In 2015, the Nobel Prize Committee awarded the Prize for Medicine to three researchers, one of whom investigated one aspect of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). This Nobel Prize continues to be used by TCM advocates as “proof” that it works, and is “real” medicine. In fact, the Nobel Prize does not confer special status to TCM.
One of the winners of this prize was 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 scientist in many ways.
Dr. Tu found this potential treatment for malaria through her research into Chinese herbs, which led people to proclaim 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.
Just in case you didn’t know, 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 awful-looking welts and bruises 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.
Like homeopathy and chiropractic, which have little scientific evidence supporting any related clinical value, cupping is a fad without any scientific value. None.
The claims for acupuncture have any clinical usefulness are vastly overblown with evidence ranging from weak to nonexistent to dangerous. As Steven Novella at Science-Based Medicine once wrote, acupuncture is nothing more than “theatrical placebo.” On the long list of ridiculous claims for this pseudoscience is using acupuncture for hypertension treatment – and once again, real biomedical science shows it is worthless.
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.
It’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.
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”
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”