For all those who distrust their doctor, you fools

Alternative Medicine is a term for all the various types of pseudo-medical treatments which are offered up as somehow more wholesome than what is called mainstream medicine as practised by most qualified medical doctors.

At it's most credible, it can include Traditional Chinese Medicine, Chiropractry, Shiatsu and such things as massage and acupuncture.

At the other end of the scale, it goes onto such things as Homeopathy which is actually poisoning onesself in order to build up a resistance, crystal healing which is the belief that crystals can somehow "correct one's natural energy flows", old-wives' herbalism and at the most ridiculous end of the scale, Bach Flower Remedies.

Now, before anyone gets their knickers in a twist about this apparent disbelief in "Alternative Therapy", it should be remembered that Traditional Chinese Medicine still perscribes arsenic as a remedy for gastric disorders. And TCM is the most highly respected of all the alternatives.

If you get sick, go and see your doctor. The stuff they give you has to prove itself in research. Gotta be better than waving a crystal.

The idea that alternative medicines remain alternative simply because none of them have outperformed placebos is simply, as a blanket statement, false. True, some of alternative therapies have been more-or-less totally debunked; "Healing Touch" and Bach Flower Remedies come to mind. Some, perhaps most, remain in a sort of scientific gray area, either because no conclusively well-designed studies have been done on their efficacy, or because the results of those studies have so far been contradictory. Some, most notably chiropractic, acupuncture, and massage, have been backed up with as much thirty or forty years worth of evidence and scientific study which says that for some conditions, they are in fact very effective.

The whole idea of a lump category of alternative medicine as a catch-all for everything health related that doesn't involve a guy with an M.D. poking you in odd places and making notes on a graph is fairly spurious. The fact that we're willing to lump every form of vaguely non-traditional and non-technological health therapy in the category of "alternative" is really more of a statement about our biases as a culture than the state of the scientific art.

The whole idea that all forms of healing must, all other virtues or faults regardless, be administered by a representative of a certain prestigious elite, is as irrational, and in a certain fundamental way, as dangerous, as buying into the whole line of crystal-waving hokum.

It's interesting that the original writeup in this node proposes that Traditional Chinese Medicine, because it prescribes arsenic is somehow more dangerous than western medicine.

If traditional medicine is so 'safe' then why do we need to keep medications out of reach of children? Why are there 120,000 deaths in the USA alone each year resulting from the correct use of prescription medication? What about the side effects of chemotherapy? Just about every potent drug has an unpleasant side effect which is quite often worse than the symptom it treats.

Now I don't propose to tell you that waving a crystal or swallowing herbs is going to do good, either. As I see it, alternative medicines either operate from one of the following hypotheses:

  • Most, if not all, of the germs found in the body are there because the conditions in the body create an environment where they will flourish. Germs do not "attack" people. Not all people infected with various bugs develop the corresponding diseases. For example it is possible to be infected with malarial parasites and never develop malaria.
  • The state of health of an individual can be directly related to the state of mind of that individual. Stress is a major contributing factor to ill health, however the mind directs the body, and given enough certainty the body will follow suit. This quite aptly explains the placebo effect.

The body's needs are simple. You cannot poison your body back to health. Indeed the more drugs you take, the more you will eventually need to take to counter their side effects, and so on. A vicious cycle.

What happens if you continue to ignore pain or discomfort, or try to drown it out by taking painkillers or anti-inflammatories? The problem doesn't go away, and in many cases more severe problems develop as the body's other systems break down as well. The approach of western medicine seems to be to silence the symptoms (with drugs or surgery) without treating the causes. Alternative medicine takes the approach of looking at what the cause might be from a different perspective.

Most people have at best sketchy knowledge of how the human body works which is quite surprising considering you spend all of your life using one. Unfortunately, when it comes to our health most people take the advice of doctors and drug companies instead of trusting that decision to themselves.

Personally I believe that each approach has something valid to offer. Western medicine has made amazing progress with live organ transplants and other surgical procedures. Eastern and some (not all) other 'alternative' medicines can offer better explanations of why such procedures might have been neccesary in the first place, and how they might have been avoided.

Unlike my uncle, who is a doctor (a neurologist to boot), I believe in Chinese medicine, to a degree of course. For the record, all that faddish natural energy cures in America is totally ridiculous, and the quacks who practice it should be sent to prison.

Acupuncture works. I've had it plenty of times. It is particularly effective in the following areas:

Words of caution in acupuncture. Make sure you visit a respected practitioner. Not some dinky two-bit shop that says alternative medicine in big letters out the front. At worst, the needles are dirty and you get poked in all the wrong spots. Go to Chinatown. There are doctors that practice in both Western and traditional fields of medicine. Ask around. My family doctor in Shanghai has been doing acupuncture for 40 years. When he inserts a needle it doesn't even hurt.

Chinese medical massage also works. I found it to be effective for minor medical problems such as:

Beware, this hurts. A lot. If it doesn't hurt, then it isn't working. The masseuse works the pressure points, and it gets extremely painful on the sensitive spots, such as your temples, the ridges on the back of your hand, and the arch of your foot. Try running your finger up toward your shin from between your big toe and second toe until the tendons come together and hit the bone, then press that spot.

I never use Chinese traditional medicine for major problems. Only minor ailments. Western medicine is still more important to me, but I would like to avoid taking pills as much as possible, and Chinese medicine doesn't requre any strange chemicals to be imbibed.

Also, drink Chinese tea. For some reason, a combination of Chinese tea and congee solves just about every stomach problem I've ever had.

There are several curious home remedies included in a recent publication entitled Ardgowan: A Journal of House and Garden in Victorian Prince Edward Island. Written by Julie V. Watson and published by Parks & People Canada in 2000, it is an almanac of recipes, etiquette and Victorian folklore, The contents were taken from the actual artifacts of the Victorian household of William H. Pope, a prominent Island politician and Father of Confederation.

As you read the next passage, just try to imagine an emergency scenario unfolding as described:

To Restore From Stroke of Lightening

Shower with cold water for two hours; if the patient does not show signs of life, put salt in the water; and continue to shower an hour longer.

This is not the first time that I have read or heard of this supposed cure. Gail Anderson-Dargatz, an author based in British Columbia, Canada, wrote a critically acclaimed novel called The Cure for Death by Lightening, published in 1996. Based in part upon a scrapbook of recipes, clippings, and pressings kept by the protagonist's mother, the narrative makes early reference to a folk remedy exactly like the one above. The only difference seems to be that the patient is presumed dead before the cure is applied.

I wonder if this is just a Canadian thing, or if this was a common prescription for those struck by lightning in, say, early American folklore. It might even be a nugget of knowledge brought over from Europe, and forgotten with time.

Here are some more medicinal concoctions from Prince Edward Island's Victorian era (as recorded in Watson's text). Most rely heavily upon the medicinal qualities of alcohol :

Hair Invigorator

Bay rum, two pints; alcohol, one pint; castor oil, one ounce; carb. Ammonia, half an ounce; tincture of cantharides, one ounce. Mix well. This compound will promote the growth of hair and prevent it from falling out.

Daily Bang Tonic

Take a pint of cider; and add to a pint of warm ale; sweeten with treacle or sugar to taste, grate in some nutmeg and ginger, and add a wineglassful of gin or whiskey.

Elliman's Embrocation

One new-laid egg well beaten, add to it by degrees one gill turpentine, one gill vinegar, put in alternately one-half ounce spirits of camphor. Directions for use: For rheumatism, lumbago, for sore throat, cold in cheek, etc., rub in well with hand, night and morning. A flannel may also be soaked in the embrocation and put on, covered with a cloth or flannel. This can also be used as a substitute for a mustard plaster.

To Drive Mosquitos Away

If mosquitos or other blood suckers infest your sleeping rooms at night, uncork a bottle of pennyroyal, and these animals leave in great haste, nor will they return so long as the room is loaded with the fumes of that aromatic herb.

Excellent Cough Mixture

One ounce of tincture of benzoin, two wine-glasses of whiskey, one cup of molasses. Mix well. One teaspoonful whenever cough is troublesome.

Dandelion Wine (for the blood)

Four quarts of dandelion flowers; cover with one gallon of water and boil; strain, and when luke-warm add six lemons, four pounds of white sugar and half royal yeast-cake; let it stand about ten days, or until done working, ten strain, bottle and seal.

Bleeding From the Nose

Put a plug of lint into the nostrils and apply a cold lotion to the forehead. Heat should be applied to the feet. Sometimes the shock of a cold key or cold water down the back will stop the bleeding.

(Another) Cure for Coughs

Three newly-laid eggs, unbroken, over which pour the juice of six lemons, and allow to stand for forty-eight hours. Then pick out any bits of eggshell which are not dissolved; add one-half pound of rock candy; and one pint of Jamaica brandy; mix well and bottle. Dose: 2 tablespoonful three or four times a day.

Alternative medicine and funding thereof-

One of the oldest “traditions” or practices in the world is now what is referred to alternative medicine. Although much of those practices are not mainstream, they are far from alternative. They have, however, been getting more and more negative feedback from the doctors and medicine heads and more and more use and support from the patients. Many doctors use acupuncture, homeopathy, or herbal medicine in their practices today. But shouldn’t insurance companies cover alternative medicine as a viable alternative to mainstream medicine? Yes! We are being denied these because the insurance companies know that Alt. Medicine can be as effective as “normal” medicine, but reduce the cost to us and the income to the insurance companies. Effective and much more cost-reducing methods are being hidden for their benefits. Alternative, or natural medicine, while not mainstream, is often as successful as traditional medicine, and should be covered by insurance companies.

Many prestigious companies have begun to use non-traditional medicine; indeed Harvard, or rather Harvard-Med has announced that they will develop a department of non-traditional medicine, despite the great deal of disapproval by many doctors. (Mazella 1) The success of that medicine, though, depends upon who observes or tests it.

    “…No, unfortunately if you look closely enough, most “objectiveresearch can prove or disprove “non-traditional” medicinal approaches depending on how you want to slant your approach. (The slant usually depends on who’s paying for it.)”

Says Dr. Jay Mazella of Gallagher Chiropractic Center in Leonardo, who wrote an article regarding the announcement that Harvard-Med was announcing their Department of “Non-traditional” medicine. One of the only reasons that “alternative” medicine is gaining more acceptance is because the consumers are spending more and more money on “alternative” practiconers and that angers the main stream medical people, who, in response, are starting to use “alternative” medicine so as to gain some “consumer support” again. (Mazella 2)

Not only the is the lack of confidence in some of modern medicine a problem, but it is also the feeling that people get from naturopaths vs. “traditional doctors.” People who go to doctors often come out feeling like a specimen. A growing number of people who have tried both “experiences” have described a “traditional” doctors office experience as “walking in, being examined, poked, and prodded, and then merely given a diagnosis, and a prescription and sent on their way.” (Monroe 2) This “method” of treatment is not nearly as appealing as the alternative, to many people. There is also a great deal less risk of possible negative side effects with most alternative medicines, as opposed to “traditional” medicines. (Monroe 3)

While all of the above is true, though, one must give a thought as to the opinions of the non-supporters of alternative medicine. Some thoughts about this are shown in an article entitled “Medicine Wars” which was featured in a magazine called the Skeptical Inquirer. After briefly talking about a study which showed that people who ate tofu more than 3 times a week showed a higher risk of long term impaired mental function, author Barry F. Seidman compares the pros and cons of eating tofu, to those of traditional, or alternative medicines.

    “..Is tofu the next wonder or will it shrink your brain in a way your psychologist never meant to? The Jekyll and Hyde story of tofu illustrates the tricky status of alternative (as well as complementary) medicine, whose remedies almost by definition have not been subject to the rigorous research and testing expected of mainstream medicine.” (Seidman 29)

And it would seem that many consumers and supporters of traditional medicine would agree with Seidman. Many people do indeed feel that alternative or non-traditional medicine has not been tested as rigorously and thoroughly as mainstream medicine. On that note, many traditional medicine company’s and mainstream medicine patients argue that one of many possible reasons for the lack of testing of AM’s (alternative medicines) and CM’s (complementary medicines) is that fact that AM promoters and merchants feel it unnecessary since they can generate a great deal of income selling AM’s/CM’s- untested and unregulated- as over-the-counter food supplements. (Seidman 29)

While the possibility of this is more and more unlikely as the FDA tightens the constraints on drug merchants, it is still a possibility. The most ideal thing to do would be for the consumer to check up on the merchant before making a purchase, as well as checking around to see if what they are buying is similar in other places, and has similar usage instructions. This will also help reduce the dangers to the consumer.

Overall alternative, non-traditional, or complementary (perhaps a new term which simply refers to medicine that is taken with or in addition to mainstream medicine) medicines are fairly effective, safe, and for the most part, not excessively costly to the average consumer for a basic treatment. There are still many exceptions to that though; many consumers or patients do need much more costly treatments or much higher doses and that can get expensive to them. This, however, is why people have medical insurance, and the main reason (or so they have said) behind the development of insurance companies- to cover the costs of medicine treatments, among many things, and what good are they to the consumers if they don’t cover whatever treatment the a person, or many people use? This is why insurance companies must pay for alternative treatments, or any treatments, whatever the type. This is the reason why they are paid hundreds of thousands of dollars each year by people who want to get covered, when they have something like medical treatments which add up to a great sum of money. This is what insurance companies were built for- customer satisfaction and assistance. If they are not doing this, than they have lied to the people and cheated families out of myriads of money over many, many years. After all the money that the insurance companies have received from the customers, it would only seem fair and reasonable for them to pay the cost of whatever treatment the customer uses; no matter what the type or cost. This is what the people have paid for, and this is what the insurance companies should pay for- lying to the consumers and not offering what was promised and agreed upon. This is considered theft, and many doubts to whether the insurance companies would like to be sued for fraud, or just pay out the costs of the treatments. One way or another, it will happen. All the consumers, doctors, insurance agents, and government people know that Alternative, or natural medicine, while not mainstream, is often as successful as traditional medicine, and should be covered by insurance companies.


  • Castleman, Michael

    Natures Cures Rodale Press, Inc.

    ©1996 M. Castleman
  • Mazella, Jay Dr.

    “Harvard Med Announces Department Of ‘Non-traditional’ Medicine”

  • Roach Monroe, Linda

    “A Closer Look At Alternative Medicine”
    Miami Herald May 23, 1993 Page 1-5
  • Seidman, Barry F.

    “Medicine Wars: Will Alternative And Mainstream Medicine Ever Be Friends?”

  • Skeptical Inquirer Jan/Feb 2001, pp. 28-35

Authors Note: I'm sorry if this looks like a school paper. This is a wre-write of a school paper, but also an experiment to see the Response of E2 Noders to an MLA standard-written paper. I hope it works for you.

(Also, if anyone could fix the code, I would be most appreciative. I've tried everything that I can think of, but nothing wants to work. Mostly on the last part about my sources. Thx.)

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