Monday, January 25, 2010

Bach Rescue Remedy and anxiety

On January 15th yet another superficial article All About Bach Rescue Remedy was posted. It is a trademarked combination of five flower remedies (or essences). Rescue Remedy has been recommended as being useful for reducing anxiety, including anxiety about public speaking or taking exams. The article contains a paragraph headlined: Scientific Support for Rescue Remedy which includes the following statement:

“….However, in 2007, a study by the University of Miami Nursing School in conjunction with The Sirkin Creative Living Center declared that Rescue Remedy ‘is an effective over-the-counter stress reliever with an effect similar to that of traditional pharmaceutical drugs.’ The study added that, unlike traditional stress medications, Rescue Remedy had no adverse side effects and was not addictive.”

The link provided about the University of Miami study just was to a re-issued press release from the US subsidiary of Nelsons (who make Rescue Remedy). You can also read the press release here.

The press release is more positive than the 2007 magazine article describing the details of the study. If you go to the Sirkin web site you can find the full text for Healing With Bach Flower Essences: Testing a Complementary Therapy as an Acrobat file.

As shown above in the diagram, they looked at a sample of 111 nursing students, and compared the effect of a placebo (58 students) with Rescue Remedy (53 students). They did not find a statistically significant difference in test anxiety after receiving the placebo or the remedy.

Then they split the sample into three subgroups based on their state of anxiety before the students received either the placebo or the remedy. When they analyzed the differences for the subgroups, as shown below in the diagram, they did find a statistically significant difference for the subgroup with high anxiety (but not for either low or medium anxiety). The abstract of the article concludes with this statement (my capitalization):

“The results SUGGEST that BFE Rescue Remedy MAY be effective in reducing HIGH levels of situational anxiety.”

If you look for an independent review of Bach Flower Remedies on the web sites of some medical centers, you will find an article from Ebsco here, here, and here. Their discussion of the data analysis in the 2007 article says:

“However, after the study was concluded, researchers then explored the data, and found a relative benefit in one subgroup of participants. This may appear to support the use of Rescue Remedy. However, such ‘post-hoc’ statistical analyses are notoriously unreliable: based on the laws of chance alone, it is almost always possible to find some subgroup that showed benefit in a study. The process of doing this is called ‘data dredging,’ or sometimes, ‘going on a treasure hunt.’ Such investigatory analyses of data can provide fodder for future studies, but they make no positive statement about the results of a study already conducted.”

Read the original magazine article, and then make up your own mind. Don’t just get your information from a press release.

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