Sunday, February 12, 2012

Alternative Medicine

Alternative medicine are treatments the derive from folk traditions not from modern medicine. Modern medicine is the observation-based approach sometimes credited with starting in Paris about 1796 and developing further during the French Revolution, but which has a long history into Renaissance times.

Today's medicine resides in medical schools and pharma companies. The interface between medical schools and pharma companies is problematic. The interface between Alternative medicine providers and their herbs + treatments is also problematic. Medicine providers fund themselves by selling treatments, and ineffective treatments can cost as much as effective ones.

It is too simple to say that modern medicine is better than alternative medicine because modern medicine keeps trying to incorporate parts of alternative medicine. I was surprised to see there were 72 postings in the last year on Science Daily's Alternative Medicine site, which usually feature popularizations of journal research. When academic research embraces a folk medicine treatment, it become both modern medicine and alternative medicine, for example, acupuncture reduces dry mouth side effects of drugs.

My big problem with alternative medicine is that people with serious illness can take unproven and probably ineffective treatment, when an effective conventional treatment is available.

What makes this worse is growing distrust of science spread started by anti-evolution advocates, pushed ahead by tobacco companies, and now spreading to climate change deniers.  In this environment, it is too easy to cast away valuable science-based medicine and embrace the folksy.