4head – Medical quackery or scientifically proven?

I’ve been trying to find out more about a product by the name of 4head that is being sold in the UK.

http://www.4headaches.co.uk/

It’s a stick you rub on your head that is supposed to cure headaches. The main ingredient seems to be levomenthol – a synthetic type of menthol.

So far I’ve found nothing but flawed studies and anecdotal evidence – claims like ‘85% of people tested said that they felt better after using it”. In all the cases where studies have been cited, there are no indications as to who conducted the studies or the methods they used.

Could anyone shed light on this for me? Is it a placebo or does it look like there could actually be a sound scientific basis for this product? I’m really interesting in links to properly conducted studies.

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2 Responses to “4head – Medical quackery or scientifically proven?”

  1. hatelogins Says:

    Flawed studies and anecdotal evidence are more than enough to convince the average Joe that a product works. Hell, Joe believes most marketing info as gospel-truth!

    Menthol gives the sensation of cooling (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Menthol#Biological_properties), so by putting it on your skin it will “cool” you head. Also, spreading it on your face will mean you breath plenty of the vapour which will give the same cooling sensation but inside your head. Think of how Olbas oil feels cold when you inhale it. Menthol is probably reasonably volatile too, so it will evaporate reasonably quickly adding to the cooling effect.

    Even if 4head can take 1% of the market for headache pills they’ll make mega-bucks. And there’s people out there who avoid synthetic drugs completely…. I bet 4head are going after them too (the 4head site actually says that levomenthol is natural, and saying a synthetic drug is natural is a definite no-no).

    This page, http://www.4headaches.co.uk/about.php, says “a” clinical trial has shown effectiveness for 1 type of headache, but the placebo effect can also be tested for successfully with clinical trials. So I think its a combination of the placebo effect and marketing, praying on those who can’t or don’t read/understand the details.

  2. Sean Kehoe Says:

    Thanks hatelogins, nice post. Been trying to pin down the source of this clinical trial, but the best I found was a review by Jenny Hope, posted on their web site.

    http://www.4headaches.co.uk/press.php

    Amusingly enough, Jenny Hope works for none other than the Daily Mail, a newspaper known for pushing dubious health products, and for endangering lives through reckless scare-mongering. It’s the same paper that rabidly endorsed Dr Andrew Wakefield’s claims that the MMR vaccine could autism. The medical community has overwhelmingly condemned his theory as flawed, since there is no credible evidence. Despite encouraging parents to risk their children’s lives, the Mail has yet to apologise. Hardly a ringing endorsement for 4head.

    See this BMJ article on the who fiasco.

    http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/331/7525/1148

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