Comment »Posted on Wednesday 11 March 2009 at 1:34 pm by Jacob Aron
In Health & Medicine

Prince Charles has come under fire for his range of food supplements, the health claims of which have been labelled “outright quackery”.

Edzard Ernst, who is professor of complementary medicine at Exeter University, says that the Prince is contributing to the ill-health of the nation by promoting the “detox” and “quick fix” lifestyle, whilst ignoring scientific information.

Duchy Herbals Detox Tincture is just one of the many products sold by the Prince’s company, Duchy Originals, which was established in 1990. The tincture, which contains artichoke and dandelion, is said by the company to “to help support the body’s natural elimination and detoxification processes, and help maintain healthy digestion.”

Artichoke is described as “a well known vegetable that can be used in a variety of different dishes, and is also a well known digestive aid.” Clearly it is so “well known” that no evidence is needed to back up this claim.

Amusingly, Duchy Originals say nothing about the medicinal benefits of dandelion, although it “can be included in salads, the dried roots can be used as a coffee substitute, and it is also used to flavour herb beers and soft drinks.” Yummy.

Andrew Baker, chief executive of Duchy Originals, took objection to Ernst’s statements:

“Duchy Herbals Detox Tincture contains globe artichoke and dandelion, which both have a long history of traditional use for aiding digestion. There is no ‘quackery’, no ‘make believe’, no ‘superstition’ in any of the Duchy Originals herbal tinctures. We find it unfortunate that Professor Ernst should chase sensationalist headlines in this way rather than concentrating on accuracy and objectivity.”

Ernst answers that whilst there is some evidence that artichoke can lower your cholesterol, other substances perform better – and dandelions are completely useless. He believes that it is wrong to sell these detox potions – mainly because they don’t work. No studies exist to demonstrate their effects on toxins in the blood, because the effectively do nothing.

This isn’t the first time Prince Charles has been called out on scientific accuracy – I wrote about his misconceptions on GM food last year – and it’s not the first time Ernst has clashed with the Prince either. He believes he almost lost his job in 2005, after being accused of breaking a confidentiality agreement by Clarence House, official residence of the Prince. He commented to a newspaper that findings of a Prince’s Foundation for Integrated Medicine report on alternative therapies and the NHS was “outrageous and deeply flawed”.

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