Testing Medicinal Plants at the Physic Garden
We are planning to investigate if medicinal plants have the effects indicated by traditional use and focus on plants for the mind, since so much of our well-being depends an optimal state of mind – see the info our first such trial on the right.
Rather than major multicentre trials involving objective measures, we plan to conduct small (but statistically valid) trials involving self-assessment i.e. using, as an outcome, individual subjective experience.
Such studies would involve volunteers of all ages (over 18) with normal mental health, taking a safe medicinal plant preparation, once or twice a day for a week or two, and completing a self assessment form before and at the end of the trial period. According to best clinical practice, volunteers would be randomly divided into 2 groups, one taking the active agent and the other an inactive (placebo-like) agent, with no one knowing which they are on (‘blind’). The results would be published in a peer reviewed scientific journal.
We would be most grateful if you would kindly complete this online questionnaire to help us design a useful and meaningful study – please scroll down to find it and complete:
FIRST PLANT TRIAL
Want to see if plants can boost your memory? And receive a free seasonal ticket to the North’s best kept secret garden?
Local garden offers new opportunity to take part in a Memory Test Study in West Northumberland.
Would you say yes to any of these questions?
Do you think your memory is not what it was?
Are you concerned about the current epidemic of dementia?
Would you be open to the idea that medicinal plants could help, bearing in mind that modern drugs like aspirin come from plants?
If so, the next question is :
Then why not volunteer in a safe natural medicinal plant trial to test the effects of some common plants, that have been reputed in history to improve our memory.
The trial is being conducted by a local medical herbalist Ross Menzies and Elaine Perry, emeritus professor of neuroscience and also curator of the beautiful Dilston Physic Garden in the Tyne Valley. In case you have visited this tranquil Northumbrian garden, this years is a good year to do it as it’s celebrating 10 years open to the public.
Elaine has already conducted research into medicinal plants for your mood and memory at Newcastle University with some exciting results and she sees Dilston Physic Garden as playing a new role in exploring the use of safe botanicals, where there is scientific evidence to back it up.
Ross, as a medical herbalist, has been treating many people in Northumberland with medicinal plants for various conditions from gut complaints to anxiety for the last 16 years. In collaboration with the physic garden he has recently prepared an mix (known as an ‘extract’) of several plants grown at the physic garden.
Ross says “preliminary feedback from people taking this extract indicates positive effects, though we can’t reveal which medicinal plants are included at this stage in order not to bias the outcome. If people know which plant they are taking they are no longer ‘blind’ to their allocation of test or placebo”.
If you would like to take part, the trial is set to start in 2015 and is open to anyone over the age of forty. You can volunteer to take part in the trial provided you are not diagnosed with a condition such as Alzheimer’s. Simply telephone or visit the Bodyworks Centre in Hexham, it’s situated a few minutes walk from the bus station, and 10-15 minutes from the railway.
What do you take?
The new trial involves taking what is called a medicinal tincture twice a day for two weeks. This tincture is a mix (an ‘extract’) of the medicinal plants in pure alcohol. So it’s is a bit like taking an aspirin in water except it’s whole plants rather than isolated drug, and alcohol is being used because it takes out more of the active chemicals in the plants. The dose of alcohol per measure is equivalent to a ¼ of a unit and the majority of this evaporates if the tincture is added to a little hot water before taking.
You will take one of two tinctures, either one with the active botanical or another with a botanical that does not affect memory, known as a ‘placebo’. Neither yourself as the volunteer participant, nor the trial organisers will know who is taking which.
What tests will you be given?
You will be asked to take a simple word recall test at the start and at the end of the 14 day trial period. The memory task has been provided by our cognition expert, who will also conduct a statistical analysis of the results.
As a thank you for partaking, Dilston Physic Garden is offering you a free season ticket that entitles you to free admission to the physic garden, during opening hours, through the spring, summer and autumn 2015. The physic garden, nestled above the Dyvels Water between Hexham and Corbridge, is open every Wednesday and Saturday from 11am to 4pm.
Nic, the garden manager says “This is a unique opportunity to enjoy and be soothed by the tranquil physic garden across the seasons. Participants in the study can come along for the day, bring a picnic and discover more about what plants can do for their health”
The team behind it
Ross Menzies, a medical herbalist from Hexham www.the-herbal-clinic.co.uk
Professor Elaine Perry, neuroscientist and curator at Dilston Physic Garden www.dilstonphysicgarden.com
Professor Keith Wesnes, Cognitive Consultant, Head of Wesnes Cognition Ltd.
Director of the Bodyworks Centre, Paula Wedgewood www.thebodyworkcentre.co.uk
This trial is being conducted without funding resource. It depends on the good will of the team who are all committed to providing new approaches to helping with the cognitive setbacks associated with ageing.
If the results of this ‘pilot’ trial are positive, the investigators involved will seek resources for a larger, longer term trial, possibly involving those already affected with dementia.
Further information on medicinal plants for memory
There are prescription drugs derived from plants used to treat the cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s disease. For example galantamine is derived from a compound in the bulbs of snowdrops and daffodils (though don’t eat snowdrop bulbs as they are poisonous).
However, for normal mild memory impairments, some of which may be a prelude to more severe problems, there are no approved medications.
People concerned need to consider alternative options which include psychological strategies and medicinal plants. There are number of plants that grow in the UK which memory enhancing properties. For these medicinal plants there is both traditional evidence, based on long standing experience and practice, and scientific evidence, based on modern science and the results of controlled medical (‘clinical’) trials.
However none of this evidence is sufficient for any one plant extract to be accepted in orthodox medical practice. Further evidence, based on standardised extracts, dose and testing procedures, is needed.
Such trials have been conducted in academic and clinical institutions. None, as far as we know, in the community where the lead investigator is a practising medical herbalist. This is the focus of the new trial.
To take part in this memory trial simply telephone 01434 601577, email email@example.com, or visit The Bodywork Centre in Hexham to make an appointment.
The Bodywork Centre
NE46 1 BH
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