In an unusual twist, a prominent U.K. scientist is accusing Prince Charles of contributing to the "ill health of the nation" by backing with his name an herbal detox product that sells for about $13.75 per bottle.
The crown prince is certainly not the first celebrity name to be associated with the worldwide detoxification trend. Still, the concerns expressed by Edzard Ernst, Britain's top complementary and alternative medicine expert and director of complementary medicine at the Peninsula Medical School, about the royal's involvement with the Duchy Originals product line reached beyond the country's shores this week.
The product in question is "Duchy Herbals Detox Tincture," which contains dandelion and artichoke extracts. The Duchy Originals Web site suggests that those using the formulation take a few drops of it with water twice a day to "help eliminate toxins and aid digestion."
Ernst, in his comments to the U.K. media, made clear that he believed the claims were unfounded.
"Under the banner of holistic and integrative health care, he promotes a 'quick fix' and outright quackery," Ernst told Britain's The Daily Mail newspaper Tuesday. "Prince Charles and his advisers seem to deliberately ignore science and prefer to rely on make-believe and superstition."
Ernst could not be reached for further comment. Meanwhile, Duchy Originals refused to comment on Ernst's tirade beyond a statement issued by CEO Andrew Baker shortly after his comments became public.
"There is no 'quackery,' no 'make-believe' and no 'superstition' in any of the Duchy Originals herbal tinctures," the statement reads. "We find it unfortunate that Professor Ernst should chase sensationalist headlines in this way rather than concentrating on accuracy and objectivity."
Baker further noted that the solution is marketed as a food supplement in accordance with all national and local laws and "has never been described as a medicine, remedy or cure for any disease."
While the fallout from Ernst's comments continues to polarize medical professionals and the public in the U.K., alternative medicine experts in the United States said that the situation underscores misconceptions that exist about detox in this country as well.
Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of the Austin, Texas-based herbal medicine think-tank American Botanical Council, said that part of the thrust behind the detox movement is the idea that the food supply and environment of today expose people to higher levels of chemicals and pollutants than in the past.
"Many people -- rationally or irrationally, correctly or not -- believe strongly that they must detoxify their bodies to give themselves that extra edge to get rid of [these chemicals]," he said. "There is probably a healthy and rational basis for some of this, though some people take it a bit too far."
And Dr. Roberta Lee, vice chair of the Department of Integrative Medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City, said detoxification as a concept may be getting an undeservedly bad rap.
"Detoxification is a natural process that occurs in the body, though it is not labeled as such in the medical profession," she said. "The idea that detox is a silly notion, I think, is a fallacy."