Herbalism and alt med resource

rusty_blackhaw(6a)May 9, 2009

Here's a useful website that's collected links to all the articles in the Cochrane Collaboration database on herbalism and other forms of complementary/alternative medicine. It's handy to have these all in one place. They're organized so you can look up remedies for specific diseases, check out treatments or find everything in the database on a particular form of alt med (i.e. herbalism, acupuncure, massage therapy etc.).

The Cochrane Collaboration (named after Archie Cochrane, the British epidemiologist), is a nonprofit organization based in Britain, with volunteers who put together systematic reviews of all kinds of medical treatment, recognized around the world for their quality.

Such reviews are not perfect (limitations include the tendency of most scientific journals (which are source of the articles being reviewed) to favor positive results over publishing negative findings), but are still one of the best sources available for evaluating treatments, and a good starting point if you want to check out an herb or supplement that you're not familiar with.

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novice_2009(zone 6b)

If that was for me, thanks eric. However, I have limited use of computer, as I don't own one myself, and am very interested in personal experiences, and other info from people on here. I'll check out that website, if i have time, but I'm much more interested in what interesting things people in this forum might have to offer. Thanks!

    Bookmark   May 9, 2009 at 4:45PM
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Thanks, Eric; I will check those out.

Does either charge for a subscription?

    Bookmark   May 9, 2009 at 5:47PM
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novice_2009(zone 6b)

Checked out some of the Chochrane reports. If anything, I didn't see any slants towards favorable reports. Quite the opposite. Not suprised though.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2009 at 8:47PM
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It would be difficult to judge a bias towards positive results just by looking at the Cochrane reviews. If, for example, 50% of the reviews into a particular type of therapy judged that it was useful, that might seem low to someone who values that kind of therapy. On the other hand, if the original research that was evaluated as part of that review was biased towards positive results, the 50% figure might actually be high.

Examples of reported positive biases:

Here's a brief report about presentations on emergency medicine. It was found that when researchers applied to present their work at an emergency med conference, favorable results were more likely to be accepted and later published. In other words, if you found that Treatment X was of value, your work might be disseminated more than if you found that Treatment X did not work.

The same thing happens with publications on alternative medical practices. The book "Snake Oil Science" notes that it is almost unheard of in Chinese medical journals to report that acupuncture doesn't work for a medical condition - for any condition studied, acupuncture is said to be effective in virtually 100% of the published studies. Contrast that with reports in Western journals, where acupuncture is rated effective half the time or less.

It's rather suspect when any treatment is found broadly effective for any condition studied, 100% of the time.

If you do a review of the scientific literature on acupuncture for some condition, inclusion of the Chinese studies could make acupuncture look better than it actually is.

Cochrane weeds out some of the papers on a topic based on defects in study design, but all systematic reviews have to grapple with potential biases towards positive results. I think the problem is easing as more attention is called to it, but it's still something to keep in mind when evaluating research.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2009 at 12:29PM
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Another source is the Commission E reports, out of Germany. THESE are meant for herbalists.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2009 at 10:33PM
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Commission E findings are not for the exclusive use of herbalists, but for practitioners and users in general, in common with the Cochrane reviews.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2009 at 8:27AM
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Thanks simplemary for the info.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2009 at 8:17AM
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