In this issue, we profile sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides), an herb whose fruit and seed provide oils with a myriad of uses. (Sea buckthorn is not related to the laxa-tive buckthorn bark, Rhamnus cathartica.) While we were nearing press time, I learned from some Canadian colleagues of a disappointing situation in Canada regarding recent attempts to cultivate sea buckthorn on a large agricultural scale for industrial processing of the fruit and seed. Apparently, the seed of an unproductive variety called Indian Summer had been sown, which resulted in an inability to harvest sea buck-thorn fruits and seeds, thereby creating some serious losses for Canadian farmers.
Our Canadian friends recommended that we drop our plans to run sea buckthorn on the cover, arguing that past issues of HerbalGram featuring specific herbs have had a stimulatory effect on the amount of publicity each respective herb receives in the subsequent media coverage, eventually stimulating commercial activity and consumer demand. (This is not our intention, but it is an interesting perception by some ABC stakeholders, and possibly a reality.) They argued that Canadian agricultural produc-ers would not be able to satisfy an increased demand; most of the current supply comes from China. We decided to continue with our plans, as is apparent from the Steven Foster photo of sea buckthorn that graces the cover of this issue.
On another note, one of the two extensive feature articles in this issue pertains to the long-held belief that plants reveal clues as to their medicinal actions. This 'Doctrine of Signatures' (DOS) is found in many disparate cultures and goes back into the history of western herbal medicine to the ancient Greeks, probably even earlier. Ethnobotanist Brad Bennett examines much of the historical lineage of DOS and concludes that this is really not an a priori revelation of medicinal use but really a mnemonic developed by people in numerous cultures to remember traditional and empirical findings of such use.
Our other feature is on Kampo medicine, a subject we covered previously in an extensive article on Sho-saiko-to, a leading Kampo herbal formula with modern research that shows its benefit for liver dysfunction. Kampo is basically Chinese tradi-tional medicine as it evolved in Japan over the past 1400 years. In Japan, as explained by lead author Gregory Plotnikoff, a western-trained physician who has spent consid-erable time in Japan, Kampo medicines are government-regulated and are produced according to western-style good manufacturing practices (GMPs). I remember visiting the production facilities of Tsumura, Japan's largest manufacturer of Kampo medi-cines, during a trip to Japan in 1995 and being impressed by the cleanliness of the facility. The place was so clean and neat-one could almost eat off the floor.
Aside from a high level of GMPs for their production, Kampo herbal medicines are often clinically tested according to western-style randomized controlled clinical trials, as Dr. Plotnikoff emphasizes in his article. It was thus somewhat of a surprise, and a disappointment, to learn recently from a friend and colleague that another Japa-nese Kampo medicine manufacturer's attempts to market its products to MDs in the United States has been received with considerable resistance, despite the company's attempts to provide educational seminars based on the growing amount of clinical research that continues to document the benefits and clinical efficacy of these formu-lations. Hopefully, some day soon, healthcare practitioners in North America will be using an increased variety of natural medicines, produced by appropriate GMPs and substantiated by a growing number of published clinical trials, regardless of the culture from which they are derived and their country of origin.