Sunday, June 3, 2007

60. Stimulants

There are separate sections for medical social uses of commodities, commonly called 'drugs' as a category. The separation of medicine uses from other social uses is the point of the following five categories of stimulants, hallucinogens, intoxicants, narcotics, hypnotics--that connect more clearly to changed mental states.

The following two films are a great introduction to the second largest legally traded commodity stimulant in the world: coffee. From 30 billion a year in the early 1990s to around 80 billion now in the 2000s, it is a major factor of world consumption of stimulants via caffeine.

Black Gold (2002) [Rich Nations Exploit the Coffee Trade to Keep the Developing Countries in Poverty] 1:17:09 min

"Multinational coffee companies now rule our shopping malls and supermarkets and dominate the industry worth over $80 billion, making coffee the most valuable (legal) trading commodity in the world after oil. But while we continue to pay for our lattes and cappuccinos, the price paid to coffee farmers remains so low that many have been forced to abandon their coffee fields.Nowhere is this paradox more evident than in Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee. Tadesse Meskela is one man on a mission to save his 74,000 struggling coffee farmers from bankruptcy. As his farmers strive to harvest some of the highest quality coffee beans on the international market, Tadesse travels the world in an attempt to find buyers willing to pay a fair price. Against the backdrop of Tadesse's journey to London and Seattle, the enormous power of the multinational players that dominate the world's coffee trade becomes apparent. New York commodity traders, the international coffee exchanges, and the double dealings of trade ministers at the World Trade Organisation reveal the many challenges Tadesse faces in his quest for a long term solution for his farmers."

About the film from the producers:

Another film, particularly part six of The History of Coffee--though the whole documentary is good except it concentrates mostly on European history only:

The history of coffee (Part 6.) 7:48 min

Start this documentary with The History of Coffee, part 1:

1 comment:

Mark said...

'St John's Wort plant as effective as Prozac for treating depression', say scientists

By Daniel Martin
Last updated at 2:02 PM on 08th October 2008

* Comments (50)

It has long been a happy alternative for those reluctant to pop pills for depression.

But the herbal extract St John's Wort now has more than just cheerful converts to testify to its mood-lifting powers.

In what is billed as the most thorough study of the plant, scientists have found it is just as effective as Prozac at treating depression.

Plant power: Herbal extract from St John's wort is thought is just as effective as Prozac for treating depression, say scientists

It also had fewer side effects than many standard drugs used to help those battling despair.

Researchers compared the effects of the plant hypericum perforatum - popularly known as St John's Wort - with placebos or a wide range of old and new anti-depressants, including those from the new generation of SSRI drugs, such as Prozac and Seroxat.

The findings could prompt more GPs to prescribe St John's Wort.

In Germany, it is commonly given to children and teenagers.

Experts do not know exactly how the plant lifts depression, although most believe it probably works by keeping the chemical serotonin, which is linked to positive moods, in the brain for longer.

The study's lead author, Dr Klaus Linde, from the Centre for Complementary Medicine in Munich, pooled data from 29 studies involving 5,489 patients with mild to moderately severe depression.

'Overall, the St John's Wort extracts tested in the trials were superior to placebo, similarly effective as standard anti-depressants, and had fewer side effects than standard anti-depressants,' he said.

But he pointed out that St John's Wort products available in health food shops and chemists differed greatly and some may be more effective than others.

'Using a St John's Wort extract might be justified but products on the market vary considerably, so these results only apply to the preparations tested,' he explained.

The findings were published by the Cochrane Library, which specialises in systematic reviews of research studies.

A separate study has found St John's Wort, available in countless health shops, is the only alternative medicine proven to have an effect.

Others, including ginseng, liquid tonic, cat's claw, gingko biloba and royal jelly, had no firm base in evidence and could be dangerous when taken with other drugs, according to the study by St James' University Hospital in Leeds.

Some other studies however have indicated that St John's Wort may interfere with the effectiveness of the contraceptive pill.

Other reported effects have included dizziness, tiredness and hair loss.

The extract has become a popular alternative to anti-depressants such as Prozac and Seroxat in recent years following fears over the safety of SSRI (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor) drugs.

Doctors have been told not to prescribe most SSRIs to under-18s because of an increased risk of suicide.

Experts have also said they could not rule out a suicide risk to older users.

Another study found that pregnant women who take SSRI drugs were at risk of having babies with birth defects such as cleft palates and heart problems.

Four out of five GPs have admitted overprescribing Prozac and similar drugs.

They blamed a lack of suitable alternatives, including behavioural therapy and social care as well as medicines.

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Comments (50)

Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below?

May I make two points? Firstly, there is insufficient differentiation between the standardised herbal extract commonly available over the counter (varying dosages noted above) and the whole plant preparation used by western medical herbalists, who prescribe strength and dosage based on patient size, gender, age and therapeutic requirement.

The second point is the issue of whether or not herbs such as St John's Wort should be freely available without prescription.

Medical herbalists much more so than any other professional group are trained in the appropriate therapeutic use of traditional plant medicines and will only prescribe them after a full case history which also determines what other medications the patient is currently taking. Medical herbalists are trained to be cognisant of potential interactions between orthodox drugs and professionally prepared herbal medicine.

Please lets not blame the herbs for problems but rather the circumstances in which they are often taken.

- Therese Hickland, MNIMH, Whitchurch, UK, 08/10/2008 15:41

That is so not true!! I have been on both.

- Colleen Dodson, Titusville , Usa, 08/10/2008 15:36

Jolly well and good that the powers that be have finally found out what wise folk have known all along these millenium. Can we all please get back to work now?

p.s. Apples are also good for constipation and mint and ginger can settle an upset stomache. Millions of pounds will likely find that out after a while as well!

- anonny mouse, worchesterfieldshire, UK, 08/10/2008 15:32