Star-Bulletin Features

Wednesday, January 20, 1999

By Kathryn Bender, Star-Bulletin
The native Hawaiian herb noni is a traditional treatment for
diabetes, high blood pressure and heart trouble.

Herbal essences

Get your dose of
herbal education

By Betty Shimabukuro


Herbs as medicine, herbs as food, herbs as a potential cash crop. Three reasons to take these roots, teas, powders and potions seriously.

Coming up Sunday and Monday are three ways to hone in on all these herbal essences.

Kicking it off is a daylong conference featuring herbal healers, farmers, writers, an agroeconomist, an aromatherapist and a chef.

As you'd expect, they'll discuss the use of herbs to maintain health and treat illness, but modern-day herbal issues go far beyond that.

Chef Jean-Marie Josselin, owner of A Pacific Cafe, will prepare two "restorative" dishes flavored and strengthened by medicinal herbs. Local kava farmers will talk about this hottest item in the herbal pharmacy, one of a host of herbal crops that could rejuvenate local agriculture. Native Hawaiian healing plants will have a featured role, as well.

The headliner, though, is Christopher Hobbs, a certified Big Deal in the world of herbs. He founded the American School of Herbalism and the Rainbow Light Herbal Systems line of products, runs a clinical practice, has a new book ("Herbal Remedies for Dummies") and is featured on a new Web site,

Hobbs turns around after Sunday's conference to solo at an all-day seminar at the University of Hawaii. For those short on time or cash, another conference participant, teacher and lecturer "Herbal Ed" Smith, has a free, two-hour gig at Down to Earth Lifestyle Center.

Is there enough interest to support so much stuff?

Thankfully, yes, says Hobbs.

"Finally ... people's awareness is changing."

By Craig T. Kojima Star-Bulletin
Chef Jean-Marie Josselin's scallop dish is flavored with
watercress and ginger, Chinese herbal treatments for colds.

Herbal healing may be a trusted, traditional way of treating illness in many, many parts of the world, but in this country it has been considered "alternative" at best, quackery at worst.

Lately, though, the medical establishment has been softening in its views. "Many doctors are saying, 'Why not take a little echinacea for a cold? It couldn't hurt'," Hobbs says.

And with herbal remedies coming out under such familiar labels as Centrum and Bayer, the whole market is gaining respectability. "Centrum ginkgo and Bayer ginkgo -- it's large suddenly. Doctors get it, too, when Bayer comes out with ginkgo. They trust Bayer."

Not that Hobbs ever needed that sense of legitimacy.

He advocates a lifestyle that combines healthy eating and exercise with herbal supplements that "build your health for the future." Drugs and antibiotics have their place ("When my child has meningitis, give me the penicillin!" he says in his book), but in many cases he can point to a plant-based alternative.

"Herbalism is a way of life -- putting the health of the planet and all beings on Earth equal to our own health," he says.

"Popping a ginkgo pill is better than popping an aspirin. It is renewable. We can grow the ginkgo."

This is where Richard Liebmann enters. Liebmann is executive director of United Plant Savers, a national organization which he somehow runs from the Big Island even though it is based in Vermont. He is also the principal organizer of this weekend's events.

His organization's mission is to protect wild medicinal plants, especially those coveted for their roots, such as black cohosh, kava and echinacea. To pull out the root, rather than harvest seeds or leaves, is to kill the plant and this is happening at a frightening rate on the mainland as the market for these plants explodes.

The answer, Liebmann says, is cultivation, and Hawaii's former sugar-cane lands offer a prime opportunity to salvage plant populations, while claiming for local farmers a share of the estimated $12 billion annual market in herbal supplements.

Potential cash crops, he says, are echinacea, cayenne, noni. Those currently under commercial cultivation are kava, ginger and turmeric.

"The Big Island has so much land and so many ecosystems, so many plants could grow here," Liebmann says. "At the same time there hasn't been a lot of work done, it's just the beginning. It's going to take an adventurous spirit to see what will take."

The challenge is to be sure small farmers have a market once they devote the land and the years bringing a crop to maturity, he says. "Farmers work the hardest, take the greatest risk and get the least reward."

So the next step is to bring growers together with companies that manufacturer herbal remedies, to spread the risks and guarantee farmers a certain return.

"With a little bit of incentive and a lot of ingenuity and hard work, a lot of things could happen."

Proceed with care

Herbal remedies may be "natural," but they are still powerful substances that can cause side effects. Don't treat them lightly, nutritionists and herbalists say. Some should not be taken along with other medications, or can be harmful in large doses. Do your research.

Planting the Future

bullet Conference topic: Uses, cultivation and conservation of native medicinal plants
bullet When: 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Sunday
bullet Place: Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden, Kaneohe
bullet Cost: $40
bullet Reservations: Call 537-1708 or fax 537-6374

Optimizing Health with Medicinal Herbs

bullet Featuring: 'Herbal' Ed Smith
bullet When: 6-8 p.m. Sunday
bullet Place: Down to Earth Lifestyle Center, 2525 S. King St.
bullet Cost: Free
bullet Call: 944-3389 or 955-7182

Herbs for Health and Healing

bullet Featuring: Herbalist Christopher Hobbs
bullet When: 9:30a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday
bullet Place: University of Hawaii at Manoa
bullet Cost: $65; $45 students
bullet To register: Call (808) 882-7750 on the Big Island, or email

Top medicinal herbs

bullet Echinacea: To build immune system, treat colds and flu.
bullet St. Johns Wort: For depression, insomnia, chronic nerve pain.
bullet Ginkgo: For blood circulation, memory, mental alertness.
bullet Ginseng: For digestive problems, fatigue, depression, to build immune system.
bullet Kava: For fatigue, insomnia, depression, anxiety.

Cooking with herbs

Three years ago, out of shape and overweight, Jean-Marie Josselin went to see a Chinese herbalist.

"She really cleaned me up," Josselin says. "In six months she balanced my body again ... from the top of my head to the bottom of my toes."

So began a devotion to Chinese healing that he pursued in travels to Singapore, China and Hong Kong, and that he is bringing to his restaurant, A Pacific Cafe.

Twice a month he offers dishes that make use of herbs known for their restorative powers -- his favorites are rosemary, ginseng, ginger, licorice and garlic. He's put them in soups, ice creams, salad dressings, sauces, "the type of dishes people can understand and are not afraid of."

At Sunday's conference on medicinal plants he will prepare the two dishes featured at his restaurant during cold and flu season -- a chicken soup flavored with ginseng, licorice and cayenne, and a scallop dish with a sauce of watercress and ginger.

He says the herbs, according to Chinese teaching, increase circulation and open breathing passages.

Josselin is working on a cookbook based on his study of Chinese herbalism. Until it is published, here is one of his recipes:


Steamed Scallops with
Ginger Coconut Watercress Broth

Chef Jean-Marie Josselin, A Pacific Cafe

4 large scallops, preferably in the shell
1/4 teaspoon Hawaiian salt, or to taste

bullet Sauce:
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
2 cups Chardonnay
2 stalks lemongrass
1 piece ginger, 3-4 inches long
1 shallot, minced
2 cups coconut milk
1 bunch watercress, chopped and blanched

bullet Relish:
1 Japanese pear, diced
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon cilantro
1/4 teaspoon sugar

Combine sauce ingredients, except coconut milk and watercress, and bring to a boil. Simmer until reduced by half. Add coconut milk, then strain. Add watercress and process until smooth in a blender or food processor.

Saute scallops in small amount of olive oil and season with salt. Arrange in a shallow soup bowl. Pour sauce over scallops. Mix relish ingredients and scoop atop scallops. Serves 2.

bullet> Nutritional information unavailable.

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