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Analysis and Comment (46)

Researchers working with alternative medicines have an obligation to report negative or null findings. Researchers working with alternative medicines have an obligation to report negative or null findings. hit thatswitch/Flickr

Industry has a role in funding alternative medicine research

TESTING ALTERNATIVE THERAPIES - La Trobe University’s decision to accept funding from Swisse for a new centre to research alternative medicines has sparked controversy. There’s been a fair bit of debate…
Herbal mixtures are comprised of many potentially active chemical compounds at relatively low concentrations. Herbal mixtures are comprised of many potentially active chemical compounds at relatively low concentrations. storyvillegirl/Flickr

Quality research of herbal medicines is possible

TESTING ALTERNATIVE THERAPIES - La Trobe University’s decision to accept funding from Swisse for a new centre to research alternative medicines has sparked controversy. This series looks at how the evidence…
In their “natural” form herbal medicines are so variable from batch to batch and across brands that gathering reliable evidence of effectiveness is unlikely ever to be possible. In their “natural” form herbal medicines are so variable from batch to batch and across brands that gathering reliable evidence of effectiveness is unlikely ever to be possible. Mickey_Liaw/Flickr

Why we can’t have reliable evidence for herbal therapies

TESTING ALTERNATIVE THERAPIES - La Trobe University’s decision to accept funding from Swisse for a new centre to research alternative medicines has sparked controversy. This series looks at how the evidence…
What really works to alleviate hot flushes and other symptoms of menopause? What really works to alleviate hot flushes and other symptoms of menopause? splityarn/Flickr

Trick or treat? Alternative therapies for menopause

During menopause, estrogen levels drop, leading to a number of unpleasant symptoms. The transition to menopause can significantly affect women’s quality of life, with many willing to try anything to alleviate…
Most people don’t think of herbal medicines as drugs so they don’t tell their doctor about taking them. Most people don’t think of herbal medicines as drugs so they don’t tell their doctor about taking them. Ryan Somma/Flickr

Herbal medicines – toxic side effects and drug interactions

TESTING ALTERNATIVE THERAPIES - La Trobe University’s decision to accept funding from Swisse for a new centre to research alternative medicines has sparked controversy. This series looks at how the evidence…
Acupuncture is one of a suite of alternative therapies almost two-thirds of Australians use every year. Acupuncture is one of a suite of alternative therapies almost two-thirds of Australians use every year. KayVee.INC/Flickr

Here’s why we should research alternative therapies

TESTING ALTERNATIVE THERAPIES - La Trobe University’s decision to accept funding from Swisse for a new centre to research alternative medicines has sparked controversy. This series looks at how the evidence…
It seems anyone can call themselves a doctor these days. It seems anyone can call themselves a doctor these days. Bart/Flickr

Trust me, I’m a doctor… of sorts

Qualifications and their associated titles allow for quick identification of appropriately trained or recognised experts within a given field. They bestow legitimacy on the information provided to people…
There’s a conflict between the need for pharmacists to maintain a profitable business and their ethical obligations to the community. There’s a conflict between the need for pharmacists to maintain a profitable business and their ethical obligations to the community. Andrew Dubber

Pharmacists should drop products that aren’t backed by evidence

If you look at the shelves of most Australian community pharmacies or browse the pages of local internet pharmacies, you’ll see numerous examples of products making claims that can’t be supported by scientific…
How can you tell what products might be of use and which ones will only lighten your wallet? How can you tell what products might be of use and which ones will only lighten your wallet? Image from shutterstock.com

CAM or sham? Let’s get the facts straight on vitamins and supplements

Australia’s complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) industry is worth about A$4 billion annually. Around two thirds of Australians use CAM – which includes therapies such as chiropractic and naturopathy…
Muscle testing is used to gauge everything from general health status and specific supplement dosage. Muscle testing is used to gauge everything from general health status and specific supplement dosage. University of the Fraser Valley

Muscle testing (kinesiology): panacea or placebo?

Muscle testing, or kinesiology, has grown in popularity over the last 30 years. It’s a simple, non-invasive assessment tool used by many different kinds of health practitioners during examination or evaluation…
Up to one in three Australians take vitamin supplements, but few healthy people need them. Up to one in three Australians take vitamin supplements, but few healthy people need them. Brian Gaid

Monday’s medical myth: take a vitamin a day for better health

Forget an apple a day, vitamin manufacturers would have you believe it’s important to take daily vitamins to boost your health. And a surprising proportion of Australians do. Data from the last National…
Ian Gawler recovered from secondary cancer after conventional and unconventional treatments, including meditation. Ian Gawler recovered from secondary cancer after conventional and unconventional treatments, including meditation. Sebastien Wiertz

TB or not TB? A second opinion on Ian Gawler’s cancer

Late last year, two oncologists went public with a theory that cancer survivor Ian Gawler’s secondary cancer may not have been cancer at all but tuberculosis instead. At the time, the story made front…
Clinical hypnotherapy can be defined as being a combination of both hypnosis and psychological intervention. Clinical hypnotherapy can be defined as being a combination of both hypnosis and psychological intervention. Katy Silberger

Hypnotherapy: panacea or placebo?

The term hypnosis often leads to visions of willing participants engaging in outrageous and embarrassing stunts at the command of a hypnotist. But while this practice of humiliating participants on stage…
It’s unclear whether reflexology provides any therapeutic benefits beyond those of a generic foot massage. It’s unclear whether reflexology provides any therapeutic benefits beyond those of a generic foot massage. Paul Bence

Reflexology: panacea or placebo?

Reflexology is a form of manual therapy based on the principle that specific locations on the feet, hands and ears have connections to the rest of the body. By applying pressure to these locations using…
Calendula (marigold), lavendar and rosemary are used by practitioners of Western herbal medicine. Calendula (marigold), lavendar and rosemary are used by practitioners of Western herbal medicine. Smoobs/Flickr

Western herbal medicine – panacea or placebo?

PANACEA OR PLACEBO – A weekly series assessing the evidence behind complementary and alternative medicines. Herbs have been used for therapeutic purposes in most cultures for hundreds and even thousands…
Natural does not necessarily equate to harmless. Nor does conventional equate to unnatural. Natural does not necessarily equate to harmless. Nor does conventional equate to unnatural. Flickr/wine me up

Monday’s medical myth: natural cancer therapies can’t harm you

One of the most misleading myths of modern medicine is that conventional cancer doctors reject “natural” therapies in favour of artificial or “unnatural” cancer treatments. This myth has contributed to…
There is no convincing evidence that the therapy works. There is no convincing evidence that the therapy works. Cafemama

Aromatherapy: panacea or placebo?

PANACEA OR PLACEBO – A weekly series assessing the evidence behind complementary and alternative medicines. Aromatherapy is based on the idea that aromatic substances, usually the essential oils of plants…
The idea of Chi (life force) flowing through meridians has an allegorical quality and the appeal of an ancient provenance. The idea of Chi (life force) flowing through meridians has an allegorical quality and the appeal of an ancient provenance. jacqueline/Flickr

Acupuncture research – the path least scientific?

A recent, rather flattering, article on acupuncture on this website holds a mirror to a broader problem in the world of acupuncture research. A problem that goes to the heart of the most fundamental scientific…
Most people see chiropractors for spine pain or other musculoskeletal conditions. Most people see chiropractors for spine pain or other musculoskeletal conditions. Michael Dorausch

Chiropractic therapy: placebo or panacea?

PANACEA OR PLACEBO – A weekly series assessing the evidence behind complementary and alternative medicines. Chiropractors use manual therapy to address musculoskeletal-related conditions (joints, ligaments…
The available evidence shows colonic therapy is neither safe nor effective. The available evidence shows colonic therapy is neither safe nor effective. MoHotta18

Colonic therapy: panacea or placebo?

PANACEA OR PLACEBO – A weekly series assessing the evidence behind complementary and alternative medicines. Colonic therapy – also known as colonic irrigation, colonic hydrotherapy or a high enema – is…
Modern research techniques are looking for evidence of efficacy for this 2,500-year-old practice. Modern research techniques are looking for evidence of efficacy for this 2,500-year-old practice. Peter Fasano

Modern acupuncture: panacea or placebo?

PANACEA OR PLACEBO – A weekly series assessing the evidence behind complementary and alternative medicines. Acupuncture has been practiced in China for over 2,500 years. During the reign of Emperor Huang…
Some of the techniques that form the armamentarium of myotherapy are supported by some positive evidence. Some of the techniques that form the armamentarium of myotherapy are supported by some positive evidence. o5com

Myotherapy: panacea or placebo?

PANACEA OR PLACEBO – A weekly series assessing the evidence behind complementary and alternative medicines. Myotherapy was developed by American Bonnie Prudden in the 1970s as a system of treating painful…
Universities should be protected as sites where unpopular ideas and theories can be examined. Universities should be protected as sites where unpopular ideas and theories can be examined. uonottingham

Complementary vs western medicine – both have a role in universities

Medicine has long been the subject of vigorous debate about the control of social resources. The formation of modern medicine in the mid-19th century was itself the result of a century long fight for legitimacy…
The dietary supplements, nutraceuticals or vitamins industry makes a lot of money. The dietary supplements, nutraceuticals or vitamins industry makes a lot of money. hit thatswitch/Flickr

A bit fishy: nutraceuticals, marketing and procedural justice

Pills made from “wild krill” (apparently so much better for you than domestic krill)? Antioxidants from exotic plants, chlorophyll or the “Sicilian Blood Orange”? Promises of extra vitality, vim and vigour…
Could a Canadian-style class action dent the credibility of homeopathy in Australia? Could a Canadian-style class action dent the credibility of homeopathy in Australia? Flickr/kh1234567890

The legal challenge that could stop homeopathy in its tracks

One hundred years of rigorous scientific research hasn’t dented the faith of adherents of homeopathy. The complementary therapy is still centred on the notion that water has a therapeutic “memory” and…
Treasurer Wayne Swan delivering the Budget on Tuesday. Treasurer Wayne Swan delivering the Budget on Tuesday. AAP

Budget good news: no taxpayer dollars for a ‘bunch of hooey’

It’s good news indeed that the Federal Budget is providing the chief medical officer with a million dollars to review what works and what doesn’t in the world of “natural” medicine. Professor Chris Baggoley…
Traditional Chinese medicines the authors genetically audited using new DNA sequencing technology. Traditional Chinese medicines the authors genetically audited using new DNA sequencing technology. M.Bunce

Are traditional Chinese medicines safe and legal?

There are polarising views on the subject of complementary and alternative medicines (CAM). This website has recently published numerous article about the efficacy and regulation of CAM, the placebo effect…
Despite recent attempts to retain traditional healing practices in China, modern medicine is supplanting traditional medicine there. Despite recent attempts to retain traditional healing practices in China, modern medicine is supplanting traditional medicine there. Jean-François Chénier

Does traditional Chinese medicine have a place in the health system?

Most of traditional healing practices are based on intuitive principles of diseases involving the imbalance of elemental qualities. For the ancient Greeks and Romans, whose systems of traditional healing…
The answer is not more rigid insistence on the primacy of biomedicine, in spite of its great contribution to saving lives. The answer is not more rigid insistence on the primacy of biomedicine, in spite of its great contribution to saving lives. CALI.org

Evidence-based medicine v alternative therapies: moving beyond virulence

More heat than light is being generated by the resurgence of the debate on orthodox evidence-based medicine versus the so-called pseudo-science of alternative therapies. Unfortunately the voices of medical…
Treatments should be based on how well they make people feel rather than how scientific or traditional the medicine is. Treatments should be based on how well they make people feel rather than how scientific or traditional the medicine is. By Wikidudeman

No need for an alternative medicine crackdown

Homeopathy is a combination of tradition, art and a science that has been used for centuries. Does it really matter if its effect is placebo if it makes people feel better and regain good health? And why…
The NHMRC’s draft statement on homeopathy is too narrow. The NHMRC’s draft statement on homeopathy is too narrow. Flirkc/kh1234567890

Homeopathy isn’t unethical, it’s just controversial

The ethics of homeopathy was once again thrust into the spotlight yesterday after a leaked draft of the National Health and Medical Research Council’s statement on homeopathy revealed the agency was considering…
Appeals to popularity and ancient traditions are insufficient to establish vocational courses. Appeals to popularity and ancient traditions are insufficient to establish vocational courses. Michael Flick

What CAM courses at universities should look like

While drizzling treacle on your porridge or spreading it on your toast, you might consider the time when the calorie-laden condiment was an antidote for poison. Of course, these days the crushed vipers…
Gawler claims to have cured himself of advanced cancer by a series of unorthodox treatments including herbal remedies, meditation, coffee enemas and diets. Gawler claims to have cured himself of advanced cancer by a series of unorthodox treatments including herbal remedies, meditation, coffee enemas and diets. Nick Olejniczak

Coffee enemas don’t cure cancer: reviewing the remarkable claims of Ian Gawler

It’s not often that a scientific article in a learned medical journal becomes front page news but that was the case recently when a paper I co-authored with Dr Ian Haines of Melbourne’s Cabrini Hospital…
Linking research and teaching, universities are best placed to teach evidence-based CAM. Linking research and teaching, universities are best placed to teach evidence-based CAM. Tulane Publications

Why universities should teach alternative medicine

Most readers would know of the current debate about universities teaching complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). A core question not being addressed in this debate is what other institution is better…
Science writer Simon Singh and Observer journalist Nick Cohen, at the Royal Courts of Justice, 23rd February 2010. Science writer Simon Singh and Observer journalist Nick Cohen, at the Royal Courts of Justice, 23rd February 2010. Robert Sharp/English PEN

Pointing the bone at chiropractic quackery – lessons from the UK

Marcello Costa is a co-founder of “Friends of Science in Medicine”, an organisation established to campaign against university health-care courses that are not adequately supported by scientific evidence…
All health-care providers should give patients evidence-based information – this includes chiropractors. All health-care providers should give patients evidence-based information – this includes chiropractors. Planetc

Modern chiropractic therapy is based on evidence – and here it is

Chiropractic has copped some criticism this week, with a group of prominent Australian doctors and scientists urging Central Queensland University to reverse its decision to offer a chiropractic degree…
Vitamins, minerals and herbal therapies should live up to the claims on their packaging. Vitamins, minerals and herbal therapies should live up to the claims on their packaging. Peter Sunna

Consumers need the facts about complementary medicines

Two out of three Australians use complementary medicines to boost their nutrition, alleviate various symptoms and improve their overall health and well-being. There are around 10,000 products to choose…
Diet pill manufacturers take advantage of consumers' desire to look and feel better. Diet pill manufacturers take advantage of consumers' desire to look and feel better. Flickr/jypsygen

Want to set up a weight loss scam? Here’s how …

Welcome to part two of The science behind weight loss, a new Conversation series in which we separate the myths about dieting from the realities of exercise and nutrition. Here, Michael Vagg, Clinical…
It’s even possible to get relief from symptoms when knowingly taking a placebo. It’s even possible to get relief from symptoms when knowingly taking a placebo. Flickr/JLA Kliche

Monday’s medical myth: the placebo effect only works on the gullible

If you took a pill that had been prescribed to treat your illness and it alleviated your symptoms, that means the medicine worked – right? What if you took a complementary medicine from a health food store…
The placebo effect may be making people feel better but it should never be substituted for real medicine. The placebo effect may be making people feel better but it should never be substituted for real medicine. vitasamb2001/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Doctors' orders: debunking homeopathy once and for all

Homeopathy’s got a bit of a run in the media in recent months and the stories are by no means positive. It all started in April when the medical press highlighted the National Health and Research Council’s…
Patients achieve real outcomes with homeopathic therapy – we more research to work out why. Patients achieve real outcomes with homeopathic therapy – we more research to work out why. Flickr/Missy the universe

Question homeopathy’s remedies but not its approach

It seems the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) is likely to follow the lead of the UK and denounce homeopathy as an ineffective and unethical therapy that shouldn’t attract scarce government…
The lack of a strong evidence base is not unique to complementary medicines. The lack of a strong evidence base is not unique to complementary medicines. Jenny O'Donnell/Wikimedia Commons

Doctors should focus on providing the best care, alternative or otherwise

Read the argument against the use of complementary medicines. Over half of Australians use complementary therapies, at a cost of about $AUD1.8 billion a year, to either prevent or treat health problems…
Naturopathic teachers, practitioners and companies should ensure that better evidence becomes available. Naturopathic teachers, practitioners and companies should ensure that better evidence becomes available. b dd b/Flickr

Lay out the welcome mat: naturopathy has come in from the cold

Use of complementary medicine (CAM) is widespread but often condemned by medical practitioners as being baseless or quackery. But some practices that fall under the umbrella of CAM do have a basis in evidence…
Cancer patients need to think twice before adding vitamins to their treatment. Cancer patients need to think twice before adding vitamins to their treatment. shannonkringen/flickr

A helping hand? Vitamins may be dangerous for cancer patients

Previously unthinkable questions about vitamin use by cancer patients are being asked following a series of recent clinical studies. Is it time for cancer patients’ love affair with vitamins to end? Might…

Research Briefs (2)