I came upon an article on Dr. Andrew Weil’s web site about green tea extract and liver damage.

I am a fan of Dr. Weil’s, and consider him to be the father of alternative medicine in this country. While I believe it will take people like him to impact change in the conservative medical community, I’m afraid he just doesn’t go far enough when it comes to this piece. It just doesn’t get the job done.

“My colleague Tieraona Low Dog, M.D., director of education at the Program on Integrative Medicine, who sits on the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) committee that proposed the cautionary statements, tells me that the action was taken after a thorough review of all the reports to the FDA of adverse events for both black cohosh and green tea extracts, including liver damage. If there is a relationship between green tea extracts and liver damage, Dr. Low Dog said that the incidence appears to be exceedingly low. Still, the committee decided that consumers should be aware of the growing number of reports suggesting that concentrated green tea extracts (predominantly those prepared with alcohol), with and without other ingredients, may cause elevation of liver enzymes and liver damage.

How thoughtful of the USP to be watching out for us! Perhaps they should pay a little more attention to the pharmaceutical industry. It is a fact that the third largest cause of death in this country is from prescription drugs. Hundreds of thousands of people die in the U.S. each year – from prescription drugs taken at the correct dosage, and errors made in hospitals administering drugs. Given that horrifying statistic, it’s interesting that USP concerns itself with a possible relationship which is “exceedingly low”. I advocate a cautionary statement on all PRESCRIPTION drugs. I’m not talking about all the separate pages of printed material that comes in the bag along with your prescription which no one reads: there should be a bold warning on the label: “Thousands of people have died from this”.

Dr. Weil does give his personal reaction to this proposal and advises that the best way to obtain the health benefits of green tea is to drink green tea. I believe that he needs to do a lot more. He needs to confront the USP about the absurd irony of these warnings given the mortality rates associated with prescription drug use. As a supporter and proponent of alternative medicines, he has the duty to inform his vast community of supporters about the profound dangers of prescription drugs versus the historical significance and use of herbs. Herbs are food but they’re also medicine. The American Herbalist Guild does not want or need the USP’s interference. Considering the vast loss of life each year due to pharmaceuticals, it would be best for the USP to improve their oversight of this industry before they take on herbal medicine, which has a successful history of hundreds of years in the United States, and millenia in Asia.

[photo credit: main post image at www.usnews.com;]