for further discussion of this position - meanwhile ask your so called open to alternatives medical student friend to tell you how many food additives are Ames positive, or, if you want to be more provocative, how many people die every year due to prescription pharmaceuticals etc etc before taking his actually not very open minded views about Hawthorne, which is a plant that has been used medicinally for centuries in Oriental and Western medicine, quite so seriously. You can read about Crataegus in most herb reference texts.

Having suffered an orthodox medical training myself, and worked for a year at the same Harvard medical Skool, I suspect your pal is going to have to make a leap or two yet before they can claim to be open minded about alternatives - first they have to learn how to be critical of their own subject.