In some other countries, medical physicians prescribe herbs far more than American doctors. For example, German MDs prescribe St. John's wort for depression more often than prescription medications like Prozac and Paxil. Why is there such a difference?
America is run on a faulty premise, "Better living through chemistry." And we have been convinced (though I've never been convinced) that herbs are dangerous and that synthetic chemistry is the answer to all our problems, when literally it is the genesis of most of our problems.
Tell us about your travels to the rainforests of Central and South America.
Believe it or not, although I've been interested in botany and edible plants since the age of five, I didn't have a major conversion in my life until I moved to Panama in 1965 with my wife and my very young children. And while there, I worked with the Choco Indians and the Kuna Indians in the eastern part of Panama, which is very sparsely populated.
While I was living with these wonderful people, I saw that their children were just as happy and healthy as my children back in the Panama Canal Zone, with the best of American allopathic medicine. And I said to myself, "These Indians are on the right track, if not the righter track." That was my mid-life conversion to the belief that herbal medicine is better than what we've been getting. I truly believe that we are being killed by our medicine. Medicine is the number four killer in the U.S. these days and none of these herbs are doing this killing.
When you take an herb, you get a menu with those 5000 chemicals, which can often help things you weren't even seeking help for. You take the synthetic medicine and it can help, especially if the diagnosis is correct (and about 50 percent of diagnoses aren't). But taking any pharmaceutical will upset your body more than if you took an herb. So we've gone the wrong direction. And I think those Europeans, who at least tolerate prescribing the herbs, are way ahead of us.
You mentioned something about people visiting your garden and spoke about the Tai Sophia students coming there to learn about the plants. Do you encourage visits by others who are interested?
I like to have groups of between 20 and 30, for a couple of hours. I show them, among my 300 plants in the garden, those that are currently of greatest interest to me. This week, cinnamon is of interest to me, because Avandia [a prescription diabetes medication] is close to being taken off the market, and cinnamon is infinitely better than Avandia. Vioxx has been taken off the market, and I would show them that capsaicin, from the hot pepper, is a better Cox-2 inhibitor than Vioxx was. Vioxx killed 90,000 people within ten years. We've gone in the wrong direction. I've even had the FDA out here four times, but they were lower echelon people who think more like I do. It's almost as if the upper echelons are on the payroll of Big Pharma.
It's nice to know that there is at least someone within the bowels of the bureaucracy with some creative thinking.
The upper echelons of the bureaucracy would not even let us say that prunes are a laxative because it hasn't been proven to their satisfaction. Let them eat prunes!
That says it all, doesn't it? Is there anything else you'd like to tell our readers?
Well, I've been thinking all day about lycopene, from tomato and an herb that I have in the garden which has a lot more lycopene than tomato.