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April 11, 2008

New Book "examines" Alternative Medicine

A new book due to published in England later his month (Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial by Simon Singh and Edzard Ernse, published by Bantam on April 21 at £16.99) is excerpted in the [London] Daily Mail with the title Are we being hoodwinked by alternative medicine? Two leading scientists examine the evidence.

Illustrated with a provocative photo showing oil being poured from a vessel containing a rose onto the back of a nude woman (suggesting Rainbow Therapy? or aromatic massage? or?) the authors claim to be evaluating the claims of alternative medicine "by using the principles of evidence-based medicine."

The article includes information on Alexander Technique, Aromatherapy, Bach Flower Remedies, Chiropractic Therapy, Hypnotherapy, Magnet Therapy, and Osteopathy and includes a sidebar on "Best and Worst Herbal Remedies."

It's hard to evaluate the information presented in the excerpt from the book prepublished in a newspaper, since there are no references given and the information presented is sketchy at best.  For example, the section on aromatherapy is:


WHAT IS IT? Plant essences (known as "essential oils") are used to treat or prevent illnesses or enhance wellbeing. There are several ways of doing this. Most commonly, the diluted oil is applied to the skin via a gentle massage, but it can also be added to a bath or diffused in the air.

Aromatherapists believe that different essential oils have different specific effects. Aromatherapy is advocated for chronic conditions such as anxiety, tension headache and musculoskeletal pain.

DOES IT WORK? Some clinical trials confirm the relaxing effects of aromatherapy massage. However, this is usually short-lived and therefore of debatable therapeutic value. Some essential oils do seem to have specific effects. For instance, tea tree has anti-microbial properties. However, these efects [sic] are far less reliable those of conventional antibiotics. There is no evidence that aromatherapy can treat specific diseases.

I've had personal experience with several of the therapies covered in this article, and I'm sure that they work. In the case of Aromatherapy, Herbalism, and Magnet Therapy, I'm familiar with enough evidence to suggest that, when used appropriately, they do work.  I've experienced Chiropractic therapy, Massage, and Osteopathy and I can report varying success. I've also experienced our conventional allopathic medicine system with varying success. My personal opinion, as a user of these systems, is that an educated integrative approach is best. In theory, the sort of information included in this book is what is needed for the consumer to evaluate therapies so that they work with their medical providers to get the best possible care. Based on the summary of Aromatherapy above, it would appear to be nothing of the kind. I guess we'll have to wait for the book.

This book appears to be part of a well orchestrated campaign in the UK to discredit alternative medicine.  The same campaign is going on, to a slightly lesser degree, in the US. We've seen that in the media recently, as previously discussed in this blog.


Posted by Rob on April 11, 2008 in Aromatherapy, Book/Movie Reviews | Permalink


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