Being a passive supporter of the British monarchy (let me clarify: in principle I’m not particularly in favour of the system but in the UK at least it appears to work well and I find the current situation much more preferable than some of the alternatives) I allow myself a little grin when Prince Charles does something good, like raising awareness of environmental issues and promoting the arts in underprivileged communities. In fact, I’ve even been on the receiving end: a couple of years ago, my band received a grant to support the recording and release of our first album.
However, the Prince’s stance on “integrated” (aka complementary or alternative) healthcare is a particularly nasty case of foot-in-mouth disease which leaves me banging my head on the wall in frustration. The sale of herbal tinctures on the Duchy Originals website and in several retail stores is an example of such a clanger-drop moment. The story has been covered in the media, and blogged here (in a blog that is somewhat less sympathetic to the Prince than my own).
I have visited the Duchy Originals website and am about to post my own comment on the page advertising the herbal tinctures. My comment is in response to Heather’s ( the 2nd one, dated March 10). On the off chance that it never appears (or even worse, receives a nasty edit), here is Heather’s comment followed by my response:
Just to say that this press coverage of your Detox Tincture seems complete madness – crikey if a natural remedy is harmful what on earth are all the chemicals, additives and “medicines” in the world!? Good old Professor Ernst who, I understand, likes nothing but accupuncture.
Keep up the good work.
The media coverage of these tinctures is, as you suggest, a little bit sensational, but not “complete madness”. These tinctures are not directly harmful in themselves, the problem is in fact that they do absolutely nothing of medical benefit whatsoever.
There may very well be a lot of people who can say that they took these remedies and their cold got better, but then that’s just what the common cold does – it would have got better anyway regardless of whether you took the remedy. The remedy itself does nothing active in curing your cold. I’m not quite sure what its appeal is – perhaps it smells or tastes nice.
Medicines, on the other hand, contain very strong active ingredients because more often than not they are designed to treat much more serious diseases than the common cold, meningitis for example (which I had when I was 11). I was pumped full of antibiotics in hospital. These had numerous side effects, including making me feel weak-kneed and turning my urine red for about a week. However, these minor inconveniences were much more preferable than the alternative – dying of meningitis aged 11. The antibiotics had side effects because they actually did something to my disease.
I am particularly concerned about the statement “Our decision to launch these products reflects The Prince of Wales’s passion for integrated healthcare and here at Duchy we hope that our range of herbal remedies will encourage more people to adopt this integrated approach to their health” because this “integrated” (aka “complementary” or “alternative”) approach stretches beyond these tinctures and encompasses a whole host of unscientifically based “remedies” for a whole host of diseases, mild and severe, with no sound scientific evidence supporting their effectiveness. For mild ailments such as the common cold this is arguably not an issue. For more serious illnesses and diseases such as meningitis, diabetes or cancer this is clearly a much graver concern.
While I wholeheartedly support Duchy Originals and the Prince in their efforts to promote environmental issues and sustainable farming as well as their support of charitable organisations promoting the arts in underprivileged communities, I would ask that they withdraw the sale of these tinctures so that these worthwhile issues are not promoted at the cost of undermining science.
Let’s see what happens.