Herbal medicines do work, expert hits back


London: Complementary health expert Jayney Goddard today defended the reputation of herbal medical remedies following a recent study labelling them as “hocus pocus”.

In a new book published by Collins, Goddard, founder and president of The Complementary Medicines Association examined 10,000 scientific trials to reveal that a wide range of herbal medicines are effective.

The evidence in the book Complementary and Alternative Health: The Scientific Verdict on What Really Works, she says, is proof that herbal medicine cannot be ignored by the medical establishment.

“This book is, essentially, a vast encyclopaedia which encompasses virtually every aspect of complementary medicine and draws from data accrued from over 10,000 scientific trials,” says Jayney.

It is a book which will be absolutely invaluable to everyone involved in complementary medicine and alternative therapies. It is also essential reading for anyone who is interested in using complementary therapies and wants to know just what the scientific evidence is, so far, for a particular approach.

One such supplement is St John’s Wort with Passion Flower that has recently been proven in a clinical trial to dramatically reduce depression and anxiety quickly.

The trial shows without a doubt that this herbal supplement comprising 450mg St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) and 350mg Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) per daily dose can ease mild to moderate depression.

Significantly it shows a considerable reduction in depression and anxiety. The results were felt quickly – within two weeks of taking the supplement (St John’s Wort alone is recognised as achieving this reduction within four
to six weeks).

St John’s Wort is renowned for its effectiveness in treating mild depression but patients are advised it can take up to six weeks to take full effect. Passionflower is known to ease anxiety quickly. It is concluded that the combination of these two herbs in this synergistic supplement brings about a reduction in BOTH depression and anxiety.

The trial was double-blind, placebo controlled and randomised and 162 people took part. They were classified as either mildly depressed (14-17 on the Hamilton Scale of Depression – HAMD) or moderately depressed (18-24 on the HAMD).

The Hamilton scale runs from 0-30: In light depression HAMD-17 total scores sum 8-13.

• A score between 14-18 is mild depression
• Between 18-24 is moderate severe depression
• And 25 or more is severe depression

The patients took either the St John’s Wort and Passionflower combination or a placebo for eight weeks during which time their HAMD and HAMA (Hamilton Scale for Anxiety) were measured

– Those on the supplement showed significant improvement

– Those mildly depressed went from around 15 on the scale to 8

– At the same time the placebo group worsened from around 15 to 17

– Those moderately depressed went from around 20 to 8 (within the
time scale)

– At the same time the placebo group worsened from around 20 to 21

– After 56 days the placebo groups were crossed over, so the placebo
group took the supplement.

– When the placebo group switched to taking the supplement they saw a
drop of 39.6% and 31.6% in their HAMD and HAMA ratings respectively with
a major drop in both showing within four weeks


Many herbs, quite clearly, DO work and there are trials to prove it, says Jayney Goddard. “Across Europe and in Germany in particular, we see alternative medicine taken very seriously indeed. It’s about time that sort of attitude was given air time and breathing space in the UK where we have some first class products that can be trusted to work effectively and safely when taken in the recommended way for the specified conditions.


Complementary and Alternative Health: The Scientific Verdict on What Really Works is available at the www.the-cma.org.uk and good book shops priced £19.99.

Top doctors urge UK government to stop wasting money on alternative therapies

London: The UK Government has been urged not to waste money on complementary medicine.

A body of top doctors say that spending on these “unproven or disproved treatments” should stop and the money spent on life-saving drugs instead.

Their campaign is launched to coincide with a speech being made by the Prince of Wales in support of such therapies in Geneva today.

The 13 scientists, who include some of the most eminent names in British medicine, have written to the chief executives of all 476 acute and primary care trusts to demand that only evidence-based therapies are provided free to patients.

Their letter, which was sent to The Times newspaper, has been sent as the Prince today steps up his efforts for increased provision of alternative treatments with a controversial speech to the World Health Organisation assembly in Geneva.

The letter criticises two of his flagship initiatives on complementary medicine: a government-funded patient guide prepared by his Foundation for Integrated Medicine, and the Smallwood report last year, which he commissioned to make a financial case for increasing NHS provision.

Both documents, it is claimed, give misleading information about scientific support for therapies such as homoeo-pathy, described as “an implausible treatment for which over a dozen systematic reviews have failed to produce convincing evidence of effectiveness”.

The letter’s signatories include Sir James Black, who won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1988, and Sir Keith Peters, president of the Academy of Medical Science, which represents Britain’s leading clinical researchers.

It was organised by Michael Baum, Emeritus Professor of Surgery at University College London, and other supporters include six Fellows of the Royal Society, Britain’s national academy of science, and Professor Edzard Ernst, of the Peninsula Medical School in Exeter, who holds the UK’s first chair in complementary medicine.

The doctors ask trust chief executives to review their policies so that patients are given accurate information, and not to waste scarce resources on therapies that have not been shown to work by rigorous clinical trials.

They conclude: “At a time when the NHS is under intense pressure, patients, the public and the NHS are best served by using the available funds for treatments that are based on solid evidence.”

Professor Baum, a cancer specialist, said that he had organised the letter because of his “utter despair” at growing NHS acceptance of alternative treatments while drugs of proven effectiveness are being withheld. “At a time when we are struggling to gain access for our patients to Herceptin, which is absolutely proven to extend survival in breast cancer, I find it appalling that the NHS should be funding a therapy like homoeopathy that is utterly bogus,” he said.

He said that he was happy for the NHS to offer the treatments once research has proven them effective, such as acupuncture for pain relief, but that very few had reached the required standards.

“If people want to spend their own money on it, fine, but it shouldn’t be NHS money.”

The Department of Health does not keep figures on the total NHS spending on alternative medicine, but Britain’s total market is estimated at Pounds 1.6 billion.