Complementary medicine: bringing the evidence together

Published 19 February 2009

jonesLeading researchers and practitioners from around the world are coming together for the very first time to assess the evidence supporting the use of complementary medicine.

The first International Evidence-based Complementary Medicine Conference is to be held at the University of New England, NSW, from the 13th to the 15th of March.

The participants will include international authorities on complementary therapies such as Professor Alexander Panossian, Director of Scientific Projects at the Swedish Herbal Institute in Gothenburg, and Simon Mills from the UK, who established the world’s first university centre in complementary medicine.

They will also include eminent researchers and practitioners of orthodox medicine, such as Professor Frank Rosenfeldt, Head of the Cardiac Surgical Research Unit at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, and Professor Kerryn Phelps, the first woman president of the Australian Medical Association. Professor Rosenfeldt will present the results of his research into improving the success of procedures such as cardiac bypass operations by using nutrients including fish oils and antioxidants.

The conference will thus provide ground-breaking insights into the interactions between orthodox and complementary therapies. One of its organisers, Associate Professor Graham Lloyd Jones from UNE’s School of Science and Technology, said one aim of the conference was to identify and explain both positive and negative interactions, so that positive interactions can be encouraged and any negative interactions avoided.

“Over 40 per cent of the Australian population now admits to using some sort of complementary medicine or therapy,” Dr Lloyd Jones said, “and this number is increasing. It’s vitally important, therefore, to assess the evidence supporting the use of these therapies – especially their use in conjunction with orthodox medicine.”

For example, Kerry Bone, an Associate Professor in UNE’s School of Health and Director of Research at MediHerb, will review the clinical evidence relating to the use of complementary medicines in cancer care – especially in the context of concurrent orthodox medical treatment.

“This conference will be highly relevant to the professional development and clinical practice of medical doctors, nurses, pharmacists and natural therapists, providing them with new insights about the efficacy and safety of natural treatments,” Mr Bone said.

A session on “complementary medicine and the brain” will include talks titled “Natural products as cognitive enhancers” and “Herbal and nutritional treatments for depression and anxiety”. Other topics for discussion at the conference will include clinical evidence supporting the use of herbal medicines such as gingko, black cohosh and pine bark, the function of compounds such as omega-3 oils, and the role of complementary medicine in facilitating healthy longevity, improving aged care, and managing conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. Dr Lloyd Jones and his postgraduate students at UNE will present the results of their ground-breaking research on the bioactive components of plants used in traditional Aboriginal medicine.

THE PHOTOGRAPH of Associate Professor Graham Lloyd Jones displayed here expands to show him working with research student Nicholas Sadgrove.