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Lord Desai: My Lords, it is my privilege and pleasure to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Eames, on his remarkably witty and informative speech. The noble Lord brings a variety of talents to your Lordships' House. He is non-conventional enough to be a bishop but is to be found sitting far from where the Bishops normally sit. He is a lawyer; he is therefore not merely a "most reverend" but also a "learned" noble Lord. We know that he has brought a humane touch to what has been a very torn and sad part of our country. We all look forward very much to his future contributions.
I must spend a little more of my scarce time in welcoming my noble friend Lord Winston who made an excellent speech. I have known my noble friend for many years and shall say only that if he continues as he has begun he will surely be one of best heard speakers in our House.
I have no qualifications whatever for speaking this afternoon; I am not even a very good example of someone who has benefited from medicine, much less administered it. However, I merely wanted to say that among non-conventional medicines are systems from India and from China which we must take seriously as alternative systems of medicine. I refer to the Ayurvedic system, the Unani system and the Chinese system. Those systems of medicine do not have the same reasoned structure or scientific traditions as conventional medicine. But there is no reason why one could not use the same randomised, controlled clinical trial technique on all those medicine systems; why we could not see to it that if the local population, be it from South Asia, be it Hindus, be it Moslems, be it Chinese, wants to use these alternative systems of medicine, they should be confident that they will receive as good and as practised a person if they go to an Ayurvedic doctor as they would from a conventional doctor. My one plea is for research into whether we have ways of certifying and ensuring that that minimal guarantee of good practice is assured to all patients.
As other noble Lords have said, systems of medicine have much to learn from one another. There is no such thing as scientific medicine as such. We should not have just one view of science--A is science and B is not science. If a scientific method is practised, we can improve the performance of conventional medicine and non-conventional medicine.
As many noble Lords have pointed out, one thing we have learnt is that in the relationship between the doctor and the patient there are two active agents and not just one. It is not merely the doctor who is doing something to the patient; the patient himself or herself brings a whole host of attitudes, qualifications and beliefs, which could either be a help or a hindrance. We do not understand why that is. Much more research is needed.
When someone who practises Ayurvedic medicine tells me that he has a holistic approach, what he is trying to say in a way is that there are aspects of that relationship which are not fully understood, at least on a scientific basis as we understand science.
It would be a good practice, either through the NHS or some private foundation, to do comparative research on the effectiveness of different schools of medicine either on the same disease or complementary approaches to curing certain diseases. Again, as the noble Lord, Lord Eames, pointed out, it is not just a matter of curing patients; it is a matter of health. If we are to enhance the health of the nation, we shall have to learn to profit from as many different approaches as possible which boost the health of the nation in a variety of ways. I congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin of Bewdley, on giving us the opportunity to discuss the matter.
An item I read on the occasion of my mother's 100th birthday a few days ago (6th January) in the San Francisco Chronicle stated that King's County, Washington State, has approved a nature clinic supported by taxpayer's money. This is encouraging news.
I should like to give four instances from my own experience of therapies which would fall into what we call alternative practices in medicine. Pastoral care is certainly one. Music is, by definition, therapy. Music offers the only way to establish a dialogue with autistic children. That is well-documented, established, and available on film. I have seen it myself. It is hardly practised. The moment when the child begins to imitate, in this case, the pianist instead of the pianist imitating the child, is one of the most inspiring experiences in life.
My second example: I am engaged in a European Community project directed by my foundation which seeks out the most difficult schools in nine different countries. By "difficult" I mean riddled with prejudice and violence. As soon as the children begin to sing and dance together, as soon as the lungs and the heart act for the whole body, normality sets in. They become trusting of one another, of their teachers and the atmosphere is co-operative, positive and fruitful in terms of all other studies as well.
The London school is the Oxford Garden Primary School. In Brussels we have found a wonderful teacher of mime as well. When we move into the teen-aged schools we will include a martial art, for as soon as the chaotic energy is drawn to a goal of visible perfection
The third example is a cheap and easy electronic acupuncture treatment involving practically no withdrawal symptoms. The patient is clinically free of any addiction within seven days. The treatment itself is done two or three times daily for a few minutes. It is pleasurable without being addictive. We owe it to every human being who has succumbed to the illegal and vast drug industry to enforce this cure. It is important that following the cure a good environment be provided so as to forestall any reversion to the addictive habit.
My fourth example is, of course, homoeopathy which is safe and effective and avoids every iatrogenic disease. What is it therefore that militates against a large investment in alternative prophylactic preventive medicine that could ultimately reduce the national health budget by a half, because at least half the population would be well instead of sick? I wonder whether noble Lords will allow me to explore what might appear to be a digression; that is, the very concept of "alternative". To discuss the subject of "alternative medicine" we must try to understand more clearly the role of alternative thinking in our general well-being. I think that it is the same mechanism at play. Alternative implies choice. Choice can only be based on memory together with objective assessment.
Man's brain is the triumph of choice over restriction. Genetically determined insects have no choice. Our own brain, with its innumerable network of nerves is a result of infinite possibilities of checks and counter checks, for we are equipped to take calculated risks and decisions. Then what is it that stands in the way? I shall list some of the human menaces that inhibit choice: prejudice annuls the faculty of choice in opinion and reduces the gift of objective analysis. Sometimes it is merely an old, cumbersome, bad habit. Short-sighted self and vested interests destroy those choices which are required for the general well-being. Those curiously often appear as open-mindedness. Dictatorships suppress choice and debase the life of the population in all aspects, impeding progress.
The feeling of exclusivity which enables a half truth to pretend to be a whole truth, which allows a theory to be enshrined as gospel, militates against the exercise of choice. Capitalist economies, with their free enterprise and free trade, find that they must curb monopolies, for we recognise that a monopoly, which is an exclusivity, reduces free choice. We cannot allow any one value to become obsessive at the expense of all other basic values. Choice is selective and is a school for subtlety. Brutality is unsubtle, unselective and therefore uncivilised.
People believe in police and prisons rather than in music, dance, mime, the martial arts, crafts, art and good education. "Lock them up" and "law and order" are convenient rallying points and are even necessary in the very short term. However, they are poisonously counterproductive. Those forceful measures have control and act as punishment but are of no permanent,
Only the sheerest hypocrisy can pretend that the media are not crime-provoking. Yet television, newspapers and pulp literature take no responsibility for guidance, education or crime. Universal truths must be allowed to speak for themselves. A defence of truth does not require propaganda or police but it requires all our hearts, minds and courage. By the way, my mother looks after herself very well.
Herbal medicine has enjoyed a great revival for both humans and animals. It seems that while herbal medicine is not usually the best first treatment in the case of severe accidents or acute illness, it may do a great deal to support conventional therapy. The herbalists would say that they are not just treating symptoms but are treating the patient holistically. A herb like garlic is used beneficially for both humans and horses. Yesterday I was given a box of pills for my dog who is losing his coat. The box stated that it contained a traditional herbal remedy for the relief of arthritis and kidney, eczema and common skin complaints in cats and dogs. It was produced by Natural Pet Care Limited. I shall watch and hope for improvement.
In recent years, there has been a great increase in the sale of herbal teas, enjoyed by many people. Not always are the ingredients written on the packet. There is concern that some may contain camphor, which may damage the liver. Perhaps, if there is such a risk, the Minister will ask the department to look into the matter.
My noble kinsman, my husband--I have his permission to mention this--had a problem last September when we went to Italy on holiday. One of his English doctors had told him that he could take his ted stockings off, which he had used since developing a deep-vein thrombosis after a stroke. When in Italy his leg became even more swollen than usual. I fetched a doctor to see him. He was also having bad cramps at night. Apart from elevating the leg and keeping him on bed rest for some time, the doctor gave him some tablets--Daflon 500 mg--to reduce the swelling and alleviate night cramps. The tablets contain natural products derived from plant sources. They are made in Italy, France, Spain, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland. As they helped, we are now provided with them by a doctor friend in France. As we are now in the European Union, it seems that we should also be able to share that sort of medication.
It is interesting to see the recent report on complementary therapy at Lewisham hospital. Evaluation and research is extremely important to help doctors, therapists and patients. I hope that that initiative is welcomed by the Department of Health.
I serve on the council of the London Lighthouse which looks after and helps people with HIV and AIDS. I have also been in touch with the Sanctuary in Bournemouth which provides similar support. I am also a member of the all-Party Parliamentary Group for HIV and AIDS. Non-conventional medical treatment is used alongside conventional medicine for those unfortunate patients with the agreement and co-operation of the patient, doctor or hospital unit.
Complementary therapies are able to provide comfort, emotional support, reassurance, relaxation, strengthening and balancing of the compromised immune system and help with working on opportunistic infections through the immune system. Many therapies are used which have been found helpful. The most usual are aromatherapy, reflexology, shiatsu, diet and nutrition, counselling and the use of a snoezelen room.
Aromatherapy clients are helped to minimise stress by the use of essential oils together with massage, inhalations, compresses, baths and diffusion. That can also help to balance the physical aspect--to stimulate the blood and lymphatic system which encourages the elimination of toxic waste from the body.
Doctors at London's Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, reported recently that 44 per cent. of outpatients attending the Kobler Centre were using at least one alternative or complementary therapy. Out of 375 separate treatments, 89.3 per cent. were described as being beneficial; 10.4 per cent. as having no effect; and 0.3 per cent., which was only one episode of one therapy in one patient, as having been harmful.
It has been found that complementary therapies are particularly attractive to counter some of the unwanted effects of essential medication. For example, someone who has been receiving chemotherapy for Kaposi's Sarcoma with anti-retroviral drug treatment may use massage and aromatherapy to relieve the pain in the hands and feet caused by neuropathy.
Less serious infections can be controlled with complementary forms of treatment, some of which have been tested and shown to be just as effective as standard drug treatments. Fungal infections, skin problems and night sweats are examples of the problems with which herbalists, acupuncturists and homoeopathists say they have considerable success in relieving. No doubt if those treatments were available and patients could afford them, they would be of value to many more people with serious illnesses and chronic disabilities.
Many people throughout the country are using complementary or non-conventional medicine. In some cases, advantage may be taken of those people. What codes of practice are there? Is there sufficient regulation to ensure that consumers of non-conventional medicine are protected?
Aromatherapy presently enjoys a popularity which seems to grow all the time. Its roots stem from thousands of years of plant medicine which has supported human and animal life alike. To be able to appreciate aromatherapy in its totality, it is vital to look at how aromatic plants develop from their natural environment. Aromatic plants, like many other organisms on the planet, are dependent on sunlight, water and oxygen for their growth. They grow in particular habitats which tend to influence their characteristics and they play an interactive part in the life of various insects, animals and humans.
An example of that is shown in the ancient practice of storing hay cut from hedges where wild aromatic plants such as fennel, angelica or dill are abundant. The hay was fed to sheep and cattle in the springtime to increase lactation and generally keep the animals healthy throughout the winter. That must have been a factor in keeping the food chain healthy without having to use too many dangerous substances, as is often the case today in industrial farming.
How do aromatic plants differ from any other plants? They are recognisable by their distinct smells which place them in a category of their own in the plant world. As breathing is a vital function in our life and smelling is something which we cannot easily prevent, we are in fact experiencing aromatherapy without thinking about it on countless occasions. Scents automatically enter the body while we breathe and provide us with interesting sensations.
There is no doubt that for most people the earthy smells of trees, flowers or wood evoke something natural and peaceful as they appease our sensitive nature. The feelings that we derive from open spaces such as meadows, forests or even a garden always seem to equate with an easier frame of mind and abandonment of worldly responsibilities.
Our perception of the world relies a lot on three of our senses: vision, hearing and smell, with the latter being the most intriguing as it links up with irrational regions of ourselves. Our sense of smell has a reputation for bringing up to the surface our most primitive survival instincts. Smells are well known to trigger memories from long-forgotten events, awakening many lost sensations. The relationship between the two is a source of fascination to every dedicated aromatherapist. The fact that people like nice smells and associate them with feeling good is what makes aromatherapy so popular.
Unfortunately, that "smell-good, feel-good factor" is in danger of being lost as it is still totally ignored by many medical authorities. Those authorities, in their zeal to look for professional and financial diversity, are trying to absorb aromatherapy into the allopathic medical system. It is hoped by some parties with strong vested interests that essential oils will be placed under the same regulations as apply to pharmaceutical products. That would effectively put essential oils out of the reach of a non-medical practitioner and would
A scent is not something that can be easily pinned down or defined. However, aromatic plants can be made to yield their scent by transforming them from a gaseous state into a fluid substance. An essential oil is a bit like the genie in the bottle with many therapeutic, magical properties.
For their therapeutic properties to be active, essential oils need to be extracted in the correct manner. The right botanical species have to be picked and stored in proper conditions. More sophisticated and industrial methods of extraction are not suitable as they tend to destroy the integrity of the essential oils. The lifespan of essential oils is variable and one cannot expect a great deal of therapeutic impact if using a product which is past its sell-by date. Only a well experienced aromatherapist will be able to tell whether an essential oil is past its prime.
In practice, most aromatherapists use small amounts of essential oils diluted in a suitable medium, applied directly to the body by massaging the skin with the blend. That seems to be enough to initiate a change in mood and general health of the receiver. The latest explanation for the working of aromatherapy is that essential oils are easily absorbed in tiny quantities by the respiratory mucous membranes, the skin and the membranes of olfactory receptors. That seems to affect the activity of the membranes in a similar way to steroids.
A competent aromatherapist will work towards improving the state of mind of a person as that bears some relation to the natural healing process of the body. The role of an aromatherapist is very difficult to define as it requires the therapist to be gifted with human qualities such as warmth and patience but also to possess a sound understanding of the workings of the human body and to be nothing less than expert in aromatic science.
The effect of the therapy can be quite immediate as in the relief of symptoms, long term as in dealing with chronic ailments or supportive if dealing with a life-threatening illness. One of the greatest benefits which aromatherapy can claim over many other therapies is that it is the most efficient therapy in the release of stress.
Aromatherapy evolved with a small number of people who were dedicated to what they believed to be revolutionary therapy. In the past 10 years the aromatherapy movement has grown rather big. As there is a rising demand for the therapy, aromatherapy practices have multiplied. Not all of that is a good thing as many of the would-be practitioners have trained very quickly in colleges or adult education centres which employ teachers unqualified to teach the subject and who themselves have not practised. That is a state of affairs which needs to be remedied as soon as possible.
There are at present a number of professional aromatherapy associations whose members are working very hard to define and establish the standard for the practice of aromatherapy. One such body is the International Federation of Aromatherapists. That organisation was founded 10 years ago by the pioneers of aromatherapy and has some of the most experienced practitioners in the UK in its membership. Its main aim is to play an informative role to the public and to promote and maintain standards in aromatherapy. It is a charitable organisation and, when it was founded 10 years ago, it established a network of volunteer aromatherapists and offered this free service to hospitals and hospices. Those activities made nurses aware of the existence and benefits of aromatherapy.
Currently, the Royal College of Nursing and other medical organisations are running their own training courses having extracted from the therapy what they consider suitable for the medical profession. Those courses are not designed to emphasise the psychological side of aromatherapy or a commitment to a holistic approach, as these cannot be rationalised and are time-consuming to teach and practise. That is unfortunate as it is in direct contradiction with this person-centered therapy. Many nurses have now turned to the IFA for further training in the field and it is hoped that aromatherapy will not be hijacked by the wrong parties and destroyed in the process of rationalising its deeper implications.
The Countess of Mar: My Lords, I am very conscious of the fact that, had I not received treatment from complementary medicine practitioners, I would not be well enough to be in your Lordships' House today. I am more than grateful to my noble friend Lord Baldwin of Bewdley for giving us the opportunity to discuss the subject. Noble Lords can hardly fail to have noticed that, for the past three-and-a-half years, I have been campaigning on behalf of those who, like me, feel that their chronic ill health is as a result of exposure to organophosphates. I should like to take this opportunity to thank noble Lords for their support and perhaps most of all for their forbearance.
As well as getting myself well, my objectives have been threefold: to gain recognition for the sufferers; to obtain treatment for them; and to prevent any more individuals suffering from the effects of exposure to those toxins. I also support those who are too ill to work in their quest for compensation.
Most practitioners of conventional medicine either do not believe or are sceptical about claims that long-term, low-level exposure to environmental toxins such as organophosphates can give rise to chronic health problems. Many of the sufferers with whom I work tell me that their GPs and consultants believe that they are psychosomatics. For those whose GPs accept the reality of their symptoms and sometimes even the cause, there is little help from allopathic medicine. Treatment is
I first became ill in 1989 after a sheep dipping session. I went through the NHS mill of diagnostic tests, all of which drew a blank, and attempts to alleviate my symptoms (which I shall not detail here) for a period of two years. I am extremely fortunate in that my GP suggested that I try complementary medicine. At that stage we had no idea of the cause and I was never asked whether I had had any chemical exposures. In any case, I would not have made the association, as, like the majority of the population, I naively believed that licensed chemicals were safe if the recommended precautions were observed.
Again, I was fortunate in my choice of complementary therapist. After taking a complete history she came to the conclusion that I had been poisoned. She used kinesiology as part of her armoury, both to assess my condition and to decide upon treatment. I must admit that I was sceptical, but I began to feel better after taking the herbal, vitamin and mineral supplements that she recommended. Her conclusions about the effects that the poison has had upon my organs and nervous and immune systems have subsequently been confirmed by scientific means.
It was not until May 1992 that we made the association between my health problems and exposure to OPs. Sadly my therapist died in 1993. For a year I tried to find a replacement for her, mainly on recommendation, but without success. I learnt a salutary lesson; not all those who profess to have the answers do. Fortune eventually led me to Doctor Jean Monro and the Breakspear Hospital in the spring of 1995. She and her colleagues are all conventionally trained and have also been trained in environmental and nutritional medicine. Their methods of diagnosis and treatment are scientifically based. Many of their patients suffer allergies, or multiple food and chemical sensitivities-- a syndrome not accepted by the establishment.
In the 15 years since the Breakspear Hospital was established, over 12,000 patients have been treated. They come from most of the European countries, Israel, Pakistan, Australia and the USA as well as from the United Kingdom. Approximately 40 per cent. of its UK patients are National Health Service extra-contractual referrals. Treatment is based upon establishing the cause of the illness and the nutritional status of the patient rather than treating the symptoms. It is apparent that most of the patients suffer gross sulphoxidation deficits. Sulphoxidation is the means by which we rid our bodies of toxins. With the aid of vitamin and mineral supplements which are known anti-oxidants, a balanced diet and vaccines licensed by the Medicines Control Agency, the patients' health status is vastly improved and most are able to resume their previous occupations and activities. I am constantly delighted by the return of my energy, strength and mental activity to levels which are almost what they were seven years ago.
There are a number of medically qualified practitioners who specialise in environmental medicine. Many are members of the British Society for Allergy and Environmental Medicine and the British Society for Nutritional Medicine. I have already said that these fields are, for some unaccountable reason, found to be unacceptable by the medical establishment. As a farmer I find this inexplicable. My husband and I breed pedigree cattle, sheep and goats. We are conscious that the health status of our animals depends upon our ensuring that they receive a balanced diet, and because our soils lack certain trace elements which are essential for their development, for their fertility and for the uncomplicated birth of their progeny, we supplement their feed with necessary minerals. We also know that their needs change with the seasons and that, as individuals, they have varying requirements. It seems odd to me that, while the veterinary profession and most farmers as well as ourselves have this knowledge, for some reason those who treat humans do not take into account the fact that even small deficits in trace elements, vitamins or minerals can cause quite severe health problems for humans.
I have no doubt that the noble Baroness has seen the BSAEM and BSNM submissions on effective allergy practice and effective nutritional medicine but, if the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, will let me know if she has not received those, I shall ensure that she is sent them. The noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, is aware from discussions I have had with her that there are many sick people for whom orthodox medicine cannot provide a cure or respite from their symptoms. She is also aware that there is a wide disparity in the willingness of GPs and health authorities and boards to agree to provide extra--contractual referrals of these patients to facilities, such as those at the Breakspear Hospital, where there is demonstrable clinical evidence of effectiveness. Many patients who would, I am absolutely certain, benefit from its approach to the treatment of these illnesses are deterred by the cost.
May I therefore ask the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, whether he will ask his colleagues to give serious consideration to the long-term benefits of environmental and nutritional medicine both to the health of the population and to the costs of the National Health Service and ask also whether the Government would consider setting up a facility within the NHS for this speciality? It is accepted by both Germany and the USA, and I cannot believe that the improvement in the health of more than 12,000 patients from one hospital can be attributed to a placebo effect.
The Earl of Clanwilliam: My Lords, I also rise to thank the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin of Bewdley, for giving us the opportunity to debate this important subject. I should also point out that I have his kind permission to mention that Lady Baldwin has recently recovered from a serious illness and that has been achieved entirely by non-conventional means. I am sure that we all wish her well. That certainly would be no part of the placebo effect. As the noble Countess, Lady Mar, has just pointed out, she is a living example
I refer to some examples of where co-operation on this matter already exists within the NHS. I was delighted to read in the Daily Telegraph only last Friday of an interview with the Chief Medical Officer adumbrating a,
I wish to refer to the subject of herbalism. In 1969 I became, unexpectedly, the chairman of the Society of Herbalists and since that day I have been impressed by the results achieved with patients under the auspices of the various practitioners with whom I have been associated. I have noted how their health has improved as a result of the herbal treatments they have received. I hasten to add that they have all been treated by registered practitioners.
I also wish to talk about traditional Chinese medicine which uses acupuncture, Chinese herbalism and modern medicine rolled into one. It is the regular practice in Chinese hospitals for patients to be assessed according to their perceived need for treatment by any one or by any combination of the three therapies that they practise. The words "alternative" and "complementary" are relevant to these practices and I use the word "non-conventional" with great reservations. As regards acupuncture, a recent research paper points out that in China the Government actively support research into the mechanism whereby acupuncture works, which is still obviously not clearly understood in either China or the West. That, of course, begs the question: does it work? There can be no doubt that today millions of people are being relieved of pain by means of acupuncture. I ask my noble friend whether we cannot have support for research into this mechanism.
As regards Chinese herbalism, a herbal treatment prepared by Dr. Ding Hui Luo, who is president of the Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine, is discussed in a paper written by Mary Sheehan and David Atherton, who are consultants in the Department of Dermatology at the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children. They conducted a placebo-controlled double-blind trial of a specific herbal decoction prescribed by Dr. Luo to treat severe atopic eczema. I shall not go into all the details of the trial but I would merely say that 21 severe cases were cured or substantially relieved out of 37 entrants. That is a remarkable achievement, as will be readily agreed. I am glad to report that the treatment continues to give relief to children who resist orthodox or conventional treatment. For the record, those results were published and discussed in the British Journal of Dermatology in 1992 (volume 126, pp.483-488) and in the Lancet in 1992 (volume 340; pp.13-17).
The second instance concerns infertility treatment. I take this opportunity to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Winston, on his maiden speech. This second instance concerns Dr. Xiao who runs the Zhai Natural Remedies Clinic in Chiswick and who is also a member of the National Fertility Association. She and Mr. D. K. Edmonds, who is the consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at Queen Charlotte's and Chelsea Hospitals--perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Winston, knows of him--are conducting trials involving both herbalism and acupuncture on low sperm count and on unexplained fertility. Funding has been found for the herbal treatment but it remains to be found for the acupuncture trials. Surely this again is a matter which requires positive support.
Chinese medicine has a well defined history of success in clinical trials on both low sperm counts and infertility as well as in other related fields. Both Mr. Atherton and Professor Ka-Wen Ma, who is a consultant at the celebrated Wellcome Institute, have prepared papers on the subject recommending recognition of traditional Chinese medicine in the UK. It would be greatly appreciated if further talks could take place with my noble friend's officials.
I shall not go into details about traditional Chinese medicine in China, but there are 480,000 professionals in China and 70,000 have been trained in the past 30 years. There are 1,500 hospitals practising traditional Chinese medicine very successfully.
The greatest problem with all complementary medicine is credibility. That can only come with professional recognition of the practitioners. We have the very satisfactory examples of chiropractors and osteopaths, whose training and certification derive from established and approved centres of learning. That is particularly relevant to herbalists, whether British or Chinese. The UK national institute has moved forward by arranging a four-year BSc degree course at Middlesex University and is planning an entry of 40 students a year. The College of Phytotherapy at Hailsham in Sussex has a similar arrangement.
I ask that these strands of development be brought together under one supervisory body to collate and disseminate the findings. There is much to be done and encouraging advances have already been made. It is imperative that the efforts should be co-ordinated.
Lord McNair: My Lords, I add my thanks to the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin of Bewdley, for initiating this important debate. Its importance is obvious to those of your Lordships who prefer to keep healthy using complementary, alternative or holistic treatments. However, I take issue with the use of the words "complementary" and "alternative". There is a tendency to regard the march of medical and pharmaceutical technology as constituting the norm and holistic treatments as complementary. In fact, taking a broad historical and geographical perspective, the opposite is true. It is modern medicine which is complementary, or an alternative, to traditional and holistic treatment.
We had the misfortune in this country to burn at the stake most of our traditional practitioners in the witch hunts of the 17th century. Other cultures have been less extreme and so retain a body of traditional practitioners and of treatments, many of which can play a valuable and useful role in the spectrum of treatments available today. New technology can also provide insights and breakthroughs of tremendous significance. In other words, not all holistic treatments predate modern medicine.
The word "holistic" means "to do with the whole person". The billions spent annually on pharmaceutical and other areas of medical research are aimed, one hopes, at curing bodies of illness; yet we are more than bodies. We are body, mind and spirit, and it is the interaction between all three which should be addressed in any sane and truly scientific approach to healing.
Some speakers in today's debate have their own particular interest, as we have heard. The Minister, were she able to be here--and we all wish her a speedy recovery--would not be surprised that I have chosen to speak about the part that hydrogen peroxide can and should play in maintaining the nation's health. In fact, it already plays an indescribably important part in maintaining the nation's health because every time a white blood cell destroys a bacterium or a virus it does so by engulfing it with hydrogen peroxide.
To understand why that is so and why it has such immense possibilities for human health we need to journey back in time many millions of years. At the time when viruses and bacteria evolved the earth's atmosphere contained a much lower proportion of oxygen than it does today. At present the normal percentage of oxygen is around 20, although in a polluted urban environment it can drop to as low as 11. Humans and other animals evolved much later when the proportion of oxygen had risen to its present level. A well-oxygenated body is generally a healthy body. Good fresh food and plenty of exercise in an unpolluted atmosphere definitely help, but with any condition that is caused or precipitated by an infectious organism additional oxygen in the form of hydrogen peroxide, either by ingestion or by intravenous injection, should be the first priority.
In 1993 and 1994 the noble Baroness the Minister was kind enough to invite me to tea to discuss with her and some of her advisers matters connected with hydrogen peroxide. On the second of those occasions her advisers were adamant that if the substance had the benefits that I said it had, then it must be commercially viable to carry out clinical trials. Hydrogen peroxide is produced by methods which are not only in the public domain but are the province of A-level or even GCSE chemistry. There is no prospect of a trade mark, patent or even biotechnological development in the production of hydrogen peroxide. One manufacturer has calculated that it would take 18 years to recoup the £100,000 or so that it would cost to undertake the clinical trials. It is a sad distortion of the free market philosophy which I share when mathematics become subordinated to politics. It reminds me of the attempt by the Indiana state legislature in the late 19th century to pass a law
I read in the Independent of Tuesday 2nd January the same quotation that was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Winston. I make no further comment about that now but I may be tempted to do so if the Minister, when she has recovered, tells me that it is impossible to contemplate spending £100,000 to £150,000 on research into the possible benefits of hydrogen peroxide in treatment and prevention. If I am right, those benefits would save the health service many millions of pounds a year.
Bodies are not as complex and, as a general rule, not as difficult to maintain in good health as those with a vested interest in the opposite proposition would have us believe. The impetus for restrictions on herbal medicines and food supplements comes primarily from the pharmaceutical companies. Let there be no doubt about that. I helped to head off one such move a few years ago. Others of your Lordships have more recent experience. The dire warnings about hydrogen peroxide clearly originate from the same source. No wonder, as the noble Lord, Lord Colwyn, discovered, tooth whiteners based on hydrogen peroxide are being squeezed out by European Union edict, via the cosmetics regulations in this case. I was tempted to ask the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, who answered the noble Lord, Lord Colwyn, about the 8,000 published medical papers which have appeared over the past 100 years since the benefits of hydrogen peroxide in combating and preventing disease were discovered in Germany in the second half of the 19th century. I did not ask my question on that occasion because I was as flummoxed as the noble Lord was at having his Question answered by a Minister at the Department of Trade and Industry, but I do ask it now.
What about the huge body of evidence in favour of hydrogen peroxide either ingested or given intravenously? Does the department have that information in its reference section? Has it been studied? What is the real reason for the Government's reluctance to carry out a simple clinical trial that, compared to the £1 billion wasted on ineffective treatments, will cost peanuts and could save millions? Could it be--and I choose my words carefully here--the cross-fertilisation between the pharmaceutical industry, the Department of Health and the medical profession?
There is so much evidence in favour of the benefits of hydrogen peroxide that the Government should at least have the decency to try and prove me wrong and also the thousands of people who attest to the benefits they have gained from drinking, yes drinking, hydrogen peroxide, in a sensible dilution of course. I should add that it tastes horrible, but that proves nothing. If the department is so sure that I am wrong let it prove it. If I am proven wrong I shall slink away and rue the day that I ever heard of hydrogen peroxide.
I have been forthright in what I have said. I considered being more restrained. Then I decided that it was my duty to the thousands of people who have benefited from ingesting hydrogen peroxide and the millions who could do so to speak as plainly as I have.
Baroness Flather: My Lords, perhaps I may begin by pointing out that I have changed places in the list of speakers with the noble Lord, Lord Menuhin, as he had a flight to catch. I therefore apologise for the changes in the list.
How I wish that I had a personal interest to declare--whether financial, because I was chairman or patron of one of the societies, or because I was a user of so-called alternative systems. I have no such interest to declare. I have never used any medical system other than the conventional system. I have tried and failed at transcendental meditation; I have not been successful at yoga; I am not a vegetarian. However, I speak in support of the different forms of treatment that we discuss today.
When we spoke about the debate, I heard whispers of words such as "cranks". All that I can say is that I am proud to be part of this group of cranks if that is so. As I come from India, I probably come from the ultimate culture of cranks because the definition would clearly apply in that way. It is interesting that in India recently we have noticed a renaissance of Ayurvedic medicine. Various kinds of Indian systems, and the Islamic system, are becoming more widely used. The so-called mainstream medical profession is taking a greater interest.
My personal view is that we are moving away from the era of post-Imperial condescension. I believe that that is happening in many other countries. One of the reasons why any unconventional or different system of medicine was looked down upon may have been the cultural attitude towards the countries which produced the systems. Many of the systems are very old. While clearly they cannot be accepted lock, stock and barrel because we know more than was known--we ought to know more, though sometimes one wonders--we ought to consider which systems we can take on board. We have a treasure-house around the world. It is important that we keep an open mind.
Perhaps I may say how much I enjoyed the two delightful maiden speeches. I see that the noble Lord, Lord Winston, is in his place. I should like to congratulate him. That is not done out of convention because the noble Lord will know that he has been congratulated for conventional reasons. Both speeches were light of touch and full of wisdom--and shall we not enjoy their future speeches, my Lords?
I was interested in the comment of the noble Lord, Lord Winston, about the placebo effect. How are we to know that in many other instances there is not a placebo effect? The noble Lord mentioned the wonderfully interesting episode of the cough medicine. Every day our doctors say, "This medication is new. It is very good. I am sure you will benefit from it", and quite often we benefit. Perhaps the medication is new and better, but perhaps the effect is because we have been told that
Sometimes when one talks about alternative or complementary medical systems, it seems that one is attacking the conventional medical system. That cannot be true. We are utterly dependent on conventional medicine in today's world. I would never think of attacking conventional medicine. What I would say is that we need to have an open mind. We need to consider how best an individual human's needs can be met. If the needs are there, we must look everywhere to see how to meet them.
Recently, I read an article about massaging new-born babies, and babies as they grow, before bathing. In the East, over generations, babies have been massaged. Every baby is massaged with oil before being bathed. Suddenly it is being discovered this year in The Times. When I first came to this country, no one ever talked about massages. My mother always had a massage lady. We now have aromatherapy and many different kinds of massage which certainly help. If any noble Lord has not tried them, I hope that he will immediately contact my noble friend Lord Addison for a good practitioner.
Finally, there is the danger of pulling up the drawbridge. Yes, it has been accepted that acupuncture is a useful tool, in particular for pain relief. But let us not stop there. Let us continue to search for other methods. Let us not stop at the point at which everyone agrees that some method is valuable. The practitioners of alternative medicine are the ones who are keen to pull up the drawbridge. That is not the way forward. Let us keep an open mind to ensure that we meet the needs of those whom we treat.
Earl Kitchener: My Lords, I shall concentrate on our possible need for a particular nutrient, the element boron, and on some general points which have arisen from my inquiries into what is happening about boron.
It is agreed that boron is essential for many green plants, but the evidence that it is needed by humans, or other vertebrates, does not convince everybody. Its toxicity has been thoroughly investigated and what seems to be the most useful measure--the no observed adverse effect level--is well above any recommended intake. Its claimed beneficial effects are on bone healing and the prevention and correction of many forms of arthritis.
The Arthritis and Rheumatism Research Council and the Medical Research Council both tell me that they are reactive as opposed to proactive and that they evaluate proposals from people planning to do research rather than first forming their own opinion about what is most worth doing. A patentable, and therefore potentially
There is a tendency to ignore anecdotal evidence, about which we have heard much today, and it is right not to do anything on a large scale, particularly if it is expensive or dangerous, unless it has been proved by thorough trials. But many important ideas have started as anecdotes. There are now so many peer-reviewed scientific journals that people may feel that it takes them all their time to keep up to date with them. The specialisation I referred to earlier would provide a place to which anecdotal evidence, whether from this country or abroad, could be sent with a good chance of being studied. A case which I have come across in another field where this would be helpful is the Hyperactive Children's Support Group. They have a certain standing, in that, I am glad to say, the Department of Health pays part of their costs. They have experience of improving behaviour by diet changes, but have difficulty in getting anything published.
It may well be that the research which the scientific establishment wants to do is not the same as that which would be most beneficial to the public and that therefore Ministers should be closely involved. The intake of boron varies widely from place to place and a link between high boron and low arthritis has been reported. A repetition of this work would be a simple and fairly cheap way of making progress. There is also anecdotal evidence that extra zinc is good for anorexia nervosa, and this would seem easy to prove or disprove.
I have had helpful correspondence and meetings with Ministers, but have come across two cases where most reputable and reasonable people met with a less than forthcoming response. I appreciate that Ministers are busy, but at least a meeting with an official would have been justified. A knowledge of the views of those outside official circles can be useful to those inside them.
The public must be protected from harmful levels of nutrients, but I hope this will be done mainly by forcing the display of analyses and warnings on the lines of those in force for tobacco, rather than by making more criminal offences. The single thing that would most conduce to us all consuming appropriate levels of each
Lord Thurlow: My Lords, it is always extraordinary in our debates on wide areas to experience the range of knowledge that your Lordships can bring to bear. I am afraid that I cannot add to it, but I have benefited from both mainstream medical treatment and also non-conventional, in particular homoeopathy.
I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to a problem for the homoeopathic profession that has arisen from a ruling of the European Court. That is the finding that the British system of specialist medical training is out of line with European law. This may sound a narrow issue, but it is closely connected to the wider issue of how homoeopathy fits into the general NHS structure. The court ruling brings to a head the unsatisfactory state of affairs for the training and appointment of homoeopathic consultants that has persisted for many years.
The structural arrangements of the royal colleges do not take suitably into account the needs of homoeopathic representation. The issue was aired in our debate five years ago. The insufficient number of homoeopathic consultants has been relieved in the meantime to some extent by ad hominem appointments. It is welcome that new appointments have been made in London, Glasgow, Liverpool and Bristol. But this kind of relief has now been ruled out by the European Court finding and the new rigidity which we have been obliged to impose, so there is now an urgent problem for homoeopathic specialists which calls for a new initiative. It appears to offer an opportunity to improve the unsatisfactory structure of the past and introduce better co-operation between the Royal College of Physicians and the Faculty of Homoeopathy.
In response to the European Court, all specialist consultants will have to acquire a new certificate. Homoeopathic specialists, who of course already have to undergo several years of general medical training to qualify, will have to undergo a long and pointless additional general medical training to qualify for the new certificate. No plans currently exist for a specific certificate issued with conditions suitable to homoeopathic specialists. They will be appointed only as sub-specialists in general medicine, with a considerably longer training period, as I mentioned. Also, general practitioners and private homoeopathic practitioners will be left in limbo.
Again, there has of course to be an advisory committee on specialist training and there are no plans for a parallel advisory committee to cover specialist homoeopathic training. The royal colleges no doubt have a great deal always on their plate, but the European Court ruling has made it urgent for something to be done to relieve the new obstacles in the way of homoeopathic specialists. The first necessary step, so far as a layman can see, is for the Royal College of Physicians to enter urgently into discussion with the Faculty of Homoeopathy. This would create a new and
There is a separate but parallel issue in the failure of the official bodies such as the GMC and the NHS Executive to promote research and development in complementary therapies. The noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, referred to it. The MRC, for its part, sees no objection in principle but complementary medical research is not in practice getting a share of the cake. There are similar problems in some health authorities over purchase by fund-holders. Some authorities such as Cambridge and Huntingdon have refused to allow purchase of complementary medical treatment.
In conclusion, I revert to the problem caused by the European Court ruling. We hope that the Minister's recovery will be speedy and I ask her, through the noble Lord the Lord Chief Whip, to bring to the attention of the Secretary of State the problem of the court ruling and suggest that the Department of Health should make known to the Royal College of Physicians its interest in the initiation of early discussion with the Faculty of Homoeopathy.
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