Shot in the arm for al­ter­na­tive medicine

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Health -

From pre­vi­ous page ar­eas’’ for the in­sti­tute to look at, but that ini­tially it would di­vide its work into four key steps. The first of th­ese would be work­ing out the most press­ing pri­or­i­ties for re­search, to en­sure lim­ited funds were not be­ing dis­si­pated by du­pli­cated ef­fort.

‘‘ We have a large num­ber of rel­a­tively strong but dis­con­nected re­searchers across the coun­try that com­pete for the small fund­ing avail­able,’’ Pro­fes­sor Ben­sous­san said. ‘‘ We need to iden­tify na­tional pri­or­i­ties in this area, where we think the op­por­tu­ni­ties ex­ist, and to co-or­di­nate re­search.

‘‘ We hope by the end of this year we will have de­ter­mined the kinds of pri­or­i­ties where the best in­vest­ments can be made.’’

The sec­ond key step for the NICM would be to in­crease col­lab­o­ra­tion and net­works be­tween dif­fer­ent re­search cen­tres and in­di­vid­u­als, and links with re­searchers in the tra­di­tional med­i­cal fields. The other steps would be to in­crease and nur­ture the pool of ex­per­tise in the com­ple­men­tary medicine field, and fi­nally — once re­sults start flow­ing through — to dis­sem­i­nate re­search find­ings to health pro­fes­sion­als and the com­mu­nity.

Pro­fes­sor Ben­sous­san said that Chi­nese pub­lic hos­pi­tals rou­tinely used a large num­ber of herbal medicines to treat pa­tients, even for se­ri­ous ill­nesses such as can­cers, liver dis­ease and kid­ney dis­ease.

The herbal treat­ment artemisia — which has been de­vel­oped into pow­er­ful an­ti­malar­ial treat­ments — was just one ex­am­ple of suc­cess­ful al­ter­na­tive treat­ments.

‘‘ What we need to do is get a han­dle on some of th­ese forms of medicine that are avail­able over­seas, and look closely at build­ing up ev­i­dence around th­ese medicines to see whether they can be used in our own pop­u­la­tion,’’ he said.

‘‘ There are in­dige­nous medicines avail­able all around the world, and what we need to do is look at some of the claims around th­ese medicines, so we can see how they might be in­cor­po­rated into con­ven­tional health­care.

‘‘ For some of th­ese medicines, the ev­i­dence will stack up, but for oth­ers it won’t.’’

The UWS Com­pleMED Re­search Cen­tre al­ready has a herbal anal­y­sis lab­o­ra­tory, and will soon have a herbal phar­ma­col­ogy lab­o­ra­tory which to­gether can iden­tify com­pounds in herbal medicines and test their ef­fects.

Just this week Com­pleMED an­nounced a trial to test if the Chi­nese herbal for­mula Jiang­tang Xiaozhi is an ef­fec­tive treat­ment for pre-di­a­betes, the re­duced tol­er­ance of or abil­ity to metabolise sugar in the blood. Al­though pre-di­a­betes can ex­ist un­de­tected for years, and by the time it pro­gresses to type 2 di­a­betes, about 50 per cent of pa­tients will al­ready have tis­sue dam­age.

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