How We Saved Herbs

During the month of November, I was invited to a forum in Thailand that focused on herbs like aconite, astragalus, ganoderma, and isatis.  With over 25 years experience in working with these herbs, the moderators wanted me to share my thoughts and perspectives.

I have been extremely focused and politically involved with herbs since the day I made my first recommendation to use them. My presentation focused on my participation in the successful passage of DSHEA.

Andrew Gaeddert, President of Health Concerns


How DSHEA Was Passed:
In the early 90’s, I was a coordinator for the Citizens for Health, which is a consumer action group “dedicated to providing a voice and a platform for informed and effective health activism.”  Back then, most coordinators worked a twenty-hour week, at no pay.  Usually, coordinators would work for Citizens for Health for about 1-2 years. I also know people who worked for DSHEA (Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act) full time at no pay. Working for these organizations exposed me to a group of selfless and deeply committed individuals, who focused on the objective of saving herbs and nutritional supplements.

During this time, the FDA threatened to outlaw herbs.  They were also threatening to declare prescription drug status on all herbs or products that were not common to our markets.  This would include spices (like licorice, ginger, or cinnamon), and Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) potency vitamins and minerals. This would mean that supplements like 1000mg vitamin C would be banned. Most important of all, 90% or more of Chinese herbs would be unavailable to the Western markets.

Luckily, I knew what it would take to prevent this from happening.  I organized efforts to meet with politicians, and found how powerful letter writing campaigns could be.  It became important to me to do the legwork on public relations as the perception of herbs was at risk.

This resulted in approximately one hundred people working full or part time and thousands of people volunteering to help.  Some volunteered an hour per day, and others volunteered on weekends to help with the promotion of the campaigns. MILLIONS wrote to their elected representatives and attended meetings to demonstrate their support for natural health.  I remember volunteering for stamp licking to send out letters, and donating money to support these efforts.  Other people opened their homes for countless meetings that took place.  All of these efforts gathered a hard working group of individuals who worked tirelessly to get the word out about herbs.  Back then, we didn’t have the luxury of the internet, Facebook, social media, or email.  We really had to count on manpower and the relentless efforts of our convictions.

That’s how Chinese herbs were saved. We did it through a group of dedicated individuals who built coalitions and alliances. We achieved this goal through the efforts of countless individuals who wrote letters to Congress for the preservation of herbs. Over time, our voices were eventually heard, and today herbs are available as an alternative choice for patient care.

What did I learn from all these efforts?  Well, my suggestion is that you focus on educating people in a positive fashion about herbs. Through your interest in traditional Chinese medicine that has been practiced for over 2,000 years, you can highlight that herbs have been researched and proven to be effective.  At the end of the day, we all have to realize that most people are just looking for effective healthcare – it’s that pure and simple – just like the herbs we fought for.

Our goal has been achieved because in this country- we do a great job of providing access to herbs. Thanks to the efforts of DSHEA!

Andrew Gaeddert



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