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MYTH #1: If an herbal product comes from China, it’s got to be good. Not necessarily so. China IS at the center of the herbal universe. Most of the world’s best herbal products DO come from China -- but so do some of the worst, thanks to “mountain bandits.” It all depends on how the herbs were picked and processed, and whether traditional herbal recipes were strictly followed. Herbs should also be shipped and sold in a timely manner, or they’ll deteriorate.
MYTH #2: All herbal products are pure and natural. Sometimes they’re neither pure nor natural, and contain chemical contaminates. Unethical manufacturers also switch ingredients, if the genuine herb is in short supply. This has been happening with St. John’s Wort, when synthetic chemicals are added. And "bad" ingredients are rarely listed on the packaging.
MYTH #3: Herbs are safe to use, and have no side-effects. Not necessarily. For example, some imported herbs contain mercury sulfide -- used as a cheap antibiotic in the third world -- which can cause nerve and kidney damage. Also, herbs contain natural chemical properties, which provide their healing qualities… and potential risk. Of course, a diluted herb with little potency won’t hurt you… nor will it help you.
MYTH #4: All herbs are basically alike. i.e. Ginseng is Ginseng. And there’s nothing too complicated about herbs -- just grow them, and harvest them. Not true. Herbs can differ enormously, depending on how and where they are grown, harvested and processed.
MYTH #5: The "New Age" natural herb business is more ethical than the pharmaceutical industry. Don’t count on it! The herb business is now a four billion dollar industry, and very aggressive. Remember, too, being somewhat free of FDA regulation, herb companies have more freedom to be dishonest. (As shown in the lengthy series in The Los Angeles Times.)
MYTH #6: Your doctor "knows best." Maybe yes, maybe no -- but it’s YOUR body, and you’ve got to think for yourself. Is he/she open-minded about alternative and Chinese medicines? Does he/she recognize the power of mental and spiritual healing? Or is every patient just a bunch of symptoms, to be zapped with drugs and technology? The medical profession is in the midst of a furious debate over alternative cures, and individual physicians range from being open-minded to Stone Age-reactionary. Where does your doctor stand?
MYTH #7: China’s herbal cures are exotic… "mysterious." They should not be. (Well, alright, but only occasionally. Have you heard about the “Valley of Youth”?) There are thousands of plant species containing scientifically proven healing properties. Interestingly, the drug companies are finally waking up. They’re pouring millions of dollars into tropical plant research -- looking for new/old herbal cures they can reformulate and patent. (That’s how Aloe Vera was born, even though native healers have been using it for over a thousand years.)
MYTH #8: The medical, health-care and pharmaceutical industries’ vehement "anti-herb" position is quite sincere. They believe in the superiority of western medicine. They also believe in the profit motive. (What if hospitals stopped buying those million dollar pieces of medical equipment? What if doctors stopped prescribing drugs that cost a fortune, from which they might personally benefit?) All of which is why this is a multi-billion dollar battle: The FDA and drug industry vs. natural herbs.
MYTH #9: The FDA would like to play a more positive role in herbal healing. Actually, the Food and Drug Administration folks have it backwards. They want to intrude where they shouldn’t be involved… while they neglect a major need. Here’s the problem: The burgeoning herb industry has no industry standards… little internal policing… bad/diluted herbs are being distributed… yet there’s no government scrutiny before marketing. False labeling, too, is a real problem that calls for FDA attention.
MYTH #10: You can find herbal health in a few bottles or packages. There are two levels of herbal health: Make sure you’re using good herbs… AND learn more about Traditional Chinese Medicine. The first is essential, which is why most of the products sold by The Healing Herbs of China are the Plum Flower brand -- probably the finest herbs produced in China. But you should also familiarize yourself with the second level: Learn more, and you’ll discover a healthier, more vibrant life. Remember, there’s more to herbal health than a bottle of pills.