Most Complementary & Alternative Medicine (CAM) interventions have not been tested in clinical trials and systematic reviews (SRs). It is therefore important to collect knowledge from experienced practitioners to identify (lower level) evidence to support their use and to prioritize interventions for future research. This study aimed to document the CAM treatments for cough and sore throat as part of uncomplicated, acute respiratory tract infections (RTI), most frequently recommended by experienced integrative medical practitioners; and to assess whether these approaches have been tested in clinical trials and SRs.
Data on treatment approaches were collected by means of (1) a SR on prescription rates of CAM treatments for RTIs in CAM practice by searching Pubmed and CINAHL databases; and (2) a survey among integrative medical doctors and TCM practitioners in five European countries.
The SR identified 336 articles. After screening five studies were included (Anthroposophic Medicine (AM): two and homeopathy (HOM): three). The survey resulted in 262 responses (including 99 AM and 95 HOM experts). Of 19 products that were described in both the SR and the survey, two (22%) AM (Hustenelixier, Echinacea) and three (30%) homeopathic products (Belladonna, Hepar sulphuris, Mercurius solubilis) had been studied in a clinical trial and one AM treatment (Echinacea) in a SR for this indication.
CAM treatments for RTI related cough and sore throat were identified (medicinal products, syrup, external applications, tea and acupuncture). These treatments have hardly been studied in clinical trials (26%) and SRs (5%) and require further evaluation.