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Benefits of natural medicine to help with colds investigated

Canterbury student investigating benefits of natural medicine to help with colds

June 26, 2014

A University of Canterbury PhD health sciences student is investigating the benefits of natural medicine to help with common colds.

Sandra Clair is studying traditional medicine, an often overlooked health science topic in New Zealand. Her explorative research may be used to shape government policy and integrate conventional and traditional medicine in the public health system, in line with the World Health Organisation‘s traditional medicine strategy.

Clair is a registered medical herbalist and is the founder of natural health company Artemis Natural Healthcare. Claire grew up in Switzerland where natural healthcare is a living tradition and an integral part of modern medical practice.

She was awarded a University of Canterbury scholarship and is doing her thesis under the supervision of Associate Professor Ray Kirk, exploring the practical relevance of traditional medical plant knowledge for today's evidence-based healthcare system.

According to the World Health Organisation, plant medicines are the most prevalent medicines used worldwide with up to 86 percent of Western populations using plant medicines. They are used by people looking for either an alternative to pharmaceutical drugs or a complementing treatment.

Off the back of the Ministry of Health’s recent Med Safe changes, Clair developed a comprehensive herbal cough formula specifically for young children up to six years old. She drew from traditional clinical knowledge and scientific research into medicinal plants that have shown to be both safe and effective.

The combination of natural ingredients work to reduce symptoms and nurture the growing immune system to build long-term immune resistance, Clair says.

``The common cold is the most frequent infection in the industrialised world with children having anywhere between four to 10 colds a year. As children grow and maturing, their treatment of coughs and colds needs to be different to adults otherwise complications can arise.

``Pharmaceutical or over-the-counter cold medicines were first introduced in the 1950s, to help reduce cold symptoms such as a blocked nose or a cough. At the time it was assumed that the treatment for adults and children was the same.

``Over the past decade, pharmaceutical cough and cold medications have been implicated in a number of children’s deaths in the United Kingdom, as well as thousands of reported side effects.

``Diphenhydramine, an ingredient used in the popular Benylin children’s cough syrup, was mentioned in the cases of 27 deaths. Chlorphenamine was mentioned in reports of 11 deaths, an antihistamine commonly used in allergy prevention medication for children. Until recently, many medicines containing these ingredients were specifically labelled and sold as being suitable for children in New Zealand.

``In 2009 Medsafe New Zealand conducted a review of cough and cold medicines in children and found some pretty startling results. They found 12 chemical substances to be unsafe and ineffective for children and issued a mandatory change that oral medicines containing these substances should not be used in children under six and not recommended for children under 12.

``Natural medicine is the only alternative for children as the suitability and efficacy of herbal remedies are well documented from generations of medical use, observational and scientific studies,’’ Clair says.


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