This blog was established originally to discuss the promise of natural products in human therapeutics, particularly to identify those herbal medicines that might have some potential for utility as medicines. However, a quick review of my posts reveals a majority of reports of negative outcomes of efficacy or other problems with herbal medicines.
Well, as many of my readers and fellow bloggers down under are aware, the situation in the US is not unique. According to this news report out of Australia:
Popular folk remedies such as aloe vera and lavender oil may not possess healing properties that are often attributed to them, a study has found.
A Choice magazine survey of scientific literature found inconclusive evidence for the effectiveness of folk remedies in everyday use in Australia.
I thought our funding situation in the US was dire, with NIH’s NCCAM devoting about $120 million to alternative medicine research each year (with approx 50% devoted to dietary supplements):
Australian Integrative Medicines Association president Professor Marc Cohen said the government had announced $5 million for research into alternative remedies in November last year….”So the government is responding. But $5 million doesn’t buy us a lot of research.”
More insightfully, Prof Cohen cuts right to the heart of the issue and notes a key problem with the study of herbal medicines: a positive or negative result with one product derived from one herbal extract does not apply to all extracts made from the same plant:
Prof Cohen said a lack of product-specific research created confusion about folk remedies, as some products were much better than others. “The best comparison I can make is with red wine. There’s a big difference between Grange Hermitage and cask wine, and if you’ve done research on one you can’t really compare it to the other,” he said.
And so, yet another story concludes with one of my own central mantras:
Professor Cohen said requiring companies to conduct specific research before putting claims on their products would help regulate the market.
And the chances of that are????