Welcome to Placebo Land - Alternative Medicine

Although science is constantly expanding our understanding of the human body, alternative medicine is on the rise, sneaking in through the conventional medicine’s back door, disguising itself as “complementary” medicine. I admit western medicine is still very young and has a long way to go, but falling back to unproven old eastern techniques is just loco.

To set things straight, I think that herbal medicine can sometimes work (after all, many conventional drugs are based on plants, although I think modern western drugs will often be more effective), and I believe acupuncture can sometimes reduce pain (by physically touching nerves), but that’s about it.

I don’t think healing hands of light can cure cancer. I don’t believe you can treat a person’s kidneys or liver by applying pressure on his feet. I don’t think you can diagnose a disease by looking at a man’s iris or his aura. And no, if you excessively dilute a drug in water - you get just water. I don’t believe in therapeutic aromatic oils. No stones of power. No crystals of energy. No meridians. No chakras. No ch’i. Just one expensive placebo-based fake medicine.

Don’t get me wrong, I do believe the placebo effect can help a little bit in certain situations like depression or pain, but when people are mistakenly choosing this kind of treatment over mainstream medicine when seeking help for serious problems - that is dangerous.

p.s. Can the Flying Spaghetti Monster create a meatball too heavy for it to lift?


Ruthy and Yair said...

Hi Uri,

Alternative medicine is based on thousands of years of trial-and-error. Modern medicine is based on about ~50 years of systematic observations. Moreover, while modern medicine admits not having a complete understanding how things work and therefore changes its axioms yearly, alternative medicine is more solid and self assured. It is less 'disease oriented' but more holistic - looking at the body as a system.

I think the combination of the two is best for most.

Uri Kalish said...

Hi Yair,

If you look at many fields of alternative medicine, many times you’ll find everything is too symmetric. If I didn’t know better, I might be tempted to think the human body is a perfect symmetric sphere instead of the mess we know it really is. Alternative medicine can physically help you if you suffer from a back pain (by reducing the amount of money you have to carry in your wallet), but it’s basically a placebo-based medicine claiming to be something else. For thousands of years Earth was flat... It seems like sometimes thousands of years of trial-and-error are just ain’t enough...


Prudence said...

Modern medicine does not claim that it has all the answers to every question...yet. But, perhaps in a thousand years of systematic observations, it will find more answers. And the good thing is, it will be far more reliable because of systematic observations and tests based on sound reasoning and logic. Alternative medicine may be well ahead of modern medicine, but in the years it started, people have relied more on faith than in reason. I'd rather use something that is a product of sound reasoning than something that somebody said would work.

Uri Kalish said...


yair.h said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
yair.h said...

I'm very much believe in western medicines, but please notice - the Chinese are quite healthy...(your loving sister)

Uri Kalish said...

Maybe... I'm not sure. Even if they are healthier, I think the reason is a less polluted environment and healthier food rather than a more effective medicine.

By the way, life expectancy in China is currently 73 years, while in the USA it's 78 (and in Israel it's 80).

Gerri said...

Uri, I do agree with you. I rely on traditional medicine from my doctor and not herbal holistic remedies.

One thing I want you to clairify for me though. When you say if you dilute a drug in water, you get water? Am I understanding that correctly? I would think you get a diluted drug when you mix a drug in water. Also, isn't the human body mostly water? When you injest a drug, aren't you diluting it with water?

Not trying to argue, just trying to wrap my head around what you said and what you meant by it.

Uri Kalish said...

Hi Gerri,
Sorry for not being clear, I was talking about Homeopathy. The drugs there are diluted to a ridiculous concentration (something like a single drop of drug in all the oceans of the planet).

Gerri said...

Uri, thanks for the clarification :) I was seriously confused.

Tamera said...

Well, I am an alternative therapist and a Registered Nurse. As an alternative therapist, I'm not familiar with promising cures. As a nurse I know that certain inner physiological conditions are necessary for either healing to take place, or for a chronic situation (pain, for ex)to be manageable or "livable". It's not enough for example to bandage a chronic diabetic leg ulcer. The inner conditions of circulation, nourishment etc. must be present for the sore to ultimately heal. Pain is a negative spiral, and is affected by how well one breathes, relaxes, thoughts, etc. The alternative arts tend to deal and work holistically with the whole person. And, as a nurse we see too little time (and, too many specialties) for that to be done in traditional medicine. My specialty was working with terminally ill cancer patients and their families. I was thankful to have both ways of working in order to meet the complicated issues these patients were faced with. Pain makes it difficult to eat, sleep, and function at all. I just finished reading, "Overtreated" by Shannon Brownlee (fantastic work of journalism). In that book it was stated that medical school professors often tell their graduates that, "half of everything you've just learned the past years is wrong. We just don't know which half yet"...lol. Most procedures used today are not scientifically proven to be effective, but they are used. Many are unnecessary, and many can cause more harm and deaths than they help. We that are health professionals (especially nurses) observe this, and it is quite frightening. Like we say in the business, "you have to be healthy to be admitted to the hospital" (most don't even know the risks they are entering by being admitted. Many come out with more than they came in with). However, I feel "emergency care" and surgery deserve respect. Much good is done in those areas, and I suspect it is because so much is usually at stake.

Bradley C Hughes said...

Hi Uri,

Love your blog, it really is a wonderful read and I'm enjoying the exploration.

There was just one jarring note for me which I write my views on here...

"On second though, if you have a serious life-threatening medical condition, and you think alternative treatment is better than conventional medicine – go ahead; we don’t want your genes on our gene pool."

It seems to me you are being disrespectful of other people's choices in this statement?

And I'm curious who else you are speaking on behalf of here, with the "we"?

Why dismiss people who choose alternatives as somehow being unfit to live because they don't approach things the way you do?

I have encountered enough cases where alternative treatment succeeded in saving lives after conventional treatment was failing and death was quite likely, that I would never be disrespectful of alternative treatment options like you are here.

Consider that Iatrogenesis is the third highest cause of death in the USA. That is mainstream medical misadventure, misdiagnosis and mistreatment. It seems that Tamera has seen much of this in her professional life.

Mainstream medical treatment often kills people who would otherwise have lived if they remained untreated.


"Based on these figures, 225,000 deaths per year constitutes the third leading cause of death in the United States, after deaths from heart disease and cancer. Also, there is a wide margin between these numbers of deaths and the next leading cause of death (cerebrovascular disease)."

Of course you're entitled to place your 100% belief and confidence in conventional medicine, even if the statistics show that is a dangerous thing to do.

Having said that, I cannot compare the relative likelihood of Iatrogenic death versus death through ineffective alternative medical treatment, as I'm not aware of studies regarding the comparative fatality rate of people seeking alternative treatments having been diagnosed with life-threatening illness; of course because they lie outside the mainstream medical field and are not the subject of rigorous statistical analysis.

warm regards,


Uri Kalish said...

Thanks Bradley, point taken. It was a poor attempt at being funny, no real hostile intension. Harsh sentence removed. Thanks again.

Bradley C Hughes said...

Hi Uri,

Thank you for your generous response to my criticism. You have allowed me to contribute to you and that is a great gift that you give to me.

Together if we can all practise communication in this positive fashion, we can make the world a better place for all of humanity.

I'm no stranger to putting my foot in my mouth too, so if you ever read something of mine that doesn't sit well with you, I would really appreciate your honest response as well.

Thanks again Uri, you are as I said a BlogRockStar!


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