Alternative Medicine Under the Microscope

By Susan Okie,
who is a physician and a national correspondent for the New England Journal of Medicine
Washington Post
Thursday, October 2, 2008


The Undeniable Facts About Alternative Medicine

By Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst

Norton. 342 pp. $25.95

…Some forms of alternative medicine have been studied extensively, and the results (not surprisingly) are mixed. Homeopathy, the authors conclude, is “a bogus industry that offers patients nothing more than a fantasy”; it wastes money and can be dangerous if it keeps patients from using effective treatments. Chiropractic therapy shows some evidence of working for low back pain, but is expensive and has significant risks, especially if the neck is manipulated. Clinical trials of acupuncture have found evidence of its effectiveness in only a few conditions: low back pain, headaches, neck disorders, bedwetting, postoperative nausea and vomiting. A table in the chapter on herbal medicine rates the evidence as “good” for 10 of the 35 herbs listed; the evidence for the rest is rated as “medium” or “poor,” More…