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“Some natural and complementary therapies are safe and effective, but most are not. The area is rife with pseudoscience, anti-science, testimonials and conspiracy theories and all these traits are well-represented in this appalling book. The book is based on the false premise that anecdotes are an important source of information in helping us decide if a treatment is effective or not. Anecdotes and testimonials are presented in this book to support ridiculous therapies. These therapies, including colonic irrigation, reflexology, reiki, homeopathy and kinesiology, are not supported by scientific research and are mostly biologically implausible. The author, an engineer by training, is probably a well-meaning person who thinks that he is helping to disseminate important health information that doctors can or will not give to their patients. But the information he presents is incorrect and this sort of book, which is worryingly prevalent in the new-age section of book shops, has the potential to cause harm in a number of ways. As well as promoting therapies that can directly cause physical harm, such as a ruptured bowel from colonic irrigation, the therapies promoted can lead to a vulnerable sick person having false hope, delaying proven treatments or wasting precious time and money. A disappointing and harmful consequence of the sort of nonsense illustrated throughout this book is that many health care professionals are put off natural and complementary therapies altogether, and their patients are not told about therapies that have been shown to be safe and effective in well-conducted clinical trials, such as omega-3 fish oil, St John's wort, massage therapy, yoga and many others.
As a believer in free speech and the rights of others to express their opinions, no matter how ridiculous they are, I do not advocate that this book should be banned....although it is tempting.” Reviewed by Professor Shaun Holt, New Zealand Medical Journal (17th December 2010, Vol 123 No 1327) [Subscription only.]
Dana Ullmann. (Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 2007.) "This is a great compilation of famous people who, during the last 200 years, have used or tried or spoken kindly about homoeopathy: Barbara Cartland, David Beckham, Adolf Hitler and many others. Sometimes the 'evidence' seems to be built more on hearsay than on fact. On the whole, I found this nevertheless an interesting reference text. The crucial question arises: What does it all mean? If many famous and some infamous people have used homoeopathy, does that mean it is effective? Does it show that even implausible treatments can survive? Or does it imply that famous and rich people can afford all the healthcare money can buy, including treatments that do not really work? Dana Ullman is one of the most enthusiastic homoeopaths I have ever met. I grant him that he has compiled a nice reference book, which many with an interest in homoeopathy will enjoy. But somehow I doubt that he and I would agree on the answers to the above questions." Reviewed by Edzard Ernst, Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies [FACT] (December 2008)
Elaine M Aldred. (Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier, 2007.) "This is a book for CAM practitioners who want to open their own practice. It deals with anything from general trivia such as telephone, gas and electricity connections to more specific issues such as insurance, contracts, other legal matters, marketing, advertising, business plans, clinic procedures, accounting, etc. A useful guide, no doubt, for people who are ignorant of such problems. At the same time an ambitious undertaking — overambitious, I often thought when reading the book. Most of the issues are merely touched upon or mentioned. Completeness seems to count more than depth. Did I just say completeness? I withdraw this statement. In several ways the book lacks essential points. Does the aspiring CAM practitioner learn that advertising claims need to be substantiated by evidence? No! Does he or she receive the information that the treatments used in a CAM practice should demonstrably do more good than harm? No! The book tells us about market research but not about research. It informs us about public relations but not about informed consent. Shall I continue? In summary, this book might be useful for someone who wants to become a CAM professional and aims at financial success. If you are looking for clinical success you need different books." Reviewed by Edzard Ernst, Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies [FACT] (December 2008)
Young J. (Chichester: John Wiley & Sons Ltd, 2007.) "The author describes herself as a qualified clinical psychologist, oriental medical practitioner, naturopath and nutritionist and has trained in herbal medicine, homoeopathy, flower remedies, Tibetan medicine, sound therapy, bodywork, healing, yoga and karate! She is therefore eminently qualified to write a book entitled Complementary Medicine for Dummies. The rationale underlying the choice of chapter titles in the book is not immediately obvious, but the list of therapies covered is very comprehensive. In addition to some introductory chapters, there are chapters on traditional healing systems such as TCM, Ayurveda, Tibetan medicine and Japanese medicine, something called Nature Cure, more popular therapies including acupuncture, homoeopathy, herbal medicine, osteopathy and chiropractic, as well as chapters on nutritional therapy, naturopathy, bodywork, massage, meditation and relaxation therapies, aromatherapy, healing, psychological therapies, energy medicine, and creative therapies. The book concludes with three chapters of self-help advice: ten complementary medicine tips for healthy living (eat well, breathe, satisfy your soul, etc.); ten superfoods; ten 'great' herbal remedies. I hate the fact that she has used only common names to refer to herbal medicines. Mis-identification and misunderstanding about the precise species under consideration is an important cause of adverse events in herbal medicine. Although the author has been careful to include warnings about possible adverse effects of the various therapies and advises readers, where appropriate, to consult their doctors about symptoms and to keep them informed about the treatments they are using, the short sections on evidence are rather lightweight, unsystematic, selective and optimistic. This is perhaps not unsurprising, given that the author appears, in part at least, to depend upon the practice of unproven alternative therapies for her living. Much of the book is taken up with explanations of the pseudo-scientific belief systems behind the various modalities. There are also quizzes: for example to determine whether you have a wind, bile or phlegm body type, apparently a vital distinction in Tibetan medicine. There is also advice on choosing a therapy and finding a suitable practitioner. Overall, this is a lightweight book, firmly within the commercially-driven self-help genre. It should not be relied upon to give sound, unbiased advice on complementary medicine. Only a dummy would buy it, but dummies are the last people who should read it." Reviewed by PH Canter, Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies [FACT](December 2007)