October 21, 2011

Soft-headed writing in the NYT about "alternative medicine."

This is just plain awful writing in in the "Well" section of the NYT, by Anahad O'Connor:
Is your doctor open to alternative medicine?...

Research shows that despite longstanding resistance, alternative medicine is gaining ground in some doctors’ offices too. A study by Harvard Medical School in May found that one in 30 Americans — as many as six million people — used an alternative therapy after a doctor recommended it, and a recent report in the journal Health Services Research found that doctors and nurses are increasingly likely to try alternative or complementary medicines themselves.

But what are doctors using, and which alternative and complementary medicines would they trust enough to recommend to a patient or use in their practice? In a new occasional series, Well will talk to doctors around the country to find out what nontraditional medicines or therapies they sometimes recommend or use themselves.
The rest of the column is about turmeric — the spice — and after a fair amount of blather, you get to this:
A study published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in 2009 compared the active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, with ibuprofen for pain relief in 107 people with knee osteoarthritis. The curcumin eased pain and improved function about as well as the ibuprofen....
So, there is a specific chemical and it's been studied and proven effective. As the 3d comment over there says: "With that scientific proof it is not alternative therapy."

The NYT is prompting readers to "open" themselves to the intriguing possibilities of "alternative medicine." But the effectiveness of curcumin as a pain reliever proves nothing more generally about an alternative path in medicine. People get the idea that something works or doesn't work and if that observation is verified through science, it's not alternative anymore. Study all the "alternative medicine" remedies and decide whether they are real or fake. Quit grouping the real and the fake together. Do science. Why is that difficult? Who is the NYT coddling and conning here? It's disgusting.

88 comments:

Quaestor said...

Bad science, New York Times, old friends.

RC3 said...

Is the New York Times anti-science?

Are liberals anti-science?

Capt. Schmoe said...

I hear Steve Jobs was open to alternative medicine.

chuck said...

Who is the NYT coddling and conning here?

Themselves?

Dan in Philly said...

"A study" is a journalistic cop out which usually means squat. Even worse when the claim that studies "suggest" whatever crap they want to state is true.

I'm amazed constantly the opinion of writers and such who constantly cite "studies" to "prove" their points. It seems to be working since it's been getting more and more prevalent in recent years. It's as if people turn their brains off as soon as some study or other by someone they've never heard of in a magazine they've never read is cited.

Even worse is when the public is polled and a plurality is cited as proof of the truth of something. If 37% of people believe in "alternative medicine" while only 25% "absolutely don't believe in it" some journalist will cite that as "proof" in its efficacy. What a credulous age we live in.

exhelodrvr1 said...

1 in 30 Americans is 6 M people?

Sounds like they are using alternative arithmetic, too.

Maximus_Aurelius said...

I've seen a few articles in recent days about how Steve Job's foray into 'alternative' cancer treatments may have hastened or even sealed his fate.

Heartbreaking.

Apparently he made clear to his biographer that he wanted it known that this alternative approach was a waste of time and may have been the greatest mistake of his life.

Carol_Herman said...

Ah, yes. The placebo. Which has the added benefit of not being addicting.

While Steve jobs, the Buddist, went for more than a year doing alternative stuff.

So, from his example you can see he speeded up his own death. PLUS, he got to suffer from the end-stage part ... more than he would have if he eschewed "alternative" solutions to "gastrointestinal problems."

The other good way to kill yourself is to get stuck with a physician who carries a license ... but you wouldn't even let him near your dog.

Palladian said...

There is no such thing as "alternative medicine"; there is medicine, i.e., science, and there is superstition.

caseym54 said...

Jobs used alternative medicine in ways that was silly even by the lights of alternative medicine (e.g. acupuncture for cancer). Certainly one would not blame Bayer for someone using aspirin to cure their cancer, why blame acupuncture?

virgil xenophon said...

The reason that so much valid (in terms of scientific proof) nutritional/vitamin therapy is still classified as "alternative" medicine as opposed to just another branch/specialty of "standard" medicine is that medical schools teach almost NOTHING about about these approaches. In fact, Med Schools teach little or nothing about appropriate (and MUCH more traditional) standard drug therapies , let alone about the role vitamins & nutrition play in one's health, so why should we be surprised at the "soft-headedness" that attends this subject from any quarter as well?

Carol_Herman said...

What if Woody Allen represents your average New York Times reader?

Woody Allen has had every ailment known to man, because he's a hypochondriac.

Doesn't mean something doesn't come along and kill hypochondriacs.

It's nice to know you can believe whatever you want to believe.

This one? The population of New York Times readers ... is indeed a very small population.

This article caters to them.

Where I canceled my subscription so long ago, Bill Clinton was still president.

My mom taught me when a customer leaves, there's very little you can do to attract them back, again.

This article falls into the same category.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Dan in Philly said...

It's as if people turn their brains off as soon as some study or other by someone they've never heard of in a magazine they've never read is cited.

Cite please.


*Ducks*

Joe said...

(The Uncredentialed, Crypto Jew)


CAM does NOT work…where’s Crack Emcee when you need him? Saying that Product “X” works as a pain reliever is NOT the same as saying CAM is viable or valid…Acupuncture does not exceed the “Placebo Effect” for most things it’s offered as a treatment for….Very little Double Blind work is done in support of CAM.

Ken Green said...

Part of the problem is that the medical establishment spent a long time damning all alternatives, including herbalism, which is at least grounded in scientific thinking. Because they did that, the real quacks could claim that they were all part of the "alternative" medicine crowd, and point to herbalism as a way of demonstrating that some "alternatives" to allopathic (M.D.) medicine do work.

prairie wind said...

Heartbreaking? I don't think so. Jobs' arrogance about his own intelligence led to his early death. Heartbreaking that his willful ignorance led to his family's grief, though. If he really did change his mind toward the end and think maybe science could have been a good idea, then...oh, well. Too little, too late.

As for the NYT, they are selling advertising. Why we think they are the arbiters of truth is beyond me.

themightypuck said...

The more experiments the better. Almost all human knowledge is the result of trial and error. The trick is to free ride on the test subjects.

Spread Eagle said...

What's going on is it finally dawned on the purveyors of primary care --the medical establishment who has hitherto looked down its nose at alternative care-- that the population shells out billions for alternative care, and they've been missing out on this cash cow.

virgil xenophon said...

And, btw, before people jump on the "quack science" band wagon, there are very many now presently accepted and "proven" therapies that once used to be regarded as "quack" science only because our state of research wasn't advanced enough to validate the claims made for them--much as the claims made by patients suffering from the very real constellation of symptoms of what is now called Lupus (and widely recognized as a valid, now scientifically identifiable disease) were once thought to be either "complainers" or to have a serial onset of unrelated problems.

Of all this I am reminded of the old jape about what distinguishes a formal religion from that of a "cult." Ans: "A million adherents" (Think Mormanism, if you will)

Michael McNeil said...

So, there is a specific chemical and it's been studied and proven effective. As the 3d comment over there says: “With that scientific proof it is not alternative therapy.”

From the link:

“CONCLUSIONS: C. domestica extracts seem to be similarly efficacious and safe as ibuprofen for the treatment of knee OA.” [emphasis added]

A single study hardly provides “scientific proof.” Indeed, a million studies won't provide “proof” per se, which is outside the capabilities of empirical science. But more studies would at least provide some substantial reason for concluding that the first one's finding is real -- which a single such study can only seem to suggest.

Phil 3:14 said...

Crack-bait

Pogo said...

Palladian is correct.

Funk JL, Frye JB, Oyarzo JN, et al. Efficacy and mechanism of action
of turmeric supplements in the treatment of experimental arthritis.
Arthritis Rheum. 2006;54(11):3452-3464.


Objective
Scientific evidence is lacking for the antiarthritic efficacy of turmeric dietary supplements that are being promoted for arthritis treatment. Therefore, we undertook studies to determine the antiarthritic efficacy and mechanism of action of a well-characterized turmeric extract using an animal model of rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Methods
The composition of commercial turmeric dietary supplements was determined by high-performance liquid chromatography. A curcuminoid-containing turmeric extract similar in composition to these supplements was isolated and administered intraperitoneally to female Lewis rats prior to or after the onset of streptococcal cell wall–induced arthritis. Efficacy in preventing joint swelling and destruction was determined clinically, histologically, and by measurement of bone mineral density. Mechanism of action was elucidated by analysis of turmeric's effect on articular transcription factor activation, microarray analysis of articular gene expression, and verification of the physiologic effects of alterations in gene expression.

Results
A turmeric fraction depleted of essential oils profoundly inhibited joint inflammation and periarticular joint destruction in a dose-dependent manner. In vivo treatment prevented local activation of NF-κB and the subsequent expression of NF-κB–regulated genes mediating joint inflammation and destruction, including chemokines, cyclooxygenase 2, and RANKL. Consistent with these findings, inflammatory cell influx, joint levels of prostaglandin E2, and periarticular osteoclast formation were inhibited by turmeric extract treatment.

Conclusion
These translational studies demonstrate in vivo efficacy and identify a mechanism of action for a well-characterized turmeric extract that supports further clinical evaluation of turmeric dietary supplements in the treatment of RA.

Joe said...

(The Uncredentialed, Crypto Jew)
And, btw, before people jump on the "quack science" band wagon, there are very many now presently accepted and "proven" therapies that once used to be regarded as "quack" science only because our state of research wasn't advanced enough to validate the claims made for them

Would you care to name these accepted and proven therapies? And I imagine that the way they became accepted was that there was extensive testing and statistical measurement to demonstrate “validity.” That’s called “Science”, something that CAM and its practitioners eschew.

The Crack Emcee said...

Soft-headed writing in the NYT about "alternative medicine."

1) You were expecting hard-headed writing from the NYT? The same NYT that does articles on pet psychics? Incredible.

2) After implying I was wrong about Steve Jobs and all, you seem to have turned a corner - without acknowledging I've been right. You and Glenn Reynolds are petty/weird that way. I told you I don't have to change a thing - I just have to wait - you, both, will come to the truth.

3) A suggested post topic: What was Steve Jobs saying to psychics? And what did the psychics say back?

The Macho Response.

Psychedelic George said...

The more fashionable term is not "alternative."

It's integrative medicine encompassing acupuncture, massage, reflexology, polarity therapy, "yoga therapy," "integrative nutrition and weight management," "integrative health coaching," and more.

It's a way for hospitals to boost revenues by getting people to be constant customers.

edutcher said...

The Blonde believes in nutritive therapy as far as understanding that, as an example, bananas and oranges are high in potassium; that is, know what you need and find something natural, if possible, to fix it.

The other part she likes is folk remedies, like the old Indian remedy of black willow bark (high in salicylic acid) for a headache. But she always knows what she's using.

And she agrees with Ann's point, "Study all the "alternative medicine" remedies ... Do science".

Ann Althouse said...

Quit grouping the real and the fake together ... Why is that difficult?

Because most people don't want to have to think? They just want to be led to something.

That also seems the rationale for the Occupiers.

ignatzk said...

This is about dumbing down expectations for medical treatment under ObamaCare.

I wonder if the true test of whether a treatment is 'alternative' is the extent to which it is regulated.

The Crack Emcee said...

prairie wind,

Heartbreaking that his willful ignorance led to his family's grief, though.

"Distress" is mentioned. Arguments, pleading, some level of horror, I'm sure. Regret, denial, and lots that goes unspoken regarding foolishness.

PW, waaay too few, in debating this nonsense, think about such things - what total price it exacts - and it does my heart well that you did.

Thanks.

rhhardin said...

You have doctors whether or not you have science. It's a social function first of all.

Goffman somewhere describes the surgeon telling the assembled family the news of death. Approximately, "The doctor is concerned first of all to contain the situation. In particular that it not follow him out into the hall..."

The curse of having read all of Goffman is never being able to remember exactly where you read something.

Not enough analysis of this role is being done.

Jobs may have been rejecting participation in that, first of all.

Oligonicella said...

"Do science."

So, you're dropping the carbon footprint stuff?

jimspice said...

"Do science. Why is that difficult?"

Good one Ann. For a minute there, I thought you were serious.

MayBee said...

I would like to do a study to determine how many people are in all three of the following categories

- ardent AGW believers
- alternative medicine enthusiasts
- people who feel their zodiac sign has relevance

The Crack Emcee said...

Psychedelic George,

The more fashionable term is not "alternative."

No, it's now "wellness" - well beyond well for the worried well. The Nazi Youth slogan of "Mind/Body/Spirit" has been found out, just as the previous NewAge replaced the name of the whole endeavor, "the occult."

But, one way or another, Nazi Supermen we will have.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

With that scientific proof it is not alternative therapy.

After some thought, I'd have to disagree. The science shows that there is a real benefit to the curcumin, with no notable adverse effects during the study. However, that is far short of what is needed to become a standard medicine.

How much tumeric is needed to get the correct dose of curcumin? What is the appropriate dose for children? Are there long-term side effects? How does it interact with other medicines the patient is taking?

The Crack Emcee said...

MayBee,

I would like to do a study to determine how many people are in all three of the following categories

- ardent AGW believers
- alternative medicine enthusiasts
- people who feel their zodiac sign has relevance


I've been trying to get that study done for years, but no scientist I talk to will do it because I also want to add Oprah/Obama viewers/voters, amongst others,...

AF said...

If you define alternative medicine as that which has no scientific basis, I guess it's true that there is no scientific basis for alternative medicine!

By that logic, a scientific study proving the efficacy of acupuncture or homeopathy wouldn't prove that alternative medicine is effect; it would just prove that acupuncture and homeopathy aren't alternative medicine.


Also, as others have noted, there's an extremely robust scientific basis for placebos being more effective than no treatment at all. That in itself is evidence that alternative treatments can be beneficial.

The Crack Emcee said...

ignatzk,

This is about dumbing down expectations for medical treatment under ObamaCare.

Too late.

Anybody want to discuss Bill Clinton and Tom Harkin's contribution to all this?

Ann Althouse said...

"Good one Ann. For a minute there, I thought you were serious."

I am serious. I'm not saying it's easy to conduct scientific studies. My point is that the NYT, in its journalism, should adhere to science and shed the anti-science mysticism. The journalistic commitment should be to the truth, and it should not be difficult to see that should be your orientation and to resist going off into these anti-scientific side roads.

Ann Althouse said...

"This is about dumbing down expectations for medical treatment under ObamaCare."

Yes, there have been many articles recently in the NYT, and I'm sorry I haven't methodically blogged them, that make me think there is an agenda to get people to accept cheaper care that is mostly aimed at getting people to settle down and accept their fate, which is decline and death.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Do science. Why is that difficult?

I don't know. Maybe we should ask Al Gore and Bill Nye.

The Crack Emcee said...

AF,

There's an extremely robust scientific basis for placebos being more effective than no treatment at all. That in itself is evidence that alternative treatments can be beneficial.

Jesus, you guys can be stupid.

1) Placebos rely on lying, so used as "alternative" types want - and not sparingly as doctors have in the past - is not only deceptive but about as unethical as one can get - not that ethics ever meant anything to NewAgers.

2) Does the terms "quackery" or "fraud" - both crimes, last time I checked - ever enter the lexicon around here?

3) As those of you boosters get your ya-yas out defending nonsense, what do you say to the families of the dead? The divorced? The abandoned - all over this,...stuff?

Just like alternative medicine, you've got nothing for the consequences of your obsession.

Pogo said...

I wish I could say turmeric was bullshit; it would make my life lots easier.

PARASITOLOGY RESEARCH
Volume 105, Number 5, 1459-1463, DOI: 10.1007/s00436-009-1553-3
Abstract

"The curcumin compound from turmeric is effective in the treatment of many inflammatory diseases. The aim of our present study was to evaluate the efficacy of turmeric on reducing the histopathological changes of hamster opisthorchiasis. Hamsters were infected with Opisthorchis viverrini and then administered turmeric. Using light microscopic observation, liver function tests for alanine transaminase (ALT), alkaline phosphatase, and direct bilirubin were investigated. The resulting histopathological changes show that turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties—during both N-nitrosodimethylamine administration and O. viverrini infection—by reducing the aggregation of inflammatory cells surrounding the hepatic bile ducts, which correlates with a decreased serum ALT level. The decrease in direct bilirubin levels in the hamsters treated with turmeric suggests that turmeric may enhance biliary contraction. The present study found that turmeric clearly reduces the inflammatory cells in hamster opisthorchiasis at an early stage. This finding may be connected with a reduction in the risk factors of cholangiocarcinoma development."

Quaestor said...

Ken Green wrote:
...the medical establishment spent a long time damning all alternatives, including herbalism, which is at least grounded in scientific thinking.

Looks like the belief in alternative medicine is a symptom of a larger problem.

Ken, anyone who applied scientific thinking to herbalism would conclude that the claims of that that belief system are unsupported by evidence.

AF said...

"Yes, there have been many articles recently in the NYT, and I'm sorry I haven't methodically blogged them, that make me think there is an agenda to get people to accept cheaper care that is mostly aimed at getting people to settle down and accept their fate, which is decline and death."

Well, that *is* our fate! Nobody disputes that modern medicine can slow it down or that the government should pay for this medical care for seniors in most cases.

But the fact is that medicine reaches a point of diminishing returns where more care can prolong your life a few months or a year or two at very low quality, and at great cost.

The argument being made is that when the cost/benefit ratio reaches a certain point, these costs should not be covered by government. And you call US socialists and complain about taxes! It's flagrant hypocrisy.

Who's going to pay the $500,000 for your 3 extra months in a hospital bed Ann? Who's going to pay for it?

gutless said...

I started taking turmeric about three weeks ago but had to quit because of the side effects. I had an irresistible urge to open a convenience store.

The Crack Emcee said...

One of my best friends was found dead a few days ago. A Buddhist and yoga nut who hated Rush Limbaugh (he would fly into a rage at the mention of his name) he used to "brag" that he could touch his toes and nobody else could. We told him that wasn't an accomplishment.

Dead at 51, with a 4-year old daughter his brother and I are now, somewhat, responsible for.

This is great stuff, I tell you.

Sigivald said...

Is your doctor open to alternative medicine?

Let me fix that:

Is your doctor an incompetent hack who doesn't care about results or evidence?

Much better.

DADvocate said...

There's a huge difference between complementary medicines and alternative medicine. With complementary medicines, you do the usual as well. Alternative replaces the usual.

I've found that Hatha yoga helps my arrhythmia, sinuses, prevents headaches and general well being. But, I still go to the doctor and follow his advice and treatments.

Judith said...

This is purely anecdotal, but my brother was diagnosed with early-stage pancreatic cancer at 71. He had a frank discussion with a med school prof about his options: (1) doing nothing, with a probable 5 years max survival, or (2) aggressive surgical/medical treatment with, in his case, horrendous side effects. He opted for #1, lived a good life for almost 5 years, declined rapidly and died in hospice. He said, "You pays yer money and you takes yer cherces." His "cherces" were right for him, Jobs' perhaps for Jobs.

MayBee said...

Crack-
I like your categories. Let's add: People who use the term "denier" or "anti-science" to describe AGW questioners.

Michael said...

I would be very pleased if the NYT could cajole its entire readership into opting for "alternative" medicine. That would leave the old fogy, right wing, medicine for the likes of me.

Michael said...

DADvocate: I could yoga my sinuses 24/7 if I have an infection and it will do nothing but make me feel better for about an hour. Antibiotics!! They work.

Pogo said...

Combination Treatment With Curcumin and Quercetin of Adenomas in Familial Adenomatous Polyposis
Marcia Cruz–Correa, et al

Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology
Volume 4, Issue 8, August 2006, Pages 1035-1038

"The mean percent decrease in the number and size of polyps from baseline was 60.4% (P < .05) and 50.9% (P < .05), respectively. Minimal adverse side effects and no laboratory abnormalities were noted. Conclusions: The combination of curcumin and quercetin appears to reduce the number and size of ileal and rectal adenomas in patients with FAP without appreciable toxicity. Randomized controlled trials are needed to validate these findings."



So I agree, the NYT article was awful.

But that doesn't distinguish it from much any other NYT article, does it?

As for "do the science", I agree. But turmeric is seeing its share of study, and it ain't all bullshit. Be skeptical, not cursory.

The Crack Emcee said...

Pogo,

Be skeptical, not cursory.

Can I use curses with my skepticism?

The Crack Emcee: As cursory as I mothafuckin' wanna be!

traditionalguy said...

The Hindu and the Chinese medical traditions are here to stay.

The NYT is trying out every story line that will attract readers. What's new?

Kirk Parker said...

the mighty pick,

"The trick is to free ride on the test subjects."

You're welcome!

BTW, are you an air hockey guy, or just a hockey hockey guy?

traditionalguy said...

I would bet that many Ron Paul disciples are herb medicine fanatics. That goes along with hating the government that cannot be trusted.

They feel that the FDA is the bamboozler and not the herbal remedy sellers whom they trust on faith.

Pogo said...

The Crack Emcee said...
Can I use curses with my skepticism?
"

Hell, yeah.

roesch/voltaire said...

Ten years ago I was diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy and pointed towards the medicines used to treat the pain. I declined and decided to try "alternative" approaches first. Reflexology and acupuncture, have kept me off the meds and relatively pain free-- nothing soft headed about the results. I was also told I had high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol numbers and tired for a short time to control it with diet etc, but it didn't work and I now take medications to help control my HP, and eat a low carb diet and drink wine for the cholesterol. Blood test results have supported my choices; I suggest that rational minds want empirical evidence of results from either traditional or alternative treatment, and one approach does not exclude the other.

Tim said...

"My point is that the NYT, in its journalism, should adhere to science and shed the anti-science mysticism. The journalistic commitment should be to the truth, and it should not be difficult to see that should be your orientation and to resist going off into these anti-scientific side roads."

I am sorry - I know you are trying to be serious here - but expecting the New York Times, of all things, to actually conform and perform to journalistic standards rather than its ideological orientation is like expecting effective lessons on sobriety and chasity from crack whores.

I mean, really.

Quayle said...

Yes, there have been many articles recently in the NYT, and I'm sorry I haven't methodically blogged them, that make me think there is an agenda to get people to accept cheaper care that is mostly aimed at getting people to settle down and accept their fate, which is decline and death.

We have to keep costs down so we can maintain funneling taxpayer money to bolster green capitalists.

It's all about priorities you know.

roesch/voltaire said...

About ten years ago I was diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy and offered the usual "pills" to treat the pain, but I declined because I wanted to try some alternative approaches. Reflexology and acupuncture have kept me relatively pain free, without meds, for all these years. About that time I was also diagnosed with high blood pressure and after trying diet and exercise, which didn't seem to change the BP much, I started taking the prescribed course of treatment. My point is that rational folks can make empirical tests to see what works for them and that "alternative" and western medicine can, in some cases can work together-- nothing soft headed about it.

Kirk Parker said...

sorry, that's 'themightypuck', not 'pick'--and i can't even blame this one on autocorrect.

Peter said...

Is there any evidence that anyone on staff at the NYT knows enough to understand basic science (let alone statistics or other mathematics)?

I don't doubt they could afford to keep a "science ombudsman" (or something) on staff. Or even vet stories that require understanding of science and math with hard science or math majors (who could often use some extra cash).

So, it's not because they lack resources that they don't 'get' science. It seems more of a cultural choice.

The Crack Emcee said...

roesch/voltaire,

Reflexology and acupuncture have kept me relatively pain free, without meds, for all these years.

It's funny, but - based only what what people have said here in other areas - I can probably guess who every NewAger on this blog is.

R/V - yours is a typical claim that means nothing but you're too gullible to understand how the world really works. But - hey - if it makes you feel better to think a foot massage controls the rest of your body (or you have a bunch of unfindable "meridians") well, that's just in keeping with the rest of your opinions, and I surely won't try to convince you otherwise.

I know my limits.

wv: "undum" - what we can't make believers, so, instead, should focus on protecting ourselves.

JAL said...

So Steve Jobs dies too young.

Because of alternative medicine.

And a young father of three (5,3, infant) girls chooses alternative for a slow growing colon cancer. And dies too young.

Because of alternative medicine.

And the young pastor's wife doesn't go to the doctor -- she goes to her multi-level Utah based herbal salesperson iridologist -- and misses catching her ovarian cancer so any possibility of surviving never sees the sunshine.

And she dies too young.

Because of alternative medicine.

This push into the mainstream is nothing but crap. If you look closely at the (once)"respectable" hospitals offering "integrative," "complementary" and "alternative" medicine" it amounts to massage (! alternative??!!) and the "energy" therapies which have zero evidence of "energy fields being manipulated," but plenty of relaxation response.

Relaxation response is nice. Helpful even.

But it doesn't kill cancer cells or change DNA or re-mylenate or any of a number of serious curing.

Makes me spit nails.

Millions of tax dollars have been wasted at the NCCAM doing studies which inevitably end up going nowhere -- so the conclusion is that they need to be studies some more... because heaven forbid negatoive results fget in the way of one's delusion. (Seriously -- go look at the "results."

(It's laughable. A cottage industry with more lefty anti-sceince money laundering at work. But predicted in Marilyn Ferguson's "Aquarian Conspiracy.")

willem said...

Althouse. Brilliant point. If you and the law could only understand what an utter mess the modern med school and hospital-based syndicates have made of orthodoxy in medicine.

Fraud and error plague modern medical orthodoxy. Episodes such as these identified at the link are as common as they are legendary behind the scenes. The misuse of double-blind studies is off the chart. In this instance, 50% of the peer reviewed research fails basic statistical fitness. http://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/v14/n9/abs/nn.2886.html

As for turmeric, it's a a remarkable compound. And there are others. Most all organic insecticides were first synthesized from plants. There are many overlaps between pharmaceuticals and pesticides that are plant based. For those interested, thirty years ago Bruce Ames (UCB) did yeoman's work in the toxicology of plant alleles. It's stunning work.

Couple that to over 5,000 distinct simultaneous metabolic processes identified (so far) in human physiology. Then filter the "certain requirements" of orthodox medicine and hospital practice against the remarkable work in membrane biology and secondary metabolic transports being done by Matthias Hediger and others. The informed will return to basic truths about human medicine, mortality and species propensity for institutional agonism and hubris.

Medical Orthodoxy is but Myth in cap and gown. Medical Science is little more than an idealized oxymoron. Human medicine has always been and today remains an inspired alchemy of applied art, creativity and professional practice. And perilously so.

The problem with "natural" is compounds like strychnine are also natural. It's nearly stereochemically identical to cocaine; both ordinary plant alkaloids. Early in the science of organic chemistry, synthesis of these compounds became important because the "dosing" character and activity could not be reliably predicted between growing seasons, or relative to climate, soils, rainfall and other variations. The purpose of monadic pharma development is to make organic compounds independently produceable, scalable, patentable and dose predictable.

The Crack Emcee said...

Peter,

It's not because they lack resources that they don't 'get' science. It seems more of a cultural choice.

I've been making that point for years - it's this NewAge culture that's responsible for a LOT of the ruinous bullshit we're enduring - but, seriously, nobody cares. Part of NewAge culture is nothing being done until shit gets serious (See Steve Jobs' approach to his cancer) so, until we catch Oprah in an "Eyes Wide Shut" situation, nothing will be done about the lies, deceptions, frauds, etc., that claim other's lives.

That's just how it goes,...

JAL said...

Re TradGuy --

Alternative medicine is that weird spot in the world where the left and the far right meet together.

A health educator friend of mine said the left alties and the right alties meet in China adjusting chakras.

Pogo said...

"meet in China adjusting chakras"

Remember when Gore wanted a masseuse to release his chakras?

Good times.

jamboree said...

My friend is trained as a hard-headed scientist at a very respectable institution. This kind of thinking took him far, but then he hit a wall.

He opened himself to a bit of "woo" during psychotherapy. He swallowed almost any nonsense as long as it is peer-reviewed. (Nonsense can indeed be peer-reviewed in academic journals, I have learned.)

But here's the thing, becoming a more holistic person changed how he thought and he became open to new insights that *did prove themselves* in his rigorous, scientific world. He career has advanced. No one knows about the woo.

So there you go. Full Circle. The proper way to do "woo" in my opinion.

Pogo said...

Biological Basis for the Use of Botanicals in Osteoarthritis and
Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Review

eCAM 2005;2(3)301–308
doi:10.1093/ecam/neh117

"Curcumin is a non-toxic dietary pigment in turmeric and is potent inhibitor of the common transcription factor NF-kB in several cell types (74–76). Other studies have shown that curcumin inhibits/modulates upstream pathways of the arachidonic acid cascade (COX-2 and LOX) by inhibiting the catalytic activities of phospholipases A2, Cg1 and D in various cell lines (77–79). In human chondrocytes, curcumin significantly inhibited MMP-3 and MMP-13 gene expression by
inhibiting the JNK, AP-1 and NF-kB pathways (75).

Other studies have shown that curcumin blocks LPS and interferon-induced production of NO and TNF-a in vitro by inhibiting the activation of NF-kB and AP-1 [reviewed in (68)].

Curcumin also inhibited the incorporation of arachidonic acid into membrane lipids, PGE2 production, leukotriene B4 and leukotriene C4 synthesis, as well as the secretion of collagenase, elastase and hyaluronidase by macrophages (78).

Furthermore, IL-1b-induced upregulation of MMP-3 wasinhibited by curcumin in a time-dependent manner. In addition, IL-1b-induced decrease in type II collagen synthesis was also blocked by curcumin treatment.

Based on the data obtained it was concluded that curcumin antagonizes crucial catabolic effects of IL-1b signaling that are known to contribute to the pathogenesis of OA. Although not conclusive, but these data clearly show the necessity of additional studies to develop and use optimized doses in randomized, placebocontrolled clinical trials to confirm or refute the reported efficacy of the use of curcumin in OA and RA.
"

Pogo said...

That is, there is a basis in physiology to suggest turmeric might actually be anti-inflammatory, and not woo.

roesch/voltaire said...

Crack read closely, I was talking about peripheral neuropathy and pain in my feet that has been alleviated by reflexology and making no other claims about the rest of my body. I stand on the empirical evidence after all these years. As far as the NYT goes, the Tuesday Science section has some of the best writers in the field as contributors and is worth the read every week.

Steve in Philly said...

I've been using circumin since an excellent physician told me about it, to deal with some persistent inflammation. The physician simply explained the real studies, as well as the obvious but anecdotal evidence, and absence of (KNOWN) side effects. Calm, highly rational, but regrettably unusual. The physician has discussed how long he studies 'nontraditional' approaches before he actually recmmended them to patients. In simple terms, the evidence was in - but checking everything out, and finding suppliers he trusted, well, that took a while. No conflict with real science, and no new age-y stuff, just 'here's something else that appears to work as well, without some of the known downsides of what you've been taking.' He's also encouraged me to take a lot more fiber and cut waay back on beef - to see whether follow-up bloodwork will show that I may not need statins after a while. Just good science, with thoughtful applications. (Ahem: There may be room to ask about 'just good journalism, with thoughtful applications' - as opposed to 'just what all the cool kids are writing.')

Mary Beth said...

Do you know what they call alternative medicine that works?

Medicine.

I don't care what type of treatment (or pseudo-treatment) people choose but if taxpayers are paying for the healthcare, I don't want to pay for someone else's poor choices.

Supplements are not regulated by the FDA so even if an herb has been shown to help there is no guarantee that the product you buy has a useful amount.

Pogo said...

@Mary Beth

Exactly.

The Crack Emcee said...

roesch/voltaire,

I stand on the empirical evidence after all these years.

There is no "empirical evidence," you jackass, just your anecdotal bullshit. And no, I'm not even counting your feet, just because they're yours.

Like I said, too far gone for help,...

JAL said...

1998.

Marcia Angell, MD, NEJM

It is time for the scientific community to stop giving alternative medicine a free ride... There cannot be two kinds of medicine — conventional and alternative. There is only medicine that has been adequately tested and medicine that has not, medicine that works and medicine that may or may not work. Once a treatment has been tested rigorously, it no longer matters whether it was considered alternative at the outset. If it is found to be reasonably safe and effective, it will be accepted.

as medicine.

I heard Dr. Angell give a talk based on this editorial (or vice versa). Standing ovation common sense.

wv orgthrot
oviously one of those herbals

JAL said...

@ r/v
So what was the explanation for what the reflexology did (foot massage, right?)

Seriously curious.

JAL said...

It's all push back by Oz & the alts now that the news has leaked about Steve Jobs.

Heaven forbid someone use his death as a cautionary tale. And thereby save someone elses' or their own ....

Craig said...

A woman at the store today told me that circumin made her daughter mentally retarded. Just sayin'.

John Lynch said...

The Spice must flow.

ken in sc said...

Yellow mustard, which contains turmeric, relieves my muscle cramps. My blood pressure medication leads to increased occurrence of muscle cramps—legs, fingers, back, everywhere sometimes. A heaping table spoon of plain yellow mustard, like Frenches, will relieve my cramps in about 5 minutes. Placebo? Don't know, don't care. As long as it works, I'll keep using it. It doesn't cost much and has no side effects that I know of. I also have some arthritis in my neck but I have not noticed any relief for that from turmeric or mustard.

Quaestor said...

roesch/voltaire wrote:
My point is that rational folks can make empirical tests to see what works for them and that "alternative" and western medicine can, in some cases can work together-- nothing soft headed about it.

Sorry, r/v, no one can be empirical about himself. If you want to be a test subject in a double-blind experiment in the efficacy of "reflexology" that's your time to waste, but don't foist off your self-delusions as anything other than soft-headed.

Penn & Teller do a number on "reflexology" and other BS here and here

DEEBEE said...

NYT is just making sure it is on the side of the 99%. In this case the 1% is the elite, rich doctors

The Crack Emcee said...

Check it out - another kid dead because his parents used homeopathy instead of common sense.

You got kids, R-V?

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