Friday, August 03, 2007

Alternative medicine can cause alternative illness - Botswana Guardian

It goes on and on. The parade of rubbish, nonsense and drivel masquerading as “alternative medicine”. In the Advertiser last week two advertisements offered something rather special.

Promises. Just promises. Nothing else.

The first was from Lam-Med Health Care. It asked whether we suffer from “Arthritis, Cramps, Cellulite, Muscular Pains, Back problems, Cancer, Poor circulation, Stress, High Blood Pressure, Diabetes, Asthma, Eczema etc”. The solution to all of these problems? “Health through the power of Oxygen Ozone”.

The second, from “Siloam”, asked if we’re suffering from problems including “Insomnia and Headache”, “Sciatic nerve, rheumatism, arthritis” and yet again “High blood pressure”. The solution? “Reflexology and muscle and bone adjustment”. This lot go one stage further and promise that “you will be free from the suffering”. They say that Siloam “is the solution to your problems”.

Where to begin.

Firstly everything offered is known to be utterly useless. In case you don’t know reflexology is based on the idea that the soles of your feet somehow map the structure of your body. They say that if you apply pressure to various spots on your feet it will affect your organs. Squeeze here and your liver will be affected, tickle here and your spleen will be in top-notch shape.

This is nonsense. Every time there has been serious scientific research into reflexology it has been shown to have no more of an effect that having your feet massaged. Of course some of us might like having our feet massaged. It’s not my thing but people say it’s wonderfully relaxing and feels terrific. But that doesn’t make it medicine. It doesn’t make it true.

As for ozone that’s rubbish as well. Not only is there absolutely no evidence that ozone helps with any health problems, there IS evidence that ozone can actually be harmful to our health.

Then there’s the danger of relying on this rubbish rather than things that do work. Like medicine. Medicine based on science. Science that is rational, logical and enlightened. My fear is that some poor soul, suffering from one or other of the nasty conditions mentioned will go to these charlatans and take their nonsensical treatments rather than something that actually works. The risk is terrifying. Instead of taking real medication for potentially dangerous disorders like high blood pressure, asthma and diabetes they’ll take some ludicrous herb or the useless reflexology approach. Who knows what might happen. Someone’s going to die, if they haven’t already.

I’m not going to say that traditional or herbal remedies have no effect. We all know how many conventional medicines come from natural origins. Penicillin was discovered when samples in a laboratory were infected by an air-born mould. Warfarin, commonly used to treat heart conditions, is found in many plants such as sweet clover and even in liqorice.

But the trouble is how unpredictable herbal remedies can be. If I go to my local pharmacy and buy paracetamol I know for sure that each tablet contains exactly 500mg of paracetamol. With herbal remedies, who knows? The only certainly I have is if I use a homeopathic “remedy”. At least with those I know they contain nothing at all!

I think it’s about time that we did something to fix this problem. Luckily we have the tools to act. These nonsensical therapies cost money. That makes us consumers. The Consumer Protection Regulations make it really unwise to offer products where “the supplier promises outcomes where those outcomes have no safe scientific, medical or performance basis”. Reflexology and ozone have no scientific or medical basis. The fantastic news is that they are illegal!