The story failed to make clear that this work was not done on people – but on cells in a lab dish.
It also relied too heavily on a news release coming out of a conference. Perhaps after some peer review and some actual human testing, this thyme treatment could be ready for store shelves. For now, there’s too much hype here and not enough evidence.
This is the kind of editorial ping-pong game that gives readers headaches.
The entire first half of the story builds up the promise of a petri-dish-only test of an acne remedy that “may be coming soon.”
The entire second half of the article is devoted to cursory comments from independent experts about why this isn’t ready for prime time.
Why, then, is this newsworthy?
The cost of thyme – or the proposed tincture – is not in question for the moment.
There was no quantification of the purported benefits of thyme. The story said that “thyme was the most potent” against the bacteria that commonly cause acne and that “the thyme tincture was more powerful than standard concentrations of benzoyl peroxide, which is the active ingredient in many acne products.” Yet no where did the story explain how “most potent” and “more powerful” were measured.
No human testing was apparently done. In point of fact, it’s far too early for the story to talk about either benefits or harms.
“In the lab not in people” should have been in bold all over this story – but it wasn’t.
In fact, the story never makes clear that the tincture was apparently only tested on cells in a lab – in a highly controlled setting far different than any human application.
The leap from this to the headline of “acne remedy may be coming soon” is ridiculous.
The story did note the “findings were presented at the Society for General Microbiology’s Spring Conference in Dublin.” It would have been good context to note that the findings have not been rigorously peer-reviewed or published in a journal.
There wasn’t any meaningful discussion of acne – so this is not applicable.
This is an example of how simply seeking independent experts’ quotes isn’t sufficient. Yes, there were four independent physicians quoted. But none was quoted directly addressing the evidence with any substance. Instead, they were quoted giving only vague reactions such as:
The closest thing to a helpful independent perspective was this quote: “How it works in the lab setting is very different than how it works on your skin.”
We will give the story a BARELY satisfactory score on this one, and that’s being generous.
Again, we’ll give the story the benefit of the doubt with this one. The story did note that the tincture performed better than alcohol or benzoyl peroxide.
Again, barely satisfactory.
The bold headline promising that thyme as an “acne remedy may be coming soon” promises an imminent availability that is beyond the evidence.
There was no discussion of any other current or past attempts to find herbal remedies – or any other remedies – for acne.
The only quotes from the researchers themselves came from a news release, but there were four independent experts quoted. So the story didn’t technically rely solely or largely on a news release – which is our criterion.