Pathways to plausibility: the case of St. John's Wort

Ayo Juhani Wahlberg (Foredragsholder)

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    The mid 20th century saw the transformation of what had long been considered "fringe", "marginal" or even "quack" medicines into what are today known as traditional medicines (TM) or complementary and alternative medicines (CAM). One of the central justifications used by health authorities when marginalising these medicines in the early part of the 20th century was the "scientifically implausible" explanations of efficacy that they were seen to expouse - from homoeopathy's "law of similars", acupuncture's "energy meridians" to herbal medicine's "doctrine of signatures". Taking the case of St. John's Wort, I suggest that this ancient remedy's rise to 'herbal blockbuster' stardom in the 1990s is directly linked to an intense neuroscientific effort to ascribe a kind of bio-plausibility to the increasingly positive clinical efficacy trial results that were being published throughout the 1980s and 90s. I conclude by suggesting that it is perhaps this bio-plausibility that acts as a link between the otherwise parallel and separate worlds of 'mechanism of action' research (with all of its receptor binding assays and pharmacokinetic studies) on the one hand, and 'clinical efficacy' trials (with all of its randomised protocols and standardised clinical outcomes scales) on the other.
    Periode10 sep. 2005
    BegivenhedstitelEmerging Perspectives on the New Brain Sciences