Swimming with pseudoscience – the cupping craze

cupping

I am not a fan of the Olympics. Generally, they are a huge waste of money, and most people across the world have little interest in most of the sports. I have barely noticed what’s going on this year in the Olympics in Brazil, until my news feeds were filled with the junk science craze of the month – cupping.

No, cupping doesn’t mean the protective equipment some male athletes use to protect their groinal (invented word, deal with it) regions. Although, for those athletes, that’s the most important cupping they will ever do.

Apparently, the cupping craze was first noticed because several members US Men’s swim team had these awful looking welts all over their bodies. Michael Phelps, probably the greatest Olympian ever with over 20 gold medals, was sporting several of the cupping welts on his shoulder.

If this feathery reptile has anything to say about medical crazes, cupping has just moved to the top of the list. Let’s look at it, but spoiler alert – see homeopathy.

Continue reading “Swimming with pseudoscience – the cupping craze”

Traditional Chinese medicine kills dolphins

Traditional Chinese Medicine kills dolphins

I am not a fan of Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Very few of its medical claims ever amount to anything. Most of it isn’t very traditional and doesn’t work, like acupuncture. Worse yet, TCM is involved in the destruction of rare animals like the African rhino and other endangered animals. Now, we find that Traditional Chinese Medicine kills dolphins – just to push a “medicine” that has no evidence supporting its use.

Let’s look at this recent story where purveyors of TCM have indirectly lead to the collapse and near extinction of a beautiful ocean going mammal. Per usual with TCM, it’s a tale of greed and junk medicine.  Continue reading “Traditional Chinese medicine kills dolphins”

Relevance of Nobel Prize and Traditional Chinese Medicine

Last week, the Nobel Prize Committee gave out the 2015 Nobel Prize for Medicine to three researchers, including Youyou Tu (see note 1), for her novel work in developing a medicine to treat malaria. Dr. Tu was the first Nobel Prize winner in the natural sciences from China, so she is a groundbreaking scientists in many ways.

Because Dr. Tu found the potential cure through research into Chinese herbs, many people have proclaimed that traditional Chinese medicine has now been “proven.” But not so fast.

What is the relevance of the Nobel Prize and Traditional Chinese Medicine – is there any importance at all?

Let’s take a look at Traditional Chinese Medicine, in general, and Dr. Tu’s work itself. The story is quite a bit more complicated, nuanced, and scientific than you might have read. Continue reading “Relevance of Nobel Prize and Traditional Chinese Medicine”

Supplements to treat the common cold–myth vs science

cold-cureIt’s getting colder outside, and if you go into any pharmacy, grocery store, chemist, or superstore, you will find literally a dozen or more homeopathic, herbal, or other unproven lotions and potions to prevent or treat the common cold, or rhinovirus. These supplements are a significant part of the annual US$108 billion dollar supplement/nutraceutical industry. 

These alternative medicine (so named because there is no scientific evidence supporting their efficacy, let alone safety) products make claims that are so wonderful, many people take them. Then they themselves tell their friends how fast they got rid of their cold. Or that their cold wasn’t as bad after taking the supplement.

The problem is that determine the length and severity of the course of the common cold is entirely subjective. Since the disease is rather mild with few serious complications, it’s hard to determine when it exactly stopped and started, and how bad it was.  The common cold tends to resolve itself without external help, but there really isn’t much you can do to make your immune system attack that cold faster.

 

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Acupuncture for treating Bell’s palsy–myth vs. science

4acupunctureOf all of the alternative medicine therapies, acupuncture is the one that seems to get the most research money, and gets the most claims of effectiveness. Emphasize “claim”, because as of yet, there are no studies that show anything beyond a placebo effect, and some have shown results worse than placebo. Most of the studies are poorly designed, with poor control groups, with poor results.

Here are just some of the Cochrane reviews of acupuncture research that conclude that acupuncture lacks any clinical efficacy:

That’s just a few of many negative studies. 

So what is acupuncture? Its theoretical basis is that health and sickness are caused by the good or bad flow of Qi through the body, in particular along the twelve major meridians of the body (though some authorities list fourteen or even more) which run from head to toe along the body, and which are associated with the bladder, gallbladder, heart, large intestine, small intestine, kidneys, liver, lungs, spleen, stomach, pericardium, and other things. It is a form of woo medical procedure based on sticking needles into the dermis at precise points to affect the Qi. Except there is no evidence at all that this Qi exists. It’s pseudoscience. Continue reading “Acupuncture for treating Bell’s palsy–myth vs. science”

Preventing and treating the common cold

It’s cold season, so everyone tries various lotions and potions to either prevent the common cold or, at least, to reduce the course of the disease.  Alternative medicine’s favorite disease to treat is the common cold, mainly because it’s an easy disease with not too many consequences.  Also, it’s very subjective, since the patient has a difficult time making an accurate determination of the length and severity of the attack.  Confirmation bias is usually the reason one hears that something works for the cold.  They forget all the times it doesn’t.  Or completely misjudge the actual effects of any treatment. Continue reading “Preventing and treating the common cold”