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Alternative Medicine and Placebo Research

Naturopath, Dr. Eldon Dahl weighs in on placebo research and the pursuit of health through alternative medicine.

I read the article of researcher Dr. Edzard Ernst and some things stand out as questionable yet I found the placebo research very interesting. To enable the reader’s a background of understanding, Dr. Ernst and his research group pioneered rigorous studies from everything from acupuncture and crystal healing to Reiki channelling, herbal remedies and homeopathy. His clinical findings were equal to that of placebo treatments.

One of Dr. Ernst’s statements that caught my attention, he stated that conventional medicines must be shown to be both safe and efficacious before being licensed and rarely true of alternative medicine. I wonder if the good doctor ever looked at the statistics of allopathic medicine compared to natural medicine and if he reads the so called safety warnings of the pharmaceutical drugs, “may cause death,” this doesn’t appear to be too safe in my estimation.

Were these tests conducted to prove that alternative medicines actually work or were they done to show they don’t?  An open mind seeking the truth will find the truth, and if we examine for fault then rest assured fault will always be the conclusion.

The consumer needs to be the final judge, do hundreds of years using traditional remedies for    therapeutic value actually work or is it nothing more than a mind game? Does a cup of peppermint tea really settle the stomach or is it just the power of persuasion? In my clinical experience these remedies work very effectively and some have the clinical evaluations to back them up, this is made evident by the issuance of natural product number (NPN) licensing by Health Canada. But a word of caution, not all NPN’s are the same…it comes down to the synergy of the components and the quality of the raw ingredients.   

Homeopathy has recently come under attack questioning if the minute amounts of active ingredients have any therapeutic value. Vaccinations work on the same principle as homeopathy, administering minute amounts into the body thus enabling the body’s own defence mechanism to strengthen and withstand infection and disease. One major difference, Homeopathy does not inject active disease or heavy metals and they have NO side effects. I like to refer to homeopathy as the friendly giant; it packs a punch yet does no harm. On the flipside are vaccines completely safe and are they always tested before being administered? If I recall not too far back the H1N1 vaccine, it was rushed through without testing and the reason being the (assumed) global pandemic superseded the need for testing and instead was injected into millions while the drug companies nervously crossed their fingers hoping they were doing the right thing. As we know in retrospect it wasn’t the correct procedure and many trusting souls became violently ill and many died needlessly to a virus that was nothing more than the usual winter flu.
The placebo effect is very powerful and continually baffles science for perhaps all healing begins and ends within the mind and the body just follows directions ordered by the brain. What if your trusting doctor gives you a misdiagnosis and tells you that you have 6 months to live, what happens to your healthy body does your reasoning override in preparedness for the diagnosis? What happens if you are told you are healthy when actually you are deathly sick, will your mind make you well, evidence has shown that this maybe the case?  

I am under the assumption that all therapy begins within the mind and optimism must be given as part of each diagnosis no matter the severity of the diagnosis. Duke University researchers studied heart disease patients and found that optimists were more likely than nonoptimistic patients to take vitamins, eat lower-fat diets and exercise, thereby reducing their overall coronary risk. And pessimistic cancer patients under the age of 60 were more likely to die within eight months than nonpessimistic patients of the same initial health, status and age. My motto “if there is breath there is hope”. In fact there is growing scientific evidence that points to the conclusion that optimism or positive thinking maybe hardwired by evolution into the human brain.

In conclusion, does alternative medicine have merit? I would say it absolutely does, is it just in the mind, no, but I think this it is where it has its beginning. The pursuit of health is a conscious choice, we buy organic food, we drink purified water, we exercise, we take our vitamins and some say their prayers; we are programming ourselves to be healthy and if being healthy is the final outcome then we’re all winners.

By Dr. Eldon Dahl

Reference Sources
July 21, 2011


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