Systematic Reviews of Herbal Medicines – an Annotated BibliographyLinde K. · ter Riet G. · Hondras M. · Vickers A. · Saller R. · Melchart D.
1Centre for Complementary Medicine Research, Department of Internal Medicine II, Technische Universität, München; 2Institute for Social Medicine & Epidemiology, Charité Hospital, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany; 3NHS Centre for Reviews & Dissemination, University of York, UK; 4Department of Epidemiology, Maastricht University, The Netherlands; 5Consortial Center for Chiropractic Research, Davenport, IO; 6Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY, USA; 7Division of Complementary Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, Universitätsspital Zurich, Switzerland
Objective: To provide a comprehensive collection and a summary of systematic reviews of clinical trials on herbal medicines. Methods: Potentially relevant reviews were searched through the register of the Cochrane Complementary Medicine Field, the Cochrane Library, Medline, and bibliographies of articles and books. To be included articles had to review prospective clinical trials of herbal medicines; had to describe review methods explicitly; had to be published; and had to focus on treatment effects. Information on conditions, interventions, methods, results and conclusions was extracted using a pretested form and summarized descriptively. Results: From a total of 79 potentially relevant reviews preselected in the screening process 58 met the inclusion criteria. 30 of the reports reviewed ginkgo (for dementia, intermittent claudication, tinnitus, and macular degeneration), hypericum (for depression) or garlic preparations (for cardiovascular risk factors and lower limb atherosclerosis). The quality of primary studies was criticized in the majority of the reviews. Most reviews judged the available evidence as promising but definitive conclusions were rarely possible. Conclusions: Systematic reviews are available on a broad range of herbal preparations prescribed for defined conditions. There is very little evidence on the effectiveness of herbalism as practiced by specialist herbalists who combine herbs and use unconventional diagnosis.