As a health care consumer, I find it my duty to know as much as I can about health care options that are available and the efficacy, benefits, and side effects of such. One option is practices which are considered more unconventional, such as Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupuncture, homeopathy, herbs, etc.
I’ve heard about a few studies of unconventional systems of health care, but it seems that research is still emerging in this area. So in the meantime, is this something where I should look at this as a legitimate alternate option in treatment? Is it perhaps safe to use complementary medicine, but not supplant traditional medicine completely? Is complementary/alternative medicine perhaps good for some problems, but not others? (Such as not a good option for a heart attack, but perhaps a reasonable option for mild to moderate chronic pain.)
So far I’ve dabbled in taking a few herbs and vitamins for antioxidant support and recovery from surgery and experienced no problems (and some benefits, but my skeptical side always wonders if that’s just a placebo effect), but haven’t really explored more extensive CAM such as Ayurveda or acupuncture. It would be interesting to explore additional opinions on both less and more extensive systems of CAM.
From personal experience: acupuncture works really well for many lesser problems and passably for pain relief. Homeopathy is a steaming crock of shit. If you have stress-related problems, pick up any decent recording of Bach’s Art of the Fugue and listen through it once or twice daily.
Anything more serious demands regular medical attention.
A wise doper (KarlGauss, IIRC) once reminded me that there is no “complementary” or “alternative” medicine. There are only treatments and therapies that have been shown to be effective by evidence-based medical science, and those not shown to be effective.
Quackwatch can help one determine which therapies have evidence-based science backing them up.
I don’t understand why more proponenets of “alternative modalities” aren’t in jail for practising medicine without a license. I’ve seen clerks in Health Food stores with high school educations talking with customers about the values of vitamins and supplements to treat serious diseases.
It’s worth noting that many vitamin supplements (which most don’t think of as part of the “alternative” pharmacopia) have virtually zero in the way of evidence backing their healthful use for those eating a normal diet. More troubling, some higher-dose vitamin and mineral supplements (the latest scare has been E), which few have recognized as excessive until recently, and hence have been pitched to health nuts for time immemorial, may be showing significant, provable deleterious effects with chronic use, up to and including shortening of life span. Unless you have a vitamin-deficient diet, there’s essentially no good reason to take supplements of any dose, and it’s not even clear that anything above an insignificant dose is even safe.
My personal feeling is that it’s perilous enough to take the drugs we’re told have been scientifically proven to be safe; so why subject yourself to even greater risks by experimenting with supplements lacking any hard evidence of efficacy whatsoever, not to mention virtually no good data to support their safety with use of any duration? People rightly complain and are fearful about the imperfections of the regulated pharmaceutical industry. Why is it, then, that the virtually unregulated, untested, often unethical, and all-too-frequently-unhealthful supplement industry manages to be so attractive? What is it in the minds of consumers that allows them to believe blanket characterizations like “natural = safe”, or to even have faith that what they put in their bodies in their quest for “alternative” healing is even natural in the first place, much less safe or efficacious?
What reason is there to believe supplements that haven’t gone through scientific testing will have less unpleasant side effects? Isn’t this just preferring the devil you don’t know to the devil you do?