Sunday, December 13, 2009
Alternative Medicine, or Alt-Meds, is a tough subject because the field is so wide. It covers everything from the use of herbs with mild sedative properties to deal with anxiety to using weak magnets to somehow cure people.
To give Alt-Meds credit some things that were covered under Alt-Meds did point out where there were gaps in Medical Science and started research into those gaps, but those gaps are becoming fewer.
On the legitimate side of Alt-Meds, using nutrition and the natural source of common over the counter drugs can help low-level medical problems. Drinking herbal tea with a mild sedative while having a cat sit on your lap can reduce anxiety in a normal person, leading to a healthier life.
It’s when people claim it can do more that the problem comes in. Although using Alt-Meds can relieve mild anxiety in a normal person it is not going to have an effect on a person that has full-blown panic attacks. Those people need to see a doctor who can customize a treatment for them.
It’s the same with vitamin C and citrus for a common cold, it helps the body recover faster but using it for Swine Flu is pointless.
These herbal remedies (the legitimate ones) are like putting a towel down in front of the door to keep water out when it rains, it will work for normal storms but it’s not going to save you from a hurricane like Katrina.
The other legitimate Alt-Med is homeopathy, treating the whole body instead of the symptoms. There is a legitimate science that does this it is called nutritional medicine. Nutritional Medicine studies the effect of diet on a person’s health. Good homeopathic treatments are just amateur attempts at this science. Bad homeopathic treatments are either missing the science or an attempt to make a quick buck.
So people who claim that alt-meds can do anything better than over the counter drugs and a healthy lifestyle are either being delusional or are making money off the dysfunctional healthcare system we have.
Other Alt-Meds are down right scams, like magnetic therapy where you put low-level magnets on your clothes (so weak a magnetic force that you can’t pick up a paperclip with a sock over the magnet). These cures do absolutely nothing.
So with Alt-Meds like herbal treatments, homeopathy, massage therapy and petting a cat do your own research into using them for normal problems that aren’t severe enough to see a doctor for. Remembering that they probably aren’t as effective as over the counter drugs but the side effects are probably weaker as well. Just don’t use them to skip a trip to your doctor.
And to the people who tout Alt-Meds as cures for cancer, AIDS, severe mental illnesses and the like, I say, “Shut-up Stupid” if there is a legitimate scientific basis behind the claims of an Alt-Med treatment it will be studied and marketed through the legitimate healthcare system, if there’s not it will be studied and debunked.