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Should herbal medicines sit alongside conventional medicines?

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24 September, 2012

Should herbal medicines sit alongside conventional medicines?

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is increasingly popular, and encompasses a number of systems and therapies based on diverse theories and practices, such as homoeopathy, traditional herbalism, Reiki, Ayurvedic medicine and traditional Chinese medicine.

While many are based on metaphysical concepts for which there is no sound evidence, for herbal medicines there is a rational, scientific basis and increasing clinical evidence.

An article published in Nursing Times this week suggests herbal medicines should no longer be considered part of CAM, but instead sit alongside conventional medicines.

Readers' comments (44)

  • Yes. If there is sound evidence to support using a particular herbal medicine then there is no reason not to use it. I would prefer taking a naturally occurring compound that has been proven to be safe and effective than taking a chemically created alternative. I would welcome the opportunity to make this choice myself.

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  • has this article got anything to do with trying to justify Jeremy Hunts' new job?

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  • I am a nurse and a Reiki healer. It is neither a "complementary" or "alternative" medicine. Reiki is the universal energy force. I have never used it at work but outside work I have tried it on friends and family who have found it very relaxing and calming. It might help to calm some patients and reduce their anxiety. It is offered in my local hospice.

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  • Why not? It is the big pharma that won't want it to happen!

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  • Isn't Reiki what Obi-Wan Kenobi used?

    "These aren't the droids you're looking for"

    "These aren't the droids we're looking for"

    "Move along"

    "Move along, move along"

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  • Fine with herbal medicines as long as there is enough evidence to prove they are beneficial. ie St John wort for mild depression. But as for the other such as homeopathy, until they are proven to be more than placebo and woo then no, they shouldn't be offered in a system which purports to use evidence based medicine.

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  • michael stone

    The problem with herbal medicines, is not that they might be active, but 'quality control' - making sure 'of the right dosage'.

    It is very hard for the current 'system' to cope with medications that cannot be easily standardised.

    This is apart from 'who funds the trials, etc'.

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  • tinkerbell

    they are, what is 'digitalis' after all. As anonymous above says St John Wort is as effective if not more effective in mild to moderate depression with less side effects. Sorry can't provide the evidenced research but the big tome of a book i have on it is in a box in garage.

    Pharmaceutical can't patent herbal remedies, so can't make huge amounts of profit i understand.

    We gave our anxious german shepherd on fireworks night some 'skullcap' once, probably overdosed him or he was oversensitive as he slept and snored through the whole day.

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  • Most, if not all, conventional medicines have side effects and/or interact with other drugs. Many drugs are prescribed "off licence" as have been found to be effective for conditions that they were not originally developed to treat. Many "alternative" treatments have been used for hundreds if not thousands of years; just because they have not been clinically trialled doesn't mean they don't work. Homeopathy is used by the Royal Family and look how health most of them have stayed well into their twilight years.

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  • Tiger Girl

    Anonymous | 28-Sep-2012 12:40 pm

    'Most, if not all, conventional medicines have side effects and/or interact with other drugs.'

    Herbal medicines also have interactions and side effects - even some foods, interact with medicines.

    Pure water has very few 'interactions'.

    I do agree with:

    just because they have not been clinically trialled doesn't mean they don't work.

    but I don't believe in any mysterious properties of 'magic water' itself (so homeopathy might 'work' - but pure water, is just pure water).

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  • Anonymous | 25-Sep-2012 6:02 pm

    Please explain what "universal energy force" is. Can it be seen, measured or objectively described? I would love to know exactly what this force is, beyond these few words, but have never found an alternative practititoner who can explain it at all! Where does it come from, how do we capture it, what does it look like? Very mysterious.

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  • Anonymous | 29-Sep-2012 11:11 am

    excellent question to which a concrete answer would be very useful in increasing our understanding although I rather fear there is none available.

    If there is a valid response, maybe it could be considered a suitable treatment to be added to the expanding list of those available.

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  • michael stone

    Anonymous | 29-Sep-2012 11:11 am

    I suppose the closest thing I can think of to a 'universal energy force' is this 'seething quantum vacuum' that physicists write about.

    But I'm not clear, what that has to do with healthcare ?

    However, re


    Anonymous | 29-Sep-2012 11:46 am

    'excellent question to which a concrete answer would be very useful in increasing our understanding although I rather fear there is none available.

    it doesn't actually matter, if you don't understand why a treatment works, provided there is empirical evidence that the treatment does work - I have no idea if Reiki works, but I doubt that I would try it until I'd seen a proof that it worked, and that convinced me (I'm also very sceptical, of some 'proofs').

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  • DH Agent - as if ! | 29-Sep-2012 2:53 pm

    it does actually matter. If I didn't want to know the answer I wouldn't have wasted my time bothering to ask thanks!

    you do not need to answer for me. My comment was addressed to the poster above mine as I stated!!!!!!!!

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  • In answer to the original question. Only if the correct clinical trials have been done and show clear safe clinical benefit. And we must also remember that being"cost effective" is very important these days.

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  • michael stone

    Anonymous | 29-Sep-2012 2:58 pm

    'it does actually matter.'

    No, understanding why a treatment works is helpful, but not fundamental - the fundamental issue, is evidence as to whether a treatment does work. As Sarah Stanley points out - if something 'shows a clear safe clinical benefit', then it 'works'.

    'My comment was addressed to the poster above mine as I stated!!!!!!!!'

    You referenced that post - if you only want a specific person to comment, then you need to explicitly state that you are not simply drawing attention to the post you are commenting on, but that you only want a reply from that particular psoter. Even so, this is an open forum. And are you one of my 'followers' - how come you didn't make the same 'my question wasn't for you to answer' comment to Anonymous | 29-Sep-2012 11:46 am ? (and that question, is specifically for you).



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  • DH Agent - as if ! | 30-Sep-2012 12:17 pm

    Anonymous | 29-Sep-2012 2:58 pm

    If i ask a question it is because I am looking for an answer. if i solicit an answer it rather indicates that it matters to me so it is not up to you to dismiss it - i haven't bothered wasting my time reading the rest of your post and most of yours lead nowhere in any of the nursing discussions.

    I seem to remember discussing 'annoying' with you on another page but of course you as the client are always right!

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  • DH Agent - as if ! | 30-Sep-2012 12:17 pm

    Followers?

    don't flatter yourself.

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  • michael stone

    Anonymous | 30-Sep-2012 12:33 pm

    I agree with you about this bit, because it is also true for me:

    'If i ask a question it is because I am looking for an answer. if i solicit an answer it rather indicates that it matters to me so it is not up to you to dismiss it'

    Anonymous | 30-Sep-2012 12:35 pm

    Well, you replied to my post - that makes you de facto a follower ! Sorry if that upsets you - I don't 'follow' the Daily Mail, by not reading it. I accept that your interpretation of 'follower' might differ from mine. And I was at no point, 'flattering myself', as it happens.

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  • dh stone
    right as usual

    most nurses use this site to exchange views with other nurses on issues of importance and of interest to them. i imagine most have more important and better things to do than follow your posts and your irritating nitpicking about trivia which have nothing to do with the subject under discussion but rather on how others post which is merely a hindrance.

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