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Oxford University trial backs natural medicine

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The results have been announced this week in the British Medical Journal Evidence Based Medicine of a trial which has concluded that honey may be better than conventional treatments for coughs, blocked noses and sore throats.

In a study, by scientists from Oxford University, 14 clinical trials, involving 1,761 participants of varying ages were analysed, with the findings indicating that honey was more effective than usual care for improving symptoms, especially the frequency and severity of coughing. Some studies showed that symptoms lasted one to two days less where patients were treated with honey. The honey was mixed with herbs in a number of the trials.

The researchers said “Honey is a frequently used lay remedy that is well known to patients. It is also cheap, easy to access, and has limited harms. When clinicians wish to prescribe for upper respiratory tract infections, we would recommend honey as an alternative to antibiotics. Honey is more effective and less harmful than usual care alternatives and avoids causing harm through antimicrobial resistance.”

We welcome these findings, which demonstrate that natural health support can be as effective, and often more effective, than usual care. We are also pleased that the study highlights the issue of antimicrobial resistance

Rosemary Westlake, Vice-President of the Institute, said “Antimicrobial drug resistance (AMR) is real and affecting us now. With some studies showing that it could contribute to 10 million deaths by 2050, this is a significant global issue which threatens our ability to deal with a huge range of illnesses. AMR has evolved because bacteria can adapt to become resistant to antibiotic pharmaceuticals – and the pharmaceuticals cannot respond in the same way. Plants however have co-evolved with pathogens and have therefore developed effective chemical responses. They contain multiple antibacterial ingredients that work in synergy with each other.

Herbal medicine uses combinations of herbs and the interactions between them to help the body heal itself. Instead of giving a single chemical treatment, like a pharmaceutical antibiotic, a single herbal medicine can contain over a hundred chemicals – it is combination therapy even in its simplest form. The World Health Organisation has called for more testing of natural products to address the issue of AMR, and we are delighted that this study is communicating the importance of looking beyond pharmaceuticals”.

All of our members hold a BSc degree or equivalent qualification in Herbal Medicine or Clinical Herbalism, have a thorough understanding of orthodox medicine as well as plant medicine and are trained in the same diagnostic skills as a GP. However, herbalists take a holistic approach to illness, looking at the underlying cause of illness or disease rather than just the symptoms. They are able to prescribe herbal remedies to be used alongside other medication and treatments, and many patients are referred to a herbalist by their GP for treatment.

Our members treat thousands of patients every year. By choosing one of our members as your herbal medicine practitioner you can be confident of their high standards of training and professional conduct.

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