"Alternative" medicine? You misspelled "not".

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
June 10 2009 2:46 PM

"Alternative" medicine? You misspelled "not".

Here's a shocker for you: after a decade and 2.5 billion (with a b, folks) dollars spent, a government study shows that almost no alternative medicines worked.

Echinacea for colds. Ginkgo biloba for memory. Glucosamine and chondroitin for arthritis. Black cohosh for menopausal hot flashes. Saw palmetto for prostate problems. Shark cartilage for cancer. All proved no better than dummy pills in big studies funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. The lone exception: ginger capsules may help chemotherapy nausea.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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So, they used actual scientific testing processes instead of anecdotes, and found that most of these simply don't work. Like I said: shocker.

Let me be clear: I am not opposed to testing any so-called alternative medicines. A lot of our medicine today is based on herbs and such; aspirin comes from willow bark, for example, and ginger has been tested before for nausea and shown some promise. A lot of people comment on my blog when I talk about this stuff and call me closed-minded, which makes me chuckle ironically, since most of these people are so anti-science their minds are clamped tight. And in fact I want to test these techniques to separate what works from what doesn't.

But I am decidedly against these techniques that have been tested and shown to be no better than placebos. This includes homeopathy, intercessory prayer, and the like. Chiropractic, which I dissed just today, may have some efficacy for some skeletal issues, but curing a toothache? C'mon.

My point: when the tests are done, and the technique is shown not to work as promised or even at all, then into the trash bin it goes. That's science. That's reality.

Of course, that's if the tests are done correctly. According to the MSNBC article linked above, that wasn't always the case. Not surprisingly, when the testers have some stake in the tests then science is out the window.

But even so, the studies have shown that most of these remedies don't work. And will this change the minds of their advocates?

HAHAHAHAHAHAhahahahahahaha! Oh man, sometimes I crack myself up.

This is just one more arrow in our quiver, but the alternative medicine believers will continue to move the targets around. Stay vigilant, and remember: people waste money, people get sick, and people die because of this antiscientific thinking. That's why testing this, publicizing it, and fighting the misinformation is so important.

Tip o' the child-proof cap to Krelnik.