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— updated 2000-05-01


Herbalist Review, Issue 2000-#2:
Codex Alimentarius; Ephedra; Contamination; Vaccines

by Roger W. Wicke, Ph.D.

RMHI HERBALIST REVIEW        Issue 2000 #2
Published approximately 6 times annually by the
Rocky Mountain Herbal Institute

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[1] Codex Alimentarius
[2] Proper and improper uses of ephedra
[3] Contamination in Chinese herbal patent 
[4] Vaccines under fire
[5] Advanced publications for TCM herbalists


[1] Codex Alimentarius

An increasing number of organizations are becoming 
aware of the threats posed to health freedom by 
Codex Alimentarius, a set of proposed international 
trade regulations governing foods, nutritional 
supplementation, and herbal products. The 
California Society for Oriental Medicine has posted 
a summary of Codex and its implications:

While there are undoubtedly quality-control 
problems in the nutritional supplement and herbal 
manufacturing industries, removing consumers' 
freedom of choice by international fiat is not 
necessarily the solution. Public education and 
private certification agencies are two forces that 
can help improve quality without sacrificing 
freedom of choice.


[2] Proper and improper uses of ephedra

Ephedra, or ma huang, is a useful herb if used as 
indicated, but can be dangerous if used to excess 
or for conditions for which it may only mask 
symptoms. Many of the currently popular uses of 
ephedra would be considered inappropriate from the 
perspective of the TCM pharmacopoiea. The TCM 
pharmacopoiea states that it 
    - Releases the Exterior and disperses Cold; 
indicated for TaiYang-stage Exterior Chill; acts by 
inducing sweating. 
    - Circulates Lung Qi; relieves cough and asthma. 
    - Promotes urination and relieves edema 
accompanying External Evil.

Ephedra is to be avoided or used cautiously in 
Deficiency conditions characterized by excessive 
sweating; it may aggravate high blood pressure and 
cause restlessness and tremors. 

One of the primary active ingredients of ephedra 
is ephedrine, which is a bronchodilator and is 
especially effective when bronchospasm is present. 
It is also diaphoretic, vasoconstrictive, and 
raises blood pressure. 

To use ephedra for weight loss or as a stimulant, 
two popular uses, risks exhausting the Qi, resulting 
in adrenal exhaustion and chronic fatigue. Its 
classification as a "tonic" by certain sources is 
misleading, as its long-term side effects are just 
the opposite, resulting in exhaustion. As for 
weight loss, ephedra can temporarily increase 
metabolic rate and diuresis, which can enhance 
short-term weight loss, but if underlying metabolic 
factors are not corrected, long-term consumption 
of ephedra will lead to not only exhaustion, but a 
rebound of weight gain.

Furthermore, many Americans are already suffer some 
type of exhaustion (of Qi, Yin, Yang, or Blood) due 
to stress, overwork, and poor diet, and any use of 
ephedra, especially without counteraction by other 
herbs, may risk aggravating the condition.


[3] Contamination in Chinese herbal patent 

Prepared herbal products (including pills and 
powders) manufactured in mainland China frequently 
contain contaminants, including heavy metals and 
illegal pharmaceutical drugs. For a list of 
products known to contain such contaminants, see
However, be aware that this may only be a partial 

RMHI has long advised its students and graduates to 
use whole dried herbs whose botanical identity be 
verified by inspection and smell. 

Eventually, we feel that a shift toward local, 
organically grown herbs is highly desirable. 
However, to employ such herbs to their greatest 
potential will require a detailed understanding of 
local herbs in the context of TCM (Chinese) 
herbology. Such understanding can best be 
achieved by people who have been trained in the 
TCM system of health care and who know how to 
conduct proper clinical research.

The secret to the effectiveness of Chinese herbal 
health care is not its herbs, many of which are 
commonly available worldwide, but its underlying 
philosophy and methodology. The latter can be 
successfully applied to understanding diet, 
environmental health issues, and chemical exposure. 
It may be tempting for companies to enhance the 
short-term potency of an herbal product with 
pharmaceutical adulterants, because this may 
increase a product's apparent potency in the hands 
of naive and uninformed users. However, we feel 
that such tactics will ultimately backfire, and 
will only cloud the credibility of a 2000-year-old 
system of health care that has much to offer the 


[4] Vaccines under fire

Michele Carbone, a research pathologist at the 
National Cancer Institute, has verified the presence 
of SV40, a potent tumor-inducing virus, in polio 
vaccines administered during the period 1955-1963.

According to an article appearing in Lancet (Alm, 
J.S. et al, LANCET 1999, 353:1485-88), children who 
follow anthroposophical teachings of Rudolph 
Steiner, including avoidance or minimization of 
childhood vaccinations, suffered from allergies 
significantly less than their fully vaccinated 
peers; the incidence of allergies were directly 
proportional to the number of vaccinations received 
during childhood.

The alleged merits of vaccination have come into 
increasing controversy over the past decades, as 
more evidence accumulates of harmful effects and 
questionable effectiveness in preventing infectious 
illness. For a synopsis of this evidence, see


[5] Advanced publications for TCM herbalists

During the past 20 years, C.S. Cheung, M.D., who 
teaches advanced courses at the Rocky Mountain 
Herbal Institute, has translated a small mountain 
of clinical reports and articles from Chinese TCM 
hospitals. These publications include clinical case 
studies reported in detail: case histories, health 
assessments, herbal formulas used, outcomes, and 
discussion of results. For an updated listing of 
publications organized by topic, see

For those of you who already have some of Dr. 
Cheung's reports, the preceding listing of 
publications has been expanded and reorganized, and 
now includes exact cover titles, copyright dates, 
number of pages, and brief description of contents. 
This should make ordering publications easier.