Alternative medicines : when good things can lead to charlatanism (part I)

in #health5 years ago (edited)

With my arrival on Steemit, I have discovered an open-minded online society where everybody could freely express his/her thoughts and beliefs. I have found that the topics that are discussed are as varied as people on the platform. Some people are talking about science, proved or being speculative, others talk about arts, cooking or life experiences, etc.

On a platform where anybody can talk about almost anything, I have also noticed propaganda posts about sensitives subjects, or even sometimes posts promoting actions that could put our lifes on the line. Of course, each of us can have his or her own opinion. Maybe I am the only one fooling myself by being afraid of posts promoting miraculous and supposedly harmless alternative medicine?

I am considering myself as an open-minded person and I feel concerned about alternative medicines, but I try to stay critical on those methods because I am aware of the downward side. I wrote a research essay on how alternative medicines can be combined with more standard medicine and the associated risk to drift into sectarianism. Among all alternative medicines that are on sale on the web, some can be really helpful. Even if we don't believe in those methods, all are not dangerous. But sometimes... they can be!

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I am frightened since a lot of people, with less knowledge or weakened by difficult times or by sickness, can be trapped by pseudoscientific-doctor or charlatans. The trap is rarely obvious, the speech is not always sectarian, sometimes it focuses only on products that one can buy and it is not always the one who is promoting a product who will sale it.

What makes me afraid is to see how trendy can some products become. I am sometimes scared that people may get confident about the usage of some methods/products only because they have read an article on the Internet that got a lot of upvotes. After all, we never really know what or who we are dealing with...

It is exactly the same thing in real life, but it is important to note that Internet helps, so that these non-medical practices and the associated propaganda can become widely spread in no time.

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What could we do? Pointing them out? The problem is that people promoting (possibly harmful) pseudoscientific medical methods can be truly and fully convinced by what they share. They can also be excellent and very charismatic salesmen or saleswomen (and thus good in attracting the attention). A direct fight with these people will mostly lead to abusive claims about conspiracies, money issues, etc… that may be based on real facts but then exaggeratedly extrapolated.

Sometimes, it can be about a product known to have good effect on health, but the way to use it is also very important. Wrongly used, even a good product can become dangerous.

On the other hand, we do not always have a scientific proof (according to very rigorous scientific standards) that a miraculous product is unhealthy, even if presumptions are strong. Who knows? Maybe one day will one of these products be found promising for a new cure…

Doubt is always allowed.

I believe that the best action against this type of propaganda is to educate as many people as possible about the risk to drift intro traps. One needs to provide enough information so that anyone can develop his or her critical sense without being scared uselessly.

Being open-minded to new methods, why not. Falling in charlatan's snares, surely not!

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But how to protect ourselves from scammers and how to identify them? That is the question I will attempt to bring some element of answers to ... but this will be for the next post!


This is the start of a great conversation. I agree wholeheartedly that the information available is massive and it's very hard to slice and dice and make some kind of sense of it. Trying to discern what will help versus hurt in regards to your health and well being is of the utmost importance. That said, I think the most important place to come back to over and over again is that you are the decider for your body (and your children). All the information that you take in from the internet, doctor or other health practitioners need to be taken in the form of advisement and not a direct order. And second opinions when you have doubts are the best way to help you make a sound decision. Of course, the quality of your sources is fundamental. With information globally available it's sad to see that a lot of decisions are still dependent on locally accepted practices, religion, family, etc. This again points back to you as the decider.

I partly agree with you. I do think each of us should be the only one to decide for his or her health (or the one of their children), but we must not forget that a big part of health/disease is related to the beliefs of each of us (anthropology tell us a few about this...). Culture, family, society, environment and many other things can challenge the recovery of a person. Therefore, if there is only one person who decide, how can we know we make the good choice ? Of course, it's important to be the decider, but I think it is really important to talk about our choice to other people, even if they have different views. Sometimes, it is the only way to be really sure we make the good choice...

what do you think should be the standard for facts? who has the knowledge and ability to set such a standard? Snopes? Nope! if the existing authorities are compromised beyond any possibility of trust. i prefer to do it myself. this is becoming increasingly unmanageable, simply due to the volume of information. it is also becoming increasingly socially unacceptable, leading to laws than kill people. it looks to me as though, it still comes down to individual liberty and responsibility to inform oneself and act responsibly. i'd recommend the Trivium method and the Quadrivium for a start.

I don't think there is only ONE standard for facts if we are considering the ability of each of us to understand the world. Many things depends on our environment, our culture, the society in which we grew up or are living in. We are realizing today that authorities in which we put our trust are failing in the mission that was giving to them, but we are forgetting that all these people are HUMANS, just like each one of us. Yes, they have flaws and can do things wrong, but they can also do things right! I just don't think we should generalized to every people or authorities. There is also very good things in today's discoveries, technologies and understanding of the world around us. And must important of all : more we are discovering, more we are aware there is still so much to discover... Since the last 20 years, I noticed that many medical staff are accepting "other" ways to help people in their recovery. Studies are made to associate different kind of medicine, in the interest of a better well-being of patients.
Nobody is perfect, there is only perfect intentions...

i'm not sure what culture has to do with 2+2 but, we know the system is corrupt. i have known it since 1977 when i was 7. there are those who are actively corrupt, those who are in denial and those who stand by and watch because it is easier. my family has been devastated by this corrupt medical system. many are dead and many are dying and the dying are still too brainwashed to accept help.

i'd put a positive spin on this if i could but perfect intentions are the perfect pavement on the perfect road to hell. i have lost 4 family members in the last 3 years because of this corruption. my father is about to be the fifth. pretending these people are not responsible for their actions by saying they are HUMANS, is trying to justify what amounts to negligent homicide or since there are healthy, functional alternatives that are known and available, it may be considered complicity in mass murder.

there is no authority but the self, anything else is voluntary victimhood. i have begun to find the answers. i am alive because of these answers. if i depended on the poison and betrayal that is the medical system that we are being increasingly subjected to by force, i would have been dead 5 years ago. if you are interested in the answers, maybe try looking for them instead of making excuses for butchers.

ignorant and stupid people allow themselves to be harmed by some alternative medicine through ignorance and stupidity. that does not mean that we should be mandated into the orthodoxy which is killing people in increasing numbers, for profit. this is not focused solely on you. this is directed at the system in which, most are participating of their own free will.

I think we should be careful about assuming that we as humans know better than mother nature, and that 'science' has all the answers for what's healthy and what's harmful. Yes there are products out there advertised as 'natural' and yet on closer inspection are far from it. I am a big user of natural ingredients, but I don't buy 'natural products'... I get the raw ingredients and make things myself. I never use synthetic man-made concoctions anymore, no matter how many quality-control tests they pass or expert recommendations or FDA approved or whatever. The mainstream mass-market commercial products are the biggest scammers out there.

I don't think science has all the answers... on the contrary, I think that more we know or we understand things, more we realize there is still so much to understand!
I also think "mother nature" made us with a brain we must use at is best to understand the world around us, even if it sadly lead us to be presumptuous...
I found very interesting that you are doing your own medicine. I think that for many slight injuries, it can be really good. But there is a moment in the life of a person where I think mother nature is not enough... there, we must use what she gave us : the ability of questioning ourselves, searching for answers and discovering solutions...

Don't take this as me being argumentative, I'm not trying to be! But it's a common misconception that nature can only offer so much and then man's medicines have to step in. Man's medicines are often synthetic versions of the healing properties found in plants, and often aren't as effective. The reason synthetic versions are created isn't because they're safer - on the contrary, they usually have very dangerous side effects as we see on the information leaflets - it's so the medicines can be patented and therefore are profitable. If they could patent medicinal plants to sell then they wouldn't bother making a synthetic equivalent. Healthcare in its broadest sense isn't about healing, it's about making money. Take cannabis for example... the most medicinal plant on the planet with no harmful side effects, no deaths ever, which can cure multitudes of diseases from epilepsy to cancer, and yet the public are warned that it's a 'dangerous drug'. Same for the medicinal properties of magic mushrooms, which are excellent for treating neurological illness, amongst other things. Nature gives us so much and yet in our arrogance we often choose man's creations over nature's provisions... coconut oil, ginger, hawthorn, nettles, garlic, onions, herbs, dandelions, cocoa, honey, aloe vera, wheatgrass, tea tree, catnip, alfalfa, etc etc etc... All of these things are examples of powerful healing plants. If taken in correct amounts there's no need for soooo many of the prescription or over-the-counter drugs we're reliant on, and we'd see a massive increase in healing, and a massive decrease in illness. It's a fact there's a LOT less chance of being harmed by natural medicines than by synthetic ones. (And by natural medicines I mean the raw medicinal ingredients, not the so-called 'natural medicines' you can buy in shops, which I don't trust at all). This is a very interesting subject, I hope you don't mind my long reply!

I really enjoy your reply, it is a subject I enjoy talking about. I agree that natural medicine has a lot to teach us and it is sad that today's medicine don't recognize it. I also think we are taking to much drugs for almost anything. We don't feel good, we go to the doctor and if it is a "good doctor", we will go out with a prescription... and I think it is not always necessary. I don't think doctors always do it for money : they were teach to do that way and they don't know what else to say to their patients. There is also the risk of complications and pursuits if they don't follow "protocols". But I met a few doctors who were trying other ways and feel free to orientated their patients differently : sophrology, osteopathy, homeopathy or more.
I think today's medicine would be better if it could accept there is other ways to heal people than little pills...

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