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Seminar Explores Alternative Medicine, Women's Health

By Abhijit Ghosh

Photos By Bill Branson

More than 200 attendees listened to a seminar detailing current research involving alternative medicine and women's health in Lipsett Amphitheater on June 3. Four speakers weighed in on the topic.

Dr. Margaret Chesney
Dr. Margaret Chesney, deputy director of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, provided an overview, noting that 29 percent of adults use CAM therapy including herbal, chiropractic and massage. Other popular CAM practices include homeopathy, yoga and magnets. Women and college graduates tend to be the most common users. "There has been a push to look at alternative medicine strategies partly due to failures of conventional medicine which has led to frustration," Chesney observed. She also described current research on such topics as soy consumption and menopausal symptoms in Japanese women; soy appears to reduce the prevalence of hot flashes.

The growth of CAM therapy has motivated the medical community to develop integrative medical practices.

Speakers at a recent ORWH conference on complementary and alternative medicine and women's health included Dr. Norman Farnsworth of the University of Illinois at Chicago's College of Pharmacy and Dr. Marjorie Woollacott of the University of Oregon's department of human physiology and Institute of Neuroscience.

Dr. Janine Blackman, assistant professor and medical director at the University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine, defined integrative medicine as the blending of conventional medicine with safe CAM therapies. "We have an emphasis on therapeutic relationship with a strong philosophy on self-care and self-empowerment for the patient." Teams include herbalists, acupuncturists and nutritionists to provide individualized care of patients. Blackman used fibromyalgia as an example of an integrated approach. This condition includes widespread pain lasting more than 3 months and affecting the entire body. Because the ailment affects multiple areas, the integrative medicine team has an opportunity to prescribe a holistic treatment including changes in diet, herbal therapies, comprehensive medical work-up and mind-body-spirit work. Blackman also described treatment options for osteoarthritis using such options as glucosamine (a common herbal treatment used in combination with chondroitin to help rebuild cartilage) and fish oil (which has anti-inflammatory and lubricating effects).

Dr. Norman Farnsworth, director of a program for collaborative research in the pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago's College of Pharmacy, provided a perspective on botanicals used for women's health. He noted, "80 percent of people in developing countries utilize plants to meet their health care needs." He described clinical research involving black cohosh, red clover and Prempro in an ongoing phase II study with 120 menopausal women. The measurable endpoint is a reduction of hot flashes.

Dr. Janine Blackman of the University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine spoke on fibromyalgia; Herbalist Jonathan Gilbert joined the panel discussion.

Dr. Marjorie Woollacott, professor at the University of Oregon's department of human physiology and Institute of Neuroscience, discussed benefits of Tai Chi practice, which helps elderly people keep their balance. She presented evidence that 15 weeks of training resulted in a 48 percent reduction in the number of falls. Woollacott also highlighted the value of yoga and its ability to decrease stress levels. Research data shows that meditation can provide a sense of well-being and increased immune system response.

The Office of Research on Women's Health sponsored the seminar. The next talk in the Women's Health Seminar Series, "Women and Obesity," is scheduled for Nov. 4 in Lipsett Amphitheater, Bldg. 10 at 1 p.m.

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