Respectful Insolence

Quackademic medicine has struck again. Worse, it’s struck at one of my old stomping grounds. OK, not exactly, but rather close to a past home.

Let me back up a minute.

I know someone who attended nursing school at UMDNJ. It’s actually a very good nursing school, but, alas, it has a serious woo streak in it. Yesterday, because of that connection, I was shown a pamphlet that had arrived in the mail. It was a the Continuing Education Catalog for the UMDNJ School of Nursing. At first glance, it looked pretty unremarkable. There were the usual courses in subjects like trauma nursing, clinical skills and health assessment, EKG interpretation, pediatric assessment, and other common nursing topics. So far, nothing unusual; it was pretty standard stuff.

Then I saw what was so disturbing:

Nursing in Herbal Medicine
Friday, November 6 , 2009
5 contact hours
9:00 AM – 3:00 PM

Over 60 million Americans self-prescribed herbs in 1997. Are your patients telling you about any of them? As practitioners, you need to know what herbs your patients are taking, and if they are beneficial, harmful, or just waste money. Understand what herbal medicine is, and the differences between the holistic paradigm and the Western medical approach to healthcare. Review relative safety data on herbs vs. pharmaceuticals, and areas of known and theoretical interaction. Know how herbal medicine can interface safely with patient care. Learn the specifics of the top 10 herbs in America, and where to find useful and accurate resources. This information is presented in an interactive, 5-hour dynamic workshop with one of the few professional nurse-herbalists in clinical practice today.


I know that on the surface this particular course doesn’t sound all that horrible. After all, a lot of people are taking herbal medicines, and it is important to know something about them, particularly interactions herbal concoctions might have with pharmaceuticals that patients may be taking. If that’s all the course is, then I’d have no problem with it. After all, herbal medicines are simply part of pharmacology, specifically the branch of pharmacology known as pharmacognosy. But, unfortunately, the passage above lets us in on the true orientation of this course, in particular this sentence: ” Understand what herbal medicine is, and the differences between the holistic paradigm and the Western medical approach to healthcare.”

There’s that false dichotomy again! If there are any nurses in New Jersey reading this who want to save themselves up to $80 for the registration for this course, I’ll tell you right now what the difference between the “holistic paradigm” and “Western medicine.” It’s easy. The latter is based on science; the former is not.

There, that was simple. Let’s move on to the next course:

Holistic Nursing
Saturday, December 3 , 2009
5 contact hours
9:00 AM – 3:00 PM

Natural therapies, also known as complementary and alternative therapies, have long been a part of nursing practice. Florence Nightingale wrote in her most famous writing, Notes on Nursing,(1859) that nursing should touch patients and create healthy environments that facilitate healing. She wrote “nurses should be concerned with giving the patient proper food, air, light and rest.” As a part of this legacy nursing practice includes massage and holistic therapies, yet many of us know very little about natural therapies.

How can meditation, massage, therapeutic touch and herbal therapies help ease physical conditions like pain and hypertension? How can one learn these treatment modalities and incorporate them into daily practice? Is it possible for nurses to have a private practice in natural therapies that truly benefits patients? If you have asked yourself any of those questions this course is for you!

Therapeutic touch (often abbreviated TT)? That is pure woo. It’s a form of so-called “energy healing,” wherein (or so proponents claim) the practitioner can somehow manipulate the patient’s an “energy field” near the patient’s skin to achieve a healing effect. It’s also a misnomer, as you don’t have to touch a patient to do TT. In fact, TT is such a load of horse hockey that an eleven year old girl named Emily Rosa was able to design an experiment that showed quite well that it’s a load of horse hockey. Unfortunately, UMDNJ is not the only nursing school that teaches and promotes TT. In fact, I doubt it’s even a major force promoting such quackery in nursing. That “honor” would belong to NYU’s nursing school.

But even that is not the worst of it at UMDNJ. I wish it were, but it isn’t. If UMDNJ were just teaching TT, it would not move up to a unique realm of woo, given how many other nursing schools are also promoting it. Unfortunately, UMDNJ had to go a woo too far:

Reiki : Certification in Level 1 Attunement
Thursday, October 22, 2009 New Date!
7 contact hours
8:00 AM – 5:00 PM

in collaboration with ICAM (Institute for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at UMDNJ).

This one-day course will certify you in Reiki level one attunement. A manual will be provided

History of Reiki:

Reiki is a simple, natural and safe method of energy healing and self-improvement which aims to treat the whole person, including body, emotions, mind and spirit . It also works in conjunction with all other medical or therapeutic techniques. A very simple technique to learn, the ability to use Reiki is not taught in the usual sense, but is transferred to the student during a Reiki class. This ability is passed on during an “attunement” given by a Reiki master and allows the student to tap into an unlimited supply of “life force energy” to improve our own and our patients’ health and enhance quality of life.

Gee, that’s only two weeks away!

My first thought when reading the above description was: Why not just go all the way to the dark side of woo and start teaching homeopathy? Seriously. Reiki is just as improbable as homeopathy, if not more so. In fact, it’s the purest faith healing. The only difference between a reiki master and Benny Hinn is that Benny Hinn has an entourage to keep the sickest people away from the stage. Well, that, and reiki is not based on Christianity but Eastern mysticism. Other than that, reiki is basically faith healing. Don’t believe me? Then head on over to a major reiki website and read the history of Dr. Mikao Usui, the founder of reiki. It turns out that Dr. Usui’s quest to learn how to heal was inspired by Jesus himself. As a student Dr. Usui asked his master if he believed that Jesus had healing powers. His master answered yes. Dr. Usui then asked him him how Jesus healed, and his master was forced to admit that he did not know. According to reiki practitioners, this question of how Jesus performed healing miracles led Dr. Usui on a spiritual quest that lasted decades decades to learn how to heal as Jesus did. Dr. Usui’s quest ultimately culminated in 1922, when, like Jesus, Dr. Usui engaged in fasting and praying on a mountain in the wilderness. I’ll cite the relevant passage again, even though I’ve cited it before, because it is so instructive for making the point that reiki is pure faith healing:

After a few more years of study, he felt he had come to an understanding and that to go further required serious meditation. He went to a nearby mountain declaring his intention to fast and meditate for 21 days and that if he did not come back they should come and get his body.

He went to the mountain and settled in with 21 stones with which to count the days. On the 21st day nothing had come as yet, and he turned over the last stone saying “Well, this is it, either I get the answer today or I do not”. At that moment on the horizon he could see a ball of light coming towards him. The first instinct was to get out of the way, but he realized this might just be what he was waiting for, so allowed it to hit him right in the face. As it struck him he was taken on a journey and shown bubbles of all the colors of the rainbow in which were the symbols of Reiki, the very same symbols in the writings he was studying but had been unable to understand. Now as he looked at them again, there was total understanding.

After returning from this experience he began back down the mountain and was, from this moment on, able to heal. This first day alone he healed an injured toe, his own starvation, an ailing tooth and the Abbots sickness, which was keeping him bedridden. These are known as the first four miracles.

Basically, what reiki masters do is to make symbols in the air and sometimes touch the patient. Indeed, reiki and TT are very much alike, the main difference being that reiki is more woo-ful in that it appeals directly to Eastern mysticism, involves the drawing in air of symbols over the patient, and sometimes involves touching the patient. TT involves holding hands right above the patient without actually touching the patient and thinking real hard about “redirecting life energy flows.” Both are equally magical thinking, but reiki looks cooler when it’s done, much more like a magician at a stage show. Be that as it may, at least herbal medicines often have real medicine in them. it may be “dirty” medicine, full of contaminants, but there are actual medicines in the herbs. TT and reiki, on the other hand, rely on thinking every bit as magical, if not more so, than the thinking behind homeopathy.

And it’s being taught at UMDNJ for continuing nursing education.

Comments

  1. #1 Todd W.
    October 8, 2009

    Although irritated by nursing schools teaching this bunk, I’m not surprised. In Boston, the Spaulding Rehab clinic offers classes every now and then on reiki. I asked some of those involved, once, what evidence they had for its efficacy. They pointed me to a review article by Pamela Miles, chock full of assumptions that it actually worked and how to incorporate it into practice, but totally devoid of anything resembling evidence.

    For those who do not know, Spaulding is part of the Partners HealthCare Network, which includes Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and Massachusetts General Hospital. The president and CEO of Partners, Dr. James Mongan, supports the teaching and use of reiki within in the network. I also spoke to a fellow at a Boston Skeptics in the Pub, who mentioned that BWH offers reiki as well.

    Anyone have any concrete ideas on how to call these places out and get them to change?

  2. #2 Skeptico
    October 8, 2009

    Understand what herbal medicine is, and the differences between the holistic paradigm and the Western medical approach to healthcare.”

    Do herbal medicines have any active ingredient? If so, then

    I don’t see what the difference is between herbal medicine and pharmaceuticals (except that the latter has been tested).

  3. #3 Todd W.
    October 8, 2009

    The other differences are that pharmaceuticals are required to be tested for potency and purity. Herbs don’t. Pharmaceuticals need to demonstrate stability, which is used to determine expiration date. Herbs don’t. Pharmaceuticals are generally free of contaminants, while herbs have all kinds of other chemicals in them, which could be harmless or harmful.

    As far as active ingredients go, pharmaceuticals can be relied upon to have a consistent amount in each dose, and for that amount to be reasonably close to what is listed on the box. Herbs can have a widely varying amount of active ingredient from brand to brand, and even from box to box or pill to pill within the same brand.

  4. #4 sailor
    October 8, 2009

    While agreeing that much “herbal medicine” is bunk, many drugs started as natural plant derivatives, and there is probably a lot more discover. So some things MAY work. Studies are done from time to time on the effect of herbs, and they are not always nonsense. One of the problems is if there is something promising, while it easy enough to get someone to sell it (there are billions in the herbal industry) it is not always easy to get funding to study it more, since so much funding comes from the pharmaceutical industry, which are unlikely to profit. In addition even if something does show a good effect, it may be hard to get the medical profession to recommend it if it not packaged and sold through pharmacies.

    Here is one example:
    http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/154722.php

  5. #5 Militant Agnostic
    October 8, 2009

    This first day alone he healed an injured toe, his own starvation, an ailing tooth and the Abbots sickness, which was keeping him bedridden.

    Usui healed his OWN STARVATION – forget the injured toe – I’m like totally impressed. Wow! – what did he do, eat a bowl of veggies and rice?

  6. #6 Pablo
    October 8, 2009

    One of the problems is if there is something promising, while it easy enough to get someone to sell it (there are billions in the herbal industry) it is not always easy to get funding to study it more, since so much funding comes from the pharmaceutical industry, which are unlikely to profit.

    I don’t understand this at all. For example, taxol comes from the yew tree. Yet, it generates a huge profit for it’s manufacturer.

    Natural products turned into drugs are absolutely patentable, and highly profitable.

  7. #7 BB
    October 8, 2009

    You think that’s bad? At the med school here, they teach aromatherapy and ayurvedic medicine. I want to scream every time an e-mail comes from that department.

  8. #8 Denice Walter
    October 8, 2009

    Doesn’t Newark *already* have enough problems without becoming “Woo Central” for nurses?

  9. #9 Anthro
    October 8, 2009

    This practice of “integrating” woo into traditional curriculum is spreading rapidly and I have conceded that “We”–skeptics, cannot stop it. It’s the new religion–people take it on faith. Even some skeptics that I know are not concerned–they say, “let people do whatever makes them feel better” or “people can spend their money however they want to”.

    We are not really “fighting” it by preaching to the choir on this blog. I’m with Todd; is there any way to get together, organize, and fight this. I think it would take an FDA with incredible clout and commitment to science to even start the fight. But they’d have to contend with Harkin, Hatch, Paul and the like.

  10. #10 fusilier
    October 8, 2009

    Nursing in general is filled with woo.

    My sister, The Mad Horsewoman, has an MSN and decades of experience yet is a firm believer in Therapeutic Touch. Yes, that stuff a nine-year-old debunked 15-20 years ago. (As did Franklin and Lavoisier in the 1770s.)

    Our RN faculty is full of people who passed all the physiology, chemistry, and microbiology, but still happily credit chiropractic with all sorts of accomplishments. We had a bright, gritty-tough student some time ago, straight A’s in my course (ANP) microbiology, nursing physiology, pharmacology, and general chemistry (which was not a required course, she took it to learn.) She was almost tossed out of her program because she kept asking how Therapeutic Touch and Alternatives Nursing was supposed to work.

    At least the radiologic tech people are hard-nosed. You’d blessed better know why changing the KvP is effective, or out you go.

    fusilier
    James 2:24

  11. #11 Ahistoricality
    October 8, 2009

    This may be a dumb question, but if Reiki and TT were effective therapeutic interventions, wouldn’t they have to be prescribed by a doctor or equivalent, rather than being up to the discretion of nurses?

  12. #12 Joe
    October 8, 2009

    @sailor | October 8, 2009 11:37 AM
    Yes, many drugs come from herbs. Two hundred years ago, scientists were discovering and purifying them:
    1817 strychnine
    1821 caffeine
    1828 salicin
    1833 atropine
    1835 salicylic acid

    Today, herbalists seem to be going retrograde in science and trying to directly use the herbs which, if active, are contaminated drugs. Moreover, natural products are highly variable and if the active ingredient is unknown, the dose cannot be standardized. Artemisia is an example of an herb that sometimes does not even contain the antimalarial drug (artemisinin) in every specimen of the plant.

    The bottom line: is is better to try to isolate active compounds. See http://scienceblogs.com/terrasig/2007/07/another_botanical_clinical_tri.php

  13. #13 Pieter B
    October 8, 2009

    A couple of decades ago I worked at a teaching hospital, and one day saw a flier on the bulletin board for a nursing conference that was certified for CME credits. Among other things tt was filled with cancer quackery like laetrile. I was a bit perturbed and contacted the nursing board, but nobody seemed terribly concerned and there was no folluwup.

  14. #14 Don Cox
    October 8, 2009

    “Our RN faculty is full of people who passed all the physiology, chemistry, and microbiology, but still happily credit chiropractic with all sorts of accomplishments. ”

    Many people pass exams by rote learning, with little real understanding of or interest in the subjects.

  15. #15 Scott
    October 8, 2009

    Many people pass exams by rote learning, with little real understanding of or interest in the subjects.

    An indication of a poorly-written exam.

  16. #16 HealthEd
    October 8, 2009

    I’m not a nurse (nor do I play one on TV), but from what I’ve read of Florence Nightingale, I think she’d be rather annoyed that her pioneering work and good name would be used to promote therapeutic touch and the like.

  17. #17 PJG
    October 8, 2009

    It seems you can’t go anywhere without seeing this silliness. I’m applying for biostatistics grad programs, and was using Princeton Review to prepare for GRE when I came across this…

    “Is alternative medicine in your future? Learn about what it takes to be a naturopathic physician by taking our 5-minute quiz.”

    http://inquiry.princetonreview.com/med/naturopathicquiz/

  18. #18 Emma
    October 8, 2009

    I’ve never really understood how people can be deeply distrustful of Big Pharma, but cheerfully take any damn thing they can find that’s labeled ‘herbal’. How do you have any idea what’s actually in that bottle? And as a gardener, growing conditions make a huge impact on the stuff you produce, so how do herbalists account for that? It’s not like you can just go grab two bunches of, say, basil, from two different gardens and have them be the same. Odds are they’ll actually be somewhat different.

  19. #19 sailor
    October 8, 2009

    “I don’t understand this at all. For example, taxol comes from the yew tree. Yet, it generates a huge profit for it’s manufacturer.”

    True, where they can find an active ingredient and actually patent something in the plant. But that is not always the case which brings me to point 2:

    “The bottom line: is is better to try to isolate active compounds.”

    Yes where there is that compound that you can isolate which will work. But consider this: green vegetables like broccoli have been shown to be good for your health in some studies. eg
    http://www.sciencecentric.com/news/article.php?q=09021430-fresh-vegetables-fruits-reduce-diabetes-risk

    But they seem completely unable to isolate any single ingredient that does it. In which case it is unlikely to be highlighted as a treatment, or get the same exposure as a drug that did the same thing.

    Which brings me to point 3, distrust of big pharma. You should be somewhat distrustful – not of everything, and not of the newer peer reviewed studies that show a drug is safe and effective but anyone who has read a book like Overdosed America will know that like any giant for profit corporation, they are capable of fixing results to their advantage, of hiding bad effects, and doing all kinds of things that profit them and are not in your best interest. You have to look out for that.

  20. #20 Jeff
    October 8, 2009

    Joe at #12 says “Moreover, natural products are highly variable and if the active ingredient is unknown, the dose cannot be standardized. Artemisia is an example of an herb that sometimes does not even contain the antimalarial drug (artemisinin) in every specimen of the plant.”

    Increasingly active compounds are being identified. Artemisinin is now available as a standardized supplement. Standardized extracts are becoming the accepted, reliable way to buy plant-based products. Examples:

    1. Green Tea extract: “(Camellia sinensis) (leaf) (standardized extract)[min. 98% total polyphenols, 80% total catechines, and 50% EGCg (Epigallocatechin Gallate) (200 mg)]”

    2. Pomegranate Extract: “(Punica granatum) extract (fruit) [std. to 30% punicalagins (120 mg)]”

    Because of the FDA’s new GMP rules, supplement manufacturing is now highly regulated. Testing is required to ensure product content and purity.

  21. #21 Ramel
    October 8, 2009

    Yes where there is that compound that you can isolate which will work. But consider this: green vegetables like broccoli have been shown to be good for your health in some studies. eg
    http://www.sciencecentric.com/news/article.php?q=09021430-fresh-vegetables-fruits-reduce-diabetes-risk

    But they seem completely unable to isolate any single ingredient that does it. In which case it is unlikely to be highlighted as a treatment, or get the same exposure as a drug that did the same thing.

    Yet some how big farmer still makes a profit…

  22. #22 sailor
    October 8, 2009

    Ramel – good one!

  23. #23 teresa
    October 8, 2009

    Unfortunately, you do have to know what all these herbs/other alt trt do to the body because you will be seeing people who have treated themselves with it in practice. A course that teaches what people might be using them for, and what possible side effects they could have…could be useful to the nurse.

  24. #24 Ramel
    October 8, 2009

    Odd quote fail, only the last sentance was mine.

    Sailor@22: Thanks

  25. #25 Joe
    October 8, 2009

    Because of the FDA’s new GMP rules, supplement manufacturing is now highly regulated. Testing is required to ensure product content and purity.

    Posted by: Jeff | October 8, 2009 3:00 PM

    You are wrong, you missed the point- absent the identity of active ingredients, content cannot be assured. Most herbs are assayed on the basis of arbitrary chemical markers that are either abundant or characteristic of the herb. In those cases, it is just a wild guess if a sample of herb contains the drug. One must first identify the active ingredient, as we have known for centuries.

    Your citations #1 and #2 don’t provide the information needed to find and evaluate them. We prefer authors, titles, journal name, year, volume number, issue number and page numbers.

  26. #26 ennui
    October 8, 2009

    The University of Colorado at Denver is the home of Dr. Jean Watson’s ‘Caring Theory of Nursing,’ right under the nose of SBM’s Joseph Albietz. A taste:

    Caring science investigations embrace inquiries that are reflective, subjective and interpretative as well as objective-empirical and Caring science inquiry includes ontological, philosophical, ethical, historical inquiry and studies. In addition, caring science includes multiple epistemological approaches to inquiry including clinical and empirical, but is open to moving into new areas of inquiry that explore other ways of knowing, for example, aesthetic, poetic, narrative, personal, intuitive, kinesthetic, evolving consciousness, intentionality, metaphysical – spiritual, as well as moral-ethical knowing.

    This woo just kills my wife, an APN who teaches in a BSN program here in Colorado, and it’s getting worse.

  27. #27 flim flam
    October 8, 2009

    Nurses seem to be very susceptible to woo in all it’s forms. A straw poll of my colleagues reveals : 1 training to be a homeopath, 1 training to be a crystal therapist, a lady who believes in angels, a rabid anti vax steiner school mum ,several pentacostal xtian psych nurses who believe mental illness is caused by devil possession & the queen of the woo’s, a supervisor spruiking some dodgy “natural” products who’s sales pitch consists of attempting to convince her victim that TEH TOXINS are killing teh baybeez. She actually stated that hitler used fluoride to pacify the jews.
    I nearly choked on my tea. Hanging my head in shame at the wooiness of my profession.

    What needs to be added to nursing courses is a module in critical reasoning, scientific method and understanding statistics. But i won’t hold my breath…

  28. #28 Sastra
    October 8, 2009

    The Caring Theory of Nursing? Egad, ennui. What a heap. Why not the Caring, Loving Touches of Holistic Healing Harmony from Mommy Theory of Nursing? Mind, Body, Spirit, and Wallet.

    Someone here once used the phrase “anecdotal medicine” — presumably as a substitute for so-called “alterantive” medicine — and it fits. What they really want is to get away from the objective and controlled measures of science, and back to people telling their stories, and other people choosing to believe them, by opening their hearts in acceptance. Personal testimony: it’s a familiar and comfortable model used in the family, among friends, within a tribe, and above all for religion. This is all about returning to a mindframe where you sit back, believe, and feel virtuous for doing so.

  29. #29 Alison
    October 8, 2009

    I am disturbed by the amount of nurses I know who won’t vaccinate, go for chiropractic etc.

    I checked out my local University’s curriculum and it seemed to be “woo”-less, which is great!

  30. #30 sinja
    October 8, 2009

    I’m currently in nursing school, and I’m fighting to get a passing grade in a class that theoretically is about healthcare models and legal issues. However, the instructor promoted chiropractic, TT, all kinds of choprawoo, the list goes on and on and on, never touching on what the course was supposed to be about. I kept asking for evidence (not the kind that says a success rate of 28% on selecting 1 of 4 objects proves psychic abilities. Seriously. That’s what he gave me once.) My refusal to buy in to the woo without evidence has led to a vendetta against me, where my answers to questions when I have appropriate research supporting those answers were failed. Evidence, apparently, isn’t held in high regard by that instructor. Or, rather, he has proven himself incapable of understanding how all evidence is not equal.

    What cheers me is that my fellow students don’t seem to buy into the nonsense. They don’t get as angry as I, but at least they listen to my rants and ignore the instructor. “Aura fluffing” is one of the biggest jokes we make in clinicals. It is definitely not seen as a legitimate practice.

    You may not be aware of it, but “energy field disturbance” is an approved NANDA diagnosis and has been for awhile. Stuff like that completely ruins the credibility of our claim to being a profession. I did incorporate it into a care plan, for a grade I might add, and I got a perfect score b/c the instructor was so amazed I was able to write things like “touch the feet to ground the energy” and “perform unruffling motions to reset the energy” and get the appropriate references for it. Amazed in a sad way.

    As to the question above about whether nurses can do this without a dr’s prescription, not all nursing interventions require dr approval. For instance, a nurse can clean a wound and change the dressing if he/she judges it’s appropriate. TT is treated similarly.

  31. #31 Tsu Dho Nimh
    October 8, 2009

    @4 Sailor … despite it being unpatentable, cheap as dirt, and over 100 years old, pharmaceutical companies are still studying ASPIRIN! They are researching tea tree oil and it’s potential against MRSA infections.

    Mamy of the herbs my dad used as a pharmacist back in th pre-antibiotic, pre WWII era had to be assayed for strength, checked for purity and then processed by the pharmacist.

    Many of them were useful, but assaying foxglove leaves for digoxin content, making an extract and then making the pills for the patient isn’t cost-effective when Pfizer or Parke-Davis is making reliable pills with fewer side effects for pennies.

    I use some herbs as medicine, but I’m not going to make willow bark tea (with it’s stomach-upsetting tannins and craptastic taste) instead fo buying a bottle of aspirin.

  32. #32 sinja
    October 8, 2009

    Ah, yes, ennui. Dean Jean the Caring Queen. I’m also at a BSN program in Colorado (not CU’s). I have heard her lecture. I actually don’t mind her presenting her own theories, in the same way I don’t mind a pastor delivering a sermon to a flock. She was definitely kooky and said a lot of dubious stuff, but overall, it was generically non-offensive spiritual connections with humans that help the healer. There were moments of insanity, but generally the caring aspect was good advice even if the reasoning behind it was quackadoodle.

    What I do mind is my instructor telling me the quanta spirit stuff is scientifically proven, and that I’m just not enlightened and need to be open minded.

  33. #33 Joe
    October 9, 2009

    “… I actually don’t mind her presenting her own theories …” sinja | October 8, 2009 8:30 PM

    I hate arguing semantics; but- I think, in this context, it is worth getting it right. In science “theory” means a well established explanation. In popular speech, it is applied to a (possibly incorrect) notion. In this case, I think it helps your case to emphasize the shaky nature of her ideas.

  34. #34 Kat
    May 12, 2010

    Where do you all think modern medicine and pharmacology comes from if not the use of herbs over the course of history? Just think, you have a job because someone, somewhere pursued the use of herbs to treat ailments. *shock and horror* As a 20 year member of the medical community I am ashamed of the arrogance of practitioners who believe there is only one way to heal a body and that it had better be perscribed by a phsyician. Do you even listen or read the lists of side effects that go on and on and are usually worse than the original problem the medication was perscribed? But don’t worry, we’ll just throw more medication on top of that to cure everything else you just got from taking the first one. Where does it end? And why is Eastern medicine and philosophy looked so down on here? Are we so afraid that there might actually be something to it and it will cut into our pocket books. The only thing worse than arrogance is a closed mind.

  35. #35 Amy
    September 3, 2010

    Kat, thanks for being devil’s advocate in this extended vitriolic rant. I, too, am finding the entire thread here extremely arrogant and closed-minded.

    It’s not that you all require proof – it’s that you don’t care to look at the evidence that already exists and promote further research regarding anything that challenges your worldview and scientific dogma. I, too, have a scientific background and am a currently practicing medical provider (PA). I understand the compulsion to believe that only what we were taught in school counts as legitimate “reasoning” or “critical thinking.” Yet, what many of you fail to consider is that we have been overly influenced by those with their own self-interests at the top of their list of priorities. We are currently living in a world that is saturated in toxins and science is used over and over again to justify whatever the government and corporations deem is “best” for people, even when there is quite compelling evidence that many of these things they’re insisting on are quite harmful. I grew up trusting authority… but through a slow painful process have come to know that I can’t trust the FDA. I can’t trust mainstream medicine. I can’t trust Big Pharma. I can’t trust agribusiness. Not to say that there isn’t good in there with the bad – it’s just so damned hard to sort it out, and I’ve got the education and intelligence to at least TRY to make sense of it. It does not surprise me one bit that society is turning increasingly to alternative “woo,” as you so respectfully declare it. Some of this stuff is definitely a little off kilter – but I’m increasingly surprised as I go along how much of it is NOT. In an age when we accept the quantum physical view of the universe with excitement and awe, everything biological is still stuck solidly in Newtonian theory. Because biological systems couldn’t possibly be anything other than mechanical, right? Somehow, we’re exempt from the laws that govern the rest of the universe and the findings of other scientific fields. Heaven forbid we explore these concepts at risk of being labeled “woo.”

    The fault here is not in analyzing things critically. It’s that it would appear you and many of your commenters have no concept of approaching things you don’t understand in any critical manner. You’d rather just point, make fun, and feel superior. Too bad. It’s an exciting world out there, and we need innovative and open minds to move forward as human beings. However the chips may fall, whatever is “proven” or “disproven,” I’m sure you’ll have lots of fun sitting here with your eyes squeezed shut and your fingers in your ears. That’s far less threatening than questioning what’s happening in our world.

    You can be sure of one thing: for as long as humans have existed, there have been principals and effects that were not understood. Most of what you believe in and consider legitimate today was heresy in the past. To consider that our scientific thinking and methods cannot be improved upon, to hold staunchly to the idea that only what you understand and can approach with the knowledge you already possess is worth of analysis… that’s frankly sad. You might try some compassion for those who are doing the best they can to make sense of the world around them, no matter how “kooky” their ideals seem to you. And perhaps more importantly, if you consider yourself a person of reason, you might open your brain and heart and go to work on a line of true critical analysis that doesn’t dismiss ideas you’re uncomfortable with out of hand. I have a feeling you’d have been one of the many who refused to wash your hands because you didn’t understand the germ theory of disease. The very same thing is ongoing today, rampant in the attitudes of the supposedly educated and intellectually mighty.

  36. #36 Rogue Epidemiologist
    September 3, 2010

    Wow, today is the day everyone’s reviving dead threads.

    Amy, speaking for myself:

    1. I do agree that herbs are a great source of curative and therapeutic agents. HOWEVER it is better for the purposes of patient care to purify those therapeutic compounds into controlled doses. You know exactly what you are getting and in what quantity. Same cannot be said for crushing a handful of herbs and steeping them into tea.

    2. If I treat patients by doing an interpretive dance in front of a fire, and both the patient and I believe it works, I should NOT be treating my patient with the interpretive dance unless I have statistically significant data showing that it will actually work. Otherwise I am wasting my patient’s time in lieu of a therapy that stands a better chance of success.

    3. You can care about patients — whole patients — without resorting to fruitcake ideas that don’t work. There are kinder, gentler ways of delivering evidence based medicine. I’m just snarking on you because you come in all smacking of the butthurt.

  37. #37 Chris
    September 3, 2010

    And they mostly seem very long winded, writing lots of stuff by providing very little substance. They also seem to have very weird opinions about someone they keep call “you”, but I have not quite figured out who the “you” is!

    Amy, a more recent and relevant article you may with to read is:
    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=6703

  38. #38 titmouse
    September 3, 2010

    You might try some compassion for those who are doing the best they can to make sense of the world around them, no matter how “kooky” their ideals seem to you.

    Thanks to alt med, the rhino will be extinct in a few years. Oh, and thousands of parents are giving unregulated supplements to children.

    You’re cool with that?