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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

book of the month

This month my book pick is Trick or Treatment by Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst.

Basically this book looks at all the alternative treatments and the studies that have been done, then tells you whether it actually is worthwhile. (In a word, NO.)

The main discussions are of Acupuncture, Homeopathy, Chiropractic, and Herbal Medicine. I will give you short highlights of each.

Acupuncture: I have done it, seen no difference, and the practitioner finally told me not to come back because he couldn't help me. The book says the studies show no affect except the placebo effect. Basically, sticking the needles randomly has the same effect as doing it the "right" way.

Homeopathy: The products are so diluted that you may as well put one drop of your medicine in Lake Superior, then drink one drop out of the lake. Basically, there is NONE of the original ingredient in the finished solution. There can be a small placebo effect if you believe in it, but no lasting treatment.

Chiropractic: May be helpful if you have low back problems, but takes longer and is more expensive than traditional treatments, and is much more dangerous. If they touch your neck, you can die. If the chiro is a "straight" they have delusional beliefs and ideas that are very dangerous. They cannot help ear infection, asthma, bedwetting, learning disorders, and other problems like these. Do not take x-rays. They are unnecessary and expose you to radiation.

Herbal Medicine: Untested and dangerous. Many drugs come from plants, etc, but they are tested and you know the side effects. St. John's Wort is good for minor depression, but has interactions with other meds you may be on, and you should be aware of the side effects. They are often contaminated or adulterated.

The book also has a few pages on most other alternative treatments. Most are not proven by studies.

Note: you may have heard of the heart study that "proved" prayer worked. It was deeply flawed and many following studies disproved the theory.

To quote Hippocrates, the father of medicine:

There are, in fact, two things, science and opinion:
the former begets knowledge, the latter ignorance.

Have a good week,


  1. Hmm... see, I think there's a possibility that any of these things can work and not just from the placebo effect. I've had a lot of help from chiropractor adjustments (even neck ones- made headaches go away) and the same person who wrote the book would probably say reiki doesn't work either. When you did a pain drain on my wrist last time, it literally went from throbbing to fine in several minutes! For every scientific study out there proving something works, there's going to be another person out there saying it doesn't! This can be a bummer because there are several supplements that have helped kiddos like Gregory but we're hesitant to give them because they're unregulated. Also, there are maybe three medical cases that heparin helped albumin- the rest should have disproved it and it shouldn't even be an option. But because it helped a few people, it was worth a shot... and it's helping him! Anyway, interesting blog post. Always good to have skeptics out there too- keeps things safer. Hopefully the book will prompt more funding for research! :)

  2. Hey Julie,

    Yep, the book said Reiki has never been proven and they have never found/measured any fields around the body. (Strange to think they can't measure something I can so clearly feel, hey?)
    But, can I honestly say I have ever "healed" anyone? Nope. I have helped your pain, helped Mom's back pain, helped some babies with gas pain, but I haven't healed anyone. I have reikied myself, my Mother, even Gregory a million times and not seen any actual healing take place.
    I think any chronically ill person (or their parents) is going to try every possible treatment. I know I have been to a bunch of quacks before, who claimed they could cure lupus. Now if anyone tells me they can cure lupus, I run. How are they going to change my DNA? If they said they could ease my symptoms, that would be WAY more trustworthy.
    The thing with the herbs and supplements is that they haven't been studied. You can't just start taking something without knowing what it is doing to your body... it could easily kill you as help you. That is why they need to pick things that seem promising and study and regulate them so they aren't adulterated and such.
    At least with the albumin they had some reason to believe it would help, and they know what tests/things to watch for/side effects can come from it, you know?
    Just my feelings.


  3. The doctors aren't anywhere closer to healing Gregory either. They are doing what they can to manage his symptoms to make him feel better. Reiki might not have "healed" someone permanently but it can improve your symptoms for awhile. If someone claimed they could "cure" Gregory- as people have claimed they could cure you- I would probably be suspicious also... :)

    Conventional medicine doesn't always look at the entire picture (as each specialist only looks at their OWN issue and not necessarily WHY it's all happening!) or look for underlying causes- sometimes swamped doctors can be prescription happy and offer quick fixes. Alternative therapies can improve your quality of life- they might not work either to completely heal a condition but I think a combination of alternative and conventional medicine is good. Together they can offer a well-rounded approach.

    It's a bummer they don't do more testing on supplements- of course we're not going to give something to our kids that could harm them but 10-25% of medications that we take originate from plants.

    One alt. therapy that healed on the spot was the myofascial release/muscle unwinding- Scott walked in to his appt. with what was thought to be a permanent limp and out without it.