celebrated our 300th issue and 25 years of publication, we think
it would be appropriate to look back at some of the milestones from
our past. In the mid-1980s, for instance, we had a number of articles
that debated the pros and cons of different garlic supplements.
Several authors argued that the allicin content defined superiority
of garlic activity, while others countered that other non-allicin
factors were more important in considering using a garlic pill instead
of simply eating garlic. Ultimately, we faced what we called the
"garlic wars," which seemed to be commercial hubris and
laboratory brinksmanship in equal measure. We found ourselves in
the middle of competitors seeking to assert their claim to "who
had the best product." We walked away a little bruised and
slightly wiser after ceasing to publish further garlic reports.
First, it appeared that a laboratory assay of a supplement and a
competitors products always seemed to yield better results for the
original company ordering the lab results. Second, proprietary manufacturers
usually responded to negative reports with corresponding negative
laboratory assays about their competitors, and when that failed,
threats of litigation for printing adverse reports was the usual
next course of action. Despite a great number of words devoted to
the "garlic wars" in the Townsend
Letter, it is unclear whether allicin content truly defines
the best garlic supplement. Readers are invited to review
a listing of articles at www.townsendletter.com about the "garlic
wars" – but the articles will be available only "offline"
(through the purchase of back issues) due to legal concerns.
In the early 1990s, the US Congress Office of Technology Assessment
published a report on unconventional cancer therapies.1
With its publication, the National Institutes of Health opened an
Office of Alternative Medicine, which later evolved into the Center
for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Although critics decried
the status conferred to alternative cancer treatments, the mechanism
was set in place for universities and medical colleges to begin
researching this area in earnest. Politically, the Townsend
Letter concerned itself with the right to practice alternative
and natural medicine. The Congressional passage of DSHEA legislation
in 1994 was a defining moment for the alternative medicine movement,
enabling the development and marketing of nutritional supplements
without the interference of FDA regulatory oversight. Practitioner
groups developed professional societies that not only provided educational
and training activities but also developed lobbying arms for passing
practitioner right-to-practice laws as well as judicial guidelines
to judge alternative medicine differently from conventional medicine.
Despite the activity of self-proclaimed "anti-quack" groups
to "protect the consumer" from purchasing "dubious
products from promoters" and seeking care from "unscrupulous
practitioners," the alternative medical movement has advanced
politically and scientifically.
Perhaps the greatest transition in natural medicine over the past
two decades has been the recognition of naturopathic medicine as
an officially licensed medical practice. There are now five naturopathic
colleges and one university offering four-year training programs
in naturopathic medicine. With more than 20 US states and most Canadian
provinces licensing naturopathic doctors (ND), alternative medicine
is no longer "alternative" but has a true educational
and scientific standard.
The Townsend Letter congratulates
the naturopathic medical profession for establishing educational
credentials for licensure status and for practicing scientifically
based natural medicine. We invite the licensed naturopathic medical
community to submit papers and reports to the Townsend
Letter to study and investigate natural medicine. We also
request that naturopathic practitioners submit bios establishing
their graduation from a four-year naturopathic program. In 2009,
we will celebrate the "Best of Naturopathic Medicine"
with our competition for best papers now underway.
We have enjoyed our summer break and
are now looking forward to resuming our fall season of publishing
the Townsend Letter. Part of the
fun of summer vacations is to step out from the normal routine and
try something "outside of the box." One of my favorite
magazines arriving in the office for waiting room reading is Outside.
This is my opportunity to vicariously explore the world from the
vantage point of big adventure and brute muscle power. Lacking the
latter and generally not brave enough to engage in adventuring,
we usually travel to cities and landscapes, enjoy culture and ambience,
and meet family and friends. This summer, my wife, Deborah, and
I were planning a family get-together with her mom and family in
Lake County, California. However, days before we were to begin our
trip, California lit up with the wildfires, and we were not terribly
interested in breathing the fumes. We opted to travel locally through
Northern Washington State and were delighted with the beauty of
the Cascade landscapes.
Later, we traveled to Mt. Hood near Portland, Oregon where the ski
pack still gets to enjoy winter sports on July 4th. Toward the end
of our sojourn, I was experiencing the "angst of needing to
do something," so I walked out from our Alpine lodging to take
a little hike. Dressed in sneakers, carrying a book and sweatshirt,
but without water or first-aid kit or cell phone, I ventured up
a trail, starting from a local ski resort. It was a beautiful afternoon,
and the trail was well-marked, being a ski trail, but there was
not a human being – or animal for that matter – to be
seen. I was enjoying the climb and ventured further up the sandy
trail, which was occasionally covered with first, an island of snow
or two, and then, larger islands of snow. Soon, the question became,
do I turn back now that the terrain is getting quite a bit steeper
or continue to Timberline Lodge another three miles up? Thinking
of my reading in Outside, I decided
that making it up the trail would be just the sort of adventure
I needed, but I was also very aware that if I tripped and fell or
injured myself or had any medical emergency, I would be facing nature
without water, food, or shelter and with nobody even aware of my
whereabouts. Yes, this was foolishness, but it was the type of adventure
that matched my stamina and wherewithal, and I opted to continue
up the trail.
Soon, there were only trees and snow, but because the path was a
ski trail, it didnt seem likely Id get lost at two in the afternoon.
My goal was to get up this slope without injury, and I depended
on the denizens of the ski slope, the trees, to provide my support.
Climbing, then stopping by a tree to read the book I had brought
for a breather, and then hiking anew seemed an enjoyable not a threatening
adventure. But the worry about what I would do if I was injured
was always there. There were definitely moments on the snow when
I began to slide and lose control. And there were the times when
my legs just did not want to pull me up anymore. Wouldn't it be
nice just to stop here and read my book? But I knew that if I dropped
down for too long, I would gently fall asleep and might not be able
to get going again. And there was no ski patrol or any other soul
venturing around me. An hour or so later, the ski chairs around
Timberline Lodge came into view. I had made it up the trail and
had not allowed the fear of hiking alone to overcome me. It was
very enjoyable to have a beer at the lodge and reminisce about my
own sense of facing nature on its own terms.
Jonathan Collin, MD
1. US Congress. Office of Technology
Assessment. Unconventional Cancer Treatments, OTA-H-405. Washington,
DC: US Government Printing Office. September 1990.