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Alternative Medical Therapy Works?!

Echinacea Flower By, Roddh

So I subscribe to a bunch of email list-serves and end up getting tons in my email inbox, tending to just pick some out at random and read them every once in a while.  Today, I decided to read one and came across this article that I just had to share with you.  If you are at all interested in Alternative Medicine of any kind, or (& especially) if you consider it all a bunch of ‘hocus pocus’ I highly recommend you continue reading.

A few times throughout the article I found myself going “right on… take that you skeptics”… but in my more appropriate, non-partisan mind, I’m thinking “this is just a good heads up to everyone that we should always remember to consider the source; the person’s intention, background, and underlying benefactors or motivations when reading any kind of information or research”.

Dear Reader,

Marilynn Marchione got it exactly right.

This Associated Press medical writer has been working on a series of articles about alternative medical treatments. Each piece begins with this note: “Ten years and $2.5 billion in research have found no cures from alternative medicine.”

She’s talking about the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. And I agree completely. For the most part, NCCAM has been cranking out lame studies that test absurdly low doses of herbs or supplements, or use poor forms of these treatments.

For instance, a 2003 study showed that Echinacea was ineffective in treating upper respiratory infections. One problem: Researchers used Echinacea mostly extracted from the flower of the plant. As any herbalist will tell you, roots contain the most potent concentration of medicinal agents, while flowers tend to be the least potent.

So that $2.5 billion that was largely wasted by NCCAM turns out to be a pretty sweet gift for people like Marilynn who take great delight in alt med “failures.”

In the most recent article in her series she spotlights the placebo effect. You can just imagine how she applies this to alt medicine.

Marilynn: “The placebo effect looms large in alternative medicine, which has many therapies and herbal remedies based on beliefs versus science.”

{and… here it comes, my favorite part…}

Well…not really. Those beliefs are based on centuries of trial and error conducted by generations of doctors and scientists. That’s how they did it back then. And it’s both naïve and arrogant to dismiss all that knowledge just because it doesn’t conform to a modern idea of “gold standard” research.

Marilynn also enlightens us with this note: “Many alternative medicine studies have not included a placebo group…”

Here’s my note to Marilynn: This isn’t 1980. You MUST be aware of the thousands of randomized, double blind, placebo controlled alt med studies over the past decade. And you must also be aware that sometimes a study’s design just doesn’t require a placebo group.

For instance, a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine tested a supplement of niacin (vitamin B-3) against Merck’s Zetia, a drug that reduces cholesterol absorption in the digestive tract. More than 200 patients with heart disease or heart disease risk were randomly selected to receive either the supplement or the drug for 14 months.

Results: LDL cholesterol and triglycerides were reduced in both groups. HDL cholesterol increased in both groups (mostly in the niacin group). But two important things happened in the niacin group that DID NOT happen in the Zetia group: 1) Thickness of the carotid artery walls was reduced in the niacin group, and 2) Incidence of major cardiovascular events was lower in the niacin group.

Fewer heart attacks and a reversal of arteriosclerosis. Not too shabby! We may not have enough evidence yet to actually say that niacin might “cure” arteriosclerosis. But it’s not too soon at all to point out to Marilynn that as placebo effects go, the reversing of narrowed arteries and prevention of heart attacks is pretty impressive.

In fact, it’s almost too impressive. Why…it’s almost as if this alternative medical therapy actually works!

Hopefully you’ve taken the time to read through this article and taken a little insight into the ability of some to misconstrue information if that’s what they intend to do.  Be smart, get all the facts, expand your reading material (read information from people you don’t necessarily agree with).  There is always something more to be learned, and gained from a different perspective and arming yourself with the information is crucial especially when it comes to your health!

~Be Well~


Source:  The Health Sciences Institute, Dec. 2nd 2009 *This article was taken from an email subscription sent to me*

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