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 Herbal Medicine: The Healing Power of Plants 
Interview with James Duke PhD
   as interviewed by Daniel Redwood DC

Tell us more about the Green Pharmacy Garden.

It's a south-facing slope on my home property here. It will revert, upon my death and my wife's death, to the Tai Sophia Institute, which is an acupuncture and healing institute at the moment, but it's liable to become part of a laureate university system all over the world.

The garden on the south slope has four long rows that are sort of like sloped terraces, and in each we have about 20 plots. In each plot, we've gathered the best medicinal plants for different ailments. For example, we have a Prostate Plot. We have the best sources of lycopene there - the saw palmetto (which we have to bring in before frost arrives), the stinging nettle, and the African pygeum, proven to help the prostate. That's just one of the 80 plots in the garden. I can send to those who wish a map of the garden, listing all the species in each plot. It's sort of like a catalog.

Science marches on and we keep learning new things that might be promising. And frankly, I'm really eager, as is my head gardener, Helen Metzman, to get the latest into them. She is being paid by Tai Sophia. She is hardworking, an artist. She builds beautiful structures out of bamboo and vines to keep the garden a place of beauty as well as a place of education.

What role do you have in the herbal masters program at Tai Sophia? Are you teaching there? Guest lecturing?

I'm glad you asked. My garden is where I teach. We like to call it "Tai South Campus." It's roughly one and a half miles, as the crow flies, from the Tai Sophia main campus. The students love to come down here for classes. Instead of my giving them a bunch of slides, we squeeze and tug and defoliate. We have one specimen plant, the jewel weed, that ejaculates its seed into the student's hand. It's a hands-on experience.

I recall going on an herb walk a long time ago in Iowa and being told that jewel weed was very helpful for poison ivy.

A long-deceased researcher friend of mine discovered that there is an antihistaminic compound in the jewel weed which explains some of the folklore. But it turns out, wildly and surprisingly to almost anyone, that the active ingredient in jewel weed is lawsone, which is also the active ingredient in the dye called henna. Just two weeks ago in class, one of the students rubbed into one side of my goatee, the reddish roots, or prop roots, of the jewel weed. We didn't wash it for a few days, and it gave me a light yellow tint to my goatee. It doesn't really work well on gray hair; henna and lawsone work better on darker hair.

A century or so ago, there was a massive shift in the practice of medicine from plants as the primary healing agents (which had been true since the dawn of humanity) to synthetic pharmaceuticals. What would you say was lost and gained in that shift?

Synthetic pharmaceuticals, your genes have never known. And that's why these FDA approved synthetic chemicals kill over 100,000 people a year. People have no genetic experience with them. We've lost the synergies of the mixtures of the 5000 chemicals in each herb, which your genes have known for thousands of years (if you're Biblically oriented) or millions of years (if you're evolutionarily oriented).

Each herb, from turmeric to hot pepper, contains about 5000 biological chemicals, or phytochemicals. All are biologically active. I mean, that's incredible! It's chaotic. Your genes know these things that your ancestors ate, and your genes will mine them like menus of active chemicals, and pull out the ones it wants and piss out the ones it doesn't want. [See the Multiple Activities Menu at]. That's what homeostasis is. You and I and most alternative practitioners know about that, but few of the allopaths think about the fact that the synthetics are unknown to your genes. When you take them, it's going to throw you out of balance. It might help you in some ways, but it might throw you out of balance in other ways. And then you'll return to the physician to find out what to do for the problems the synthetic caused.

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 About The Author
Daniel Redwood, DC, is a Professor at Cleveland Chiropractic College - Kansas City. He is editor-in-chief of Health Insights Today ( and serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of the......moreDaniel Redwood DC
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