Saturday, December 27th, 2008 | Author:

I recently came across this article about how we should be a lot more concerned about alternative medicines than we’ve been. Perhaps I should be more outspoken about this myself. Very few of the people I know actually bother to lobby for the causes they believe in. And it is a shame.

Reiki recently came up at a Geekdinner and it got me into researching some of the other complementary and alternative medicines. Reiki sounds like an elaborate lyfleysa if you ask meand so do a lot of the other alternative medicines. There are some of these which I previously thought were outright legitimate. It seems I should be more skeptical of my own information store.

Some alternative medical avenues into which I believe the modern world needs to do some further scientific sifting:

  • HomeopathyDiluting a substance makes it less harmful but doesn’t make it less beneficial. Bulldust.
  • AcupunctureMeridians og acupuncture points have no contemporary physiological relevance in medicine. This is related to the concepts of Qi in Energy Medicine.
  • Energy MedicineEnergy or Qi fields in the body affect your health. Fixing, breaking, or manipulating the flow of these fields affects the ability of your body to heal itself and fight illness. This boils down to practitioners claiming to perform magic.
  • IridologyThis is for diagnosing illness. Changes in specific parts of your iris indicate where and what type of illness may be affecting your body. How exactly can your eye track illness in your body and give your doctor afix-mewishlist in a colour-by-number format?
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5 Responses

  1. 1

    I think all medicine needs to be reviewed with a handful of scepticism. Modern Scientific medicine has it’s downfalls, i.e. chemicals and surgeries etc. are only tested against side effects which researchers consider (in time this obviously roots out all problems). We end up withmedicineswhich are scientifically tested pulled after years of being consideredsafe” (e.g. MDMA).

    I have a BSc and I took the plunge and took a basic course in Reiki to see how it works. It may be a placebo, but it works as effectively for many things as medication would have. I have a healthy view of it, and I would not claim it can heal a dismembered limb, but I don’t think it can be thrown out as a practice because it looks the same as the placebo effect.

    As far as meridian/energy therapies go, they are the eastern equivalent of western medicine’s approach to problem solving. In the west the ideology is dissection to solve problems, the east has an ideology of approaching the problem wholistically. Think of it as a macro and micro approach to problem solving. Acupuncture may have no physiological link, but has been refined over generations of practitioners and has been shown in scientific studies to have observable impacts ( ). And if the model proposed in acupuncture for tending a body’s Qi is shown to have efficacy, but not necessarily explainable using the morphophysiological model, should we discount it because it doesn’t fit those assumptions (which have become dominant in the world today)?

    I am not saying all therapies are kosher, but I am saying be sceptical of information written from one paradigm’s frame of reference, criticising another paradigm. And treat medical science with a healthy amount of scepticism centered around the limitations that are inherent to the scientific model of discovery.

    My testament to acupuncture is watching my son’s eczema literally disappear overnight (after persisting for months) after a ‘laser acupuncturesession. Maybe it was a placebo, but I have a hard time believing that my 1 year old understood what the qualified medical doctor (who includes acupuncture in his range of treatements) was doing, in order to be affected by a placebo.

  2. 2

    The autonomous response to acupuncture can be beneficial. In a sense, this is the doctor manipulating the body into healing itself.

    A pin prick can cause more pain than the damage warrants, causing the body toover”-retaliate. Only, we actually *want* the body to do this.

    There is a lot of ongoing research in this field and I believe that acupuncture, as we know it, will soon (is 50 years soon enough?) be replaced with something much more scientific as its basis.

  3. You said it, sir. As for homeopathy, I think even those who see it for the tripe it actually don’t know the extent of it. For a very interesting dig into its history, see:


  4. 4

    My smugly-scientific core is secretly thrilled when homeopath devotees who are (unfortunately) seriously ill suddenly regain faith in mainstream science.

    A lot of homeopathic remedies have a grain of truth at their core, but what point is there eating twigs and berries when you can take a tablet of the distilled active ingredient IN those twigs and berries, under controlled circumstances, for a more potent and immediate effect?

    Just because something is man-made does not mean it is inferior to nature’s so-called alternative. But you know, if tree-hugging is your thing, you eat the silverleaf berries, and I’ll take the penicillin, thanks.

  5. 5

    Hey there Tricky. It’s always good to see people questioning the alternative medicine market. There is a lot less evidence than many people would have you to believe and very often negative findings are misinterpreted as being äs good as placebo”.

    Helen, you seem to have confused homeopathic remedies with natural or herbal medicines. No homeopathic remedies have a grain of truth in them. They are based on principles which openly defy the fundamental aspects of physics.

    Acupuncture also has no demonstrable effect, other than placebo, and is also based on unscientific beliefs which were fostered by a society which forbade dissection of corpses and so led to magical thinking instead of understanding based on evidence.

    There is, auðvitað, much more information involved than I can convey in a comment, so ask any questions, present your best evidence and I will be happy to investigate and answer for you.


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