How to do Herbal Research by fancy graham

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There are many types of research out there, many ways to do research and many different things to research when it comes to herbal medicine. For the purpose of this paper I will try to give an outline on how to research scientific studies, herb-drug interactions, and historically or empirically validated research. These are all very large areas that one can immerse oneself into and any one of these subjects can and has filled entire courses, books and websites, but I've tried to lay out some basic strategies and resources in an effort to make it less daunting.

Plant medicine has been around for as long as there have been plants with animals to consume them. There are 5000 year old TCM Materia Medicas that carry extremely detailed information, case studies and specific indications for hundreds of plants, that are used and studied today. Throughout the world, oral tradition and apprenticeship-based learning passed (and continues to pass) herbal knowledge from one generation to the next. Now with the widespread use of technology it is quite easy to access old herbals and clinic notes from a variety of sources. There is also a large and recent body of knowledge specific to many of the physical, emotional, and spiritual problems that exist today. With botany being one of the oldest sciences, scientific research into herbal medicine has been happening for as long as scientific research has been around. Recently, a large part of that research has been done to find plant constituents that can be isolated, synthesized and turned into pharmaceuticals (1). Roughly 25% of all pharmaceuticals contain synthesized versions of plant-derived constituents(2). More recently, there have been scientific studies that try to prove or disprove a plant's medicinal value or application, and since 1990s the ways in which herbs and pharmaceuticals interact with each other has become the focus of an increasing amount of research.

Scientific studies(3)
There are several databases available online and through university and public libraries (see resources) that you can search to find Randomized Double Blind Placebo Control (RDBPC) studies on humans(4), as well as in vitro studies and in vivo animal studies of plant medicine. Many of them you have to pay for and there are some you don't. Many libraries (including Vancouver Public Library) have subscriptions to these databases that you can use. It's important when researching a plant that you exhaust the literature as much as possible and try to read as many studies as you can, because it is often the case that individual studies, when compared, will give opposing or unsatisfying results.

There are many things to look for and questions to ask when doing this research. What are the underlying assumptions of the research (stated, or unstated)? Who wrote it? What do you think their perspective was? Why are they doing the research? Most data can be manipulated to come to a desired conclusion. Who funded it? Most journals require that funders be named. When was the study published? Most research published today is ten years old because it takes a long time to collect and analyze data, and write the article. If it's a clinical trial, how many people participated? Do the results match similar studies? Who participated in the research? A lot of Allopathic research is done on white men. The first study on women in addiction was done in 1983.

Almost all scientific studies have certain things in common: a descriptive title, an outline of who conducted and published the study, an introduction and background, and a 150 word abstract that is written after the study is done. It is important to read the entire study and not just the abstract.