Herbal remedies on trial

Two herbal remedies are about to undergo controlled clinical trials to test their effectiveness in treating memory loss and dysmenorrhoea.

By | September 11, 2000

LONDON, September 11 (SPIS MedWire). Two herbal remedies will be put to the test in randomised placebo-controlled trials. One of the projects, to be discussed at the British Association's Festival of Science tomorrow, is using traditional herbs, robotic systems and computer technology to test thousands of plant extracts. Professor John Wilkinson and his team at Middlesex University, UK, have tested purified compounds from sage extract in the hope of identifying a compound that can inhibit acetylcholinesterase, a property that would have many potential clinical uses including slowing the progression of Alzheimer's disease. Wilkinson said that pharmaceutical companies tend to focus on single active compounds, whereas a more holistic view would look at extracts containing thousands of different molecules. "What we're trying to understand is a synergy between molecules," he explained. "Many molecules that are inert in extract form could actually enhance the effect of other active agents by as much as 80% in the plant." A second team, from Oxford Natural Products, has said it plans to recruit 80 women in a trial of three plant extracts as second-line treatment in dysmenorrhoea. Speaking at the Festival, Dr Stephen Kennedy, a gynaecologist at Oxford University, said "Ours is the first randomised controlled trial in the West of a traditional Chinese medicine product to treat painful periods." The herbal combination, based on indigenous Chinese plants, has been used in the East for centuries and is thought to be effective and have a better side-effect profile than currently available drugs.

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