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Concept: Alternative medicine


The practice of Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India, is based on the concept of three major constitutional types (Vata, Pitta and Kapha) defined as “Prakriti”. To the best of our knowledge, no study has convincingly correlated genomic variations with the classification of Prakriti. In the present study, we performed genome-wide SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) analysis (Affymetrix, 6.0) of 262 well-classified male individuals (after screening 3416 subjects) belonging to three Prakritis. We found 52 SNPs (p ≤ 1 × 10(-5)) were significantly different between Prakritis, without any confounding effect of stratification, after 10(6) permutations. Principal component analysis (PCA) of these SNPs classified 262 individuals into their respective groups (Vata, Pitta and Kapha) irrespective of their ancestry, which represent its power in categorization. We further validated our finding with 297 Indian population samples with known ancestry. Subsequently, we found that PGM1 correlates with phenotype of Pitta as described in the ancient text of Caraka Samhita, suggesting that the phenotypic classification of India’s traditional medicine has a genetic basis; and its Prakriti-based practice in vogue for many centuries resonates with personalized medicine.

Concepts: Genetics, Bioinformatics, Ayurveda, SNP array, Alternative medicine, Traditional medicine, Sanskrit words and phrases, Charaka Samhita


BACKGROUND: Tinnitus is the perception of a sound in the absence of an objective physical source. Up to now, there is no generally accepted view how these phantom sounds come about, and also no efficient treatment. Patients are turning to complementary or alternative medical therapies, such as acupuncture. Based on the theory of traditional Chinese medicine, acupoints located on both the adjacent and distal area of the disease can be needled to treat disease. Furthermore, the way of combining acupoints is for strengthening the curative effect. We aim to evaluate the efficacy of acupuncture at local points in combination with distal points in subjective tinnitus patients. METHOD: This trial is a randomized, single-blind, controlled study. A total of 112 participants will be randomly assigned to one of four treatment groups receiving acupuncture treatment for 4 weeks. The primary outcome measure is subjective tinnitus loudness and annoyance perception, which is graded using the Visual Analogue Scale (VAS). The assessment is at baseline (before treatment initiation), 4 weeks after the first acupuncture session, and 8 weeks after the first acupuncture session. DISCUSSION: Completion of this trial will help to identify whether acupuncture at local acupoints in combination with distal acupoints may be more effective than needling points separately.Trial registrationInternational Standard Randomized Controlled Trial Number Register: ISRCTN29230777.

Concepts: Medicine, Randomized controlled trial, Effectiveness, Efficacy, Acupuncture, Alternative medicine, Traditional Chinese medicine, Acupuncture point


The Ayurvedic medicinal system claims Mucuna pruriens (MP) to possess pro-male fertility, aphrodisiac and adaptogenic properties. Some scientific evidence also supports its pro-male fertility properties; however, the mechanism of its action is not yet clear. The present study aimed at demonstrating spermatogenic restorative efficacy of MP and its major constituent L-DOPA (LD), and finding the possible mechanism of action thereof in a rat model.

Concepts: Present, Mitochondrion, Organelle, Reactive oxygen species, Alternative medicine, Cytochrome c, Mucuna pruriens


BACKGROUND: Personalised (or individualised) medicine in the days of genetic research refers to molecular biologic specifications in individuals and not to a response to individual patient needs in the sense of person-centred medicine. Studies suggest that patients often wish for authentically person-centred care and personal physician-patient interactions, and that they therefore choose Complementary and Alternative medicine (CAM) as a possibility to complement standard care and ensure a patient-centred approach. Therefore, to build on the findings documented in these qualitative studies, we investigated the various concepts of individualised medicine inherent in patients' reasons for using CAM. METHODS: We used the technique of meta-ethnography, following a three-stage approach: (1) A comprehensive systematic literature search of 67 electronic databases and appraisal of eligible qualitative studies related to patients' reasons for seeking CAM was carried out. Eligibility for inclusion was determined using defined criteria. (2) A meta-ethnographic study was conducted according to Noblit and Hare’s method for translating key themes in patients' reasons for using CAM. (3) A line-of-argument approach was used to synthesize and interpret key concepts associated with patients' reasoning regarding individualized medicine. RESULTS: (1) Of a total of 9,578 citations screened, 38 studies were appraised with a quality assessment checklist and a total of 30 publications were included in the study. (2) Reasons for CAM use evolved following a reciprocal translation. (3) The line-of-argument interpretations of patients' concepts of individualised medicine that emerged based on the findings of our multidisciplinary research team were “personal growth”, “holism”, “alliance”, “integrative care”, “self-activation” and “wellbeing”. CONCLUSIONS: The results of this meta-ethnographic study demonstrate that patients' notions of individualised medicine differ from the current idea of personalised genetic medicine. Our study shows that the “personal” patients' needs are not identified with a specific high-risk group or with a unique genetic profile in the sense of genome-based “personalised” or “individualised” medicine. Thus, the concept of individualised medicine should include the humanistic approach of individualisation as expressed in concepts such as “personal growth”, “holistic” or “integrative care”, doctor-patient “alliance”, “self-activation” and “wellbeing” needs. This should also be considered in research projects and the allocation of healthcare resources.

Concepts: DNA, Medicine, Genetics, Evolution, Ayurveda, Acupuncture, Alternative medicine, Translation


Immune thrombocytopenia (ITP) is a hematological disorder with an isolated decrease in number of circulating platelets. Bee venom therapy (BVT) is a form of alternative medicine. It is still being practiced in the Middle East and other parts of Asia. In BVT, acupuncture points are used to inject diluted bee venom into the body. The pharmacological basis behind BVT is not fully understood. However, it has been used to treat various medical conditions such as arthritis and low back pain. On the other hand there have been a number of reported complications of BVT use such as ITP. We present a case report on ITP after BVT.

Concepts: Medicine, Low back pain, Platelet, Middle East, Acupuncture, Alternative medicine, Asia, Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura


BACKGROUND:Although cardiovascular disease may be partially preventable through dietary and lifestyle-based interventions, few individuals at risk receive intensive dietary and lifestyle counselling. We performed a randomized controlled trial to evaluate the effectiveness of naturopathic care in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. METHODS:We performed a multisite randomized controlled trial of enhanced usual care (usual care plus biometric measurement; control) compared with enhanced usual care plus naturopathic care (hereafter called naturopathic care). Postal workers aged 25-65 years in Toronto, Vancouver and Edmonton, Canada, with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease were invited to participate. Participants in both groups received care by their family physicians. Those in the naturopathic group also received individualized care (health promotion counselling, nutritional medicine or dietary supplementation) at 7 preset times in work-site clinics by licensed naturopathic doctors. The body weight, waist circumference, lipid profile, fasting glucose levels and blood pressure of participants in both groups were measured 3 times during a 1-year period. Our primary outcomes were the 10-year risk of having a cardiovascular event (based on the Framingham risk algorithm) and the prevalence of metabolic syndrome (based on the Adult Treatment Panel III diagnostic criteria). RESULTS:Of 246 participants randomly assigned to a study group, 207 completed the study. The characteristics of participants in both groups were similar at baseline. Compared with participants in the control group, at 52 weeks those in the naturopathic group had a reduced adjusted 10-year cardiovascular risk (control: 10.81%; naturopathic group: 7.74%; risk reduction -3.07% [95% confidence interval (CI) -4.35% to -1.78%], p < 0.001) and a lower adjusted frequency of metabolic syndrome (control group: 48.48%; naturopathic care: 31.58%; risk reduction -16.90% [95% CI-29.55% to -4.25%], p = 0.002). INTERPRETATION:Our findings support the hypothesis that the addition of naturopathic care to enhanced usual care may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease among those at high risk. Trial registration:, no.NCT0071879.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Clinical trial, Randomized controlled trial, Alternative medicine, Naturopathy, Naturopathic medicine, Quackery


Evidence-based medicine (EBM) is maturing from its early focus on epidemiology to embrace a wider range of disciplines and methodologies. At the heart of EBM is the patient, whose informed choices have long been recognised as paramount. However, good evidence-based care is more than choices.

Concepts: Patient, Evidence-based medicine, Randomized controlled trial, Avicenna, Physician, Illness, Patience, Alternative medicine


Globally, there has been an increase in the use of herbal remedies including traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). There is a perception that products are natural, safe and effectively regulated, however, regulatory agencies are hampered by a lack of a toolkit to audit ingredient lists, adulterants and constituent active compounds. Here, for the first time, a multidisciplinary approach to assessing the molecular content of 26 TCMs is described. Next generation DNA sequencing is combined with toxicological and heavy metal screening by separation techniques and mass spectrometry (MS) to provide a comprehensive audit. Genetic analysis revealed that 50% of samples contained DNA of undeclared plant or animal taxa, including an endangered species of Panthera (snow leopard). In 50% of the TCMs, an undeclared pharmaceutical agent was detected including warfarin, dexamethasone, diclofenac, cyproheptadine and paracetamol. Mass spectrometry revealed heavy metals including arsenic, lead and cadmium, one with a level of arsenic >10 times the acceptable limit. The study showed 92% of the TCMs examined were found to have some form of contamination and/or substitution. This study demonstrates that a combination of molecular methodologies can provide an effective means by which to audit complementary and alternative medicines.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Medicine, Toxicology, Alternative medicine, Traditional Chinese medicine, Heavy metal music, Heavy metal, Traditional medicine


To evaluate the effect of an antenatal integrative medicine education programme in addition to usual care for nulliparous women on intrapartum epidural use.

Concepts: Medicine, Childbirth, Evidence-based medicine, Randomized controlled trial, Ayurveda, Obstetrics, Acupuncture, Alternative medicine


A rigorous systematic review and meta-analysis focused on randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of non-individualised homeopathic treatment has not previously been reported. We tested the null hypothesis that the main outcome of treatment using a non-individualised (standardised) homeopathic medicine is indistinguishable from that of placebo. An additional aim was to quantify any condition-specific effects of non-individualised homeopathic treatment.

Concepts: Experimental design, Systematic review, Randomized controlled trial, Placebo, Hypothesis, Alternative medicine, Null hypothesis, Homeopathy