Chinese and Indian Ayurvedic medicines are under serious attack in Europe - and yet three studies have this week proven they can help in the treatment of cancer, in easing a lung condition, and they may well hold the answer to the antibiotic-resistant superbugs.
The studies have been published just three weeks after the EU's Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive came into force, and all Chinese and Ayurvedic products were removed from the shelves.
All practitioners will have to be registered with a recognised professional trade body by April next year, or they will be forced to cease practice, and the remedies will be completely unavailable to the public - other than from a conventional doctor.
The first study has discovered that the Indian spice, curcumin, can help in the treatment of head and neck cancers. The spice stops the cells' resistance to the chemotherapy. In one study, oncologists were able to reduce the dose of the chemotherapy drug, cisplatin, by a factor of four, and still get a positive outcome, after the patients had been given the spice.
In the second study, a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) herbal paste - Xiao Chuan - can help ease the worst symptoms of the lung condition COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) during the winter. The paste has been used to ease breathing difficulties in China for more than a thousand years.
In the third study, several herbal remedies from the Ayurvedic tradition have been found to act as an effective antibiotic against infections following chemotherapy after the immune system has been impaired. Herbs that were tested included wild asparagus, desert date, false daisy, curry tree, caster oil plant and fenugreek.
(Sources: curcumin study - Archives of Otolaryngology, 2011; 137: 499; Xiao Chuan study - ATS 2011 International Conference, Denver; antibiotic study - Annals of Clinical Microbiology and Antimicrobials, 2011; 10:21).