More proof: Tailored herbal medicine treatments do not work

27 11 2007

As stated by the authors of a recent systematic review “There is no convincing evidence that individualised herbal medicine is effective in any indication.”. What’s more, there’s a high risk of side effects and the potential for herbs to react badly with other herbs and prescription medicines.

Studies promoting the effectiveness of herbal medicines have been steadily increasing over the past 20 years, say the authors. But most clinical research has involved standard preparations or single herbal extracts rather than the individually tailored treatments favoured by herbal medicine practitioners. This suggests that they have been sponsored by manufacturers, eager to cash in on the growing market for over the counter remedies.

The current findings are based on an analysis of the available comparative clinical research (randomised controlled trials) on individually tailored herbal medicine treatments. But only three studies out of more than 1300 were randomised controlled trials of sufficient quality to draw meaningful conclusions.

Results showed that there were no statistical differences between tailored herbal medicine and placebo in either the knee osteoarthritis study or the cancer treatment study.

Authors advise that herbal medicine, which currently have no basis in science, and others over the counter remedies shouldn’t be confused with phytotherapy, which represents the scientific face of herbalism. Phytotherapy has considerable potential to benefit patients. But over the counter remedies and traditional herbal medicine can harm those who use them. Researches conclude saying that “without these distinctions, we will fail to advance our knowledge of the potential benefits of herbal treatments. More importantly, we will also fail in our foremost duty – to protect the public from treatments that cause them harm”.

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