The Unpredictability of Plants

by Jeanine Adinaro on April 27, 2010

in General Health

Yes, my son- it's the fruit of the earth

Yes, my son- it's the fruit of the earth

Yesterday my friend and I took our kids to pick strawberries. As we wrestled them out of the car, they looked around, wide-eyed. They could tell there was something exciting about to happen, but had no previous experience as to what it might be. The proprietor asked them enthusiastically, “Are you ready to pick strawberries? You can eat all you want.” Despite loving “straw-bies” my son just stared back at her blankly. I said, “You’ll have to forgive his silence. Up until this point in his life, he only knows that strawberries come from grocery stores.” She chuckled and added, “That’s ok. Up until 4 years ago, that’s where I thought strawberries came from too.”

If you’ve never been berry picking before, let me offer a spoiler- as an adult, after about 5 minutes it’s less like fun, and more like work. Still and all, not only was it a great day for the kids, it was an excellent, hands-on reminder for me that in fact, plants come from the ground.And while the farm we went to is having a bumper crop of sweeter than usual berries this year, they recently suffered a big thunderstorm, complete with hail, that resulted in a lot of half-rotted, entirely ruined berries.

This morning, while I gazed (thankfully) at the bottle of Easy Breather on my desk, I got to thinking about the plants that go into Herbalogic drops and other Chinese herbal preparations. Just like the strawberries, sometimes the crops get ruined. And sometimes the growing conditions are unusually good, and a bumper crop results.

Our CFO isn’t an herbalist- he’s an MBA. He’s all about efficient manufacturing and lower cost-of-goods. The other day we had a somewhat heated discussion that started with him asking, “Why can’t we get the same number of bottles out of every lot?” He insisted that if we are consistent in our manufacturing method and don’t slosh too much on the floor, we should get the same amount every time. I reminded him that since we use dried plant products, part of what happens is that depending on the nature of that crop, the amount of moisture the plant sucks up and then releases during the filtering process is variable. Then, quite without appreciating it, I climbed up on my metaphorical soap-box and began rallying about the variability of plants. I explained that even when the plants are grown on the same farms, they are different from season to season because of rainfall, temperature, and the like. Further, if you put those plants through a mass spectrometer, the level of active ingredients and chemical markers will fluctuate because they are a naturally occurring product. I ended by saying, “Why do you think herbs make the scientific medical community so crazy. When you chemically synthesize something in a lab,  you can get the same thing every single time. But when you deal with unpredictable plants, what you get has an element of art as well as a science! It’s a bit like wine that way. But do you really want chemically synthesized wine? Yuck.”

I may be in the minority here, but I don’t want chemically synthesized food, or wine. And no matter how predictable it may be, I have a decided preference for avoiding chemically synthesized drug remedies. I’ll stick to my variable, plant based remedies, thank you very much.

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