Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Herbs as Banned substances

Picture of cleavers a natural diuretic.

Written by Everdien van Eerten 18-11-09 Copy right©


So much speculation has been bandied about regarding which herbs are banned and which are not. While it is easy, simply to add a given herb to the ever-increasing list of banned substances, it is far harder to accurately test for a given metabolite.

Unless you have a degree in plant science, it is alomost impossible to isolate a phytochemical naturally found in the plant kingdom.
Let me put it in plain language. Firstly the plant kingdom consists of orders, families, genus, species, varieties and cultivars. Now within all those categories each plant has what is known as a phyto-chemical profile, somewhat similar to the botanical classification originally discovered by Linnaeus. So already you have made exponential combinations of not only plants but also their phyto-chemicals. To complicate matters further you will have similar phyto-chemicals not only between genus but also from genus to species of different groups.
OK lets look at Devil’s Claw, its main ingredients are: Beta sisterols, Iridoid Glycosides (harpogoside, harpagide, procumbine) Some of these names can be seen in the botanical classification but wait it gets better there is a very common herb that also has harpogosides as well, the very chemical that is the marker for devil’s claw.
Essentially anything that affects performance. In other words something that may provide one competitor an edge over another.

I will list a few categories of prohibited physiological and behavioural effects and I am able to demonstrate that each one of these can be achieved using plant substances. They are as follows:

  • Bronchodilators ( a huge number of plants act as bronchodilators)

  • Vasodiltors Valerian is a highly effective one and yes it is able to be tested for but rosemary also contains valerinic acid so there is one example of a cross-over phtyo-chemical)

  • Sedatives We all know about valerian but there are a very large group of plant sedatives. We have one that directly affects the heart rate and is effective in case of hyperthyroidism.

  • Blood thinners Again a huge list of plants to include Garlic and omega oils

  • Ergogenics (performance enhancer delaying the onset of fatigue) Besides its well known immune effects, echinacae is an effective ergogneic becuas it increases red blood cell levels and oxygen delivery to muscle fibre.
  • Anti-inflammatories Devil’s Claw is one of many. Others in this list are white willow bark, yarrow, birch, meadowsweet.

  • Anti-histamines a naturally occurring plant with anti histamine effects is stinging nettle. Another little known secondary effect of chamomile is its anti histamine effect.

  • Behavioural modifiers One well known one is St John’s Wort. Which increases available serotonin. Now a banned substance. However the physiological effect remain in the system well after the metabolic evidence can be detected. There are herbs that act on the dopamine levels those responsible for fluid movement and still others that are anti-seratonic to combat the effects of headshaking syndrome. A newly burgeoning industry is capitalising on endocrine problems.
  • Diuretics I will supply at the end of this article a handy tip for the day of the show to get an effective diuretic into your horse by simply adding a ‘green’ tea to your horse’s feed. It can be made at home and taken to the show in a thermos flask. This ‘tea’ is common field herb and one horses could ingest as a ‘contaminant’

    I have just skimmed the surface of a complex subject that is fraught with misinformation. What next, are we going to be told that we cannot allow ‘weedy contaminants ’ to grow in our pastures?

    Remember nature will only reveal her secrets to those who have pledged not to exploit her.

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