Naturally Occurring Carcinogens

YankeePerm YankeePerm at
Thu Jan 1 11:15:43 EST 1998

In a message dated 12/31/97 2:40:04 AM, warning at wrote:

<<To expand the discussion further, I recall the strongest epidemiological
evidence points to methods of food preparation being the most significant
causes of cancer esp. some pickling, BBQing and smoking techniques.

To expand further.. In Australia, my observation is that the incidence of
smoking tobacco (+commercial additives) amongst permies is higher than the
general population.  This, plus their penchant for sitting around
camp-fires is a bit suicidal...
The least they could do is vary the plant smoke they inhale!

Apologies for a long, wandering first post!


Nice post, David.  Well, I agree that many plants may not make much
difference.  However there is also the fact that the more kinds of carcinogens
you ingest, the more you amplify the possibility of the correct mutation
pathway (to create a cancer) being achieved.  I try not to touch poke on the
advice of someone who researched it, whereas I minimize use of comfrey, rather
than totally avoid it.  Plants such as Sasafras can be avoided with not much
of a loss so why not.  On the other hand I've not heard carcinogenic claims
against dandilion, stellaria (chick weed), or such.   One can use information
plus intelligence in getting a diet that rational.  Diversity of course has
its merits, but in permaculture we are looking, I heard, for FUNCTIONAL
DIVERSITY.  So we don't include known carcinogens unless there is a functional
reason, eat everything in sight that is ok so far as we can tell, and hope to
get more anti-carcinogens than carcinogens, again functionall, by the process.

Well, with one of my three children (grown) still smoking, I have a hard time
being tough on smokers for satisfying their addiction.  (I still do not allow
smoking on my place, anywhere, and make people walk to the public road.)  The
permies that smoke tend to smoke two species, actually, and I'm not taking any
bets as to which is worse.  As you suggest, it could depend on additiives.  I
know some (permacutlure!) people who used to, at least, harvest tobacco in
Kentucky, USA, as cash income at the harvest season.  There was damn little
cash income to be had.  It was sprayed previously with something that turned
it yellow so it would cure faster.  Pickers got abcesses on thier skin, inside
their mouths, and in other recesses, and the most susceptable had to give it
up after earning as much as they could.  (Aint money grand!)  After curing,
then the additives come.  I've since STRONGLY recommended to people who can't
or don't want to shed the tobacco habit that at least they grow their own.
Organic would be nice, but even unsprayed with chemical fertilizer would be a
vast improvement.  They still can't carry their makin's onto my place--carries
too many plant diseases!

I'm not so sure about other smoking plants being better.  I'd say opium is a
definite mistake for most people (thinking of folks with terminal diseases
causing great pain as exceptions).  I'm not even sure about mullein and
coltsfoot having net positive benefit, though I could believe that a low
combustion temperature could release volatiles that might have temporary
benefits while the ring compounds work to engender cancer.  However you could
smoke those outdoors at least 50 feet from the house at my place, except in
dry weather.

Years ago, responding to both nitrate and smoke content in processed items
such as bacon, I switched to salt-cured bacon and uncured sausage (kept in the
freezer) as safer.  But then I don't have many anti-cancer credits left,
having had a landscape gardening business as a teenager (in the 1950s) and
sprayed with no protection everything recommended by the Cooperative Extension
Service.  Yum.  Well I've made it to 58, including some starvation periods
when I lost much of the tissue in which that crap might be stored, so maybe I
lucked out.  Of course the starvation made me old before my time, but hey!...

For Mother Earth, Dan Hemenway, Yankee Permaculture Publications (since 1982),
Elfin Permaculture workshops, lectures, Permaculture Design Courses,
consulting and permaculture designs (since 1981), and now correspondence
courses via email.  One is now underway.  Next Live program:  Paraguay,
8/10-22/98. Internships available. Copyright, 1997, Dan & Cynthia Hemenway,
P.O. Box 52, Sparr FL 32192 USA  YankeePerm at  

We don't have time to rush.

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