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Last Updated: Monday, 21 April, 2003, 10:39 GMT 11:39 UK
Complementary therapy research boost
Public interest in alternative health is growing
Two Yorkshire doctors are taking part in government research on alternative medicine.

The new National Complementary and Alternative Medicines Award Scheme, worth 1.3m in its first round, will investigate branches of "complementary" medicine.

Dr Hugh MacPherson, of York University, will evaluate acupuncture as a treatment for depression.

While Dr Elaine Weatherley-Jones, of Sheffield University, will study homeopathic treatments for chronic fatigue syndrome.

But the effectiveness of alternative therapies remains controversial.

Increasingly, the population is turning to complementary and alternative medicine sources as well as utilising mainstream medicine
Health Minister Hazel Blears

Recent investigations of asthma and homeopathy suggested that the treatment made no difference whatsoever.

Acupuncture is the only therapy to have performed well in a series of trials, although doctors still cannot determine how it might work.

Yet British consumers now spend 130m on herbal remedies, aromatherapy oils and other alternative treatments each year.

Health Minister Hazel Blears said: "Increasingly, the population is turning to complementary and alternative medicine sources as well as utilising mainstream medicine.

"The development of a solid evidence base for complementary and alternative medicine is therefore important.

"I anticipate it will underpin the future integration of all forms of therapy."

This new project comes as the European Union prepares to introduce tough new rules on complementary medicines.

Under the proposals manufacturers will have to show herbal medicines are not a threat to public health.

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