Trick Or Treatment: The Undeniable Facts About Alternative Medicine By Edzard Ernst And Simon Singh
First, I have to admit my own background. I discovered nutrition and health food stores nearly forty years ago. I read Adele Davis and other pioneers.
In the years since, I've read a lot about supplements, and always regarded myself in the alternative medicine camp -- and in the suspicious of modern medicine camp.
Yet I never hugged trees either. I paid little attention to stuff I regarded as crazy, and much of that is what the author focus this book on.
Acupuncture. Just because I believed in Vitamin C didn't mean I believed that sticking needles in me would help me.
Homeopathy. I had no idea what this was until I researched my book on bird flu, and discovered it consisted of selling water. I was shocked then, and still am.
Chiropractors. Many years ago I read about how their theories were goofy and some of their treatments dangerous. I also know from taking disability claims that doctors don't put much weight on evidence from chiropractors, but I spoke to a ton of disability applicants who thought getting treatments from a chiropractor meant they had a bad back.
Yet, at the same time, seeing how universally accepted chiropractors are, I'd suspended much of my skepticism. Besides, my mother got help from one. And he was one who found her tumor and sent her to a doctor to check it out.
And these are the more universally known and practiced alternative therapies. I never had more than a passing curiosity in aromatherapy or iridology.
Now I'm disturbed that so many people do go to chiropractors and acupuncturists, and spend money on worthless homeopathic remedies.
However, I'm not sure I agree with the authors on what constitute conventional medical treatment. They say, for example, that taking fish oil Omega 3 capsules is now accepted.
That blows me away. I'm too used to thinking of all nutritional supplements, no matter how supported by medical studies, as targets of the FDA.
I still feel as though "my" alternative medicine -- primarily supplements -- is still alternative. Maybe it's because they're British. They don't realize that U.S. doctors don't routinely prescribe nutrition except in a few cases (such as folic acid for pregnant women).
Some of their arguments don't really address the efficacy of certain things. For example, they say herbs from India and China have been found that are contaminated with heavy metals. This is not an argument against the herbs, but for better quality control.
I'm still suspicious that medical science is as accepting of potential remedies as they claim it is. I think the assumption that herbs have one active ingredient can damage clinical trials. And that more and better clinical trials should be run.
And I suspect too many clinical trials are run with poor or weak ingredients. Dr. Richard Schulze, for one, has many bad things to say about the quality of herbs sold.
My conclusion has to be that I'm not as optimistic as they are about the openness of modern medicine. I'm more than willing to throw out things I never believed in to begin with, such as the alternates they justifiably rip to shreds.
I also suspect that part of the problem comes from the gap between medical science's emphasis on curing diseases versus the desire of people to maximize their health.
This can affect how we look at herbs and vitamins, for example.
And what they label as "alternative," unproven exercise systems such as Pilates and yoga.
Besides, while conventional medicine may accept the benefits of ordinary exercise, that doesn't mean they promote it.
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