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"Herbal" party pills?

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Well, no. Those "BZP-based herbal party pills" ... aren't herbal.

So I was checking out the Herbal Science Research site, and this caught my eye.

Alansari M, Hamilton D.: Nephrotoxicity of BZP-based herbal party pills: a New Zealand case report.. N Z Med J. 2006 May 5;119(1233):U1959.

It caught my eye badly enough that I wanted to comment. Gotta log in to comment, though, and in order to do that you need to register as a user there, and that's currently completely impossible. Hint hint ... you do read this blog, Shayne, no?

Anyway, I did a little digging. And because the supplied medline link gave no abstract, I went to the New Zealand Medical Journal site instead. (Google scholar, incidentally, doesn't list this particular article. Eh.)

Said journal does give an abstract on this case report:

"Several serious side effects of the so-called ‘party pills’ have been documented, including severe agitation, seizures, paranoia, hyperthermia, abdominal pain, and cardiac arrhythmias.
Nephrotoxicity has been reported usually in association with rhabdomyolysis. This paper describes a 17-year-old New Zealand man who developed acute renal failure requiring haemodialysis in the absence of rhabdomyolysis."

I'd say that this abstract is severely lacking. Where's the "herbal" in these "BZP-based herbal pills"?

The very first hit of a google search for "BZP herbal" (without quotes) is:

"Where legal, BZP is often produced in small specialist laboratories. The raw materials can be purchased from various chemical supply agencies and formed into tablets or capsules using relatively cheap production techniques."
"Producers frequently claim that BZP is a "natural" product, describing it as a "pepper extract" or "herbal high". In fact, the drug is entirely synthetic, and does not occur naturally."
(Wikipedia, accessed 10May06)

Umm ... right. If I can dig that out in less than one minute, then so can the editors of the NZ Medical Journal. They didn't. Why not? Because the standards for herbal headlines are completely and utterly different from the standards for headlines for mainstream articles.

The NZ Med J has made the same major blunder in their headlines once before:

Gee P, Richardson S, Woltersdorf W, Moore G.: Toxic effects of BZP-based herbal party pills in humans: a prospective study in Christchurch, New Zealand. N Z Med J. 2005 Dec 16;118(1227):U1784.

In fact, most (if not all) mainstream medical journals like you to think that herbs are dangerous, and a headline like this plays nicely into those politics. It's anti-herbal propaganda, part of the mainstream spreading of Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD) about herbal medicine. FUD. Fight it.


Jonno has a very good take on the anti-herbal stance of most if not all medical journals: Medline and the mainstream manufacture of misinformation. Read the lengthy .pdf file he has online, it's very enlightening.


Hint taken Henriette. I shall strive to be a better geek and unlock my site post-haste. Expect it to be unlocked within the next week or so.

Of course I read your blog ;-)

Thanks for that, Shayne. : )