There seems to be a general consensus within the acupuncture and Chinese herbal community that research is a necessary process to establish our professional status. It may be regarded as a ‘good’ thing, a bold venture to bring Chinese medicine into the cosy confines of evidence based medicine; or perhaps more cynically ‘a necessary twenty-first century evil’ that we need to grit our teeth and get on with. This is an account of my foray into the research world to explore the role of Chinese herbal medicine (CHM) in the treatment of endometriosis. I set off on my journey dressed in a shiny suit of optimistic positivist fervour. Now several years down the line I feel more like Don Quixote lining up my intellectual lance and charging heroically towards the next windmill on the horizon. This then is the story of how a naive would-be knight lost his armour, encountered the dark forces of bureaucracy, and depending upon your point of view either grew up or went quietly nuts.
Around the time that I first started practising acupuncture I remember saying to a friend: “This is a fringe therapy now, but give it fifteen years and it’ll be mainstream.” That was in the mid 80s. Acupuncture nowadays has been approved by the BMA as an effective therapy for the treatment of pain, and many research projects are in motion to give acupuncture an increasingly greater profile in the public eye.