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Echinacea — the science and myths in treating the common cold

I recently wrote about pseudoscientific treatments for colds and flu, but I wanted to focus on one of the more popular treatments — echinacea. The history and science of echinacea treating these wintertime diseases are almost laughable. But you know how pseudoscience and supplements go together, and here we are.

I’m going to review the history of the herbal supplement along with the science of its safety and effectiveness. The history is quite amusing. And science is definitely lacking.

Read More »Echinacea — the science and myths in treating the common cold
flu cold treatments

Quack cold and flu treatments — echinacea and Oscillococcinum are useless

It’s that time of year when we are bombarded by treatments for cold and flu season. The quackery includes things like “immune-boosting” miracle supplements to junk that “cures” every single virus known to medical science.

This article will attempt to debunk the myths of treatments for cold and flu such as “boosting the immune system,” magical supplements, and other nonsense involved with the world of cold and flu pseudoscience.

Of course, the best way to prevent the flu is to get the vaccine. And since the vaccine is free (at least in the USA), it’s infinitely cheaper than fake, useless cold and flu treatments.

Read More »Quack cold and flu treatments — echinacea and Oscillococcinum are useless
big supplement

Big supplement profits – making boatloads of money in the name of pseudoscience

I occasionally have to defend vaccine profits (or the lack thereof), but everyone seems to ignore Big Supplement profits which are far larger than vaccine profits. And vaccines have real science backing them, which is not a statement you can make about Big Supplement.

Let’s take a moment and look at the revenues and profits of Big Pharma (and a bit of Big Vaccine) and Big Supplement. The former has to work hard and provide evidence of what its drugs do, while the latter basically can sit around and throw darts at various claims, then randomly assign those claims to some new or old supplement.

Read More »Big supplement profits – making boatloads of money in the name of pseudoscience
flu treatment

Flu treatment quackery – it is all woo, so get your influenza vaccine

It’s that time of year when we are bombarded by flu treatment quackery from “immune-boosting” miracle supplements to junk that “cures” every single virus known to medical science. During this world of the coronavirus pandemic, it seems to be even louder

This article will attempt to debunk the myths of flu treatments such as “boosting the immune system,” magical supplements, and other nonsense involved with the world of flu treatment pseudoscience.

The one way to prevent the flu, other than hiding in a bubble during the winter (which may be a good thing with the COVID-19 pandemic), is the seasonal flu vaccine. But that’s not a treatment, it prevents the flu.

Read More »Flu treatment quackery – it is all woo, so get your influenza vaccine

Coronavirus prevention – quacks are using the anti-vaccine woo cookbook

You could have predicted that coronavirus prevention quacks would show up on the internet about 4.7 nanoseconds after the disease was found outside of China. Every uptick in reports about the disease causes a doubling in the number of coronavirus prevention pseudoscientific websites.

Of course, the FDA has tried to crack down on some of the offenders, but it’s like Whac-A-Mole – you smack down one swindler, two more show up elsewhere. 

This article is going to list out some (but certainly not all) of the most quack-filled coronavirus prevention woo that I’ve seen. Since I don’t consciously try to find this junk, I may not catch them all.

There’s one thing you’ll notice – almost all of this nonsense is the exact same thing that the anti-vaccine crowd pushes as “alternatives” to vaccines. And as much as they don’t work for measles, flu, whooping cough, and other diseases, they don’t work for coronavirus. Read More »Coronavirus prevention – quacks are using the anti-vaccine woo cookbook

boosting immune system

Immune system boosting myths – 15 bogus ways to avoid the flu vaccine

I keep track of articles that claim that they have THE METHOD for immune system boosting. There are so many of them, but I find them all amusing and filled with pseudoscience.

Why do I do this? Outside of those individuals who have some chronic disease or chronic malnutrition who require special treatment, the only methods for immune system boosting are vaccines.  

Recently, I ran across a blog post on a woo-filled website called Nature Moms. As you can imagine, science isn’t exactly the standard of evidence. The post that caught my eye was entitled, “15 Ways to Boost Immunity and Keep Illness Away Without Vaccines.”

As you can imagine, out of the 15 ways, only 3 or 4 may be useful for immune system boosting. I know, you’re shocked.

OK, time to do what I do – debunk (or confirm) the 15 ways to boost immunity, so I’ll do that in order.Read More »Immune system boosting myths – 15 bogus ways to avoid the flu vaccine

flu treatment

Flu treatments and supplements – do they work? No, get the vaccine

As we enter the 2019-20 flu season, some choose to receive the seasonal flu vaccine. Of course, some choose to rely upon unproven flu treatments, because they buy into the easily-debunked myths of the anti-vaccine world

Many of the good people who read this blog understand that the flu is a very dangerous disease. In the USA, the CDC estimates that the flu season every year results in 12 to 56 thousand deaths and 140 to 710 thousand hospitalizations. It is not a trivial disease that can be easily ignored. Let me be frank – your best, and really, the only choice to prevent the flu is getting the seasonal flu vaccine. And, it is the only method to boost your or your children’s immune system against the flu.

I’ve written previously about various supplements and treatments for the common cold, and they mostly don’t work. Or the evidence is so weak that it’s literally a waste of money to use them. Or they’re just useless.

These ineffective treatments exist for one reason – money. Cold and flu treatments are a significant part of the estimated global US$278 billion supplement and nutraceutical industry. And the industry is largely unregulated, so they can make unsupported claims about things like flu treatments, and people buy them based on the pseudoscience and false claims.

Although there’s some overlap between the common cold and flu treatments, there are a large number of flu treatments that get sold over the counter, although one class of drugs are sold by prescription. Are any of them effective? Let’s find out.Read More »Flu treatments and supplements – do they work? No, get the vaccine

common cold treatments

Common cold treatments – what works, what is just plain nonsense

It’s that time of year when dozens of common cold treatments are all over the place. On TV advertisements. On displays in your pharmacy. Once again, it’s time to take a look at these lotions and potions to determine which work and which are complete pseudoscientific nonsense.

There are literally a dozen or more homeopathic, herbal, and other unproven concoctions to prevent or treat the common cold, caused by rhinovirus. These common cold treatments are a significant part of the estimated global US$278 billion supplement and 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.

Essentially, the whole industry is mostly based on anecdotes, untested claims and the placebo effect. Colds are self-limiting infections, meaning an infection generally lasts some random amount of time, with most people recovering within 7-10 days.

We’re going to review some of the most well-known common cold treatments (there isn’t enough time to review them all), along with what real science says about them in high quality systematic reviews in peer-reviewed, high impact medical journals. This article will review all of the common cold treatments that seem to be out there. Spoiler alert – most don’t work.

One major problem is that the determination of 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. So, positive results, if they exist, should be treated with a high degree of skepticism.Read More »Common cold treatments – what works, what is just plain nonsense

Pseudoscience and science – alternative medicine is bullshit

Editor’s note: This article combines elements of several articles about pseudoscience published in 2012 and 2013. It’s been revised to include some newer information and split into several parts to improve readability. See Part 1 here.

This is part 2 of the Pseudoscience and science series.

Pseudoscience and science – the former is bullshit. And the latter is fact based on robust, unbiased evidence. Mostly pseudoscience can be ignored, even if it smells bad.

Pseudoscience is enticing because it’s easy to understand. It’s not nuanced, and it general speaks in black and white terms, often false dichotomies. That view is most prevalent in medicine.

Real doctors will say “this treatment for XYZ cancer is going to be difficult. You’ll lose your hair. You’ll feel sick all the time. You might be in pain. But it gives a 73% chance of putting the cancer into remission, and you have a reasonable chance of living at least five years.”

The pseudo-medicine pusher will say, “drink this juice and have a coffee enema. No side effects. And I guarantee that the cancer will disappear.”

The second choice is so enticing. So easy. But most of us know that treating most cancers is hard. We try to find another way, and hope for the best. Maybe you can choose the junk medicine approach, and get lucky with a spontaneous remission. Or maybe the real medicine worked well enough to cause the remission.

 

Of course, pseudoscience can make broad claims without the rigorous research required to make those claims. The charlatans who push junk medicine get to say whatever they want, with no consequences usually.

Alternative medicine is bullshit – it is firmly grounded in pseudoscience.

Read More »Pseudoscience and science – alternative medicine is bullshit

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.

 

Read More »Supplements to treat the common cold–myth vs science