What alternative health

practitioners might not tell you



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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)