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ABC Executive Director’s Editorial Emphasizes Published Clinical Trials Supporting the Therapeutic Benefits of Leading Herbs

Austin, TX (April 23, 2009) The March/April issue of Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine features a guest editorial by ABC Founder and Executive Director Mark Blumenthal, in which Blumenthal addresses one of the primary inaccuracies promoted by some critics of herbal medicine: the myth that clinical trial evidence shows many popular herbal preparations to be ineffective.

In his editorial, titled “Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses Support the Efficacy of Numerous Popular Herbs and Phytomedicines,” Blumenthal discusses how the public perception that certain herbs do not work has been misled by highly publicized randomized controlled trials (RCTs) with negative outcomes. These include RCTs of preparations made from herbs such as St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) to treat symptoms of mild to moderate depression, and echinacea (Echinacea spp.) to deal with upper respiratory tract infections related to colds and the flu.

Blumenthal goes on to cite numerous recently-published systematic reviews and meta-analyses of RCTs in which the above-mentioned herbal preparations were significantly more effective than placebo. In addition, he points out that some trials found herbs to be as effective, and safer, than conventional pharmaceutical medications used for the same purposes. Also included in this discussion are reviews of RCTs of garlic (Allium sativum) for lowering blood pressure, Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) for erectile dysfunction, and hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) for aspects of congestive heart failure.

Blumenthal concludes the essay as follows:

All too frequently, however, glaring exposure in the media of one high-profile negative trial becomes “the conversation,” with the larger body of clinical research, as well as highly relevant epidemiological and other non-RCT-based data, being relegated to a cognitive Twilight Zone. Even critics of CAM and herbal medicine in particular, frequently fall into the trap of taking refuge under the high-profile negative trial in attempts to dismiss an entire herbal category and, by extension, all herbal preparations in sweeping generalizations that would never be countenanced in a freshman-level course in logic, much less the “evidence-based” practice of medicine.

A PDF of the editorial is available on the Alternative Therapies web site.

Blumenthal M. Systematic reviews and meta-analyses support the efficacy of numerous popular herbs and phytomedicines. Altern Ther Health Med. 2009;15(2):14-15. Available at: