Universities have vital role in CAM research 2

November 6, 2008

There is a lot of mumbo-jumbo in some areas of CAM, but many, especially herbal medicine, have for decades been dominated by clinical and bioscientific approaches.

Many such practices are evidence-based, even though the number of cases one can draw upon is smaller than in biomedicine. CAMs have been flourishing for many reasons. Most importantly, many patients and consumers want to use them, and this includes healthcare professionals and students of medicine or pharmacy.

One reason for the success of CAMs, not addressed in the very balanced and critical analysis by Times Higher Education, is the role of medical and pharmaceutical practice in the rise of these therapies.

CAM practitioners offer an alternative to "normal treatment". Often it is used for minor or chronic illnesses, conditions that are either not taken seriously by many healthcare professionals or for which no adequate biomedical treatment exists. Personal choice allows a patient a (subjectively) better life. It is this that is creating the need for such alternatives.

All healthcare professions are both a science and an art, and in education it is everyone's task to achieve the right balance. The best way forward is a science-based education of practitioners in CAM fields, and universities are ideal institutions to achieve this if we all take our role as scientific educators seriously.

Michael Heinrich, Centre for Pharmacognosy and Phytotherapy, School of Pharmacy, University of London.

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