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Longevity, comments by Dr. James Duke

Longevity, comments by Dr. James Duke



by James Duke
courtesy of "Herbal Village," Nature’s Herbs.

At age 69, Father Time is telling me I’d best dedicate an issue to the problems of aging, especially since even the Journal. of the American Medical Association dedicated their Oct. 22/29, 1997 issue to aging. As I heard on CNN News, 5:30 pm. May 24,1998, the twentieth century was the century of the juniors, the next century will be the century of the seniors. And this senior citizen hopes to five to see that new century and millennium with the help of my herbal crutches. The only medicine I invariably take daily at age 69 is celery seed extract, my herbal alternative for allopurinol. While I haven’t yet proved that the celery seed is hypouricemic (lowers levels of uric acid), I have been gout free in the two yearssince I abruptly switched from allopurinol to celery seed extract.

But less regularly, and especially when I’m on the road, stressed and restaurant-fed, I have my regular travel kit of herbs, most devoted to problems more prevalent in the geriatric than the juvenile. In my carry-on suitcase, there’s bilberry (for failing eyesight), echinacea and garlic (for failing immune system, needing a boost to help me avoid the bugs on the road), pygeum and saw palmetto (for failing prostate), cranberry and/or bearberry (for failing urethra) milk thistle (to spare a busy liver on the road), ginkgo (for failing memory), St. John’s Wort (in case all these failing systems of the geriatric lead me into a depression; so far no), rosemary (for flagging CNS), turmeric, glucosamine and chondroitin (for failing joints), and sweet annie when venturing into malaria country. Yes, like some other geriatrics with a half dozen super pharmaceuticals, I have at least a half dozen herbs in my geriatric travel kit. I put a day’s capsule assortment into individual baggies, one for each day on the road, so as not to travel with all 612 bottles.


Even though records indicate that older people have always existed in human societies, survival beyond age 50 for most members of a population was a rare event until this century. Today, 95 percent of all babies born in the developed world live past 50. Such unprecedented survival means that most of us will experience or at least witness senescence, that variety of physiological changes creeping up on me, that accompany the passage of time. Senescence on such a grand scale is new to the human race and may represent a unique phenomenon in the history of mankind. (Olshansky et al., 1998)

According to Banks and Fossel (1997), no one has ever lived more than 122 years. Although the mean human fife span has increased significantly during the last 2 centuries, the maximum life span has not. I think herbs help more than the hitech longevity studies (or starvation). JAMA reports here, "Several laboratories have successfully extended the maximum life spans of at least 2 multicellular species genetically (Drosophila and Caenorhabditis elegans) and several more by dietary restriction." Two gene mutations increase the maximum life span of C. elegans 6-fold, provoking the query of what might lie in store for clinical medicine. "Increased life span occurs predominantly through the genetic control of free radical metabolism." That doesn’t exactly give us free license to promote our antioxidants as lifeextenders, but more people than JAMA have often said that oxidative damage is one of the most important causes of aging. Thus I will go so far as to say that antioxidants can slow the ravages of aging. I