acreage living July 1999

ISU cooperative extension

In this issue: acreage living home page

Herbal Supplements: Are They Magic Potions for Self-Care?

Pat Andersonby Pat Anderson, ISU Extension Field Specialist/Food & Nutrition, East Pottawattamie County. Phone: 712-482-6449 - e-mail:

In leafing through some magazines recently I found ads promising -

Headaches, arthritis, insomnia, circulation, colic, snake bites - you name it and there is an herbal supplement on the market to treat it. Amazingly, many of the claims indicate the supplement in question will treat a whole host of problems.

Supplement sales are increasing at an amazing rate in the United States. Is it because they are magic potions, or is it because we are gullible consumers?

Some basic facts can help you make your way through the maze of information that surrounds herbal supplements.

Fact 1: In 1994 Congress enacted the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act that allows general health claims on the labels of food supplements without requiring proof of effectiveness or safety. A food supplement can't claim it treats heart disease, but it can make a general claim like "maintains good circulation." General claims must be accompanied by a statement somewhere on the label (check the really, really fine print) that "this statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration."

Fact 2: The Food and Drug Administration be comes involved only if a product makes a specific claim or is suspected of being harmful (for example, deaths occurring from the use of dieter's tea for several months.)

Fact 3: The potency and quality of herbal products can vary greatly from product to product and from batch to batch because of lack of regulation, unlike prescription drugs which are a standard strength with each refill. This can pose safety problems if the supplement really does provide a drug effect. Studies have shown that consumers only have a 50 percent chance of getting what is listed on the label.

Fact 4: There can be negative effects on your health, especially when herbs are taken in combination with prescribed medications. Always consult your physician before taking medications in combination.

Be aware when self-treating with herbals that you may be treating a symptom of an underlying illness, delaying health care that could prevent a long-term health problem.

The potential side effects of taking a supplement may or may not be listed on the label (for example, will the supplement that helps you get a good night's sleep also raise your blood pressure when you already have problems with high blood pressure.)

Supplements are often advertised as natural. Many people erroneously believe natural products can't be harmful, but, for example, supplements made from plant pollen could cause an allergic reaction.

Fact 5: You may experience a placebo effect from taking an herbal supplement. The supplement may be providing relief simply because you believe it will, or because the symptoms you are trying to treat are symptoms that typically come and go.

Fact 6: The form of a supplement can influence its effect. The supplement your cousin in Germany swears by may be administered by injection, but may be available in the U.S. only as a pill or as tea which might not be effective forms.

Fact 7: Much of the information about supplements comes from someone with a vested interest in selling supplements or by word-of-mouth, not from re search based sources. Be skeptical. Consider supplements as drugs and make your decision about taking a supplement as carefully as you would consider prescribing a drug for yourself.

Fact 3: Long-term effects of most herbal supplements are not well known. Unless you know for certain the long-term effects have been studied, do not consume high doses of a supplement for months or years.

Fact 9: Avoid herbal supplements if pregnant or nursing. Don't give herbal supplements to children. The research for adults is limited, let alone research for special populations of adults and children.

Before taking an herbal supplement, ask yourself:

1. Why am I considering taking this herb?

2. Does research-based information confirm this herb will be beneficial for the reason I have identified for taking the herb?

3. Are there side effects or safety concerns?

4. What are the recommended forms (capsules, tablets, powder, liquid, fresh, tea, or candy) and dosages of the herb?

5. Have I talked to a physician about using this herb?

The following fact sheets on herbs are available from your ISU Extension office or can be accessed directly from Kansas State University Extension's website at

Ginkgo Goldenseal Ginger St. John's Wort Feverfew Saw Palmetto/Sabal Echinacea Valerian

Nutrition Alert 

Some marketers are inventing vitamins. If you see ads for these products, they are not real vitamins and their claims have no basis in fact.

Vitamin 0 - which is supposed to provide extra oxygen molecules for mole removal, cancer, sexual dysfunction, etc. Most products have been shown to be salt water. 
Vitamin U:
claims it relieves ulcer pain.
Vitamin T: claims to cure anemia and is made from sesame seeds and egg yolks.
Vitamin F.
claims to cure multiple sclerosis and appears to be just a fat that you would find in any vegetable oil.
Vitamin P:
claims it prevents leg cramps and appears to be a plant pigment
Vitamin B-17: claims to be a cancer treatment, may contain an apricot-pit derivative.


go to top of this page


Summer Gardening Activities Provide Entertainment and Education

Eldon Everhartby Eldon Everhart, ISU Extension Field Specialist/Horticulture, Shelby County
Phone: 712-755-3104 - e-mail:

Gardening is a good way to enjoy and learn about the outdoors. It can provide exercise, diversion from work, a link with nature, and lifelong education.

Love of gardening and the environment often begins when children are very young. Parents and teachers can nurture and encourage a child's interest in nature and gardening.

If you would like something to help you educate and entertain your children or grandchildren, check out the starter kit entitled, Backyard Conservation: It'll Grow on You.

Included are tip sheets for the older child. These cover subjects such as nutrient management, pest management, terracing, wetlands, water conservation, and backyard ponds. Each tip sheet begins with "In your backyard" to focus on what to look for and what can be done.

For younger children, a packet of booklets is available that teaches awareness of the possibilities of what they could find in their backyards. Also in the starter kit is a board game with an environmental or conservation theme.

And for people of all ages, there is a 9-minute video entitled, Backyard Conservation - One Yard at a Time. This video explores various ways to attract birds, butterflies, and wildlife to your yard.

This exceptional kit is available free for checkout (and return!) from your nearest Department of Natural Resources office.

If you are a person who learns best by seeing how it's done, then the video entitled Maintain Your Home Landscape is for you. Terry and Sue Muth, T&S Nursery near Hawarden, Iowa, have produced a 75-minute video that shows you how to maintain your home landscape.

The demonstrations are very well done and easy to understand. Included are an easy to understand guide for the beginning gardener and examples of pruning techniques and plant maintenance practices that provide a good review for those who have been gardening for some time.

Sections in the video include Early Spring Shrub Pruning, Dormant Tree Pruning, Perennials - Clean up and Care, Summer Pruning - Shrubs, Summer Pruning - Evergreens, Fall Care-Winter Prep, Water and Fertilizer, and Problem Solving.

The price of the 75-minute video is $24.95 (the cost of a single shrub!) plus $4.95 shipping and handling. Iowa residents must add 5 % sales tax. Send your order to T&S Nursery, Inc., 20593 C12, Hawarden, IA 51023.

Another good way to see and learn firsthand about gardening is to visit one or more of the demonstration home gardens located at eight of the ISU Extension research and demonstration farms. ISU Extension staff and specialists will discuss gardening topics and horticultural research at the Demonstration Home Garden Field Days:

Farm Location Date
Armstrong Lewis July 20
Allee Newell July21
Western Castana July22
Muscatine Fruitland Aug. 2
Northern Kanawha Aug.3
Northwest Sutherland Aug. 4
Southeast Crawfordsville Aug. 5
Northeast Nashua Aug.12

All field days begin at 6:30p.m. For more information about the Demonstration Home Gardens and the field days, contact your local county ISU Extension office.


go to top of this page


The Changing Structure of Agriculture: GMOs in the News

Tim Eggersby Tim Eggers, ISU Extension Field Specialist/Farm Management, Page County
Phone: 712-542-5171 - e-mail:

In the past few months you may have noticed the term Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in the news. In keeping with the theme of my contribution to the Acreage Living newsletter, I will provide you with enough information to discuss this subject with your neighbors across the fence.

The term GMO is used interchangeably with Genetically Modified (GM) or Transgenic with regards to crops. Crop and livestock production has long depended on breeders modifying offspring through selective breeding programs. Biology provided constraints both in the time it took to make changes and the levels of change that could take place. Advances in biotechnology now allow changes to be made at the genetic level, hence the GMO/GM/Transgenic tag. Gene level manipulations provide for more dramatic and rapid changes in plant and livestock properties. In most cases, a GMO contains traits that would be impossible or extremely difficult to acquire with traditional breeding methods.

Crops are genetically modified for two major reasons: increased value or reduced production costs. GMO corn recently became newsworthy because A.E. Staley and Archer Daniels Midland (corn processors) announced they would not buy varieties not approved by the European Union (EU). The GMO Concerns Clarification virtual meeting ( is an outgrowth of a meeting held to address that issue. The U.S. sells relatively little of our domestic production to the EU, but A.E. Staley and ADM sell a fair amount of corn gluten feed (a co-product of ethanol and high fructose corn syrup production) to the EU. The unapproved varieties were not singled out because of specific concerns. Their applications to the EU were simply not approved before April 1998, and no new GMO crops have been approved by the EU since April 1998.

The EU Environmental Ministers agreed on Friday June 25, 1999, to hold off new GMO approvals until a new licensing rule is in place. That new licensing rule is not expected before 2002. Some see non-approval of GMO crops as a trade barrier and claim that the issue will be resolved by the World Trade Organization (WTO). However, the WTO recognizes a precautionary principle that will allow the EU to hold up or suspend food imports if it believes there might be a risk to human health.

The real issue and lesson for consumers and producers is that farmers are producing for a domestic market no longer satisfied with #2 yellow corn as a catch-all description of corn. Varieties are now taking on a myriad of traits. Producer and consumer groups find some traits desirable and others undesirable. As crops with specific traits become more common, Identity Preservation (IP) from germplasm to the consumer will become more of an issue and a necessity. Visit the Iowa Quality Grain Initiative ( to see how ISU Extension is addressing this issue for producers and processors.


Acreage Living is published monthly. For more information, contact your local county ISU Extension Office.
Editor: Shawn Shouse, ISU Extension FS/Ag Engineering, SW Area Extension, 53020 Hitchcock Avenue, Lewis, Iowa, 51544, Ph: 712/769-2600
Layout & Design: Paulette Cambridge, Office Assistant, SW Area Extension, 53020 Hitchcock Avenue, Lewis, Iowa 51544, Ph: 712/769-2600

acreag e living 1999 issues go to top of this page ISU Extension  feedback to Shawn Shouse acreage living home page

...and justice for all.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination in all its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, and marital or family status. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.) Many materials can be made available in alternative formats for ADA clients. To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Office of Civil Rights, Room 326-W, Whitten Building, 14th and Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call 202-720-5964.