Earth Air Fire and Water
The Pharmageddon Herbal
Ivor Hughes

Introduction to Materia Medica Continued.
Chapter 8B

Alcohol (Ethanol C2H5OH) 8.44

All Pharmacopeias recognize various categories of alcohol,  there are some differences in minor detail, but they all correspond to the general descriptions that follow;

1.  Absolute Alcohol. This term refers to the theoretical 100% alcohol, which is to be found in alcohol tables.  Absolute alcohol is of no interest to the Apothecary or plant pharmacist

2.  Dehydrated Alcohol;  contains not less than 99% by weight of ethanol, and not more than 1% by weight of water. This grade may be prepared in commercial quantities by admixing benzene with alcohol 95%, and distilling. On a laboratory scale it can be produced by adding anhydrous calcium chloride to the alcohol 95%, the calcium chloride captures the water. It is a transparent, colorless and volatile liquid, having a characteristic odor and a burning taste. The boiling point is 78.4�C at standard pressure (1 atmosphere), with a specific gravity of 0.7924, at 20�C.

3.  Alcohol; corresponds to alcohol 95%. It is not less than 94.9% by volume. It is transparent, colorless, volatile with characteristic odor and a burning taste. The specific gravity is 0.8119 at 20�C, and may be prepared by distillation.

4.  Rectified Spirit; of the Pharmacopeias,  is the equivalent of alcohol 90%, from which the official diluted alcohols were prepared. However, it is now more common to produce the official dilutions from alcohol 95%.

5.  Diluted Alcohol.  the official dilutions used for pharmaceutical preparations are similar, from country to country, and correspond to the following dilutions; 90%, 80%, 70%, 60%, 50%, 45%, 25%, and 20% of Ethanol by volume. The dilutions are prepared with double distilled water.

Types of Alcohol 8.45
There are many
 different types of alcohol and their derivatives that have various applications throughout industry. Many can prove lethal if used incorrectly. Some of the primary alcohols are as follows;

Butanol (C4 H9 OH) Boiling point 117�C
Ethanol (C2 H5 OH) Boiling point  78�C
Methanol   (CH3 OH) Boiling point  66�C
Propanol (C3 H7 OH) Boiling point  97�C

For ethical, philosophic and safety reasons, one should not use any type except ethanol for extracting plant drugs. It is produced by the fermentive action of yeasts on sugars in solution. To the chemist, ethanol is ethanol, irrespective of the base material used to produce it. However, to the Apothecary and Perfumer, there are some subtle differences in results, that varies from base materials to base material. These differences are inexplicable in terms of a bare chemical formula, and are devoid of any scientific answer as to why this should be so.

For example, the Perfumer knows that a grain based alcohol is required to capture an elusive citrus top note, which is essential for certain types of perfume or toilet waters, whereas, the Apothecary prefers to use a fruit based alcohol; traditionally spirits of wine. Good quality alcohol may be produced from the following;

Grain (Whisky) 1 Enzyme action 2 Fermentation 3 Distillation
Grapes (Brandy) 1 Fermentation 2 Distillation    
Molasses (Rum) 1 Fermentation 2 Distillation    
Potatoes (Vodka) 1 Enzyme action 2 Fermentation 3 Distillation

It will be seen that the starch based materials, i.e., grain and potatoes, undergo enzyme action to convert the starch to sugars prior to fermentation by yeasts, whereas, the sugar based materials may be fermented directly.

The amount of alcohol produced by the fermentation is dependent on four main variables, they are;

1. Temperature.
2. Amount of sugar present.
3. The strain of yeast.
4. Regional and climatic factors.

In practice, the maximum produced is circa 15% alcohol by volume; beverages that exceed that have usually been fortified by the addition of alcohol, or have undergone distillation. The following list will be useful for comparison purposes.

  French Brandy -  40 to 44% Distilled
  Scotch Whiskey -  44 to 45% Distilled
  Strong Liqueur - 50 to 55 % Distilled and/or Fortified
  Port and Sherry - 15 to 22% Fortified
  Champagne - 10 to 13% Fermented
  Red Wine - 10 to 15% Fermented
  White Wine - 8 to 14% Fermented
  Cider - 5 to 9% Fermented
  Beer and Porter - 3.5 to 5.5% Fermented

During the process of  fermentation, various types of alcohol are produced; for example, as much as 5% of the alcohol yield may consist of a combination of succinic acid, glycerine and fusel oil. Fusel is mainly amyl alcohol. These higher alcohols produce unwanted physiologic effects such as headaches, nausea and diarrhoea; in addition, if present in sufficient concentrations, they may interact with the plant compounds in unpredictable ways.

Alcohol by Fermentation 8.46
Fermented beverages
may be made from almost any plant material, so it may be readily understood the only common factors between them are the chemical formulae for water and alcohol.

The chemical composition of the water used will also materially effect the fermented product. In addition, there may also be a reaction between the alcohol, and the fermenting and storage vessels. Young wine is allowed to mature under anaerobic conditions.

The storage without access of air is essential, because alcoholic liquids, that contain less than 20% alcohol by volume, will acetify, or be decomposed by spoilage organisms. During the storage phase further chemical changes occur, that materially alter the taste and smell of the liquid. To use this chemical soup to extract a medicinal herb, will bring about unpredictable results. All of those factors apply in greater measure to the distilled spirits that are sold as beverages, by reason of the increased solvent powers.

The matter is further complicated by the fact that much of the cheaper alcohol on sale for beverage purposes, is produced by subjecting industrial by-products to chemical reaction, and then distilling. The resulting synthetic alcohol is then diluted with water and artificially colored and flavored. In the Southern Hemisphere milk whey is a common starting point for production of alcohol. Most of the 95% alcohol sold by Pharmaceutical supply houses for extraction purposes is synthetic alcohol.

For practical reasons, colorings and flavorings whether natural or synthetic, along with the water present, must be considered as impurities, if such spirits are to be used for extraction purposes. The purification process is called �Rectification�. The process will be dealt with in module 9.

Alcohol as solvent 8.47

Alcohol as solvent for plant materials has many advantages;

With the exception of albumin, globulin starch and cellulose, alcohol is non selective in its solvent powers of plant compounds, which enables the Apothecary to produce top quality whole plant extracts.

2. In medicinal doses it is non toxic to higher life forms. An average adult medicinal dose is 2.5 ml.

3. The plant extractive does not complex (form new compounds), or dissociate (compound breakdown), when in contact with it.

4. At a strength of 20% by volume, it is preservative and prevents attack by spoilage organisms.

5. Its low boiling point temperature (78.4�C), allows easy evaporation at reduced temperatures, so that concentration to dry or soft extracts may be achieved without damage to the plant metabolites.

6. Extracts and tinctures prepared from alcohol, when correctly stored, have a long shelf life, usually in excess of 10 years, without any great loss of potency.

Combination Solvents 8.48
The most widely used menstruum, is a combination of alcohol and water. The hydro-alcoholic menstruum. The proportion of each, depends on the nature and constituents of the plant that is being operated on. For example, high strength alcohol, when used as a solvent, would fail to extract those principles that are more easily dissolved by water, a diluted alcohol would prove to be more efficient. Whereas for such substances as resins the high strength alcohol is required. The correct proportions of alcohol and water have been determined experimentally for the different plant preparations, and correspond to the official dilute alcohols.

Another class of combination solvent that is no longer used, is the so called Aqueous menstruum. Its compotion is as follows;

                                               2.5 volumes of acetic acid 6%.
                                               25 volumes of glycerine 50%.
                                               Distilled water to make 100 volumes.

Having regard to the previous discussion of those substances, it will be understood very clearly why the aqueous menstruum is no longer used.

From a practical point of view, the mentruum does not produce an elegant or satisfactory preparation. The shelf life is short and a heavy precipitation is produced. From the ethical viewpoint the physical results are an abomination. The efficacy of such preparations must stand in doubt. The aqueous menstruum is not recommended.

Factors Affecting Solubility 8.49
There are three major factors that determine the solubility of plant metabolites, they are;

1. Temperature. It will be seen from the general Table of Solubilites at the end of this section, that there are major differences between hot and cold water, neither of which is satisfactory. It cannot be stressed too strongly that high temperatures destroy the plant compounds. The temperature of a menstruum should not exceed 60�C. In practice a hydro alcoholic menstruum, at temperatures between 15 and 25�C, is satisfactory.

2. The nature of the solvent. A purusal of the general Table of solubilities will make this factor self explanatory.

3. Surface Area. Efficient extraction of plant metabolites requires that the largest area of the material be exposed to the action of the menstruum. The plant material is reduced to coarse particles or fine powder, which greatly assists the extraction process by the exposing a greater surface area.

General points 8.50
There are numerous occasions when the Herbalist will be called upon to prepare plants for which no official instructions are available. In such a case judgment must be exercised. Firstly, one must have an indication of the type of metabolites that the plant contains, e.g., alkaloids, glycosides, resins etc.

Volatile oils and resins will generally require a menstruum of 75% or more of alcohol, strengths below this will fail to extract the resins. A menstruum that contains less than 20% of alcohol by volume will quickly deteriorate. It is essential that the plant enzymes are inactivated and that the proteins are precipitated and filtered out. The following formulae will be useful if rectifying commercial beverages.

                                    A. Proof x 4 � 7 = % of alcohol by volume
                                    B. % of alcohol by volume x 7 � 4 = Proof.

General Table of Solubilities 8.50A.


Alcohol 90%

Alcohol (proof) 57%

Hot Water (100�C)

Cold Water





Mostly Soluble






Mostly Soluble

Most Insoluble










Slightly Soluble





Slightly Soluble



Slightly Soluble


Fixed Oils

Slightly Soluble

Almost Soluble





Slightly Soluble


Slightly Soluble




Mostly Soluble

Mostly Soluble

Many Decomposed

Many Soluble


Gum Mucilage


Nearly Insoluble





Freely Soluble

Moderately Soluble

Nearly Insoluble










Nearly Soluble

Slightly Soluble







Generally Soluble

Generally Soluble


Volatile Oils

Freely Soluble

Slightly Soluble





Slightly Soluble

Nearly Insoluble




The Exudates 8.51
Like the solvents,
the exudates are of great practical importance to Herbal Pharmacy; for convenience they can be placed under the following headings;

  1. Fats and Fixed Oils
  2. Gums
  3. Resins
  4. Waxes

They are obtained from animal, insect and vegetable sources. In their modes of action, they may be classed as follows;

A. As a barrier and protective surface for the skin.
B. As an emollient to soften the skin
C. As an excipient, i.e., a substance that is used to bind a pill mass. Usually considered to be inert.
D. As a basis, or carrier for medicinal substances.
E. As a medicinal substance for internal or external application.
F. As a nutritive substance.

Fixed Oils and Fats 8.52
The fixed oils and fats are chemically classified as �Lipids� they contain esters of glycerol and fatty acids, which, when saponified yield glycerol. The difference in consistency between the oils and fats is due to the differing proportions of liquid, or solid glyceryl esters, that are present. The fats contain a higher proportion of solid glycerides than are found in the oils.

Common Properties 8.53
The oils and fats are lighter than water, greasy to the touch and, unlike the volatile oils, will leave a permanent stain on filter paper. They are insoluble in water and sparingly soluble in alcohol, but freely soluble in ether or chloroform. Due to the naturally occurring enzymes (Lipases), the fixed oils and fats undergo hydrolysis, i.e. they slowly become rancid when the oil or fat bearing cells are ruptured. This breakdown or saponification, quite obviously, will render the oil or fat useless for pharmaceutical purposes. In the case of the fixed oils, the Lipases are generally inactivated by heat, while the fats are usually preserved by the addition of another substance.

Methods of Preparation 8.54
The fixed oils of commerce are, in the main, prepared from the fruits or seeds of the dicotyledons. The seed or fruit is first ground or crushed and then subjected to pressure. In certain cases, or usually on the 2nd or 3rd pressing, the oil cake may be exposed to moderate heat, with solvents, to facilitate maximum extraction of the oil. Fats and oils derived from animal sources are obtained by rendering.

Certain oils that are used for technical purposes are extracted by the use of immiscible solvents, e.g., light petroleum or acetone. It is standard practice to clarify and decolorize many oils by filtration, either by subsidence through fuller�s earth, Kaolin, etc., or by the use of filter presses, and/or by the use of a centrifuge.

Gums and Resins 8.55
There are in excess of 50 natural resins commercially available. They are obtained from three sources, namely;

  1 Vegetable-gums and resins  
  2 Insect resins  
  3 Natural hydrocarbon resins, e.g., coal resin  

Chemically they have been divided into four classes;

  1. Natural vegetable gum-resins  
  2. Natural Insect resins  
  3. Hydrocarbon resins  
  4. Natural vegetable resins  

The fourth class, i.e., natural vegetable resins, are further sub-divided into four groups;

Recent or fresh exudations of balsams and oleo-resins, that contain volatile oil.
Recent exudations in which the volatiles have evaporated.
Semi-fossil or weathered resins
True fossil resins that are usually recovered from alluvial deposits

Of the substances commercially available, some 30% are of interest to the manufacturing Herbalist. Pharmaceutically, they may be classed as follows;

  A. Medicines
  B. Emulsifiers
  C. Excipients
  D. Collodions (A protective film)

Methods of Preparation 8.56
Chemically, the term resin indicates a mixture of closely related chemical substances, pharmaceutically the term resin indicates a chemical entity with a specific mode of action.

For example 'Podaphyllum Resin' may be prepared by powdering the Podophyllum rhizome and extracting it with 90% alcohol, and then precipitating the resin, by the addition of water.

The precipitate is then washed, dried and powdered. Therefore, the preparation will not only contain the resin, but also the alcohol soluble and water insoluble principles, which are not chemically related to the resin.

Alternatively, the resinous exudations that occur naturally may be powdered, macerated, washed, dried and incorporated into pills.

The Gums 8.57
The gums may be conveniently separated into two groups;

          True Gum.
          Gum-Resin mixtures.

The Vegetable gums are complex carbohydrates of uronide group, which includes the Pectin�s and Mucilage�s. The vegetable gums commonly occur as exudates on fruits, leaves and stems of the higher plants, especially from wounds.

Some common examples are Acacia or Gum Arabic, Ghatti gum or Indian gum and gum of Tragacanth.

The mucilage's may be found in the seed walls of such plants as linseed (Flax), and Psyllium (Plantain), and in the tissues of various plants, e.g., Mallow (Malvaceae) or Slippery Elm bark. Mucilage�s are also quite common in marine plants, such as, Carrageen (Irish Moss) and Agar agar.

Mucilage is strongly hydrophilic and imbibes large quantities of water to form a gelatinous mass, whereas, the gums will slowly disperse in water. The gums are insoluble in strong alcohol and soluble in water. The resins are insoluble in water and soluble in strong alcohol.

The Waxes 8.58
The waxes are widely used in pharmacy for the preparation of the ointments. They differ from the fixed oils and fats, in that they do not yield glycerol when saponified. The waxes may be classified into four types;

  1. Animal Wax e.g. Lanolin (wool fat)
  2. Insect Wax e.g. Beeswax
  3. Mineral Wax e.g. Paraffin wax
  4. Vegetable Wax e.g. Myrtle wax

The examples given are those that are most widely used in herbal pharmacy.

Preparations of Crude Drugs 8.59
Apothecary is an ancient art, with a fragmented but recorded history, of around 4000 years. It may be supposed that it is far easier to use the fresh or dried crude drug directly. The art and science evolved to meet problems encountered by the newly founded city states. For example; the direct use of the fresh herb, either as an infusion or a food item, presents problems of a seasonal and supply nature, and of course, the question of dose could only be answered in an arbitrary and crude manner. The use of dried materials, went part way to answering those problems, but in turn raised further problems, for example;

A. Efficacy - Correctly stored dried herb has a shelf life of around nine months, thereafter, the deterioration accelerates with the consequent loss of potency.

B. Contamination - The presence of foreign matter, such as parts of other species. Dust and dead or living insects. Avian or rodent excreta, or their hairs and feathers.

C. Spoilage - Contamination and spoilage by a wide variety of micro-organisms is a common problem in the drug trade. For example, the moulds will multiply rapidly in damp or incorrectly dried material. It was generally supposed that the bacterial and antiseptic properties of many herbs would render the material sterile, but in fact, the dried material when cultured, invariably produces a high plate count of micro-organisms.

It is precisely for these reasons, that the dried herb, when incorporated directly into ointments, or encapsulated, is a very dubious procedure. Remember that herbal beverages or culinary herbs are scalded prior to ingestion.

With the rise of the Mesopotamia city states, where people gathered together in large numbers, such problems would have become pressing. With the aid of their existing technology, those proto-druggists arrived at partial solutions, thus began the journey to the present state of the art.

A crude drug must be manipulated to fit it for the purpose for which it is required. Natural medicine is a non invasive system, in that healing agents are not introduced directly to the bloodstream, as with the use of a hypodermic needle.

Natural healers consider the hypodermic route to be an assault on the system, which can only be justified in cases of emergency. Hypodermic procedures undermine the integrity of the organ system and evade the bodies immune procedures.

There are many kinds of herbal preparations, all of which have been designed to suit a particular method of administration, of these, there are three main routes. The preparations are roughly classified by route.

Administration Routes and Preparations, Table 8.59A

1. Oral via the gastrointestinal tract.

A Decoction F Capsules
B Infusion G Pills
C Liquid extract H Tablet
D Tincture I Balsams and Syrups
E Lozenge or Troche J Emulsions

2. Epidermal via the skin as a surface preparation.

A Balm F Lotions
B Cream G Plasters
C  Salve H Poultices
D Essential oil I Tinctures
E Fixed oil    

3. Mucous membrane by application to internal surfaces.

A Bougies E Sprays/Nebula
B Pessaries F Lozenge or Troche
C Suppositories G Liquid i.e., Douche
D Inhalants    

The form of a remedy is determined by the route of the administration. The route chosen will determine the speed and degree of absorption.

Description of Preparations 8.60
The descriptions that follow are introductory, and a more detailed discussion of each preparation will be given when extraction and compounding are covered. It must also be remembered that many preparations are not route specific, and may be adapted to suit the epidermal route, thus modifying the speed and degree of absorption, e.g., greater speed and less absorption. Such factors are properties of route, and the carrier substance used for a medicant.

Preparations. Table 8.60A

- Usually an aromatic healing ointment.

Balsam.- May either be the crude vegetable resins, or preparations containing them, which can be used orally, topically (dermal), or as an inhalant.

Bougies. - In the orthodox sense, a bougie is a rubber or metal instrument, used for dilating a stricture of a natural passage of the body. In the natural therapies sense, they are a rod or conical shaped medication in a suitable carrier, which are able to be introduced to the auditory or nasal passages, and are similar to a pessary or suppository.

Capsules. - A capsule is a case consisting of two parts, usually made from gelatinous substance that contains the medication. Satisfactory capsules may be manufactured on a pharmacy scale, however, the procedure is tedious and time consuming. If required, it is easier to purchase them in the required size. They offer little advantage and are rarely used, although there are dried encapsulated herbs available. For reasons previously stated, this is a dubious procedure.

Creams. - Are simple, very basic ointments, usually used for cleansing or antiseptic purposes.

Decoctions. - Water based preparations, in which the herbal material, that is usually a root or a bark, is simmered in boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes. The resulting liquid is allowed to cool and then filtered.

Douche. - The douche is a medicated or cleansing liquid, introduced to an infected or inflamed body cavity, usually by a pipe or syringe.

Emulsions. - For pharmaceutical purposes, emulsions are dispersions of immiscible liquids, either oil in water (o/w), or water in oil (w/o), the dispersed substance being in very fine globules. The separation of the two is prevented by the addition of an emulsifying agent, such as a gum or liquid soap. There are various theories of emulsifying that will be touched on when we deal with compounds.

Extracts. - May be liquid, pasty or dry, they consist of the part of plants that may be removed from the parent material by the use of solvents, heat or pressure. In some cases by a combination of methods.

Essential Oils. - Or volatilve oils, may be dispensed as essences, waters, spirits or incorporated in ointments for their healing properties. They are, of course, the core materia medica of aroma therapy. The essential oils will be covered in greater detail later.

Fixed Oils. - May be used alone, as an emollient or as a nutrient. It is more usual to incorporate them in ointments or creams to provide a suitable vehicle or carrier for nutrients, or medicant.

Homeopathic Preparations. - May be liquids or solids. The preparation of mother tinctures is identical to that of herbal pharmacy. A more detailed explanation will be provided later in the text.

Infusions. - Are usually water based preparations. Boiling water is poured onto the material and it is allowed to stand for 15 minutes. There are drawbacks to such preparations.

Inhalants. - Are preparations that contain volatile substances that are liberated by heat, and are introduced to the air passages by breathing the vapors in.

At one time, herbal cigarettes containing crude drugs such as lobelia or stramonium, were popular with asthma sufferers. Although they provide rapid relief, and have a greater margin of safety than the orthodox chemicals. It is certain that the tars and other products of combustion would have long term side effects, however in comparison with the orthodox chemicals they are minimal.

Liquid Extracts. - Are concentrated extracts of crude drugs, usually contained in alcohol which serves the threefold function of solvent, carrier and preservative.

Lozenges. - Or Troches, are hard, dry, flattened masses, with a base of sugar that is incorporated with the medicant. They are designed to be held in the mouth and sucked slowly.

Lotions. - Are watery liquids that usually contain an insoluble medicant in suspension. They are designed for external application. If the preparation is of an oily nature, it is known as a liniment.

Nebula. - The nebula, or sprays, are liquid medicinal or emollient substances, that are applied via a nebulizor. Nebulizors, at one time, were to be found on every dressing table, in the form of an atomizer and were simply a device for forcing air and a liquid through a nozzle, which broke the liquid into fine droplets.

Pills. - Are usually round or ovoid which contain the medicant, and are held together with an excipient, which may be gum, syrup or glycerine. They may be coated or simply rolled in French chalk. The difference between a pill and a tablet is usually shape, i.e., the tablet is disc shaped and prepared by compression in a die and provide for greater accuracy in dose.

Pessaries. - Like a bougie, is a suitably shaped medicant in a base or carrier, and is used for insertion into the vagina. A suppository is the same but used for insertion into the rectum.

Plasters. - The art of plaster making has been superceded by machine made adhesive plasters. It is sufficient to apply the suitably prepared medication either as an ointment, or soft extract, to a suitably sized plaster that will hold a specific dose tightly to the surface of the skin. There are similarities to a poultice, which is usually the crude drug mixed with bread or cotton wool and infused.

Syrups. - At one time enjoyed great popularity, mainly because of their ability to mask the taste of crude drugs; and for that reason were widely employed in pediatric (children�s) medicine. As a class, they replaced the mels, or honey based medications as once used in orthodox medicine.

Tinctures. - Are weaker preparations of liquid extracts, from which they may be prepared.

Classification of Crude Drugs 8.61
The accumulation of knowledge has necessarily led to areas of increasing specialization, thus Pharmacognosy and Pharmacology are specialized divisions, which are subdivisions of materia medica.

Within those two divisions are further subdivisions; and depending on the area of study, and the required outcome, the crude drugs are classified under four main headings, they are;

1. Morphology and Histology.
2. Taxonomy.
3. Chemical Taxonomy.
4. Pharmacological activity.

Each of these areas is a specialized area of study in its own right, therefore, only a brief discussion of each area can be covered.

Morphology and Histology 8.62
Morphology, is the study of form and structure of plants and animals, without regard to their function. It is part of that preliminary examination of crude plant drugs, to verify their identity and freedom from, or percentage of, adulterants.

In some cases, the form may not be readily apparent, due to shattering or a pretreatment, such as grinding, in which case, the histological route must be followed.

Histology is the study of the microscopic structure of organic tissue, such as cell shape etc., again, the purpose is identity and adulteration. The Apothecary will have obtained the raw material from a reputable supplier, or have grown the crude drug themselves, however, the crude drug will need to be subjected to a sampling procedure to ascertain its conformity with the appropriate plant monograph. Sampling will be dealt with in module 10.

Taxonomic Classification 8.63
The word taxonomy is a compound from the Greek �taxis�, meaning �arrangement�, and �nomia�, meaning �distribution�. In order to make sense of the overwhelming profusion and distribution of plant life, it became necessary to establish classifications.

Taxonomy is a subject of huge proportions, under which, are grouped various types of classification. The system of classification used should express the interrelationship, and assist in the identification of the organism being studied. All systems of classifying plants are constantly under revision.

The father of taxonomy was a Swedish Physician and Botanist, Carl von Linne (Carolus Linnaeus 1707-1778). Many of the principles that he instituted, and the names he used, are still in use today. His system was based on morphological (anatomic) principles, however, with the rise of Darwin�s theory of evolution, the concept of the evolutionary relationships of plants was deemed more useful.

Fortunately, the morphology of plants generally tended to reflect the Phylum, or the evolutionary path that they had followed; so that the Linnaeus system only had to undergo minor surgery. One of the most widely used systems of classification is the 5 Kingdom System, i.e., the Kingdom Monera - the Kingdom Protista - the Kingdom Plantae - the Kingdom Fungi - the kingdom Animalia. However as with all systems, life in its profusion is not so easily slotted into nice little boxes, so there are problems, and edges become blurred as we descend the evolutionary tree.

Kingdom Plantae. Table 8.63A





Table 8.63A
 is the classification of the Opium Poppy
and there cannot be any confusion as to what plant is meant.
Whereas, if we refer to a plant by its common or folk name (synonym), which may vary from region to region, then a gross and potentially lethal error can arise.






Branch (of Kingdom)






2 Cotyledons.



Of the Poppy Family.






Sleep Inducing.

Therefore, it is important that we use scientific nomenclature when referring to a crude drug, however, to use a complete taxonomic classification is not desirable nor necessary. Linnaeus introduced a Latin Binomial system which has served good purpose to this day. A binomial is a two word name, the first part of which refers to the genus and the second the specie itself, e.g., Papaver somniferum L. The �L� meaning Linnaeus.

All standard reference works such as Pharmacopeias, Dispensatories, that still contain Plant monographs, will list the family, genus, specie, synonym, part used and its use.

Chemical Taxonomy 8.64
The chemo taxonomist,
when examining the nucleus of a compound, will look for a functional group or groups. For example, the majority of the alkaloids are classified as amines, however, when examining natural organic compounds, they are usually found to have several functional groups, for example, Taxus baccata L. Synonym, Yew.

Extracts of the bark of the Yew tree, have been scrutinised as a possible anti-cancer drug, which is known as Taxol. It has six functional groups namely; Alcohol, Alkene, Amide, Ether, Carboxyl and Ketone. It must be remembered that, Taxol is but one compound of hundreds in the bark of a tree. That single compound, in itself, is so complex, that although research chemists have succeeded in producing a synthetic Taxol, from the borrowed chiral structure, the methodology and time involved, made its production uneconomic. However a standard extract from the bark will produce a better physiologic response, than those offered by the pharmaceutical companies. Science took empirical knowledge of Taxus baccata as a starting point for its investigation.

Classification by Pharmacological Activity 8.65
The human body is a complex synergistic system, which, for the purpose of study is broken down into complex synergistic sub systems, that may be further reduced to tissue, cellular or chemical systems. There are eleven principle sub systems which are of prime importance to the therapist. In alphabetical order they are as follows;

1. Cardiovascular system. Meaning the heart, blood vessels and the blood. The major functions include transportation of oxygen, nutrients, carbon dioxide and metabolic waste products. It maintains body temperature and is an essential part of the immune system.

2. Digestive System. Which includes the mouth, stomach and intestines in association with liver, gall bladder, pancreas and salivary glands. It breaks down nutrients by physio-chemical means for assimilation by cells and eliminates solid wastes.

3. Endocrine System. Defined as all glands that produce hormones. Its major function is to regulate bodily activities, by the selective distribution of hormones, via the cardiovascular system.

4. Integumentary System. Includes the skin and all those structures that are extensions of it, e.g., oil and sweat glands, hair and nails.

5. Lymphatic System. Lymph is a complex fluid contained in lymphatic vessels or organs that contain lymphatic tissue, which can be defined as organs that contain large numbers of white blood cells (lymphocytes), e.g., lymph nodes, tonsils, spleen and the thymus gland. The lymphatic system is the immune system. Its major functions are the production of lymphocytes and it suppresses disease and filters the body fluids. In addition, it transports lipids from the digestive system, and returns proteins and plasma, to the cardiovascular system.

6. Muscular System. Is defined as muscle tissue; which includes cardiac, skeletal and visceral muscle. The system produces heat energy, maintains posture and mediates movement.

7. Nervous System. Which embraces both the central nervous system (CNS) and the autonomic nervous system (ANS); and is comprised of brain, spinal cord and the sense organs via the nerve complex, and mediates all of the physiological functions.

8. Reproductive System. All of those organs and systems that are involved in reproducing the organism , e.g., ovaries, testes, womb and the other organs that store or transport reproductive cells.

9. Respiratory System. The lungs and passageways that lead to and from the lungs. They supply oxygen, remove carbon dioxide, and help to mediate the acid-alkaline balance of the organisms.

10. Skeletal System. Defined as bones, cartilage and joints. It supports the body, and amours vulnerable organs, produces blood cells via the marrow and is a storage site for minerals.

11. Urinary System. The organs such as kidneys, bladder, ureter and urethra, which are involved in the production, collection and excretion of urine. The system monitors and regulates the chemical composition of the blood, maintains fluid and electrolytic balances, and mediates the acid-alkaline balance and is a major eliminator of waste products.

It will be understood that an imbalance or malfunction in one system, will impact on another, and depending on degree, the malfunction may rapidly spread to encompass the whole body. From this understanding developed the physio-chemical approach to the disease problem, i.e. it was observed that a distinct chemical entity, e.g. an alkaloid , would elicit a pronounced pharmacological response in a specific system of the body. For example, digitalis and the cardiovascular system, or ephedrine on the respiratory system.

Accordingly, a purified chemical entity would be used to target a specific bodily system, which would be identified by the symptoms presented. The complex of symptoms would be given a name to differentiate it from other symptom complexes. This approach has an underlying logic that permeates orthodox systems of medicine both East and West. However in hindsight, it can be clearly seen from the current state of medical and pharmaceutical science, that the logic is fatally flawed.

It must be pointed out that it was Apothecaries and not chemists, who identified and isolated the first known alkaloids. This marriage of scientific and empiric medicine led to a hitherto unparallel ordering of the materia medica and its uses.

Common Alkaloidal Drugs 8.65A



Part Used.















Betel Nut










Bitter tonic






Local Anesthetic






Specific Gout


Meadow Saffron




Antispasmodic, Sedative






Asthmatic Sedative


Ma Huang




Stops Hemorrhage






Stops Hemorrhage


Golden Seal



















N.B. Alkaloidal drugs are subjected to regulatory controls in many countries.

Definitions of Therapeutic Terms. Table 8.65B
The following definitions are abstracted from, Materia Medica and Clinical Therapeutics by F.J. Petersen. M.D.

Abortifacients: Remedies that produce abortion.
Such remedies as increase metabolism and thus favor elimination of waste products, from the system.
Remedies that act as sexual sedatives and in this way decrease sexual desire.
Will suppress or diminish perspiration.
Remedies that will counteract the action of other remedies, or oppose their action.
Will expel or destroy worms in the intestinal tract.
Remedies that will neutralize or counteract the action of poisons.
Remedies that decrease the secretion of milk.
Remedies that prevent the formation of calculi, or counteract their formation.
Remedies, that counteract or antagonize diseases that have a periodic tendency.
Remedies that will reduce or counteract inflammatory processes.
Remedies that reduce the temperature of the body either by decreasing oxygenation or by inhibiting the heat center in the brain.
control spasms and convulsions, acting on sets of nerves, or some particular nerve or tract.
Such remedies as will prevent or antagonize fermentation, including antiseptics and disinfectants.
Remedies that will suspend hunger.
Such remedies as will increase or stimulate sexual desire and power.
Remedies that in contact with tissues of the body cause them to contract and check secretion.

Medicines that expel flatus from the gastro-intestinal tract and thus relieve pain produced by pressure.

Classes of heart remedies:
These are divided into stimulants or tonic and sedative. Vaso-motor stimulants which stimulate vaso-motor constrictor nerves and thus increase blood pressure; vaso-motor sedatives which act on the vaso-dilator nerves and thus decrease blood pressure.

Classes of Intestinal Remedies:
Such remedies as act on the intestinal tract and produce evacuation.
act on the liver. increasing flow of bile, thus causing bilious stool.
Drastic cathartics:
are violent and quick in action.
cathartics produce watery stool.
are mild in their action.
produce semi-solid stool and are more powerful than laxatives. By this can be seen that cathartics , generally speaking, are purgatives, but whose actions are different according to what class of the above they belong.

Mucilaginous or oily substances for external use or application to allay irritation.
Destructive to offensive odors.

Depress the nervous action, either generally, partially or locally , and are divided into classes:
depress the nerve centers and thus relieve pain.
induce sleep.
depress the cerebro spinal centers, and in this way causes insensibility. Locally applied they cause local anesthesia.

Increase secretion of the skin.
produce marked perspiration. Simple or mild diaphoretics only produce moisture or mild perspiration.
Increase secretion of urine by their action on the kidneys. They are divided into depurants which increase solids in the urine, and hydragogues, which increase the watery elements of the urine.

May act as follows , viz.: by contact with terminals of the pneumogastric nerve in the stomach ; by acting on the vomiting center in the brain, or by acting directly or indirectly through the nervous system.
Remedies that stimulate the menstrual flow.

Remedies used for external application to soften tissue.
Substances which, if applied to the skill, will produce eschars; in other words, caustics.
Stimulate nerves beyond their normal action, and, if continued or given in too large doses,, will cause irritation or spasms of the muscles. In these cases the mental faculties will be excited and confused. They may also act through the nerves on a set of muscles or certain muscles.

Such remedies as will increase or promote the secretion from the bronchial mucous membrane; these may be stimulating or depressing.
Such remedies as will increase the secretion of milk by stimulating the lacteal glands.
Remedies that will arrest hemorrhages are termed hemostatics. These may be local or general. They are sometimes called styptics.

Pertaining to the liver and generally refer us to remedies which exert a direct influence on the liver.
Any substance that will destroy parasites.
Remedies that hasten parturition by increasing uterine contractions.
Reduce the bodily heat.
Remedies that will supply any lacking elements to the system either by chemical changes or direct action.
Are remedies that relieve nervous irritation, decrease nerve activity and have a soothing influence on the nerves on which they act. They are divided into general, local and special according to their action, whether they act on the general nervous system, locally, or on certain nerves only.
Remedies that increase the flow of saliva.
Agents that stimulate nerves to normal action. Some act on the general nervous system; others on special nerves.

Remedies which strengthen the nervous system, improve nutrition, restore waste material and favor normal activity of all the organs of the body.
Trophics: Such agents as supply nutrition or stimulate the tissues to absorb the required nutrition are called trophics.


Dogma and Sacred Cows 8.66
Dogma, is a canon of power upon which authority insists. Dogma gives birth to sacred cows. A dictionary definition of a �sacred cow� is, "something that escapes critical examination by virtue of high repute or popular esteem"; that thing may be a belief, a custom, an institution or a person.

The major use of dogma and sacred cows is to obscure awkward facts and common sense.

"When one is confronted with a fact which is in opposition with a prevalent theory,  one must accept this fact and abandon the theory even though the latter supported by great men may be generally subscribed to."
                        Claude Bernard

Claude Bernard was a French Physiologist, and is considered to be the father of experimental medicine.

Flies in the Ointment 8.67

History teaches us that division of the science from the art is necessarily harmful to the practice.

Arturo Castiglioni
A History of Medicine"

History teaches us that the hypothesis and theory come and go, and are eventually buried along side the ones who hatched them. History also teaches us, that with a subsequent advance of knowledge, that we failed to carry out a post mortem before the interment of the old and the adoption of the new.

Scientific knowledge is not superior to empirical knowledge, anymore than technology is superior to the human mind. It is empirical knowledge that has informed science, and taught it the questions to ask. A science that abandons its art has lost its soul.


The healer, when carrying out a physical examination of a client, will be presented with a single sign or symptom, or a complex of symptoms with which to arrive at a diagnosis. The symptoms being an outward manifestation of an underlying disorder or imbalance.

It is essential to understand that, what is disorder or imbalance for one, is not necessarily so for another. For example, the diagnostic testing of blood and urine is usually seen as a reliable indicator of health or lack of it. However, it is quite common to find people with blood and urine chemical compositions well outside the considered norm, yet they will exhibit rude good health.

High tech diagnostic techniques are as much a convenience as they are an aid, and there is no evidence to suggest that the use of such techniques is any more successful in diagnostic accuracy than those obtained by more traditional methods. In point of fact, the paraphernalia of diagnostic technology can be used to obscure the awkward fact that a doctor or therapist has minimal skills in the area of diagnostics.

The American scientist, Roger Williams, has presented evidence that biological idiosyncrasy can vary from person to person by factors of 20 or more within a racial group. How much more is it complicated by the biological idiosyncrasy between races?

Perhaps Chinese herbs elicit a better pharmacological response from an Asiatic, than they do from a Caucasian?

Polypharmacy 8.68
Polypharmacy, in whatever form it appears, can also be used to obscure lack of expertise in diagnostics. The 34th edition of �Blacks Medical Dictionary� defines polypharmacy ...."as a term applied to the administration of too many drugs in one prescription". That is a compact description. It must also be added that herbs are complex chemical structures that contain many Carbon double bonds which are sensitive to chemical reaction. Therefore when two or more herbs are combined, unwanted reactions occur which amongst other things can produce new compounds. Over 200 years of Homeopathic provings demonstrate the validity of the single herb approach.

The Canon of Western polypharmacy, was Galen of Pergamum (Claudius Galenus). He was physician to the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, and such was his authority, that his ideas were not challenged for nearly 1500 years. When the challenge came, it came from an equally formidable figure; the Iconoclast and father of modern biochemistry, Paracelsus.

" It must not surprise the physician that nature is more than his art for what can equal the forces of nature? He who has no expert knowledge of them has not mastered the art of medicine. In one herb there is more virtue and force than all the folio�s that are in the high colleges and that are not fated to live long."
1493 � 1541

One Herb � Virtue and Force 8.69
All herbs produce a complex of characteristic pharmacologic responses when introduced to the human organism. It does this by acting on an organ system itself. This will be dealt with in more depth later in the module. The human body, at all times, attempts to maintain homeostasis, or balance. When an organ system adjusts to a specific stimulus from a medicinal substance, the adjustment will then impact on other organ systems in the body, as the body adjusts its balance. These adjustments reflect as a side effect. These side effects are synergistic and beneficial, as opposed to the dangerous side effects produced by the synthetic substances, used in orthodox medicine. Obviously diagnostic skill is required if the correct organ system is to be targeted.

A further moderator is dose; � In all herbs there is a poison and there is nothing without a poison.
It depends only upon the dose whether a poison is a poison or not


One must also take into account the individual�s biological idiosyncrasy. A good doctor or therapist knows from experience that � Erlichs� magic bullets were made of sand.

"Selectivity is never absolute, even a highly selective drug is likely to react with some structure other than the one for which it has been designed. Absolute lack of toxicity is an impossibility because absolute selectivity is a chemical impossibility"
Professor Ren� Dubos

The therapeutic spectrum displayed by a single herb may be understood in terms of the functional groups that it contains, and its propensity to chemical reactions, in the number of carbon double and triple bonds that it contains. Table 8.69A is an abbreviated version of an intricate chemical analysis of one herb, which was presented by Dr. James Duke, an international authority and botanist.

Table 8.69A Yarrow - Achillea millefolium.







Della cadinene











Bornyl acetate









Furfural alcohol


Alpha terpinene



















Stigma sterol

















Beta sitosterol




Each of the compounds listed, is a chemical entity with its own specific mode of action, in fact a giant molecule in perfect balance, the synergy of life; such harmony cannot be matched, even by our finest orchestras.

In our understanding of the food chain from the microscopic to the macroscopic, we can see that life eats life, and returns it to life. Upon the green plants our life rests. From the simple to the complex, one layer at a time, each layer related to the one above and the one below, like interlocking pieces of a chemical jigsaw.

An element that is digested and then formed into a molecule by a plant, is instantly recognized and more acceptable to our system than is an element taken at source. For example, Iron (Fe) is essential for our blood; when taken as a mineral element, it causes constipation; when the mineral iron passes first through a plant, it does not, it is bio-chelated. This has been known for many hundreds of years . A technique of Indian Alchemy is to steep mineral iron in plant juices, so that a concentrated dose may be given to an anemic patient, without the risk of the constipation caused, auto-intoxication (self poisoning). It far better to administer a plant substance rich in iron.

Natural Polypharmacy 8.70
One single herb is Natures manifestation of the ultimate polypharmacy. When the lense shaped chloroplast points its magnesium eye at the sun, it does so in a similar way to us. Earlier concepts of movement and transport in plants, revolved around hydraulics and gravity. A mechanical model for a mechanical age. Although the concept was incorrect, it provided a platform, upon which, a deeper level of understanding could evolve. Today an electro-chemical model is acceptable to science; and perhaps tomorrow we may understand in terms of morpho-genetic fields.

Many cultures understood herbs as little people with godlike powers, and the herb was propitiated before its life was sacrificed for ours. Such a vision is not incompatible with the narrower concepts of science, for it is now understood that plants have muscles; to be sure they are not constructed like the human muscle, but nature has used the same principle and the same, or similar, chemical shapes to produce movement.

Muscle contraction in our specie involves the union of two proteins called actin and myosin. An experiment was carried out whereby, actin was extracted from a fungus and added to human myosin. They worked together perfectly.

When the herbs many magnesium eyes, are aligned with its solar deity, it uses opsin and carotenoids to see, they are also essential for human vision; the herbs will then use the human nerve transmitter, acetylcholine, to pass the solar message.

Such things should not surprise, for we use plant derived hormones, and amino acids, and we use plant derived chemical shapes to produce new shapes. Plant Indoleatic acid, or auxin is very similar to the brain chemical serotonin.

The point to be made, and the questions to be asked, are; Do we really understand what we are doing when we mix and administer two, or even more herbs ?. Do we really understand the pharmaco-dynamics, i.e., the action, fate and excretion of a shotgun remedy, when we introduce that complexity to the even greater complexity of the human organism ? In that context, when we use the word synergy, do we not reduce the word to mere medical physco-babble ?

The longer the prescription the poorer their virtue. Therefore each
Physician should achieve great things by means of small things.�


Corruption of the Work 8.71
Paracelsus has been called �Lutherus Medicorum�, the Luther of Physicians, and with very good reason. The impact of his �Spagyric� (Spa - Guy - Rick) extracts, did for medicine, what Luther did for Christianity. He set up a new point of departure.

The fallacy of polypharmacy was challenged and exposed. The medical authorities of the day were infuriated, and hounded Paracelsus from place to place, but wherever he went the people flocked to him, the rich and powerful, the poor and downtrodden, because Paracelsus could do, what the medical power brokers could not; he healed them, with a single herb, or a single mineral, and posologically adjusted for each individual. It was of no matter whether they could pay or not, no one was turned away.

After the death of Paracelsus, and employing the medicines that Paracelsus had developed, and presumably based on the false premise, that if a little does you good, then more must be even better, these same physicians then commenced to prescribe the new mineral medicines. So began the 1st age of �heroic medicine�, and abominations were heaped upon the heroic patients, none were spared, kings and queens, artisan and peasant. The man who made the Dutch town of Leiden the greatest medical center of Europe at that time, was to led protest;

� When one compares the good, which a half dozen true sons of Aesculapius
have done, since the beginning of the healing arts on this earth, with the evil
which the vast numbers of doctors in this profession have caused to mankind,
one will doubtless consider it would have been far better, if there had never
been physicians on this earth.�

Herman Boerhaave
1668 - 1738

In Pursuit of the Prefect Reagent 8.72
In the modern sense the word reagent means a chemical substance that reacts with a chemical substance to produce a specific change. Paracelsus declared that life is a chemical process, his life and work were dedicated to the search for;

- : The Perfect Reagent : -

A magistery is a Spagyric preparation. In orthodox pharmacy a magistral is a remedy prepared for an individual rather than one prepared from an official formula.

Four and a half centuries separate us from the cross roads of Paracelsus. His discovery of �That which is concealed in things�, led step by step, as the scientific tools became available, to the discovery of the alkaloids. �That which is concealed in things� then became �Active Constituent�.

The isolated and purified Alkaloids, Glucosides, and Emodins became all the medical rage; the magic bullets of the mid 19th and early 20th century medicine. As the death toll rose, so did the popularity of Homeopathy, and it was belatedly recognized that the action of those isolated and purified compounds could be both savage and unpredictable. So it was back to the Galenicals and using the whole plant matrix. the active constituent was decreased or augmented to a predetermined level, i.e. the synergy of the plant structure was interfered with. Then came the realization, that the Galenicals, which were prepared by arbitrary standardization techniques, produced a more acceptable pharmacologic response than those standardized by chemical or biological methods.

Table 8.69A is abbreviated, and does not show those substances which are common to all plants, and with water removed would only represent at most 10% of the total solids. Yarrow is not distinguished in terms of its complexity.

The fungus Claviceps purpurea or Ergot, which is parasitic on Rye, it contains many alkaloids, one of which finds widespread use in medicine, i.e., Ergot amine, its molecular formula is C70H76N10O14. Another nitrogenous plant is Nicotiana tabacum L., common name tobacco.

Because of its economic importance, tobacco has received much scientific scrutiny, and in itself is chemically complex. Now we will recall that heat is one of the chemical methods used to bring about a chemical reaction, so it is understandable that tobacco smoke is even more complex, and that it contains compounds that are not found in the plant, or if they are, they may be in greater or lesser quantities. For analytic purposes, the smoke is biphasic, i.e., it has two states of matter, the gaseous and the solid or particulate (particles of tar). The smoke is still under scientific scrutiny; so far, in excess of 4,700 separate compounds have been identified.

To hammer out the point let us return to that old anvil, the Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea L.). The medicinal properties of the foxglove has been known since the 10th century, and was most certainly used by the Physicians of Myddfai for dropsical complaints( water retention). Those Celtic physicians were also advocates of the single herb; however, medical history would have it that an English doctor, William Withering (1741 - 1799), unlocked the secrets of the Foxglove.

Withering obtained his degree in medicine from Edinburgh University at a time when plant drugs were held at arms length by institutionalized medicine. However, Dr Withering�s disdain for �folk medicine�, was tempered by his love for a young botanic artist called Helena Cooke, who was numbered among his first patients, and who he was destined to marry. Withering gained his clinical experience with digitalis at a free clinic for the poor in Birmingham England. In the process he became one of the wealthiest physicians in the kingdom.

From the standpoint of Apothecary, Dr Withering made two major contributions; firstly, he slowed the gallop of the iatro-chemists and forced a re-examination of what folk medicine had to offer. Perhaps more importantly, he established for digitalis, what is nowadays called a therapeutic index. A therapeutic index is a type of scale that sets a lethal dose and an effective dose, with a therapeutic dose being a ratio of the lethal (LD) and the Effective (ED). All drugs have a unique therapeutic index.

Withering was not entirely successful, and neither is modern medicine, for the common sense reason that on one side, there is the biological idiosyncrasy of the plant drug, and on the other the biological idiosyncrasy of the individual. Nature has solved that problem very nicely; a toxic dose is not necessarily a lethal dose, and the onset of toxicity produces vomiting and purging as the body evacuates the offending substance.

Digitalis entered regular medical practice in 1755: because of its value, it quickly bridged the English Channel and was embraced by medical men throughout Europe. After a shaky start it established itself in the European Pharmacopeias. Apart from D. purpurea, other members of the family Scrophulariaceae were also admitted, e.g., D. ferrugine, D. ambigua,  D. grandiflora and D. lanata. D. lanata contains a group of glycosides that have been called lanatosides A, B, C, D, and E, which are used by the pharmaceutical industry to manufacture the secondary glycosides, digitoxin, diginatin, dioxin, gitaloxin and digoxin. This is done by the removal of one acetyl group and one glucose molecule.

The preparation introduced by Withering was Digitalis leaf, and because of the natural variations from batch to batch, and the amateurish prescribing of Digitalis, deaths and violent gastric upsets (vomiting and purging) were common place. In a bid to circumvent these problems, various preparations were placed on the market.

Because of the importance of Digitalis spp., they have undergone intense scientific scrutiny, but even today, over 200 years later, the only reliable test of potency is Biological assay, which would seem to indicate that the potency or otherwise of a batch, is not determined by a single, or even 2 or 3 glycosides and saponins, but rather, that it is determined by the synergistic complex of the plant itself. This simple fact alone demonstrates the crudity of current medical and pharmaceutical offerings.

In the late 1800�s, with improved methods of transport and the increasing mobility of people across national borders, it became evident that standardized formulae for potent drugs was, of necessity, desirable. In 1902, the first international conference was held in Brussels, resulting in an International Agreement of unified formulae for potent drugs and their respective preparations.

Over the years, further conferences were held under the auspices of the League of Nations. That was succeeded by the World Health Organization, who in May 1950, at the third global assembly, approved the publication of the first volume of the International Pharmacopoeia. The IP is not a legal standard in any nation, unless it is first adopted by the relevant authority of that nation.

Withering's preparation of Digitalis leaf is rarely prescribed today, one would suspect because of lack of clinical experience, but when it is, then Prepared Digitalis (Digitalis pulverata) is dispensed. Prepared Digitalis is a coarse powder (18 mesh) that has been biologically assayed and adjusted to contain a specific number of units of activity. It should be understood that units of activity do not have a specific weight or volume, but are related to a specific physiologic function, and will vary from drug to drug; in the case of digitalis, it is related to heart function.

The British Pharmacopoeia, 1958, states that Prepared Digitalis must contain 10 units in one gram (10IU/gm), and that over-strength preparations may be adjusted by the addition of under-strength digitalis, or powdered grass or lucerne. The latter two substances are considered to be medically inert.

The reference sample of the digitalis was not tampered with, its activity was simply noted �in vivo� (in life). Subsequent preparations were measured against it by further biological assay, and then an arbitrary standardization procedure was adopted. The preparation meets the criteria required by herbology, in that its synergy, remains intact. All that is now needed, is the clinical skill to balance the drug against the aptly named patient.

The therapeutic dose of digitalis is proposed to be 60% of the toxic level. This begs the question, �what is the toxic level� ? The patients biological idiosyncrasy is not a fixed point, that once determined remains a constant, the dynamic equilibrium of the individual not only varies from season to season, but from hour to hour and day to day. That which is a therapeutic dose of Digitalis at 4pm, may prove to be a toxic dose at 4am. Therapeutic in spring, may be toxic in winter; and of course, it is indisputable fact that the same problems of variation are mirrored in the plant.

When we tamper with natures synergy at any level, there is a price to be paid, not by the physician, but by the patient. At our current level of knowledge, such procedures may be justified by medical emergency, i.e., to save a life, but once patient has been stabilized and there is evidence of organic impairment which necessitates ongoing treatment then, to manage a maintenance regime around, such procedures is insanity not medical science. Maintenance should be managed around a natural drug and correct dietary principles.

Scientific Biological Assay 8.73
"We need to be vigilant. Human sacrifice in a subtle and muted form has reappeared this time on the altar of science. Volunteers are easy to obtain; patients who trust their doctors and want to please them consent; students freshly attired in the mantle of science consent; in some countries prisoners with a promise of early release consent; worse still the sub-normal or the chronically mentally ill have no opportunity to dissent."
Alan Norton DM DPM
The New Dimensions of Medicine�.

The virulence of some substances that emerge from laboratories around the world, even in minute quantities is such, that they strike fear into the progenitor. Accordingly, it is standard practice to test such substances on living creatures.

The substance may be intended for a use, far removed from the realm of medicine, but it will be deemed necessary to establish the toxic range, so that we can know what quantity, in relation to human body weight, can be lethal.

Tests employed are similar, irrespective of whether the substance is destined as a household oven cleaner, or a cure for cancer. There comes a point when the substance, if considered to have a therapeutic use, will be tested on human beings.

In testing potent substances, a range of experimental creatures are used, e.g., guinea pigs, frogs, mice, rats, rabbits, cats and dogs. It must be clearly understood, that there is no discernable toxic dose to weight relationship between different species, due to the differences in metabolism.

The aim of the experimenter, is to establish a therapeutic index of a given substance in a given specie. A therapeutic index attempts to estimate a safety range for a drug. This is expressed as a ratio between the toxic dose and the effective dose.

According to the effect required, a drug may need a higher or lesser dosage, in which case, the drug may be placed at more than one place, on its therapeutic index. The testing is done on a batch of creatures of the same type, age and weight. The dose of a substance that will kill 50% of an experimental batch in a given time, is called the lethal dose, and is referred to as �LD50� The effective dose is arrived at in a similar manner and is referred to as the �ED50�. Reference books on Pharmacology will usually list a drug and its LD50 for a given animal, e.g.

Drug ABC
 LD50 = Dog/oral = 150 mg/kg
LD50 = Rat/oral = 750 mg/kg
      LD50 = Rabbit/oral = 400 mg/kg.

In the case of substances that are subject to international agreement, the agreed units per gram are usually stated, for example as guinea pig units or frog units, per gram. This looks quite impressive, but the high number of in-hospital adverse and fatal drug reactions, make the crudity of the procedures stand out in sharp relief. A comparison of a human and veterinary pharmacopoeia will make this perfectly plain, and quite correctly, animal and human doctors are not licensed to practice in each others domain.

Given the fact that new drugs must first undergo human clinical trials before a license is granted for general medical use, then it is difficult to justify the cruelty involved. We have a great wealth of empirical and scientific information relating to plants and plant drugs. To kill animals to verify what we already know is lacking heart, intelligence and common sense, when there are alternative methods available.

The Legal Position of the Apothecary 8.74
In order to understand the convoluted position of herbal medicine, within current westernised nations, the interested student would need to read the �Official� historical accounts of the Medical and Pharmaceutical Trade Unions, and then compare those accounts, with those of the social and political commentators of the day. It will not require a quantum leap of intelligence to understand that the pecuniary advantage of monopoly has far outstripped any moral or ethical responsibility.

The favor bestowing power, of financial muscle, is well reflected in the antics of the international pharmaceutical companies, in corrupting scientific and legislative bodies. Then armed with falsified data and bad science, proceed to gain control of the individuals right, to their own minds and bodies. Such maneuvering, although not widely published in the mainstream media, are a matter of very many public records.

The following should not be taken as a definitive statement of the law in any country; it is the Apothecaries responsibility to satisfy the law wheresoever they choose to manufacture. For the most part westernized nations may be divided into one of two legal systems, i.e. �Common Law� countries and �Civil Law� countries. The common law countries are the USA, Canada, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand. Common law is characterized by the �trial by jury� and the �rule of evidence�. Laws are based on custom and legal precedent, if the law does not forbid a practice, it is legal.

Civil law pertains in most European countries and South America. Holland is a world leader with its enlightened legislation. Civil law has its roots in �Roman Law� and the �Code of Napoleon�. There is no trial by jury, and it operates from codified principles, as opposed to legal precedents. If the law does not sanction an activity then it will, in all probability, be illegal.

The practice and manufacture of medicine is subject to both civil and criminal law, and particularly in the areas of misrepresentation and trade descriptions. The establishment on a global basis has a legal monopoly on the production of the more potent alkaloid or glycoside producing plants, with criminal sanctions applied to those who evade the monopoly. Most nations have a regulatory body that controls what is admissible under given guidelines. The following is a list of the major agencies who determine the state of play in westernized nations.

Australia - A.D.E.C. Australian Drug Evaluation Committee.
Canada - F.D.D. Food and Drugs Directorate.
E.C.C. - C.P.M.C. Committee for Proprietary Medicinal Products.
Great Britain - M.C.A. Medicines Control Agency.
U.S.A. - F.D.A. Food and Drugs Administration.

In addition to the above agencies, there will also be legal codes or acts that govern the practice of doctors, dentists, pharmacists, opticians and nurses. Many nations who are members of the Commonwealth, e.g., Great Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, will have similar structure to the legislation, statutes and acts relating to those matters, e.g.

Medicines Act. Dangerous Drugs Act. Pharmacy and Poisons Act. Therapeutic Substances Act. Herbal Remedies Act.

As a general rule, it will be illegal for a person to hold out, or practice, as a pharmacist unless they are registered, however, that does not restrict an individuals right to manufacture a herbal product, with the proviso that the product complies with regulations in force. The regulatory status of each herb is theoretically placed in one of four categories. If a herb is not found in one of those categories, then in practice, for common law countries, it is not controlled. If a therapeutic claim is made for a herbal product, then it will fall into one of the restrictive categories and a license will be required. For practical purposes the following categories will be subject to the type of regulation previously mentioned.

Controlled Drugs (CD), i.e., poisons and drugs of abuse.
Prescription drugs (P), i.e., prescribed by a medical practitioner.
Pharmacy only Drugs (P.O.M), prescription drugs, or certain classes of drugs, not for general retail sale.
General Sales List. (G.S.L)

For most countries it is quite legal to manufacture a herbal product on the GSL list, with the proviso that no claims are made as to therapeutic efficacy.

Chapter 9

Pharmageddon Herbal Block Index