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December 5, 2000

Alternative Therapies and Explanations

Question from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA:

You're stuck in the dark ages. There are many beneficial natural aids available for all chronic health problems. Get your narrow minded heads out of the test tubes and research papers and get in the trenches. I personally know dozens of formerly 3rd and 4th stage cancer and Parkinson survivors, who are and remain disease free, never having used the myopic death inducing treatments of western medical madmen. You are a disservice to the practice and philosophy of healing.

Answer:

I would agree that some natural medicines have been found to be beneficial in healing/treating people with illnesses and disease. On the other hand, these natural products need to be assessed using scientific methods. Without valid science, you can make all the claims you want about how something was beneficial, but the truth may be very different.

For myself, I would be very hesitant to recommend therapy to patients which had not been shown to be effective in a scientific trial. It is my opinion that patients should also have a healthy level of skepticism about any form of therapy recommended to them. Natural products also suffer from a lack of quality control. Preparations deemed to be food or nutritional supplements do not fall under the control of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Without such quality control, there is the possibility the natural medicine is either too strong, too weak, or contain unwanted contaminants.

JTL
Additional comments from Dr. Stuart Brink:

I would also include a comment about the costs of natural medications since they are not trivial. And, as long as any individual knows the “risks” of using natural medications and is willing to accept such risks — including financial costs — why not allow individual choice to prevail?

There should, of course, be acknowledgment that many of our current medications stem from “natural” medications: digitalis, aspirin, etc. The marriage of good scientific studies coupled with healthy skepticism is not so bad.

SB

[Editor’s comment: We had a prolonged discussion about this question and how to reply, as we had not realized that we were perceived as stuck in the Dark Ages, nor had we viewed ourselves as “western medical madmen” with “myopic death inducing treatments.” It was decided to respond to the concerns of the writer about the use of natural products, and ignore the colorful language.

As a final comment, the concerned reader is also asked to see the references quoted at Herbs and other Supplements.

WWQ]