Medicine: Goats & Grass

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Why reeks the goat

On yonder hill Who seems to dote

On chlorophyll?

Whether or not chlorophyll and related compounds get into the system and sweeten it, this rhyme* has got under the skins of chlorophyll enthusiasts and soured their dispositions. Last week Internist Franklin Howard Westcott, who did much to give chlorophyll its first fillip (TIME, July 31, 1950), got up before a Manhattan audience of drugmakers and complained:

"It is appalling how many scientifically qualified people have been victimized by that goat. The fact is that the goat's digestive system and odor are biologically unique and not to be compared with normal human digestive processes or odors . . . The action of green grass has no more to do with the action of processed chlorophyll than the action of coal tar has to do with the well-known coaltar derivative aspirin. One would not expect coal miners to be free of headaches because they inhale coal dust. Nor should anyone . . . expect a grass-eating goat to be free of odor."

Dr. Westcott charged that the cause of chlorophyll has been harmed by over-zealous manufacturers peddling chlorophyll popcorn and chlorophyll-impregnated baby pants. But he stuck to his guns: "We are only on the threshold of a full understanding of chlorophyll and of the values it may hold when it is properly applied."

* By Richard Armour; first printed in the Wall Street Journal last April.