Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients
Alternative Medicine Conference Calendar
Who are we?New articlesFeatured topicsArticles onlineSubscriptionsContact us!
Check out recent tables of contents
From the Townsend Letter for Doctors & Patients
April 2003

briefed by Jule Klotter
Our April 2003 cover
Order back issues
Advertise with TLDP!
Order this issue!
Search our site

Organic agriculture is known for its avoidance of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, but biodynamic agriculture and its certification system is even more stringent. Biodynamics grew out of a series of lectures by Austrian scientist and philosopher Rudolf Steiner in 1924. "Biodynamic agricultural principles emphasize living soil, the farm as a wholistic organism, and note both the visible and invisible forces that create a healthy eco-system" (

By observing and respecting the interconnection of the mineral, plant, animal, and human kingdoms as well as following the basic principles and rhythms of nature and cosmic forces, those who work with biodynamics produce plants that are "full of vitality and deeply nourishing."

The "vitality" of the soil is especially important according to the biodynamic view. Composting and biodynamic preparations (composted "recipes" developed by Dr. Steiner) play key roles in biodynamics. According to, Dr. Steiner's preparations have been scientifically verified to stimulate soil life and to encourage photosynthesis in plants.

The Demeter Association is an international network of 19 individual organizations that certify biodynamic farms ( Demeter's certification standards are very strict. Unlike other organic certifiers, Demeter certifies the "self-contained farm organism," not isolated crops. The farm is viewed wholistically, as a self-contained organism whose dynamics hold the solution for whatever problems arise; and it must follow biodynamic principles of soil husbandry and composting.

These farms depend upon manure from their own livestock to enrich farm soil. According to Demeter standards, 80% of the food for the livestock must come from the farm that the animals inhabit. (Demeter has excused some horticultural operations from this requirement.) Unlike other organic certifiers, Demeter does not permit bone, blood, hoof and horn meal, or manure from animals fed bone, blood meals to be used as fertilizer. In the case of livestock, Demeter requires that all livestock, including chickens, have outdoor access. Some "certified organic" eggs come from chickens that live indoors and never scratch at grass or nibble on chickweed. Organic certifiers also permit de-beaking, tail cutting, and dehorning. Demeter does not. lists farms and horticulturalists who have Demeter certification. The coffee of Café Altura, the grains in Eden Foods' pasta, and the flowers used in Flower Essence Services' products are all grown biodynamically. The website also provides resources for those who wish to deepen their wholistic view of their farm (or garden) and work with nature on a deeper level.

I recently had the very good fortune to buy biodynamically-grown oranges from my local food co-op. The oranges tasted pleasantly sweet without a hint of acidity. Even the white membranes and inner skin that adheres to the orange sections was enjoyable to eat! It was neither tough nor bitter. If the quality of those oranges is typical of biodynamically-grown produce, I am eager for more.
"What is Biodynamic¨ Agriculture?" & "What is Demeter Certification?"

Gaia Herbs
In August 2002, Gaia Herbs announced that it had completed Phase I of its multi-year Echinacea research study, funded by a National Institutes of Health grant. The study, under the direction of Dr. Xiping Wang, aims to develop horticulture, extraction, and delivery standards for Echinacea used in federally-sponsored trials. Gaia Herbs, located in the Appalachian mountains of North Carolina, has a 250-acre herb farm with a 40,000 square foot manufacturing facility on the same property. The farm and the manufacturing facility have been certified organic by Oregon Tilth.

In its Phase I study, Gaia analyzed the chromosomes and morphology of 143 different lots of Echinacea seeds. A little over half of the seed lots came from the USDA's National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, and the rest came from 13 commercial seed companies. The researchers have established "definite distinguishing criterion" for E. purpurea and E. augustifolia. They also identified and purified seven isobutylamide and four phenolic compounds in Echinacea, which makes it possible to standardize Echinacea extracts. Researchers also discovered that drying E. augustifolia root at or above 70°C causes a "significant amount" of loss of the known bioactive compounds. Further tests will study how bioactive compounds fare in hydroalcoholic and vegetable glycerite preparations in various situations so that researchers can determine the best preparation and storage conditions for liquid Echinacea extracts.

In addition to identification of bioactive components and the effect of processing and storage factors on potency, Gaia's researchers are also studying cultivation. Echinacea, especially E. augustifolia, is very difficult to grow from seed. During Gaia's Phase I study, researchers developed a reliable method for encouraging seed germination during dry storage. The method allows growers to have higher field-coverage and more consistent yields. Further studies at Gaia and six other North American farms will search for the best cultivation methods and soil conditions for growing E. purpurea, E. angustifolia, and E. pallida.

Phase 2 will expand to include bioavailability studies in collaboration with Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, Arizona State University, and University of Arizona. Pre-clinical trials to determine efficacy are also planned.

Gaia Herbs. Gaia Herbs — America's #1 Echinacea. The Full Spectrum. September 2002.

Meat Inspections
Microbiologist Garry McKee, PhD, who heads the US Food Safety and Inspection Service, is pushing slaughterhouses and meat-processing facilities to clean up their act. The 1993 E. coli outbreak at a Jack-in-the-Box shifted the agency's attention from simply inspecting the slaughtering, processing, and labeling practices of meat processing plants to actually preventing meat-borne illness. The agency began requiring meat processors to reduce bacteria by adopting Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) in 1996. Five years later in a federal appeals court, the meat industry successfully challenged the Agriculture Department's right to close plants that failed HACCP salmonella tests.

Despite the Bush administration's refusal to appeal that decision, Dr. McKee continues to push meat processors to clean up their plants, as well as their products. Since December 6, 2002, large US meat processors have been required to implement measures to control E. coli and to test their efforts. The inspection service has also told manufacturers of hot dogs, deli meat, and other such high-risk products to test their plants, instead of just the finished product, for listeria. Listeria, which comes from soil and flourishes in refrigeration, has caused miscarriages and deaths. The agency has also begun to take action against facilities that repeatedly violate regulations. ConAgra slaughterhouse, the source of the 18-million-pound beef recall in 2002, was temporarily closed by the agency later that year. The slaughterhouse, now owned by Swift and Co., had been repeatedly cited for fecal contamination.

Since 1998, recalls of contaminated meat and poultry have more than doubled. According to a Wall Street Journal article (Dec. 3, 2002) by Leila Abboud, Dr. McKee sees recalls as "a failure in the system, not a cure or solution." He told an American Meat Institute audience, "If you have a testing program and are getting positives, then you are doing something wrong. Your system is broken, and it needs to be repaired." The meat industry says that the emphasis on testing is unrealistic since "bacteria are inevitable." As one meat association spokesman said, "Every year we see bacteria levels drop and food-borne illness associated with meat products declining. From our point of view, everything keeps moving in the right direction."

Abboud, Leila. Meat Inspector Grills Industry. The Wall Street Journal. December 3, 2002.

Nurse Shortage
US medical facilities have been experiencing a nurse shortage since the mid-1990s. The shortage is expected to become increasingly severe as aging baby boomers require more care. The American Hospital Association estimates that the national vacancy rate for hospital nurses averaged 13% across the nation as of December 2001. An additional 450,000 registered nurses are expected to be needed over the next five years, according to the US Department of Labor. Meanwhile, enrollment in nursing programs has declined since the mid-90s.

One reason for the declining interest in nursing is the comparatively low pay ($35,000-45,000/year, according to a Sept. 2000 Financial Times article) and stressful conditions. Hospitals began cutting full-time nursing staff in the mid-90s in response to managed care organizations' demands to cut costs. Cutting staff increased patient-to-nurse ratios, affecting care quality and contributing to staff stress. A 2001 survey by the Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals of 700 current direct-care nurses and 207 former direct-care nurses found that "one in five nurses plans to leave the profession within the next five years…" Low pay and understaffing were the primary complaints. Individual plans to leave nursing may be thwarted, however, by the slowing economy as other jobs become less available, according to an article in The Cincinnati Enquirer (Jan. 11, 2003).

High patient-to-nurse ratios and double-shifts are believed to lead to more errors and fuel the rise in malpractice suits. Aravind Adiga for the Financial Times reported: "As more full-time nurses leave, [those] left behind are finding their workloads increasing to unmanageable levels. A recent report by the Chicago Tribune claimed that as many as 1,720 hospital patients might have been accidentally killed and 9,584 others injured since 1995 because of nursing-related errors." In addition, patients unhappy with the quality of care provided by understaffed nurses may be more likely to sue doctors and hospitals, according to one malpractice insurer.

Various agencies are taking steps to meet the demand for more nurses. In 2000, the federal government issued 500 special visas for foreign nurses. The government also passed the Nurse Reinvestment Act, which encourages nursing through public advertising, need-based scholarships and grants for students, and supports nursing school expansion and the training of instructors (who are also in short supply).

HCA Inc., the largest hospital chain in the US, has committed $10 million to recruit students and laid-off workers to train as health-care workers, according to an article in The Tennessean (Dec. 27, 2002). HCA needs radiology technologists and other technical positions as well as nurses. Three-quarters of HCA's funding, however, provides nursing scholarships and financial support to nursing schools.

In Cincinnati, Ohio, the area's largest home nursing agency, Visiting Nurses Association (VNA), was offering a $2,000 sign-on bonus or a year of free housekeeping services (two 4-hour sessions/month). The VNA provides housekeeping services to the elderly and medically needy so it already has the staff to provide the same service to nurses who find themselves having a hard time caring for their home while working full-time. When the Health Alliance of Greater Cincinnati sought nurses and technicians for special cardiac-care units in 2002, it offered $30,000 sign-on bonuses in exchange for a 3-year commitment. Interestingly, the Health Alliance received only a few more resumes from qualified persons than it had job openings, despite the significant bonus.
Adiga, Aravind. US hospitals' cost-cutting measures cause critical haemorrhage of nurses.

Financial Times. 2000 September 20.
American Federation of Teachers and the Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals. Survey: Nurse Shortage Will Be Worse Than Current Estimates (Press Release) April 19, 2001.
Hurst, Jack. Hospitals prescribe incentives to head off staff shortages. The Tennessean 2002 December 27.
Bonfield, Tim. Nurses can clean up with signing bonuses. The Cincinnati Enquirer; 2003 January 11.

Nursing Homes
US consumers now have another tool for selecting a nursing home. In November 2002, the US government made information on the quality of care at the country's 17,000 nursing homes available to consumers. The information covers 10 quality indicators that include the percentages of residents with bed sores, with pain, with delirium, in physical restraints, and with infections.

Improvement or deterioration in residents' condition is reflected by the percentage of residents who lost the ability to perform basic daily tasks and the percentage of short-stay residents who walked as well or better when they left the facility. The nursing home comparison data is available at or by calling 1-800-MEDICARE. Medicare also has information about complaint investigations and deficiencies found during annual inspections of facilities.

In addition to using the federal Medicare comparison information, Janelle Carter of the Associated Press offers other suggestions for choosing a nursing home. Consumers should ask nursing home residents and families, community advocacy groups, personal physicians, and clergy about area facilities. She also recommends that consumers visit several nursing homes at varying times of day and on weekends, when staff and services may be less. Each state is also supposed to have a long-term care ombudsman's office, which acts as an advocate for those in assisted living or nursing homes. The ombudsman may have information about problems with individual facilities.

The National Citizen's Coalition for Nursing Home Reform ( or 202-332-2275) tells how to contact the state ombudsman and provides guidance on choosing a facility as well as how to ensure quality care.

Carter, Janelle. Government releases data on thousands of nursing homes nationwide. The Detroit News. November 12, 2002.
HHS Launches National Nursing Home Quality Initiative — Broad Effort to Improve Quality in Nursing Homes Across the Country (News Release) November 12, 2002.

Raw Food Diet for Pets
Some pet owners who sought an alternative to processed commercial pet foods have turned to the bone and raw food (BARF) diet. Numerous websites have testimonials from breeders and pet owners who have seen definite improvements in their animals' health since they have been on BARF. Kymythy R. Schultze, a certified Clinical Nutritionist and a certified Animal Health Instructor, has written a complete and easy-to-understand guide on feeding pets raw food called Natural Nutrition for Dogs and Cats — The Ultimate Diet (Hay House, Inc., ISBN 1-56170-636-1).

The vital importance of whole raw food for animal health was demonstrated by a ten-year experiment (1932-42) run by Francis Pottenger, Jr., MD. Kymythy Schultze says that the experiment, involving 900 cats, "was conducted within the most rigorous scientific standards of the day, and the pathological and chemical findings were also supervised by Alvin G. Foord, MD, professor of pathology at the University of Southern California." Dr. Pottenger had noticed that cats fed on raw food enjoyed good health, as did their offspring. When the cats were fed cooked or processed food, their health deteriorated. These cats developed behavior problems, allergies, skin problems, parasites, nervous system inflammation, organ malfunction, and skeletal deformities. The third generation of cats fed only cooked food could no longer reproduce. It took four generations of cats eating raw food for those lines to regain health.

The BARF diet has no single formula; but in all of the information that I have read it is a mixture of raw muscle and organ meat, raw egg, pulped vegetable, and raw meaty bones. Raw edible bones, such as poultry necks, wings, and backs, are easy for an animal to crunch up and make up the bulk of the BARF diet. Kymythy Schultze recommends beginning with raw chicken or turkey necks "as they are mostly cartilage and very flexible." Beef knuckle bones provide dogs with great entertainment and some nutrients, but they cannot eat the entire bone and miss some nutrients, according to Ms. Schultze. Cooked bones should NEVER be given to pets because cooking makes bone splinter and difficult to digest, which may cause internal damage or blockages.

Although many pets enjoy crunching up the bones themselves, some owners who feed the mixture of meat, pulped vegetables or fruits, and supplements prefer to grind the poultry necks, wings, backs, lambs ribs, and rabbit quarters that make up the meaty bone portion of the mix. Ms. Schultze warns against feeding pets a homemade diet that does not include some form of raw bone because nutritional deficiencies will result.: "Raw meaty bones provide nutritious marrow, amino acids/protein, essential fatty acids, fiber, enzymes, antioxidants and a vast array of species-appropriate minerals and vitamins, all in a usable form."

Although humans are rightly concerned about the bacteria in raw meat (disinfect counters and utensils when working with raw meat to avoid cross-contamination), the short and acidic digestive systems of dogs and cats are designed to handle bacteria. "Bacteria is not a problem for a pet with a strong immune system," Ms. Schultze asserts, "and a strong immune system is encouraged by eating species-appropriate raw food."

Natural Nutrition for Dogs and Cats gives approximate amounts for pets who weigh 10 pounds, 50 pounds, and 100 pounds. The 50-pound pet food formula consists of 3/4 -1 cup muscle meat (plus organ meat or egg); 1 turkey neck or 6 chicken necks; 3 tablespoons pulped vegetables; 2 teaspoons kelp/alfalfa; 1 teaspoon cod liver oil; 2 teaspoons essential fatty acids; and up to 3-6 grams of vitamin C. In an article on meat grinders in The Whole Dog Journal, Mary Strickney of Cortland, Nebraska, has fed her toy rescue dogs (10 at present) and cats (4) home-prepared meals for 40 years. Her formula consists of 70% raw meaty bones, 10% organ meat, and 20% vegetables, fruit, eggs, and ricotta cheese. Neither she nor Kymythy Schultze recommends grains (a primary component in commercial dry pet food) because they contribute to allergies and digestive problems. For pet owners who would like to feed pets the BARF diet but do not have the time to mix it themselves, small pet food companies, which can be found on the web, sell BARF formulas in frozen packages.

Eskew, Susan. Good Grinders. The Whole Dog Journal. January 2003. 800-829-9165
Schultze, Kymythy R., CCN, AHI. Natural Nutrition for Dogs and Cats — The Ultimate Diet. Hay House, Inc. ISBN 1-56170-636-1

Scrapie Transmission via Vaccine
At the 1946 National Veterinary Medical Association of Great Britain and Ireland Annual Congress, W. S. Gordon, PhD, presented evidence of scrapie transmission by way of a vaccine for louping-ill. Louping-ill is a viral disease spread by the tick Ixodes ricinus L. Scrapie is considered the sheep equivalent of 'mad cow disease.' Dr. Gordon developed an effective vaccine to prevent louping-ill during 1931-32. After four years of field trials, his vaccine was produced in three batches for widespread use in 1935. The vaccine was made from brain, spinal cord, and spleen tissues taken from sheep five days after they had received an intracerebral inoculation of louping-ill virus. Formalin was added to the 10% saline suspension to inactivate the virus.

During 1935 and 1936, no ill effects were noted in inoculated animals. Then two owners reported scrapie in their Blackface sheep who had been inoculated with louping-ill vaccine (batch 2) two and a half years earlier. Scrapie had not been seen in the Blackface breed before this. Upon investigation Dr. Gordon discovered that 8 lambs used to make batch 2 had been born to ewes who had been exposed to scrapie; some of the ewes developed scrapie in 1936-7. Dr. Gordon hypothesized that an "infective agent of scrapie" was present in the lambs' tissues used to make batch 2 and that this agent "could withstand a concentration of formalin…which inactivated the virus of louping ill; it could be transmitted by subcutaneous inoculation; it had an incubative period of two years or longer."

A four-and-a-half-year experiment involving 788 sheep was initiated by the Animal Disease Research Association in 1938. The researchers found that 60% of normal sheep inoculated intracerebrally with saline suspensions of brain and spinal cord tissue taken from sheep with scrapie developed scrapie within those four-and-a-half-years. The incubation period was seven months and up. Only 30% of the sheep receiving a subcutaneous inoculation of the suspension developed scrapie in that time, and the incubation period in this group was 15 months and up. The researchers concluded that the infective agent was probably a filtrable virus. Interestingly, Dr. Gordon reports that Cuille and Chelle of France published the results of a similar study in 1939. The French researchers found that sheep developed scrapie after receiving intracerebral, intraocular, and subcutaneous injections of spinal cord or brain tissue emulsions. Like the British experiment, this one also showed that incubation periods varied according to the type of injection: intracerebral infection took one year; intraocular took 15 months; and subcutaneous took 20 months.

Gordon, W.S., PhD. Advances in Veterinary Research. The Veterinary Record; 1946 November 23. Presented at the National Veterinary Medical Association of Great Britain and Ireland Annual Congress, 1946. Posted on

Animal Vaccinations & Titer Testing
Taking pets to the vet for yearly vaccination boosters is considered by many to be the hallmark of responsible pet care. Over the past decade, however, some researchers as well as pet owners have begun to question whether yearly boosters are truly necessary or even safe. Over-vaccination appears to be a contributor to the rise in chronic health problems among pets. On November 15, 2002, the AVMA Council on Biologic and Therapeutic Agents published a report on vaccinations in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. A summary, posted on, stated that, contrary to popular belief, "Optimal revaccination intervals are not known…Information collected thus far [by veterinary professionals] indicates that immunity inducted by some vaccines lasts longer than one year, while immunity triggered by other vaccines lasts less than one year."

In a letter to the Texas Office of the Attorney General, Bob Rogers, DVM, of Spring, Texas, ( points out "a modified live virus vaccine must replicate in order to stimulate the immune system, and antibodies from a previous vaccine will block the replication of the new vaccinate virus." Giving an animal with antibodies to a virus a vaccine for the same virus will not increase their protection. Further, Dr. Rogers states, "The USDA Center for Biologic and Therapeutic Agents asserts that there is no scientific data to support label claims for annual re-administration of modified live vaccines…" Frustrated by the refusal of other vets to follow the new research on vaccines that calls for caution in over-vaccinating, Dr. Rogers filed a complaint accusing Texas veterinarians of committing fraud. His letter to the Texas Attorney General's Office and his reason for taking such an action are posted on the web at

An article in The Whole Dog Journal (Dec. 2002) by Lorie Long explains that the vaccination schedules currently used by most veterinarians are set by the vaccine manufacturer. Jean Dodds, DVM, a veterinary hematologist who has studied vaccine protocols for decades, says that at least 95% of the dogs vaccinated for distemper and parvo retain immunity for several years. Some vaccines, such as one for canine corona virus vaccine (an intestinal illness), have questionable effectiveness, according to Dr. Rogers and Dr. Dodds.

Instead of annual vaccine boosters, some veterinarians are offering to test vaccine titers in dogs. Dogs with satisfactory titer levels are believed to have "good 'immunologic memory,' and not in need of further vaccination against the disease at that time," according to The Whole Dog Journal article. (Titers, in most cases, cannot be used in place of rabies boosters that are required by law.) Dr. Dodds asserts that measuring vaccine titers for canine parvovirus and canine distemper provides a reliable marker for the health of a dog's immune system.

Lorie Long's article stresses that veterinarians checking for immunological competence must order vaccine titer testing from a major professional or university veterinary laboratory. The titer levels for a normal healthy dog are lower than for a dog actively fighting the actual disease: "…if the veterinarian orders a disease titer test, but actually wants to check vaccine titers, the laboratory may deliver a 'false negative,' indicating that the laboratory does not find the high titer levels required to declare the presence of the active disease." An in-office titer test called TiterCHECKª, licensed by the USDA, is now available for canine parvo and canine distemper.

The Whole Dog Journal, which provided the information on vaccine titer testing, is a wonderful resource for people interested in a holistic approach to the care and training of their dogs. The journal does not accept any commercial advertising so it is able to evaluate all kinds of foods and products freely. For subscription information call 800-829-9165;

Long, Lorie. Take the Titer Test... The Whole Dog Journal. December 2002.
American Veterinary Medical Association. Interpretive Summary of AVMA Council on Biologic and Therapeutic Agent's Report on Cat and Dog Vaccines (published November 15, 2002, in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association);




Visit our pre-2001 archives

Search our pre-2001 archives for further information. Older issues of the printed magazine are also indexed for your convenience.
1983-2001 indices ; 1999-Jan. 2003 indices
Once you find the magazines you'd like to order, please use our convenient form, e-mail, or call 360.385.6021 (PST).

© 1983-2003 Townsend Letter for Doctors & Patients
All rights reserved.
Web site by Sandy Hershelman Designs
February 20, 2004