A Candle in the Dark

A look on science, politics, religion and events

Herbal “Medicine”

with 4 comments

Recently, a team of scientists from the Peninsula Medical School reviewed the studies which were done on the effectiveness of individualized herbal medicines (ie, those which are uniquely prepared for individual patients). Currently, the published article is freely available on the Postgraduate Medical Journal webpage.

The study essentially found that,

  • Despite an extensive search for studies on the effectiveness of individualized herbal medicine, correspondence with “experts” in the field, and even after requesting professional bodies representing practitioners, only three randomized clinical trials were found
  • In two of those studies, there was no difference between placebo controls, and the individualized herbal medicine
  • In the other study on the treatment of the irritable bowel syndrome, the Chineese herbal treatment seemed to work better than placebo, but not as well as standard medicine.

and concluded,

  • There’s a very limited evidence base for European medical herbalism, Chinese herbal medicine and Ayurvedic herbal medicine despite widespread use
  • There’s no convincing evidence that individualized herbal medicine is effective
  • There’s a much greater risk associated with herbal treatment, due to adverse reactions between the constituent herbs, or adulteration with poisonous substances

The BBC has an informative article on this study,

Tailored herbal medicine ‘futile’

There is no evidence to suggest herbal medicines “tailored” to the individual work, and they may even do serious damage, according to a study.

Scientists writing in the Postgraduate Medical Journal examined what they said were the only three clinical trials to have been conducted on the treatments.

External Links
Tailored herbal medicine ‘futile’(BBC News)
A systematic review of randomised clinical trials of individualised herbal medicine in any indication, Postgraduate Medical Journal 2007;83:633-637; doi:10.1136/pgmj.2007.060202

Advertisements

Written by parseval

October 9, 2007 at 3:58 pm

4 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Hmm, the fact that only three clinical trials were conducted doesn’t say anything at all about the efficacy of herbal medicine. All I can conclude is that more tests are required. The ‘study’, imho, was little more than a lit-search.

    Mohan

    October 9, 2007 at 7:59 pm

  2. Hmm, the fact that only three clinical trials were conducted doesn’t say anything at all about the efficacy of herbal medicine.

    The study was a literature search, and it highlights some important points. For example, despite the lack of credible tests (with regard to the efficacy or side-effects), the usage of such medicine is widely practiced. What’s the regulatory body which oversees this doing? We know that rigorous randomized clinical trials can be conducted, as shown by the three tests. So, despite that, how can one recommend such “medicine” without knowing if it really works or not?

    From an excerpt in the study (taken under fair use),


    It should be stressed that professional bodies representing the interests of different practitioner factions from around the world were unable to contribute any more studies than this. In view of the long history and widespread use of medical herbalism, Chinese herbal medicine and Ayurvedic herbal medicine in many and diverse indications, this should be a cause for concern.

    parseval

    October 9, 2007 at 8:31 pm

  3. Perhaps there is no reason to substitute all usual drugs by the herbal remedies. But there are some spheres where everybody knows side effects and potential harm of conventional drugs. Like f.ex. ED or erectile dysfunction. To my view it could be reasonable to try here herbal alternatives claiming to have no side effects.

    gaddemit

    December 14, 2008 at 11:20 pm

    • Perhaps there is no reason to substitute all usual drugs by the herbal remedies. But there are some spheres where everybody knows side effects and potential harm of conventional drugs. Like f.ex. ED or erectile dysfunction. To my view it could be reasonable to try here herbal alternatives claiming to have no side effects.

      My point is that, before we permit such herbal alternatives to be sold in the market, we must test them and hold them to the same standards that we do for normal drugs, to ascertain whether the herbal drugs are effective, and whether they have side effects. AFAIK, this is not being done.

      parseval

      December 15, 2008 at 5:07 pm


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: