Botanicals and beyond: How Australia’s National Centre for Naturopathic Medicine is bridging science and tradition

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

Australia’s National Centre for Naturopathic Medicine on mission to bridge science and tradition

Related tags NutraChampion naturopathy Australia

There is more work to be done to bridge the gap between science and tradition across botanicals and other nutritional products, as well as strengthening international co-operation to further the sector, says the foundation director of Australia’s National Centre for Naturopathic Medicine (NCNM).

Speaking on the first Nutrachampion podcast for the year 2023, Professor Jon Wardle aired his views on the topmost priorities in advancing the development and use of integrative or complementary medicine alongside conventional medical therapies.  

Prof Jon Wardle
Professor Jon Wardle

Established in 2020, the NCNM aims to improve health by facilitating access to both integrative and conventional medicines.

On top of conducting research, the centre promotes the development of integrative medicine by introducing and training health care practitioners, such as general practitioners, to take an integrative approach in their medical practise, says the Maurice Blackmore chair of naturopathic medicine and professor of public health at Southern Cross University.

In terms of research, the centre is involved in two of the largest cannabis trials in Australia that are designed to support the regulatory claims for over the counter products​.

One of the trials, led by Dr Janet Schloss​, will investigate the efficacy of an OTC cannabidiol (CBD) product versus a placebo in alleviating sleep disturbances in adults between 18 and 65 years old.

Recently, the centre, together with companies and other universities have successfully bid for government funding to support cannabis medical research.

“We have about 40 companies and six universities involved in that, that will be basically putting forward proposals to the government, the government funds about five or six of these a year, to put down tens and millions of  into cannabis research in Australia to support industry further as well.

“This plant is certainly exciting, but the whole ecosystem of botanical medicine and nutritional medicine is equally as exciting. Cannabis isn't the only thing that works or as exciting.

“There's a whole world of nutrients and biochemical compounds that are equally as exciting when we explore the potential of those,” ​he said.

He added that through the scientific research, he and his team hope to bridge the gap between science and the tradition behind the use of naturopathy. 

“We're really trying to bridge that gap between science and tradition because often tradition and science have been put forward as a false dichotomy, but I think the reality is people just haven't really looked at this.”

Outside of Australia, Professor Wardle is also engaging his counterparts from overseas and international organisations such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) to advance the knowledge and use of naturopathy.

Speaking about his experience attending India’s Ministry of AYUSH’s naturopathy day celebrations, he said that there has been a push within the country to integrate both different traditional medicines framework together as well.  

There's a really interesting push in India now, not just for the integration of conventional medicine and Ayush medicine, but also the interrelationship between medicines as well,”​ he said, referring to other traditional frameworks such as the Siddha and Unani systems.

The experience learned from other countries could then be applied in Australian setting.

“I think there’s a lot we can learn as well, the internationalisation of all of these therapies, because we're starting to be able to identify that you've done this really well and take them into Australia.”

Listen to the podcast to find out more.

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