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alternative medicine, some introductory reflections

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mmm, more snake oil, please

I rarely post about so-called ‘alternative medicine’ as there are so many people more qualified to do so. Steven Novella, David Gorski, Ben Goldacre and Simon Singh immediately spring to mind. I seethe over it a lot, though, particularly as there are people I know who pedal the stuff to other people I know.

Several years ago a person very close to me trotted off to a ‘naturopath’ [who, I’m told, specialized in chiropractic, with a bit of iridology on the side] upon the recommendation of her daughter, a smart and well-informed woman in some areas, but with a strange sort of wilful ignorance with regard to medical science. Now, at that time, though I was sceptical of non-mainstream approaches to healing, I wasn’t particularly informed about them. If I’d been asked what iridology, raiki or homeopathy were, I wouldn’t have been able to answer. In fact my friend’s encounter with this naturopath prompted my first real exploration of an ‘alternative’ treatment. Not that it was a particularly awful encounter. She was told she should give up her favourite tipple, tea. I knew enough about tea to be aware that it’s a notoriously harmless beverage, and I knew enough about naturopaths, and human psychology, to be aware that the most simple trick in their reportoire would be to enquire about their clients’ diet and ask them to cut out or cut down on their most favoured indulgence – whether tea, chocolate, potato chips, scotch whiskey or heroin.

The naturopath came up with a scientific-sounding, chemistry-based explanation as to why the tea was very likely affecting her adversely, naming it as cyclo-something-ate – I can’t recall the term now, and the fact is that tea, like coffee, is an enormously complex beverage, chemically speaking, so there are plenty of chemicals to target as nasties, if you feel so inclined, or if your living depends on it. My friend took the advice seriously, cutting down on tea as much as her passionate relationship with it would allow, and even claiming that the reduction gave her renewed energy, but it wasn’t to last, and today she’s back to her profligate ways, drinking as many as four or five cups a day, with no apparent ill effects.

I’m afraid that I may have had a hand in my friend’s recidivism, too, because, as I said, her encounter prompted a bit of research on my part. The term I focused on was ‘iridology’, and what I came up with was so negative and scathing that I just had to share it with her. I will carry the guilt to my grave.

All of this is by way of an introduction to a series I want to do on alternative medicine, largely in order to educate myself about its various sub-divisions, its claims, and the evidence, if any, supporting them. I’ll have a look at reflexology, aromatherapy, acupuncture and various other approaches [but not homeopathy, which I’ve already dealt with] and of course the list won’t be exhaustive, nor will my treatment of them be as in-depth as what you’ll find in more specialist blogs [many of which I’ll be depending on in my research]. It’s just that I find that I learn more about things by writing about them. It keeps them in my head better.

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Written by stewart henderson

October 8, 2012 at 3:28 pm

2 Responses

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  1. American Health Journal is seeking for partner blogs in the medicine niche. AHJ is a medical web site containing over 3000 of high quality medicine videos. We are looking for partners who may be interested in content based partnerships. We can offer content exchanges, link exchanges, and exposure to your site. Come contact us at our contact form on our site.

    Shawnta Schildgen

    November 9, 2012 at 10:52 am

    • Thanks for your message. However, I’m not a health professional, and I don’t particularly specialize in health on my blog, though I’ve been educating myself a bit lately on the various ‘tricks or treatments’ offered by so-called naturopaths. Thanks anyway and good luck with your journal.

      luigifun

      November 11, 2012 at 12:34 am


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