Is Prince Charles Endorsing Quackery? His Herbal Detox Products Stir Controversy
Monday, 16 March 2009
In an unusual turn of events, a prominent scientist in the United Kingdom is accusing Prince Charles of contributing to the “ill health of the nation” by backing with his name an herbal detox product that sells for about $13.75 per bottle and that he says is “outright quackery.”
ABC News is reporting, “The crown prince is certainly not the first celebrity name to be associated with the worldwide detoxification trend.”
Still, the concerns expressed by Edzard Ernst, Britain’s top complementary and alternative medicine expert and director of complementary medicine at the Peninsula Medical School, about the royal’s involvement with the Duchy Originals product line reached beyond the country’s shores this week.
The product in question is “Duchy Herbals Detox Tincture,” which contains dandelion and artichoke extracts. The Duchy Originals Web site suggests that those using the formulation take a few drops of it with water twice a day to “help eliminate toxins and aid digestion.”
According to BBC News, “Edzard Ernst, the UK’s first professor of complementary medicine, said the Duchy Originals detox tincture was based on “outright quackery”.
“Under the banner of holistic and integrative health care, he promotes a ‘quick fix’ and outright quackery,” Ernst told Britain’s The Daily Mail newspaper Tuesday. “Prince Charles and his advisers seem to deliberately ignore science and prefer to rely on make-believe and superstition.”
There was no scientific evidence to show that detox products work, he said.
Duchy Originals says the product is a “natural aid to digestion and supports the body’s elimination processes”.
But Professor Ernst of Peninsula Medical School said Prince Charles and his advisers appeared to be deliberately ignoring science, preferring “to rely on ‘make-believe’ and superstition”.
He added: “Prince Charles thus financially exploits a gullible public in a time of financial hardship.”
Meanwhile, ABC News writes, “Duchy Originals refused to comment on Ernst’s comments beyond a statement issued by CEO Andrew Baker shortly after his comments became public.”
“There is no ‘quackery,’ no ‘make-believe’ and no ‘superstition’ in any of the Duchy Originals herbal tinctures,” the statement reads. “We find it unfortunate that Professor Ernst should chase sensationalist headlines in this way rather than concentrating on accuracy and objectivity.”
Baker further noted that the solution is marketed as a food supplement in accordance with all national and local laws and “has never been described as a medicine, remedy or cure for any disease.”
But, according to the BBC, “Professor Ernst said the suggestion that such products remove toxins from the body was ‘implausible, unproven and dangerous.’”
Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of the Austin, Texas-based herbal medicine think-tank American Botanical Council, said, “Many people – rationally or irrationally, correctly or not – believe strongly that they must detoxify their bodies to give themselves that extra edge to get rid of [these chemicals],” he said. “There is probably a healthy and rational basis for some of this, though some people take it a bit too far.”
And Dr. Roberta Lee, vice chair of the Department of Integrative Medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City, said detoxification as a concept may be getting an undeservedly bad rap.
“Detoxification is a natural process that occurs in the body, though it is not labeled as such in the medical profession,” she said. “The idea that detox is a silly notion, I think, is a fallacy.”
To counter, Professor Ernst reponds, “Nothing would, of course, be easier than to demonstrate that detox products work. All one needed to do is to take a few blood samples from volunteers and test whether this or that toxin is eliminated from the body faster than normal.”
He went on to point out, “But where are the studies that demonstrate efficacy? They do not exist, and the reason is simple: these products have no real detoxification effects.”
Earlier this year, in England, the charitable trust Sense About Science produced a report that debunked the claims usually made about detox products.
Its researchers reviewed a series of products, from bottled water to face scrub, and found the detox assertions to be overwhelmingly meaningless.
“It seems outrageous for companies to be making money selling meaningless products but for the heir to the throne to be doing so, at £10 a pop, is even more inappropriate,” said Tom Wells, who helped carry out the original research.
“We’d like to see an end to detox products on the British high street, starting with Prince Charles’ detox tincture.”
The Truth Behind Detox
One thing that is clear about detox, however, is that it is a lucrative concept.
According to ABC News: In an herbal and nutritional supplement industry that reaps an estimated $23 billion in sales in the United States each year, “detox” is the new hot-button term. Celebrities openly adhere to and advocate a variety of detox diets, while treatments that purport to cleanse blood, liver and bowels line the shelves of supplement stores throughout the country.
ABC News reports that many medical scientists in the U.K. are using the comments to launch an all-out attack on detox.
Tom Wells of the Voice of Young Science network, which includes more than 300 early-career medical researchers, issued a statement on the group’s Web site that further chastised the prominent royal’s involvement in the product line.
“It seems outrageous for companies to be making money selling meaningless products, but for the heir to the throne to be doing so, at 10 pounds a pop, is even more inappropriate,”
Wells’ statement reads. “We’d like to see an end to detox products on the British high street, starting with Prince Charles’ detox tincture.”
If you’d like an evidence-based and trustworthy review about detoxification, homeopathy, or even colonics, take a look at my book, Alternative Medicine: The Christian Handbook, which is endorsed by the Christian Medical Association and has been featured on broadcasts from Focus on the Family and the Christian Communications Network.