An open invitation for GPs and health clinics to collaborate with research has been issued by the National Centre for Naturopathic Medicine’s (NCNM) Clinical Trials Unit.
An initiative of Southern Cross University, the NCNM is Australia’s first National Centre for Naturopathic Medicine. It was officially opened mid-2020, at a time when the need for solid research into natural medicines, supplements and lifestyle modifications was clear.
Geared towards furthering scientific research and delivering better patient outcomes, NCNM is focused on evidence-based practice, critical enquiry, and clinical reasoning in the field of natural medicine.
The Clinical Trials Centre was launched in May 2021.
Headed by the Deputy Director of Research, Associate Professor Romy Lauche, the Centre is currently conducting trials on the efficacy of cannabidiol (CBD) for sleep disturbances, whether Kefir has any impact on one’s microbiome, and if a specific over-the-counter herbal formula can help with menopause symptoms. They’re also analysing a weight-loss regime, combined with a supplement. Some of these trials are currently open for participants, with new trials following soon.
‘Overall, we are growing a more robust body of evidence by conducting rigorous and relevant research that has real-world impact for communities in Australia, and around the world,” said Associate Professor Lauche.
A prolific researcher with a background in psychology and the intersection between mind and body, A/Prof Lauche has published over 170 peer-reviewed journal articles and several book chapters.
‘It’s a pretty interesting field to be in, there are so many areas that haven’t been researched well-enough yet, despite clear evidence that people are using these therapies. We are doing a lot of clinical trials on products at the moment, but one of my most loved interests lies in non-pharmacological therapies and self-care.’
A/Prof Lauche cites a randomised controlled trial and study she co-authored, on osteoarthritis of the knee, in which cabbage leaf wraps were found to provide significant relief to some participants.
Another recent study on non-pharmacological therapies examined the effect of partner delivered relaxation massage on pregnant women. The partners were taught a gentle massage technique which they delivered twice weekly.
In addition to initiating independent research, the Centre works with students on their research and methodology skills, and offers clinical research programs that can link to industry partners. Local industries like tea tree and hemp offer ample opportunities for exploration.
‘Whenever someone wants to make a claim about a product it has to go through the TGA and the TGA wants to see independent research on the product, so that’s what we offer. We develop the protocol, run the trial, analyse the data and provide the reports. All of our processes follow national and international practices,’ said A/Prof Lauche.
‘The future vision is that the Centre’s researchers will be able to undertake trans-disciplinary research from beginning to end, and all testing from the plant to the patient, “Harvest to Health”.
Regional and rural Australia are really disadvantaged when it comes to clinical trials, so we want to work with local doctors to ensure both the trials and the dissemination of research in the local community is successful here. We want the community to be able to test out new products and medications they otherwise wouldn’t have access to.’
The Centre is currently running trials in Lismore, Gold Coast, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane with local partners, and developing collaborations with the Local Health District, Griffith University and the Gold Coast Hospital.