I find the ideas promulgated in this article deeply disturbing. The idea of pulling out a couple of chemicals and standardizing them is a turning away from the holism that herbal remedies represent. This is the very essence of the complaint against conventional pharmaceuticals and why people are turning to herbals. That there is a problem with consistency in marketed herbal products seems clear. However, requiring patentable, purified chemical combinations would be tantamount to making true herbal medicine illegal. In an age in which a leading cause of death in the United States is hospital-and-doctor-caused illness, I believe I have the right to choose a different path to health than conventional medicine and pharmaceuticals.

Victoria Baker
Redway Calif

Several years ago, I corresponded with a physician at the University of Brussels about a disturbing rash of kidney problems in young European women who were taking Chinese herbs to lose weight. Some of them required kidney transplants. An unlisted contaminant, Aristolochia , turned out to be the source of the problem.

James A. Erdman
Crestone, Colo.

Whoa! One of the attractions of herbal remedies is that they don’t kill people. Pharmaceuticals kill around 2 million people a decade. The attitude of the Food and Drug Administration is to get rid of the competition. Destroying any industry is a bad idea, but that’s what this monster is all about. Market forces take care of the shysters in time, but the FDA uses force and fraud to destroy legitimate concerns. My Echinacea works just fine, thank you.

Edward G. Robles
Franklin, N.C.

In fact, herbal remedies have been implicated in many deaths. See “When Herbs Bite Back” (When Herbs Bite Back), “Honey of a Threat” (Honey of a Threat), and “Homing in on Ephedra’s Risks” (Homing In on Ephedra’s Risks) .–J. Raloff