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OU on the BBC: Alternative Medicine - Programme 3: Herbalism

Updated Friday, 13th January 2006

Kathy Sykes continues her investigation for the BBC/OU series Alternative Medicine, this time looking at the ancient practice of herbalism

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Kathy Sykes jogging Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: Production team

Kathy discovers that some herbs do indeed have powerful healing properties. Indeed, some may even offer answers to medical conditions that baffle modern science.

Kathy travels through South Africa, Germany and Britain. Everywhere there are distinct herbal traditions, each with their unique practices and distinctive plants. But one claim underlies them all – herbs have remarkable properties that make them powerful medicines.

In South Africa, she learns about a herb which is being touted as a new weapon in the fight against HIV-AIDS. She listens to the stories of patients and their carers who claim it is saving lives.

In Britain she meets people who are pinning their hopes on herbs – some with remarkable results. And in Germany she meets the scientists who are taking them apart and submitting them to rigorous clinical trials. Out of this has emerged at least eight ‘super herbs’; herbs that in clinical trials performed so well that may give their pharmaceutical competitors a run for their money.

So, what’s their secret? Working with fellow scientists, Kathy discovers that plants contain much more than a single – or even two or three – active ingredients. They are enormously complex chemical cocktails that have medicinal properties modern pharmaceuticals simply can’t reproduce.

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First broadcast: Tuesday 24 Jan 2006 on BBC TWO





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