In an op-ed published today in Swedish daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter a student associated to our lab, her thesis advisor (both statisticians) and my professor review the analyses they have made of the available roseroot studies. The results are not surprising. Out of the 11 studies published in the last ten years the ones that are scientifically relevant show no effects, something that the advertisements fail to mention of course. Out of the ones that do, the vast majority are faulty in several fundamental ways. One very small study could see some significant positive results, but the study would have to be repeated with a larger number of test subjects to be considered reliable.
There are also murky circumstances surrounding some of the positive studies. In one instance several of the authors could not be found in their reported home institutions in Russia, another had left his institution many years ago and yet another institution could not be located at all. The only author that could be contacted is a Swede and the co-founder of the company that fabricates the roseroot pills, the deceptively named Swedish Herbal Institute. He had to admit he had not seen any of the original data in the study. This person is also the co-author of another study that was originally published in Russia. The first author of this original study could be contacted and he had not given his permission to re-publish the article in an English-language journal.
So peddlers of miraculous remedies will resort to dishonest and questionable tactics in order to make money; what else is new? But this does not speak for or against the efficiency of roseroot. There's a delicate distinction that needs to be made. The conclusion of the op-ed is:
We don't claim that roseroot is completely ineffective. It might have an effect in some context - but the question remains which effect and in which context. The scientific studies have shown no convincing results. The unreliable advertisements are worrying.
Quite simply, there is no scientific reason to believe that these "natural medicines" will have the effects they promise.
Here are some of the more hilarious comments made on Dagens Nyheter's website. You can always count on the crazies to come running for these things.
I agree that this is just stupid. Don't biologists collect insects with nets, right? Why would a professor in insect-catching know anything about roseroot? And don't statisticians collect people's opinions about the EU-elections for example? What does this have anything to do with roseroot? It's laughable!
It's obvious that everything that comes from nature is completely harmless for us humans since we also come from nature. But chemical substances don't come from nature and are obviously dangerous to us. There are no chemicals in nature, just natural things!
Everything can't be proven right or wrong with "science". People aren't stupid. We make our own research and whatever work we continue using.
Poe's law in action?
Blomkvist, J., Taube, A., & Larhammar, D. (2009). Perspective on Roseroot Studies
Planta Medica DOI: 10.1055/s-0029-1185720
Swedish blog tags: Pseudovetenskap, Naturmedicin, Rosenrot
Technorati tags: Pseudoscience, Natural medicine, Roseroot, Arctic root