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Monday, 3 February, 2003, 00:25 GMT
Homeopathic remedy 'ineffective'
Leopard's bane
Arnica is derived from Leopard's bane
The popular homeopathic remedy arnica proved to be no more effective than a dummy treatment in clinical trials.

However, critics say the study is flawed, and does not prove that arnica has no effect.

Arnica tablets are available in most High Street chemists and are usually sold to control bruising, reduce swelling and generally help recovery after an injury or operation.

I hope this research will help people to look for more effective treatments

Professor Edzard Ernst
It is one of the most popular and well known homeopathic remedies.

However, although there are lots of anecdotes about cases where arnica 'really works', scientific studies have produced contradictory results.

Researchers, from the University of Exeter and the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital, focused on three groups of patients who were about to have surgery on their wrists for carpal tunnel syndrome.

One group was given 'high-potency' homeopathic arnica tablets to be taken before the operation and afterwards for two weeks.

Another group was given 'low-potency' tablets and the third was given a placebo.

Analysis

Patients filled in a standard pain-assessment questionnaire before and after surgery.

They recorded their symptoms and use of painkillers in a daily 'pain diary'.

The hospital analysed photographs of patients' wrists, using computer software to measure exact shades of bruising.

They also measured changes in swelling around the wrist.

There was no significant difference between any of the groups in terms of pain, bruising, swelling, or the number of painkillers the patients had taken.

Lead researcher Professor Edzard Ernst said: "I hope this research will help people to look for more effective treatments and save money by not buying homeopathic arnica."

Professor Ernst suggested that arnica had gained a reputation because people who took it and recovered quickly from surgery tended to tell their friends about it, while those who did not were much less likely to mention it.

Writing in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, he said: "These results do not support the routine use of homeopathic arnica for preventing or reducing post-operative complications such as bruising, swelling and pain.

"However, they do not rule out the possibility that individual patients could benefit."

Inconclusive

Dr Janet Richardson, chairman of the Research Council for Complementary Medicine (RCCM), told BBC News Online the results of the study were far from conclusive.

She said: "The results suggest that people undergoing carpal tunnel surgery are not helped by arnica.

"But this does not mean that arnica is of no help with other conditions."

Dr Richardson said 16 articles extracted from the RCCM database showed a split between those that showed arnica had a positive effect, and those that showed negative results.

She added that the new study was poorly designed and based on a small sample.

In addition some patients did not necessarily follow the treatment properly.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Christine McGourty
"Scientists say Arnica's healing powers are a myth"

Click here to go to Devon
See also:

26 Nov 02 | Health
07 Nov 01 | Health
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