It's good to see Exeter University's professor of complementary medicine expressing serious doubts about the validity of many herbal remedies. Most of them, apparently, don't work and may even be harmful. This ought to be self-evident but, for an ever-increasing number of people, from Prince Charles down, hocus-pocus continues to exercise its awful appeal. I broke my shoulder just over a year ago and was recommended homoeopathic pills to encourage the bone to heal. As I wasn't prepared to break the other shoulder to provide myself with a control group I've no idea how efficacious they might have been, but common sense (remember that?) suggests that sugary pellets that contain not the slightest measurable trace of any active ingredient probably didn't have much effect on my compound fracture. Maybe I should have used crystals.
Interesting though that the Independent should consider the findings of Professors Ernst and Canter to be 'controversial'. Next thing we'll be reading that doubts about the credibility of the virgin birth or the transformation of Hyacinth, son of Amyclas, into a spring bulb are 'controversial' as well. The only thing that doesn't appear to be controversial any longer is the weight given to superstition in daily discourse. Italian news programmes talk regularly about miracles as though they'd actually taken place, which is at least as worrying as the presence of herbal 'medicines' on chemists' shelves.