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US Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health

Posted: August 23, 2016 at 9:18 am

BMJ. 2000 Nov 4; 321(7269): 11531154.

British Medical Association, London WC1H 9JP

The pomegranate was chosen as the logo for the Millennium Festival of Medicine from a shortlist that included DNA, the human body, and a heart beat. Not only has the pomegranate been revered through the ages for its medicinal properties but it also features in the heraldic crests of several medical institutions involved in the organisation of the festival.

The pomegranate has been held sacred by many of the world’s major religions

It has been revered through the ages for its medicinal properties

Preparations of different parts of the plant have been used to treat a variety of conditions

It features in the coat of arms of several medical associations

Before its medicinal properties were described the pomegranate was held sacred by many of the world’s major religions.

In the Greek myth of Persephone’s abduction by Hades, lord of the underworld, the pomegranate represents life, regeneration, and marriage.1 One day while out gathering flowers, Persephone noticed a narcissus of exquisite beauty. As she bent down to pick it, the earth opened and Hades seized her and dragged her down to his kingdom. By eating a few pomegranate seeds, Persephone tied herself to Hadesthe pomegranate being a symbol of the indissolubility of marriage. Inconsolable at the loss of her daughter, the corn goddess Demeter prevented the earth from bearing fruit unless she saw her daughter again. Zeus intervened and worked out a compromise: Persephone should live with Hades for one third of the year and the other two thirds with Demeter. Persephone’s return from the underworld each year is marked by the arrival of Spring.

The pomegranate probably originated in Iran and Afghanistan and was much used in Zoroastrian ritual and domestic observances.23 In Persian mythology Isfandiyar eats a pomegranate and becomes invincible.4 In The Persian War Herodotus mentions golden pomegranates adorning the spears of warriors in the Persian phalanx.5

Pomegranate seeds are said to number 613one for each of the Bible’s 613 commandments.6 The pomegranate was revered for the beauty of its shrub, flowers, and fruitsymbolising sanctity, fertility, and abundance.7 The Song of Solomon compares the cheeks of a bride behind her veil to the two halves of a pomegranate.8 Depictions of the fruit have long featured in architecture and design. They decorated the pillars of King Solomon’s temple and the robes and regalia of Jewish kings and priests.

Along with the citrus and the peach, the pomegranate is one of the three blessed fruits. In Buddhist art the fruit represents the essence of favourable influences.9 In Buddhist legend the demoness Hariti, who devoured children, was cured of her evil habit by the Buddha, who gave her a pomegranate to eat. She is depicted in Buddhist art holding a child. In Japan she is known as Kishimojin and is invoked by infertile women.10

In China the pomegranate is widely represented in ceramic art symbolising fertility, abundance, posterity, numerous and virtuous offspring, and a blessed future.11 A picture of a ripe open pomegranate is a popular wedding present.

A symbol of resurrection and life everlasting in Christian art, the pomegranate is often found in devotional statues and paintings of the Virgin and Child.

In medieval representations the pomegranate tree, a fertility symbol, is associated with the end of a unicorn hunt. The captured unicorn appears to be bleeding from wounds inflicted on him by the hunters.12 The wounds are actually pomegranate seeds dripping their blood red juices on his milk white body. Wild and uncontrollable by nature, unicorns can be tamed only by virgins. Once tamed, the unicorn was held in an enclosed garden and chained to a pomegranate tree, symbolising the impending incarnation of Christ.13

The heavenly paradise of the Koran describes four gardens with shade, springs, and fruitsincluding the pomegranate. Legend holds that each pomegranate contains one seed that has come down from paradise.5 Pomegranates have had a special role as a fertility symbol in weddings among the Bedouins of the Middle East.14 A fine specimen is secured and split open by the groom as he and his bride open the flap of their tent or enter the door of their house. Abundant seeds ensure that the couple who eat it will have many children.

Preparations of different parts of the plantflower, fruit juice, rind, barkhave been used for a wide variety of conditions, although gastroenterological ailments predominate. Dioscorides describes some of them:

All sorts of pommegranats are of a pleasant taste and good for ye stomach . . . The juice of the kernells prest out, being sod and mixed with Hony, are good for the ulcers that are in ye mouth and in ye Genitalls and in the seate, as also for the Pterygia in digitis and for the Nomae and ye excrescencies in ulcers, and for ye paines of ye eares, and for the griefs in ye nosthrills . . . The decoction of ye flowers is a collution of moist flagging gummes and of loose teeth . . . ye rinde having a binding faculty . . . but ye decoction of ye roots doth expell and kill the Latas tineas ventris.15

The use of pomegranate rind and root bark as a treatment for tapeworm infestation (Latas tineas ventris) was recommended by several early Roman medical writers and is still listed as a treatment for tapeworms and diarrhoea in a current encyclopaedia of medicinal plants.16

The British Medical Association and three royal colleges feature the pomegranate in their coats of arms. The pomegranate was part of Catherine of Aragon’s coat of arms and was accepted into English heraldry when she married King Henry VIII in 1509. The Royal College of Physicians of London had adopted it in their coat of arms by the middle of the sixteenth century.17 The heraldic meanings of the pomegranate hark back to the meanings of the pomegranate in the myth of Persephonethe persistence of life, fertility, and regeneration.

Competing interests: None declared.

British Medical Association

Royal College of Midwives

Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists

Royal College of Physicians

1. New Larousse encyclopedia of mythology. London: Hamlyn; 1983.

2. Trees at the Chelsea Physic Garden. London: Chelsea Physic Garden Company; 1997. p. 14.

3. Modi JJ. The religious ceremonies and customs of the Parsees. Bombay: British India Press; 1922.

4. Curtis VS. Persian myths. London: British Museum Press; 1996. p. 54.

5. Herodotus . The histories. London: Penguin; 1996. p. 389.

6. Good A, Nurock M. The fruits of the Holy Land. Jerusalem: Israel Universities Press; 1968.

7. Wigoder DE. The Garden of Eden cookbook. San Francisco: Harper & Row; 1988.

8. Holy Bible. Song of Solomon 4, 3.

9. Hall J. Hall’s illustrated dictionary of symbols in eastern and western art. London: John Murray; 1995.

10. Munsterberg H. Dictionary of Chinese and Japanese art. New York: Hacker Art Books; 1981. p. 241.

11. Cooper JC. An illustrated encyclopaedia of traditional symbols. London: Thames and Hudson; 1995. p. 134.

12. Freeman MB. The unicorn tapestries. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art; 1976.

13. Cherry J. Mythical beasts. London: British Museum Press; 1995. pp. 4752.

14. Garrison W. Strange facts about the Bible. Nashville: Festival Books; 1980. p. 184.

15. Gunter RT. The Greek herbal of Dioscorides. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 1934. pp. 8081.

16. Chevallier A. Encyclopedia of medicinal plants. London: Dorling Kindersley; 1996. p. 257.

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US Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health

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Alternative Medicine – Christian Research Institute

Posted: August 21, 2016 at 11:12 am


Over the past decade, governmental agencies, medical schools, influential voices in the media, and the public at large have seen a remarkable surge of interest in alternative medicine in the United States. While many therapies focus on unproven but otherwise spiritually neutral approaches (for example, nutritional supplements), others arise from or validate worldviews especially the monism (All is One) of the New Age movement that are hostile to the teachings of Scripture. The cultural developments that have brought alternative (still often called holistic) therapies into the cultural mainstream are complex and often understandable. However, a number of general cautions are still in order regarding this movement.

Twenty years ago a nurse tending to pediatric patients at Santa Monica Hospital handed me a rather unassuming publication bearing the title, Journal of Holistic Health. Along with more than 2,000 health-care professionals and other interested parties, she had just attended a conference in San Diego entitled, The Physician of the Future. In more ways than one, she had got religion at this meeting, and spoke with great enthusiasm about the new paradigm that would soon revolutionize our understanding of health and disease.

The future of health care, she explained, lay in the concept of holism, understanding the whole person body, mind, and spirit who was in fact a great deal more than the sum of several organ systems. It would become much more important to understand the patient who had the illness, not merely the illness that had the patient. Prevention, lifestyle, stress reduction, and self-awareness would displace the invasive and often destructive approaches specifically, drugs and surgery that had for so long dominated Western medicine. Eventually, we would begin to define health in more uplifting terms: not merely as the absence of disease, but as a state of increasing energy, productivity, insight, and personal transformation.


It sounded intriguing. After all, I was training as a resident in family practice the specialty whose interest extended not only to the whole patient, but also to her or his family, work, relationships, and even the community where she or he lived. I glanced through the articles in this home-grown journal (which actually was a transcription of the previous years conference), and then began to read more carefully, with increasing concern. This movement appeared to have more on its mind than changing dietary habits, encouraging exercise, and coping with stress.

The conference director, David J. Harris, who bore the title Founder and President of the Association for Holistic Health, had rhapsodized in his opening remarks that this gathering is part of a process that is bringing about a new way of thinking, a new science merged with religion. James Fadiman, Ph.D., at that time Director of the Institute of Noetic Sciences at Stanford University, declared that we are not primarily physical forms. We are primarily energy around which matter adheres. Richard Svihus, M.D., President of the California Academy of Preventive Medicine, proclaimed that the holistic health movement is desired by higher forces and consciousness within the universe. Harold Bloomfield, M.D., a psychiatrist who had written the best-selling TM: Discovering Inner Energy and Overcoming Stress, extolled the benefits of Transcendental Meditation. Dr. Elisabeth Kbler-Ross, widely recognized as the worlds authority on the dying process, stated unequivocally that death does not exist, and that after transitioning from this life, you will have the opportunity not to be judged by a judgmental God, but to judge yourself. Many others with strings of initials after their names and impressive titles used engaging anecdotes that described healing through aligning the bodys invisible energies, developing psychic abilities, and most important altering, expanding, and transforming consciousness.

The pediatric nurse really had gotten religion but not a gospel that would set well with Luke, the doctor who followed Jesus. It was, instead, a gospel better suited to Luke Skywalker, master of the Force, the impersonal energy allegedly pervading the universe. The holistic health movement, it turned out, appeared to be yet another banner under the We are all energy / All is One / I am God / You are God / We are all God / Aint that great? spirituality of the New Age movement. Such spirituality was storming the gates of Western culture and hoping to be welcomed with open arms.

In my subsequent explorations of the holistic phenomenon I attended two of the annual Association for Holistic Health conferences in San Diego. For the most part, the speakers were interesting, energetic, and sincere in their desire to promote health and healing, while the audiences were far more attentive than many I had observed at other medical conferences. These total immersion experiences left no doubt in my mind that the spiritual agenda of the new medicine at least as presented by its most active proponents was of utmost importance. Furthermore, a few direct questions to some of the speakers made it abundantly clear that this spirituality, which presented itself as generously inclusive of all religious traditions, did not in fact harbor warm and fuzzy feelings about such concepts as the sinfulness of humankind, Christs atoning death on the cross, or our need for individual repentance.

Ask a speaker about Jesus, and you would hear He was a Master Teacher, Enlightened Healer, Bearer of the Christ Consciousness, and so forth. Mention atonement, and you would be gently corrected, for Jesus demonstrated at-one-ment an understanding of His (and our) unity with God. Bring up repentance, and you would be told that what we really need is enlightenment a direct experience of our own divinity. Bear down on that distasteful event at Golgotha, and the air would suddenly become rather chilly.

Over the next several years, I both wrote and spoke of my concerns about the holistic health movement in a variety of settings, and while doing so, made a few observations:

First, a number of conventional medical practitioners were miffed over the idea that unorthodox healing systems were promoted as treating the whole person more effectively. Indeed, even the most narrowly focused subspecialist could truly keep the patients entire life in focus, attending to the mind and spirit as well as the body. Furthermore, there was no guarantee that an unorthodox practitioner might not see a patient as little more than a tangled wad of energy fields needing to be balanced through some esoteric formulation. (Take these supplements/herbs that I have chosen for you through the most inscrutable and subjective criteria, and call me in the morning.)

Second, many people including committed Christians who would go to the mat over the interpretation of a grammatical detail in a passage of Scripture appeared quite willing to lay critical thinking aside while dealing with unorthodox healing methods. Does it work? or, more specifically, Does it make me feel better? were often far more important questions than Does it make any sense? or Is there any empirical proof? or On what world view is this healing system based?

Third, the holistic health movement appeared to be having little impact on the practices of mainstream physicians. It had somewhat greater success among nurses, particularly with a specific healing technique known as therapeutic touch (see below).

Fourth, the new medicine also seemed to be making little headway within medical schools, government bodies, and insurance companies. Holistic health proponents repeatedly expressed a desire to leave the fringes and enter the cultural mainstream via research, public policy, and finance, but for many years this goal proved elusive.

Indeed, the persistent inability of holistic practices to gain widespread acceptance by the powers that be was undoubtedly a sore point for this movement for a number of years. Despite the grandiose optimism expressed during the San Diego conferences and others during the late 1970s and early 1980s, holistic health seemed to sputter through the 1980s, keeping itself alive primarily through paying clients who beat a path to the doors of unconventional practitioners. I concluded that there would always be holistic voices crying in the wilderness, but that our culture would probably keep them there.

My unspoken prediction, however, was proven wrong by some startling developments over the past few years. A dramatic turnabout has brought the gamut of holistic therapies including those with New Age and Eastern mystical flags fully unfurled squarely into the mainstream of American culture under a new banner: alternative medicine. Some proponents prefer the more conciliatory term complementary medicine, while a few describe themselves as promoters of integrative medicine, seeking to unite all forms of health care into a coherent system. Alternative medicine, however, is the most widely used term.


It is difficult to pinpoint when or how this reversal began. Promoters of alternative health care would likely argue that this movement hasnt actually enjoyed a revival, but that it has been alive and well all along, and that the power elites of the press, government, and medicine have only recently noticed. This idea is supported to some degree by a now-famous 1993 article in the New England Journal of Medicine, a publication not exactly known for tabloid excesses.

The report detailed the findings of a 1990 survey of health care utilization in the United States, suggesting that more than 30 percent of American adults availed themselves of at least one form of alternative therapy that year, paying an estimated 425 million visits to providers of such treatments about 40 million more than the number made to primary care physicians! The tab for this care was nearly $14 billion, of which more than $10 billion was not covered by insurance and thus was paid out of pocket. The survey indicated that unconventional therapies were used mostly for chronic rather than life-threatening conditions, that most people using these alternatives didnt discuss them with their physicians (no great surprise since conventional practitioners tended to dismiss such options with eye-rolling disdain), and that the elderly represented a significant proportion of the clientele.1


It would not be surprising if a survey taken today showed even more widespread involvement in alternative practices. Recent indications of a surge in public interest include the following:

A Time cover story entitled Faith and Healing (24 June 1996) painted its subject with broad strokes, encompassing traditional faith in God, meditative techniques, and biochemistry. It described controlled studies designed to determine whether patients who were the recipients of prayer defined in a variety of ways fared better than others.

A bumper crop of books on alternative therapies now line the shelves of the Health and Medicine section of the typical neighborhood bookstore. No longer limited to the off-label and self-published material that was once the staple of New Age outlets, the newer titles come from mainstream publishers, and place unconventional treatments on equal footing with Western medicine. One prominent example is The Medical Advisor: The Complete Book of Alternative and Conventional Treatment,2 published last year by Time-Life Books. This handsome volume describes health problems in encyclopedic detail, noting for each the conventional medical approach and then listing several alternatives: ancient Chinese, homeopathic, herbal, and so on.

The Public Broadcasting System (PBS) has repeatedly broadcast presentations of alternative healing. Bill Moyerss 1993 series, Healing and the Mind, attracted almost twice the normal PBS viewing audience. Andrew Weil, M.D., a popular author who now teaches Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona School of Medicine, has offered articulate distillations from his book Spontaneous Healing on a program of the same name. Deepak Chopra, M.D., a publishing hot-ticket and Americas foremost purveyor of Indias ancient healing system known as ayurveda, captivated viewers in the PBS specials, Body, Mind and Soul: The Mystery and the Magic and The Way of the Wizard.

Websites devoted to alternative therapies abound on the Internet. If one tells the Yahoo search engine to look for alternative medicine, he or she will be escorted to more than 200 sites, many of which provide links to dozens of others. On the other hand, cautionary notices and critical analyses by organizations such as the National Council against Health Fraud and the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP, a humanist think tank that publishes Skeptical Inquirer) are few and far between.

Periodicals promoting alternative therapies are now available both for the general public (for example, Natural Health) and health care providers. The monthly journals Alternative and Complementary Therapies and Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine contain articles and studies of variable quality, which in some cases (unlike standard medical journals) freely wade into metaphysical and promotional material.

The most striking foray into the realm of conventional medicine occurred last November when American Family Physician, the official journal of the American Academy of Family Physicians (normally a reliable resource), published as its cover article, Alternative Medicine and the Family Physician.3 Authored by James M. Gordon, M.D., who directs the Mind-Body Center in Washington, D.C., the article offered a bland overview of alternative care, admonished family physicians to convey a sensitive acceptance and an openness to.their patients interest in alternative therapies, and encouraged practitioners to explore this realm themselves starting with Gordons own book, Manifesto for a New Medicine. An accompanying editorial strongly endorsed physician involvement in alternative therapies, and a duplicable information sheet did likewise for patients. Nowhere in these materials was there a note of caution or concern about any of the approaches mentioned.


Manifestations of increasing interest in alternative health care have not been limited to the general public and news media. In 1991, Congress mandated the formation of the Office of Alternative Medicine (OAM), now permanently established within the National Institute of Health (NIH). OAMs mission is to encourage and support the investigation of alternative medical (AM) practices, with the ultimate goal of integrating validated alternative medical practices into health and medical care (emphasis added).4 To this end, 10 exploratory centers have been established at institutions such as the University of Minnesota Medical School, Stanford University, and Columbia Universitys College of Physicians and Surgeons. NIH guidelines for these centers call for a systematic analysis of alternative treatments and their effect on major diseases, health, and wellness.5

It remains to be seen whether the centers, each of which will focus on a specific health care issue, will approach alternative therapies with open arms along with open minds. Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, for example, has already established the Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, the first of its kind at an American medical school. A quote in the Rosenthal Centers brochure from Woodson Merrell, M.D., sounds less than dispassionate: The fact that medical schools are beginning to incorporate alternative modes of healing into their curriculum is a major step in medical education. It is very exciting.

The enthusiasm for alternative medicine displayed by those involved with OAM certainly raises some doubt that its programs will provide evenhanded analysis of the therapies they study. Representative John E. Porter (R-Ill), Chairman of the Labor, Health and Human Services Education Subcommittee, which oversees funding for NIH, not only supports OAM but also sees it as fulfilling a specific mission: As I see it, the most important contribution the OAM can make to the practice of medicine is to provide that link between alternative and conventional medicine.Therefore, it is important to continue making contacts on Capitol Hill and to deliver the message: alternative medicine is integral to biomedical research, provides effective results, and is a priority for spending decisions.6 James Gordon, M. D., who wrote the above-noted Manifesto for a New Medicine, also serves as Chairman of the Program Advisory Council for OAM.


What might explain this surge of interest in alternative therapies? There are many possible reasons, but the heart of the matter is this: for all of its technological prowess, especially with acute and critical conditions, Western medicine continues to bump against the limits of its effectiveness when dealing with many disabling chronic conditions especially those related to aging, such as degenerative arthritis as well as complex diseases, such as cancer and HIV/AIDS. A massive tide of baby boomers is now facing mid-life and menopause, and, having challenged the status quo at every stage of life, this generation is not about to accept a just deal with it approach to the health problems of its golden years.

Moreover, stress and common lifestyle-induced problems, such as chronic fatigue and depression, do not always find sympathetic ears and definitive solutions in the doctors office. Many conventional practitioners drive large numbers of people to alternative therapists by spending as little time as possible with their patients and by clinging to outmoded authoritarian roles (I know whats best for you, so dont ask me those irritating questions.). Alternative practitioners may listen more attentively to their patients, and they frequently promote themselves as encouraging a more collaborative relationship.

Yet encouraging mutual respect, open communication, and informed decision-making are not the exclusive province of alternative therapies. In fact, many conscientious doctors within the conventional model have inadvertently contributed to the popularity of alternative therapies by candidly admitting the limits of their capabilities and carefully explaining the pros and cons of treatment options. Maintaining this evenhanded approach requires using words such as might, maybe, and I dont know. Furthermore, an increasing and appropriate emphasis on informed consent over the past few decades requires physicians to present both the risks and the benefits in connection with a given medication or surgery.

As a result, in many situations a physician may not be able to bring the power of positive expectation to bear on the patients problem. Alternative therapies, on the other hand, are typically brimming with optimism, often inversely proportional to their ties to reality. After hearing more than one doctor say, I dont know what is causing your problem or what we can do about it, someone with a complex illness may feel a breath of hope when the alternative practitioner announces, I can find out why you feel so poorly, and I have a specific plan that will get you on the road to recovery.

Other reasons for the rising interest in alternative therapies include:

1.) The appeal of natural approaches often touted as helping the body to heal itself over drugs and surgery. There is no question that ounces of prevention are better than pounds of cure, and positive lifestyle choices (regular exercise, prudent eating habits, and avoidance of harmful substances) are very likely to reduce medical problems in the future. But all too often the term natural is misapplied to bizarre, illogical treatments or the use of huge (and unnatural) amounts of vitamin and mineral supplements. Eating a variety of wholesome foods every day is natural; taking a tackle-box full of supplements is not.

2.) The current cultural enthronement of choice the need to have options, to have it my way has become a national credo. The word alternative implies that there is a choice to be made regarding health care, as opposed to simply following doctors orders.

3.) Skyrocketing costs, especially related to high-tech procedures and expensive medications, continue to plague the conventional health care system. Because alternative therapies tend to be relatively lowtech and often stress activities that the individual can do for himself or herself, some managed care/HMO systems are investigating their potential for lowering health care bills.

4.) A deep and widespread spiritual hunger. A number of therapies serve as a gateway to spiritual technologies and world views that address needs for meaning, knowledge, and power.

So what is the problem with alternative medicine? Before addressing that question, it is important to state what is not at issue.

1.) Turf battles. As a conventional, Western-trained practitioner, I can readily affirm that any concerns that I or others raise about alternative practices are not driven by possessiveness for patients or the income derived from them. Furthermore, it is important to counter an allegation that circulates with variable fervor in alternative circles: The A.M.A., the medical establishment, the pharmaceutical industry, or some other nefarious conglomerate is suppressing effective alternative treatments especially for cancer as part of an evil scheme to keep people sick so that billions of dollars can be made treating them. This paranoid delusion has as much basis in reality as a Stephen King novel, and begs the obvious question: What do these plotters do when any one of them or a loved one develops cancer? This rumor needs to be given a decent burial.

2.) Optimizing lifestyle. Many alternative devotees pay close attention to their daily living habits and make wise decisions (although sometimes for odd reasons). Primary care physicians are always delighted to have low maintenance patients who make wholesome dietary choices, exercise regularly, shun harmful substances, and deal effectively with lifes stresses. If this were the sum of alternative or holistic health, there would be little to be concerned about and much to applaud.

3.) Effective treatments based on rational thinking and solid research. One of the potential benefits of the Office of Alternative Medicine is the sponsorship of studies to separate alternative wheat from chaff. For example, the Rosenthal Center is conducting a double-blind, randomized study to determine whether a specific Chinese herbal preparation is effective in treating menopausal hot flashes. If such research validates this particular herbal remedy as a useful therapeutic tool and provides guidelines for its appropriate use, many women will be grateful beneficiaries.

4.) Recognizing the spiritual dimension to health. Human beings are indeed more than a collection of complex biochemical reactions, and their spiritual values can play an important role in both health and illness. Research psychiatrist David Larson, M.D., at the National Institute for Healthcare Research has collected a large number of studies that indicate that regular churchgoers are, among other things, more likely to have a reduced risk of coronary artery disease, lower blood pressure, less depression, and fewer anxiety-related illnesses. Furthermore, these benefits appear to be independent of lifestyle decisions (such as abstaining from smoking) that might arise from spiritual commitments. However, a number of alternative therapies and conceptions of health embrace metaphysical orientations overtly hostile to the teachings of the Old and New Testaments.


Presenting a detailed critique of even a sampling of alternative therapies is beyond the scope of this article. The following basic problem areas are presented, however, as a caution to those involved in this realm.

Excessive promoting. To say that the realm of alternative medicine is characterized by optimism is an understatement, and undoubtedly much of its success is due to its unabashedly positive outlook. Unfortunately, this buoyancy tends to pervade even its serious journals, such as Alternative and Complementary Therapies, raising doubts about the willingness of alternative practitioners to engage in any serious form of peer review. For all of its faults, Western medicine has progressed by honoring skepticism and doubt, and by demanding that the efficacy of its interventions be validated by controlled studies. Even the extensive advertising to physicians and patients by the pharmaceutical industry is governed by strict guidelines regarding claims that can be made about a given product.

There is no similar oversight for the myriad of herbal formulations, supplements, homeopathic remedies, and other concoctions heavily promoted in magazines, health food stores, and infomercials. (On weekends, some Christian radio stations literally transform into alternative therapy flea markets, without any apparent regard for the credibility of the material emanating on their airwaves.) Expansive claims abound for restoring energy, improving digestion, and solving a variety of poorly defined ailments (heart problems, kidney disease, etc.), all unspecified. Testimonials and anecdotes serve as proof positive, and any attempt by the Food and Drug Administration to bring some order to this Dodge City are met with howls of protest from merchants and buyers alike.

Everything you know is wrong. A number of alternative therapies also postulate alternative realities convoluted explanations of how things work in the human body (or the universe in general) that are totally at odds with the most basic facts of physiology. These are politely referred to in OAM literature as traditional and ethnomedicine therapies, and include such far-flung systems as ancient Chinese medicine and its offshoots (classical acupuncture and acupressure, among others), ayurvedic medicine from India, and homeopathy. Each operates as a self-contained system with its own internal logic, and while they seem to coexist happily under the big tent of alternative medicine, each is quite incompatible with the others. Questions about the validity of each systems basic assumptions are usually deflected with references to the accumulated wisdom of thousands of years of careful observation or the hundreds/ thousands/millions of treatment successes/satisfied customers or (best yet) the many scientific studies documenting the effectiveness of _____ . What proof is there, for example, for the ancient Chinese notion that invisible energy called chi circulates in equally invisible channels called meridians, and that disease results from disturbances in that flow?

The reference to many scientific studies is the most ironic because the methodology of modern scientific inquiry clearly came up with an understanding of health and disease that bears absolutely no resemblance to the precepts of these systems. For a quick reality check, imagine for a moment the reception that would greet an alternative system of mechanical engineering, aeronautics, or navigation based on ancient Eastern mysticism. Imagine, for that matter, an effort by your local emergency room to revive Hippocratess doctrine of the four humours as the basis for diagnosis and treatment.

Postmodern thinking. The fact that fanciful healing systems thrive in industrialized nations is partly due to the fact that postmodernism has penetrated Western cultures to a significant degree. This world view rejects both scientific rationalism and biblical notions of absolute truth, and substitutes for them intense subjectivism: Truth is defined by my experience/my feelings/my understanding. The scientific method and all that it entails rational hypotheses, logical deductions, controlled studies, and revising ones opinions based on this arduous process are seen as no more valid a way of understanding the world than any individuals mystical experiences or intuitive hunches. Any claim that one approach to obtaining knowledge might, in fact, be better than another, or that there is any absolute truth especially a transcendent God who is the truth is viewed as a power play, an attempt by one person to suppress and oppress someone else.

One alternative well suited to a postmodern culture is therapeutic touch, a practice that has continuously gained in popularity among nurses since its introduction in 1975 by New York University Professor Dolores Krieger, R.N., Ph.D. Now taught at more than 80 universities and hospitals, therapeutic touch purports to detect and adjust invisible energies supposedly flowing within and emanating from the human body. This involves entering a meditative state, moving the hands slowly about two inches above the patients skin in an effort to detect subtle sensations such as tingling or heat, using the hands to sweep away excess energy that might have been detected, creating mental images of desirable energy states, and then directing these images to the patient through the hands.

Aside from its misleading title (it should be therapeutic nontouch), the utter lack of objective validation for an invisible human energy field and the spectacular subjectivism of its technique (how in the world can anyone tell whether someone is doing it correctly?), therapeutic touch possesses a mystical heritage that should chill any practitioner who possesses even the faintest belief in the veracity of Scripture. Dr. Kriegers book The Therapeutic Touch makes it clear that she views Eastern mysticism and the Hindu concept of a universal energy called prana as the cornerstone for her therapy. She writes, The idea that prana might be transferred from one individual to another may not be so readily apparent to us unless we have gotten into the practice and literature of hatha yoga, tantric yoga, or the martial arts of the orient.7

Whenever therapeutic touch is called into question, a chorus of protest even from some Christian nurses who embrace this technique (often erroneously equating it with the laying on of hands in the New Testament) is a virtual certainty. But regardless of the benign intentions of its practitioners and its frequent proclamations of validation by some scientific studies, this technique represents a florid invasion of Eastern mysticism into the corridors of Western medicine.

The hijacking of prayer. Alternative medicine has embraced prayer as a healing modality, and in doing so, it has repeatedly fooled even mature Christians. This has occurred in two ways. One is exemplified by a 1988 study reported in the above-noted Time article, Faith and Healing. Nearly 400 patients in the coronary care unit at San Francisco General Hospital were randomly assigned to two groups. Patients in the experimental group were prayed for by born-again Christians, while those in the control group were not. Neither group of patients knew this was being done. Lo and behold, the prayed-for group had one-third the number of complications. Some Christians who become aware of such studies are thrilled: Finally science is validating what the Bible says about prayer.

But is God Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, an appropriate subject for a controlled study? Is the potter going to be subject to a randomized protocol of the clay? Is prayer merely a form of spiritual technology? This type of experiment encompasses the worst of both worlds misdirected science and presumptuous theology and indirectly validates the misguided assumption (prevalent even among many Christians) that prayer is a cosmic call button, in response to which an omnipotent butler automatically fulfills human desires.

The other fake-out, involving some inventive verbal sleight of hand, is exemplified by the writings of Larry Dossey, M.D., author of the bestselling Healing Words and the more recent Prayer Is Good Medicine. Dossey is widely quoted even in reputable Christian publications because of his encouraging thoughts about the role of prayer in healing. But his notions of prayer extend well beyond the basic concept of communication between a human being and the omniscient, omnipotent, and loving Creator. He views prayer as a nonlocal extension of human consciousness: Prayer actually enlarges the reach of human consciousness. It is a way for us to transcend our physical limitations to be nonlocal, like gods.8 It doesnt matter much whether one prays to Jehovah or to the entire universe, or merely extends positive thoughts in another persons direction. To him its all prayer and its all good.

In the Bible, however, the importance of worshiping and honoring the one true God is of paramount concern. It does matter to whom we pray, and with what attitude. Furthermore, doing so requires that we have a clear understanding that God is God, and we arent which brings us full circle to the last and most serious problem with alternative medicine.

Health is godhood. As noted at the beginning of this article, the holistic health movement of 20 years ago embraced a concept that was in fact deeply embedded in many of its therapies: Matter and energy are different forms of the same reality. We are all congealed energy the same energy that fills the universe, which some call God. Therefore we are God. Alternative medicine in the 1990s has in no way distanced itself from this world view.

Perhaps the most successful proponent of this philosophy in the United States is Deepak Chopra, M. D., author of numerous best sellers including Ageless Body, Timeless Mind and The Way of the Wizard, ubiquitous endorser of other alternative medicine books, and favorite of PBS viewers and movie stars. Originally trained in Western-style endocrinology and once the prime promoter of Maharishi Mahesh Yogis foray into health care, Chopra is now in command of his own Chopra Center for Well Being in La Jolla, California.

Chopra shouts the virtues of ayurveda from the media housetops. He promotes the notion that we are all local nodes in the infinite, universal energy field (call it God if you wish): All of us are connected to patterns of intelligence that govern the whole cosmos. Our bodies are part of a universal body, our minds an aspect of a universal mind.9 So when the physical body dies, we have nothing to fear. As he explains in a recent column in Natural Health, Once our physical body disintegrates, we go through a period of deep slumber as an astral body.after which we gradually awaken to experiences that we need to work out. Eventually we get in touch with our karmic software and then re-emerge on the physical plane with a higher level of awareness. With each cycle of life and death we move into a higher or more refined vibratory frequency of consciousness.10


This is, of course, the old reincarnation shuffle, presented to reassure readers of this alternative health magazine that all will be well during their next several appearances on earth, until ultimate health a final unity with the universal mind takes place. Obviously, in such a scenario there is no need for God to have become a man to become a ransom for many, and no need for repentance, but only a need for each of us to experience our godhood.

These are yet another presentation, in all of their primal seduction, of the two most basic lies ever told to human beings: You shall be as gods, and you will not die. Unfortunately, despite an abundance of optimism and good intentions, many who are involved in alternative medicine especially those who claim to detect and manipulate invisible energies are unwittingly distorting Gods true identity as creator and Lord, and our true identity as creatures who need first to be saved by Him and then to serve Him.Paul Reisser, M.D., is a family physician in private practice in Southern California. He is the coauthor of several books, including New Age Medicine (InterVarsity Press, 1988) and the upcoming Focus on the Family Complete Book of Baby and Child Care (Tyndale). He is a member of the Focus on the Family Physicians Resource Council and medical commentator for the radio broadcast Family News in Focus.


1D. M. Eisenberg, R. C. Kessler, C. Foster, F. E. Norlock, D. R. Calkins, and T. L. Delbanco, Unconventional Medicine in the United States: Prevalence, Costs and Patterns of Use, New England Journal of Medicine 328 (1993): 246-52.2The Medical Advisor: The Complete Book of Alternative and Conventional Treatment (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1996).3James M. Gordon, Alternative Medicine and the Family Physician, American Family Physician 54,7 (1996): 2205,124Exploratory Centers for Alternative Medicine Research, NIH Guide, vol. 23, no. 15 (RFA: OD-94-004), 15 April 1994.5Ibid.6John E. Porter, OAM Funding: A Shared Responsibility, Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine 1,3 (1995): 80.7 Dolores Krieger, The Therapeutic Touch: How to Use Your Hands to Help or Heal (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1979), 13.8 Larry Dossey, Prayer Is Good Medicine (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1996), 79.9Emperor of the Soul, Time, 24 June 1996, 68.10Deepak Chopra, Soul Searching, Natural Health, January/February 1997, 192.

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Index [www.susanblackmore.co.uk]

Posted: August 12, 2016 at 2:39 pm

“Should Blackmore’s theory turn out to be true, there’s little doubt she will be remembered as one of the great thinkers of the 20th century.” Barry Lyons reviewing The Meme Machine

Je suis Charlie and why


AI is already evolving beyond our control – the implications of a third replicator in CommentisFree September 2015

“Genes, Memes and Tremes” on TV in Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman, May 2015

Twitterbrain – how analyses of viral memes is helping track information spreading in the brain.

and a must-watch video ‘This video will make you angry’ is a brilliant rant about ‘thought germs’. What a shame it mentions the word ‘meme’ only once.

The Eye of the Tremes Watch our New Video. This is based on the idea that the phones, computers and servers we are building are becoming interconnected like neurons in a brain. But this treme machine has no eyes. Or does it? With the advent of drones we may have found the eye of the tremes.

Tremes v temes

I have had such trouble with the term ‘temes’ that I am trying ‘tremes’ instead. I am sorry if this is confusing but I hope it might help.

100 walked out of my lecture on memes. On the RDF website with hundreds of comments. Aug 2014

Practical Memetics: A huge new website by Martin Farncombe devoted to understanding memes in business and organisations, includes extracts from my work.

Paper on memes in science Kuhn et al 2014 Inheritance patterns in citation networks reveal scientific memes

A fun article on Internet memes in the Virgin Australia Inflight Mag -refers to ‘the burgeoning field of memetics’!

The third replicator –

To find out more about temes, watch my TED talk now podcast in English and with a choice of subtitles in 21 other languages! or short lecture at the Hay Festival 2011 “Genes, Memes and Temes” read a book chapter a blog from Hassners on my lecture or read the Feature article in New Scientist .

Podcast interview with Sue on US Public Radio To the best of our knowledge about memes and temes. 29 July 2012

Jonnie Hughes article in The Independent 14 July 2012 on his new book On the Origin of Tepees.

Alan Winfield’s 5 minute lecture on dancing robots, from his Artificial Culture Project at UWE Bristol. Interview on dancing robots in BBC News Technology June 2012

Q&A with Sue for Know Your Meme, April 2012

Art experiments with copying and Chinese Whispers by Rachel Cohen

Richard Dawkins on memetically engineering the word “bright” in “Atheist – the Dirty Word” YouTube

Edge Question 2009 What will change everything? Read my response – Artificial, self replicating meme machines.

How to get rid of religion – a memetic view by Floris van den Berg

Imitation makes us human Extract.

The Loo Roll meme !

More criticisms from Mary Midgley

Virus of the mind Jolyon Troscianko

Memetics UK

This site began with the Bristol based memelab. I hope to provide a simple, but useful, resource for finding out what is happening in the world of memes and memetics.

About memes

Links to other memes



Sue’s publications on memes.

To watch or listen …

Interview on memes with Karol Jalochowski, with subtitles in Polish, Jan 2012

Internet memes on The Pod Delusion 2010

C-Realm podcast – Sue talks to KMO about memes, drugs and Zen. 28 Jan 2009

Genes, memes and temes. Lecture at TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Monterey, CA, 28 Feb 2008

Is God a dangerous delusion? A debate with Alister McGrath at Bristol University, 13.11.2007

Darwin Day Lecture “Darwin’s Meme: On the origin of culture by means of natural selection” , , University of Central Lancashire, 12.02.07 Abstract

The Sci Phi Show – Outcast #8, Interview on Memes, 21 August 2006

The Future of Memetics audio of a lecture given at Pop!Tech 2005

To read ….

my blog at CiF is about Internet memes April 2011

The Edge Question 2010. How is the Internet changing the way you think? See my response on Self and the Third Replicator as well as previous answers.

Articles in New Humanist – Natural selection applies to everything, in Aesthetica – Memes, Creativity and Consciousness, and follow up to Massimo Pigliucci’s objections to memetics in Skeptical Inquirer 2008.

Art and memes article

Interview for NextModernity Library.

Review of Richerson and Boyd’s new book Not by Genes Alone.

Interview for GEO magazine (German), December 2003 Die Tyrannei der Meme.

Interview with Pascal Jouxtel for the la Socit Francophone de Mmtique, inboth French and English

Memes in Japan

… and Old (1997)! Interview with Andrew Brown for Salon Magazine

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Index [www.susanblackmore.co.uk]

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Complementary, Alternative, or Integrative Health: Whats …

Posted: August 10, 2016 at 9:12 pm

Weve all seen the words complementary, alternative, and integrative, but what do they reallymean?

This fact sheet looks into these terms to help you understand them better and gives you a brief picture of NCCIHs mission and role in this areaofresearch.

Many Americansmore than 30 percent of adults and about 12 percent of childrenuse health care approaches developed outside of mainstream Western, or conventional, medicine. When describing these approaches, people often use alternative and complementary interchangeably, but the two terms refer to differentconcepts:

True alternative medicine is uncommon. Most people who use non-mainstream approaches use them along with conventionaltreatments.

There are many definitions of integrative health care, but all involve bringing conventional and complementary approaches together in a coordinated way. The use of integrative approaches to health and wellness has grown within care settings across the United States. Researchers are currently exploring the potential benefits of integrative health in a variety of situations, including pain management for military personnel and veterans, relief of symptoms in cancer patients and survivors, and programs to promote healthybehaviors.

Chronic pain is a common problem among active-duty military personnel and veterans. NCCIH, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and other agencies are sponsoring research to see whether integrative approaches can help. For example, NCCIH-funded studies are testing the effects of adding mindfulness meditation, self-hypnosis, or other complementary approaches to pain management programs for veterans. The goal is to help patients feel and function better and reduce their need for pain medicines that can have serious sideeffects.

More information on pain management for military personnel andveterans

Cancer treatment centers with integrative health care programs may offer services such as acupuncture and meditation to help manage symptoms and side effects for patients who are receiving conventional cancer treatment. Although research on the potential value of these integrative programs is in its early stages, some studies have had promising results. For example, NCCIH-funded research has suggestedthat:

More information oncancer

Healthy behaviors, such as eating right, getting enough physical activity, and not smoking, can reduce peoples risks of developing serious diseases. Can integrative approaches promote these types of behaviors? Researchers are working to answer this question. Preliminary research suggests that yoga and meditation-based therapies may help smokers quit, and NCCIH-funded studies are testing whether adding mindfulness-based approaches to weight control programs will help people lose weight moresuccessfully.

More information on quittingsmoking

More information on weightcontrol

NCCIH generally uses the term complementary health approaches when we discuss practices and products of non-mainstream origin. We use integrative health when we talk about incorporating complementary approaches into mainstream healthcare.

Most complementary health approaches fall into one of two subgroupsnatural products or mind and bodypractices.

This group includes a variety of products, such as herbs (also known as botanicals), vitamins and minerals, and probiotics. They are widely marketed, readily available to consumers, and often sold as dietary supplements.

According to the 2012 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), which included a comprehensive survey on the use of complementary health approaches by Americans, 17.7 percent of American adults had used a dietary supplement other than vitamins and minerals in the past year. These products were the most popular complementary health approach in the survey. (See chart.) The most commonly used natural product was fishoil.


Researchers have done large, rigorous studies on a few natural products, but the results often showed that the products didnt work. Research on others is in progress. While there are indications that some may be helpful, more needs to be learned about the effects of these products in the human body and about their safety and potential interactions with medicines and other naturalproducts.

Mind and body practices include a large and diverse group of procedures or techniques administered or taught by a trained practitioner or teacher. The 2012 NHIS showed that yoga, chiropractic and osteopathic manipulation, meditation, and massage therapy are among the most popular mind and body practices used by adults. The popularity of yoga has grown dramatically in recent years, with almost twice as many U.S. adults practicing yoga in 2012 as in2002.

Other mind and body practices include acupuncture, relaxation techniques (such as breathing exercises, guided imagery, and progressive muscle relaxation), tai chi, qi gong, healing touch, hypnotherapy, and movement therapies (such as Feldenkrais method, Alexander technique, Pilates, Rolfing Structural Integration, and Trager psychophysicalintegration).

The amount of research on mind and body approaches varies widely depending on the practice. For example, researchers have done many studies on acupuncture, yoga, spinal manipulation, and meditation, but there have been fewer studies on some otherpractices.

The two broad areas discussed abovenatural products and mind and body practicescapture most complementary health approaches. However, some approaches may not neatly fit into either of these groupsfor example, the practices of traditional healers, Ayurvedic medicine, traditional Chinese medicine, homeopathy, and naturopathy.

NCCIH is the Federal Governments lead agency for scientific research on complementary and integrative healthapproaches.

The mission ofNCCIHis to define, through rigorous scientific investigation, the usefulness and safety of complementary and integrative health interventions and their roles in improving health and healthcare.

NCCIHs vision is that scientific evidence will inform decisionmaking by the public, by health care professionals, and by health policymakers regarding the use and integration of complementary and integrative healthapproaches.

To learn more, visit the NCCIH Facts-at-a-Glance and Mission page.

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Space Exploration – Scientific American

Posted: July 31, 2016 at 5:52 am


Dips in starlight reveal the architecture of a super Saturn around a distant star

January 1, 2016 Lee Billings


“Monkey King” is first in a line of Chinese space missions focused on scientific discovery

December 17, 2015 Elizabeth Gibney, Celeste Biever and Davide Castelvecchi

The Sciences

Two controversial new studies suggestthe discovery of large objects at the outer reaches of the solar system

December 10, 2015 Lee Billings


Astronauts already skip ahead in time, but the laws of physics seem to forbid going backwardor do they?

December 10, 2015 Tim Folger

The Sciences

New findings reveal a craters vaporous hazes, and hint at the dwarf planets possible origin in the outer solar system

December 9, 2015 Lee Billings

The Sciences

A new breed of giants raises questions about how the biggest galaxies arise

December 8, 2015 Ken Croswell

The Sciences

New study explores how life on one exoplanet could spread to its neighbor

December 7, 2015 David Rothery and The Conversation

The Sciences

Five years after a failed insertion into planet’s orbit, Akatsuki tries again

December 4, 2015 Alexandra Witze and Nature magazine

The Sciences

A newly passed bill sets the stage for the future of the private spaceflight industry, and could have big implications for asteroid mining

December 4, 2015 Jennifer Hackett

The Sciences

Decision throws construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope into question

December 3, 2015 Alexandra Witze and Nature magazine


November 24, 2015 W. Wayt Gibbs


A dozen quasars in the early universe appear to have shut down in just a few years, baffling astronomers

November 23, 2015 Shannon Hall


Findings from NASAs Cassini spacecraft suggests winter in Titan’s southern hemisphere will be even colder than predicted

November 20, 2015 Nola Taylor Redd and SPACE.com


Scientists photograph a gas-giant exoplanet forming around a young star that lies about 450 light-years from Earth

November 19, 2015 Mike Wall and SPACE.com


What we know about alien worldsand whats coming next

November 18, 2015 Alexandra Witze and Nature magazine


The next-generation, gigantic land-based telescopes are under construction, and they utterly dwarf their predecessors

November 17, 2015

The Sciences

The recently discovered small galaxy Leo P contains only about a hundred-thousandth as many stars as the Milky Way, but it’s bucking the small galaxy trend by continuing to make new ones

November 15, 2015 Ken Croswell and Steve Mirsky


Planetary Society co-founder Louis Friedman argues the Red Planet will be humanitys final destination, but our robots could reach the stars

November 13, 2015 Louis Friedman

The Sciences

Rocky world found orbiting nearby red dwarf star, 39 light-years from Earth

November 12, 2015 Calla Cofield and SPACE.com

The Sciences

More than a hundred times as distant from the sun as Earth is, the object could be a pristine remnant from the primordial solar system

November 10, 2015 Alexandra Witze and Nature magazine

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Topical Index – Alternatives to Medicine – The Skeptic’s …

Posted: at 5:48 am

(For an alternative version of theses entries, see the Short and Irreverent E-dition, part 1, sCAM [so-called Complementary & Alternative Medicine])

A acupuncture alkaline diet allopathy alphabiotics “alternative” health practice angel therapy animal quacker anthroposophic medicine applied kinesiology aromatherapy astrotherapy aura therapy Ayurvedic medicine B Bach’s flower therapy Jon Barron bio-ching bioharmonics Blaylock, Russell Body Code of Bradley Nelson Rashid Buttar, D.O. C chelation therapy chi chiropractic Hulda Clark complementary medicine complex homeopathy coning (ear candling) Consegrity craniosacral therapy cupping

D Day, Phillip dental amalgam detoxification therapies DHEA dolphin-assisted therapy Dr. Dragon Dabic E Emotional Freedom Technique Emotion Code of Bradley Nelson Dr. Fritz – “energy healing” Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) F facilitated communication faith healing frontier medicine functional medicine G Gerson therapy Jay Gordon gua sha H healing touch holistic medicine homeopathy Leonard Horowitz hypnosis I immune system quackery integrative medicine integrative oncology intuitive (intuitionist) intuitive healer iridology isopathy Issels Immuno-Oncology treatment J joy touch K Rauni Kilde kinergetics Kirlian photography L Lightning ProcessTM M macrobiotics magical thinking magnet therapy massage therapy Joseph Mercola microacupuncture moxibustion N natural cancer cures naturopathy Bradley Nelson neuro-linguistic programming New Age psychotherapies noni fruit and juice nosode O osteopathy P prayer psychic surgery Q quackery R Reams, Carey reflexology Rader, William C., M.D. reiki Rolfing S shark cartilage as a cancer cure T therapeutic touch thought field therapy traditional Chinese medicine trepanation U urine therapy V vibrational medicine vitamin and mineral supplements W Andrew Wakefield Joel D. Wallach, “The Mineral Doctor” Y Robert O. Young Z zenreiki

Last updated 03-Jan-2016

Myth 2. Prescription drugs are one of the leading causes of death.

Myth 3. Most medical treatments have never been clinically tested.

Myth 19. Medical doctors typically know nothing about nutrition.

Myth 21. Faith healing works.*

Myth 22. Dr. Randolph Byrd scientifically proved that prayer can heal.

Myth 23. Even if Dr. Byrd failed, others have succeeded in proving scientifically that prayer heals.

Myth 25. Transplant organs carry personality traits which are transferred from donors to receivers.

Myth 31. Crimes, mental illness, suicides, and emergency room visits increase when there is a full moon.

Myth 43. Suicide increases over the holidays.

Myth 46. Switching to a low-tar cigarette will reduce one’s chances of being exposed to the carcinogens in cigarette smoke.

Myth 47. Vaccination*of children with the (MMR) vaccine to prevent measles, mumps and rubella causes autism.*

Myth 53. Sugar causes hyperactivity in children.

Myth 54. Alcohol, especially red wine, is good for your health.*(read this one carefully and to the end) and *

Myth 55. A migraine is a bad headache.

Myth 58. The moon can trigger ovulation and bring on fertility depending on what phase the moon was at when you were born.

Myth 59. The mercury in dental amalgam is poisoning people.*

Myth 60. You should drink eight glasses of water a day for good health.* One study, however, does seem to have good evidence that drinking five glasses a day is better than drinking two or fewer with respect to fatal coronary heart disease.

Myth 71. A diet low in animal fat will prevent high cholesterol which will prevent atherosclerosis which will make you immune to having a heart attack.

Myth 72. Pasteur renounced all his works on his death bed.

Myth 73. Laetrile is an effective cancer treatment whose humanitarian discoverer has been persecuted, depriving millions of people of the benefits of this wonder drug.

Myth 74. Peptic ulcers are caused by stress and eating spicy food.*

Myth 83. A study was published in the Western Journal of Medicine that showed changing the letters EPHO (each letter representing a drug being used to treat small-cell lung cancer) to HOPE led to a spectacular increase in positive response to the treatment.

Myths 86-89, thanks to the British Medical Journal:

Myth 86. There are several effective cures for a hangover.

Myth 87. People who eat late at night gain more weight than those who eat the same amount of food earlier in the day.

Myth 88. More heat escapes from the head than any other part of the body.

Myth 89. Poinsettias are poisonous.

Myth 92. Fruit must be eaten on an empty stomach in order for the body to absorb it properly.

Myth 93. Drinking cold water after meals causes cancer.

Barrett, Stephen and William T. Jarvis. eds. The Health Robbers: A Close Look at Quackery in America (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1993).

Barrett, Stephen and Kurt Butler (eds.) A Consumers Guide to Alternative Medicine : A Close Look at Homeopathy, Acupuncture, Faith-Healing, and Other Unconventional Treatments; edited by (Buffalo, N.Y. : Prometheus Books, 1992).

Bausell, R. Barker. (2007). Snake Oil Science: The Truth about Complementary and Alternative Medicine Oxford. (review)

Ernst, Edzard MD PhD, Max H. Pittler MD PHD , Barbara Wider MA. 2006. The Desktop Guide to Complementary and Alternative Medicine: An Evidence-Based Approach. 2nd ed. Mosby.

Randi, James. The Faith Healers (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1989).

Raso, Jack. “Alternative” Healthcare: A Comprehensive Guide (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1994).

Sampson, Wallace and Lewis Vaughn, editors. Science Meets Alternative Medicine: What the Evidence Says About Unconventional Treatments (Prometheus Books, 2000).

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Complementary and Alternative Medicine – KidsHealth

Posted: at 5:48 am

Complementary and alternative medicine might make you think of pungent herbal teas, chanting, or meditation. In fact, both herbal remedies and meditation, as well as dozens of other treatments, fall under the heading of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).

Although there is no strict definition of CAM, it generally includes any healing practices that are not part of mainstream medicine that means any practice that is not widely taught in medical schools or frequently used by doctors or in hospitals.

Both alternative and complementary medicine use the same kinds of remedies to treat health conditions. The difference is that alternative medicine is used instead of conventional medical treatments and therapies. Complementary medicine is used in addition to conventional medical treatments and therapies, not as a replacement.

The boundaries of CAM in the United States are constantly changing as different types of care become more accepted by doctors and more requested by patients. A few practices (such as hypnosis) that were dismissed as nonsense 20 years ago are now considered helpful therapies in addition to traditional medicine.

So, are there any complementary health approaches that might beright for your family?

In the United States, the lead agency that’s charged with scientific research into CAM is the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). NIH classifies two general areas of complementary and alternative care:

In addition to these different practices, CAM can refer to different types of medical philosophies. These alternative medical systems are entire fields of theory and practice, and many date back to centuries before the conventional medicine we use in the West today. Examples of alternative medical systems include traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), Ayurveda, homeopathic medicine, and naturopathic medicine.

Alternative medical systems incorporate many of the practices listed above into their treatments. For example, the TCM practice of acupuncture may be combined with herbal medicine and qi gong. And Ayurveda includes the mind-body therapies of meditation and yoga, along with the practice of taking specific herbs for health reasons.

Some CAM practices are supported by scientific research, while others have not been fullystudied yet. Sometimes experts have scientific evidence that a CAM practice (like acupuncture) works, but they don’t have a clear understanding as to why it works.

CAM is frequently distinguished by its holistic methods, which means that the doctor or practitioner treats the “whole” person and not just the disease or condition. With CAM, many practitioners also address patients’ emotional and spiritual needs. This “high touch” approach differs from the “high tech” practice of traditional medicine, which tends to concentrate on the physical side of an illness.

CAM is starting to make its way into mainstream hospitals and doctors’ offices. New centers for integrative medicine offer a mix of traditional and complementary treatments. There, you might receive a prescription for pain medication (as you might get from a traditional health care provider) and massage therapy to treat a chronic back problem. Such centers usually employ both medical doctors and certified or licensed specialists in the various CAM therapies.

Despite the growth of the field, complementary health approaches usually are not covered by medical insurance. This is largely because few scientific studies have been done to prove whether the treatments are effective (unlike traditional medicine, which relies heavily on studies). Rather, most CAM therapies are based on longstanding practice and word-of-mouth stories of success.

The lack of scientific study means that some potential problems associated with CAM therapies may be difficult to identify. What’s more, almost all of the studies that have been done involved adults as test subjects; there is little research on the effects of CAM on children. Although approaches such as prayer, massage, and yoga are generally considered safe complements to regular medical treatment, some therapies particularly herbal remedies and other dietary supplements might have risks.

Unlike prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, dietary supplements are not rigorously regulated by the U.S.Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They face no extensive tests before they are marketed and they do not have to meet quality standards. That means when you buy an herbal supplement like ginseng you might not know what you’re getting: The amount of the ingredient may be more or less than what is stated on the label; the herb may not be the right plant species; or the supplement may be contaminated with other herbs, pesticides, metals, or other ingredients like prescription drugs.

“Natural” does not equal “safe,” and many parents don’t realize that some supplements can actually cause health problems for their kids. For example, certain herbal supplements can cause high blood pressure, liver damage, or allergic reactions. Talk to your doctor before giving your child any dietary supplement.

Parents might also give their kids much more of an herb than recommended, thinking that because it’s natural, higher doses won’t hurt. But many plants contain potent chemicals; approximately 25% of all prescription drugs are derived from plants.

Choosing a practitioner can pose another problem. Although many states have licensing boards for specialists in acupuncture or massage, for instance, there is no organization in the United States that monitors alternative care providers or establishes standards of treatment. Basically, almost anyone can claim to be a practitioner, whether he or she has any training.

Perhaps the greatest risk, however, is the potential for people to delay or stop traditional medical treatment in favor of an alternative therapy. Illnesses such as diabetes and cancer require the care of a doctor. Relying entirely on alternative therapies for any serious chronic or acute conditions can jeopardize a child’s health.

Many parents turn to a cup of chamomile tea or ginger as a wayto soothe symptoms of the flu or an upset stomach. Anxious kids can learn to relax with the help of meditation or yoga. Some CAM therapies may be helpful for a child when used to complement traditional care.

If you want to try CAM for your child, talk with your doctor or pharmacist to make sure it is safe and will not conflict with any traditional care your child receives. Your doctor also can give you information about treatment options and perhaps recommend a reputable practitioner.

By coordinating complementary approaches with traditional care, you don’t have to choose between them. Instead, you can get the best of both.

Date reviewed: March 2014

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Space exploration New World Encyclopedia

Posted: July 21, 2016 at 2:17 am

Space exploration is the physical exploration of outer space, by both human spaceflights and robotic spacecraft. Although the observation of objects in space (that is, astronomy) predates reliable recorded history, space exploration became a practical possibility only after the development of large, liquid-fueled rocket engines during the early twentieth century. Common rationales for exploring space include advancing scientific research, uniting different nations, and ensuring the future survival of humanity.

Space exploration has often been used as a proxy competition for geopolitical rivalries, particularly the Cold War. The early era of space exploration was driven by a space race between the Soviet Union and the United States. The launch of the first human-made object to orbit the Earth, the USSR’s Sputnik 1, on October 4, 1957, and the first Moon landing by the American Apollo 11 craft on July 20, 1969, are often taken as the boundaries for this initial period. After the first 20 years of exploration, focus shifted from one-off flights to renewable hardware, such as the Space Shuttle program, and from competition to cooperation, as with the International Space Station. From the 1990s onward, private interests began promoting space tourism. Larger government programs have advocated manned missions to the Moon and possibly Mars sometime after 2010.

Space exploration programs have received various criticisms, on cost or safety grounds, but there are many advocates as well, and public opinion in many countries is usually supportive of these programs. In any case, space missions have resulted in a variety of important discoveries, including the effects of low gravity on humans, the presence of Van Allen belts around the Earth, images of the far side of the Moon, and the absence of intelligent life on Mars. Current discussions revolve around the possibility of space colonizationthat is, the establishment of human settlements on extraterrestrial objects.

The first successful orbital launch was of the Soviet unmanned Sputnik 1 (Satellite I) mission on October 4, 1957. The satellite weighed about 83 kg (184 pounds), and is believed to have orbited Earth at a height of about 250 km (150 miles). It had two radio transmitters (20 and 40 MHz), which emitted “beeps” that could be heard by any radio around the globe. Analysis of the radio signals was used to gather information about the electron density of the ionosphere, while temperature and pressure data was encoded in the duration of radio beeps. The results indicated that the satellite was not punctured by a meteoroid. Sputnik 1 was launched by an R-7 rocket. It incinerated upon re-entry on January 3, 1958.

This success led to an escalation of the American space program, which unsuccessfully attempted to launch Vanguard 1 into orbit two months later. On January 31, 1958, the U.S. successfully orbited Explorer 1 on a Juno rocket. In the meantime, the Soviet dog Laika became the first animal in orbit on November 3, 1957.

The first human spaceflight was Vostok 1 (Sunrise 1) , carrying 27 year old cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin on April 12, 1961. The spacecraft completed one orbit around the globe, lasting about 1 hour and 48 minutes. Gagarin’s flight was a demonstration of the advanced Soviet space program, and it opened an entirely new era in space exploration: Manned space flights.

The U.S. launched its first man into space within a month of Gagarin’s flight, with the first Mercury flight by Alan Shepard. Orbital flight was achieved by the United States when John Glenn’s Mercury-Atlas 6 orbited the Earth on February 20, 1962.

Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space, orbited the Earth 48 times aboard Vostok 6 on June 16, 1963.

China launched its first taikonaut into space 42 years later, with the flight of Colonel Yang Liwei aboard the Shenzhou 5 (Spaceboat 5) spacecraft.

The dream of stepping into the outer reaches of the Earth’s atmosphere was driven by rocket technology. The German V2 was the first rocket to travel into space, overcoming the problems of thrust and material failure. During the final days of World War II, this technology was obtained by both the Americans and Soviets as were its designers. The initial driving force for further development of the technology was a weapons race for inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) to be used as long-range carriers for fast nuclear weapon delivery. In 1961, when the USSR launched the first man into space, the U.S. declared itself to be in a “Space Race” with Russia.

Other key people included:

The earliest discoveries included the fact that humans could survive in zero gravity. Once the Russians had progressed to flights that were longer than a few hours, space adaptation syndrome appeared; where the sickness and disorientation due to the removal of gravity caused physical symptoms.

In space stations, the effects of zero gravity on bones and skeletal muscles has become more evident, where the human body becomes progressively more optimized for zero-gravity to the extent that return to the Earth becomes problematic and humans become progressively more adapted to the weightless environment.

Americans were the first to discover the existence of the Van Allen belts around the Earth. These belts contain radiation trapped by the Earth’s magnetic fields, which currently prevent habitable space stations from being placed above 1,000 km.

Russians were the first to take pictures of the far side of the moon, which had never been visible to humans. It was discovered that the far side was somewhat different, more heavily cratered.

U.S. Apollo missions returned rocks from the Moon, supporting the theory that the Moon was once part of the Earth.

Contrary to fanciful early reports from astronomers viewing Mars, no canals, and certainly no advanced lifeforms are present on the surface of that planet, but the presence of microscopic organisms has not been ruled out.

Space colonization, also called space settlement or space humanization, implies the permanent, autonomous (self-sufficient) human habitation of locations beyond Earth, especially on natural satellites such as the Moon or planets such as Mars. It would rely on significant amounts of In-Situ Resource Utilization.

Many past and current concepts for the continued exploration and colonization of space focus on a return to the Moon as a “stepping stone” to the other planets, especially Mars. Traditional concepts also called for the construction of orbital shipyards for the construction of inter-planetary vessels. Unfortunately, such concepts were prohibitively expensive, with estimated costs of $450 billion or more.

During the 1990s, however, aerospace engineer Robert Zubrin developed the “Mars Direct” plan, emphasizing the utilization of Martian resources. In his widely acclaimed book Mars Direct, Zubrin explained how human beings could be sent to Mars within 10 years, using existing or foreseeable technologies, at a cost of between 20-30 billion dollars.

Other efforts have included the Ansari X Prize, which offered a 10 million dollar prize to any private, non-government organization that could develop a spacecraft capable of launching three human beings into space, returning them safely to Earth, and repeating the feat within 2 weeks. The X-prize was a resounding success with the launch of Space Ship One, which was developed from scratch for only 25 million dollars, a tiny fraction of the cost of a single space shuttle launch. This development was accompanied by other prize incentives, and plans for routine space tourist flights.

Although only the United States, Soviet Union/Russian, and Chinese space programs have launched humans into orbit, a number of other countries have space agencies that design and launch satellites, conduct space research and coordinate national astronaut programs.

Did you know?

Critics of space exploration usually point out the costs, limitations, and risks of human spaceflight. It is more expensive to perform certain tasks in space by humans rather than by robots or other machines. People need large spacecraft that contain provisions such as a hermetic and temperature-controlled cabin, production of breathable air, food and drink storage, waste disposal, communications systems, and safety features such as crew escape systems and medical facilities. There is also the question of the security of the spacecraft as whole; losing a robot is nowhere near as tragic as human loss, so overall safety of non-human missions is not as much of an issue.

All the extra costs have to be weighed against the benefits of having humans aboard. Some critics argue that those few instances where human intervention is essential do not justify the enormous extra costs of having humans aboard. However, others argue that many tasks can be more effectively accomplished by human beings.

Some, including the late physicist and Nobel prize winner Richard Feynman, have contended that space missions have not achieved any major scientific breakthroughs. However, others have argued that, besides the large (and otherwise unavailable) amount of planetary data returned by spacecraft, there have been many indirect scientific achievements, including development of the modern computer, lasers, and so forth.

The results of research carried out by space exploration agencies, such as NASA, is one of the reasons supporters justify government expenses. Some even claim that space exploration is a necessity to humankind and that staying in its home planet will lead humanity to oblivion. Some of the reasons are lack of natural resources, comets, nuclear war, and worldwide epidemic. Stephen Hawking, renowned British theoretical physicist, said that “I don’t think the human race will survive the next thousand years, unless we spread into space. There are too many accidents that can befall life on a single planet. But I’m an optimist. We will reach out to the stars.”[1]

Some critics contend that in light of the huge distances in space, human space travel will involve no more than visiting earth’s closest neighbors in the Solar System, barring any actualization of the theoretical concept of faster-than-light travel. Even such limited travel would consume large amounts of money and require complex spacecraft accommodating only a handful of people. Supporters of human space travel state that this is irrelevant, because its real value lies in providing a focal point for national prestige, patriotism, and international cooperation. They suggest the Clinton administration’s close cooperation with Russia on the International Space Station (ISS) gave Russia something to take pride in, becoming a stabilizing factor in post-communist Russia. From this point of view, the ISS was a justifiable cash outlay.

Some people also have moral objections to the huge costs of space travel, and say that even a fraction of the space travel budget would make a huge difference in fighting disease and hunger in the world. However, compared to much more costly endeavors, like military actions, space exploration itself receives a very small percentage of total government spending (nearly always under 0.5 percent), and space-exploration advocates frequently point out that long-term benefits could outweigh short-term costs. In addition, the successful launches of Space Ship One, a privately constructed, reusable space plane developed for only $25 million, has diminished the impact of cost-based criticisms.

Overall, the public remains largely supportive of both manned and unmanned space exploration. According to an Associated Press Poll conducted in July 2003, 71 percent of U.S. citizens agreed with the statement that the space program is “a good investment,” compared to 21 percent who did not.[2] NASA has produced a series of Public Service Announcement videos supporting the concept of space exploration.[3]

This is not to say that space exploration advocates do not criticize existing programs. Some supporters of space explorations, such as Robert Zubrin, have criticized on-orbit assembly of spacecraft as unnecessary and expensive, and argue for a direct approach for human exploration, such as Mars Direct.

Twenty-first century space advocates continue to work towards more advanced spacecraft, rotating space stations, lunar bases, and colonies on Mars. Some of these visions may come true, though significant obstacles remain.

All links retrieved October 14, 2015.

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Articles about Germ Warfare – latimes

Posted: July 14, 2016 at 4:37 pm


August 6, 1997 | From Reuters

Iraq could reassemble its germ warfare program within six months with a still-intact scientific team working with freeze-dried organisms, a former U.N. investigator said in a report published Tuesday. “The work force of more than 200 persons who staffed Iraq’s biological warfare program is intact,” Raymond Zilinskas said. “Iraq’s civilian biotechnological infrastructure, comprising more than 80 research, development and production facilities, is whole and well equipped,” he added.


December 8, 2001 | From Times Wire Services

An international conference on germ warfare disbanded in chaos and anger Friday after the United States sought to cut off discussions about enforcing the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention. The treaty, ratified by the U.S. and 143 other governments, bans the development, stockpiling and production of germ warfare agents–but it has no enforcement mechanism. The purpose of the conference was to discuss the progress of a six-year effort to negotiate measures to enforce compliance.


May 4, 1988 | JOHN M. BRODER, Times Staff Writer

Ten nations, many of them hostile to the United States, currently are producing biological weapons, making it crucial that the Army pursue its controversial plan to build a germ warfare facility in Utah, a senior Defense Department official told Congress Tuesday.


January 22, 2008 | DANA PARSONS

They say war is hell, but getting sick is no picnic either. Here’s my briefing: Two weeks ago I was bivouacked on the sofa around 2200 hours, eating Jell-O pudding, when I detected the first sign of hostile troop movement. Unfortunately, the invaders’ advance party was small and stealthy, and my sentries paid little heed. I finished the pudding, watched more TV and went to bed around midnight. As I slept, the enemy massed. By daybreak, I was surrounded.



Sheldon H. Harris, a Cal State Northridge historian whose groundbreaking work helped establish that Japan conducted biological warfare experiments on Chinese civilians and military prisoners during World War II, has died. He was 74. Harris died of a blood infection Aug. 31 at UCLA Medical Center, but lived long enough to experience a moment of particular gratification, his son, David, said.


October 10, 2001 | ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, Arianna Huffington is a syndicated columnist. E-mail: arianna@ariannaonline.com

When it comes to matters of the heart, we’ve been sold the premise that men are from Mars, women are from Venus. Maybe, maybe not. But when it comes to thinking the unthinkable, the sexes are most definitely from different planets. At a dinner party in Los Angeles last week, six men and six women sat around a beautifully laid-out table. While the setting evoked an escapist fantasy, the conversation dwelt on the inescapable realities of the moment.

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Herbalism – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Posted: at 1:55 am

Herbalism (also herbology or herbal medicine) is use of plants for medicinal purposes, and the study of botany for such use. Plants have been the basis for medical treatments through much of human history, and such traditional medicine is still widely practiced today. Modern medicine recognizes herbalism as a form of alternative medicine, as the practice of herbalism is not strictly based on evidence gathered using the scientific method. Modern medicine, does, however, make use of many plant-derived compounds as the basis for evidence-tested pharmaceutical drugs, phytotherapy, and phytochemistry works to apply modern standards of effectiveness testing to herbs and medicines that are derived from natural sources. The scope of herbal medicine is sometimes extended to include fungal and bee products, as well as minerals, shells and certain animal parts.

Archaeological evidence indicates that the use of medicinal plants dates at least to the Paleolithic, approximately 60,000 years ago. Written evidence of herbal remedies dates back over 5,000 years, to the Sumerians, who created lists of plants. A number of ancient cultures wrote about plants and their medical uses in books called herbals. In ancient Egypt, herbs are mentioned in Egyptian medical papyri, depicted in tomb illustrations, or on rare occasions found in medical jars containing trace amounts of herbs.[1] Among the oldest, lengthiest, and most important medical papyri of ancient Egypt is the Ebers Papyrus dating from about 1550 BC, and covering more than 700 drugs, mainly of plant origin.[2] The earliest known Greek herbals were those of Theophrastus of Eresos who in the 4th c. B.C. wrote in Greek Historia Plantarum, of Diocles of Carystus who wrote during the 3rd century B.C, and of Krateuas who wrote in the 1st century B.C. Only a few fragments of these works have survived intact, but from what remains scholars have noted that there is a large amount of overlap with the Egyptian herbals.[3] Seeds likely used for herbalism have been found in the archaeological sites of Bronze Age China dating from the Shang Dynasty.[4] Over a hundred of the 224 drugs mentioned in the Huangdi Neijing, an early Chinese medical text, are herbs.[5] Herbs were also common in the medicine of ancient India, where the principal treatment for diseases was diet.[6]De Materia Medica, originally written in Greek, by Pedanius Dioscorides ( ; c. 40 90 AD) of Anazarbus, Cilicia, a Greek physician, pharmacologist and botanist, is a particularly important example of such writings.[7] The documentation of herbs and their uses was a central part of both Western and Eastern medical scholarship through to the 1600s, and these works played an important role in the development of the science of botany.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 80 percent of the population of some Asian and African countries presently use herbal medicine for some aspect of primary health care.[8] Pharmaceuticals are prohibitively expensive for most of the world’s population, half of whom lived on less than $2 U.S. per day in 2002.[9] In comparison, herbal medicines can be grown from seed or gathered from nature for little or no cost.

Many of the pharmaceuticals currently available to physicians have a long history of use as herbal remedies, including opium, aspirin, digitalis, and quinine. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 25% of modern drugs used in the United States have been derived from plants.[10] At least 7,000 medical compounds in the modern pharmacopoeia are derived from plants.[11] Among the 120 active compounds currently isolated from the higher plants and widely used in modern medicine today, 80% show a positive correlation between their modern therapeutic use and the traditional use of the plants from which they are derived.[12]

In 2015 the Australian Government’s Department of Health published the results of a review of alternative therapies that sought to determine if any were suitable for being covered by health insurance; Herbalism was one of 17 topics evaluated for which no clear evidence of effectiveness was found.[13]

In a 2010 survey of the most common 1000 plant-derived compounds, only 156 had clinical trials published. Preclinical studies (tissue-culture and animal studies) were reported for about one-half of the plant products, while 12% of the plants, although available in the Western market, had “no substantial studies” of their properties. Strong evidence was found that 5 were toxic or allergenic, so that their use ought to be discouraged or forbidden. Nine plants had considerable evidence of therapeutic effect.[14]

According to Cancer Research UK, “there is currently no strong evidence from studies in people that herbal remedies can treat, prevent or cure cancer”.[15]

The U.S. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health of the National Institutes of Health funds clinical trials of the effectiveness of herbal medicines and provides fact sheets summarizing the effectiveness and side effects of many plant-derived preparations.[16]

The use of herbal remedies is more prevalent in patients with chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, asthma and end-stage renal disease.[17][18][19] Multiple factors such as gender, age, ethnicity, education and social class are also shown to have association with prevalence of herbal remedies use.[20]

A survey released in May 2004 by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health focused on who used complementary and alternative medicines (CAM), what was used, and why it was used. The survey was limited to adults, aged 18 years and over during 2002, living in the United States. According to this survey, herbal therapy, or use of natural products other than vitamins and minerals, was the most commonly used CAM therapy (18.9%) when all use of prayer was excluded.[21][22]

Herbal remedies are very common in Europe. In Germany, herbal medications are dispensed by apothecaries (e.g., Apotheke). Prescription drugs are sold alongside essential oils, herbal extracts, or herbal teas. Herbal remedies are seen by some as a treatment to be preferred to pure medical compounds that have been industrially produced.[23]

In India the herbal remedy is so popular that the government of India has created a separate departmentAYUSHunder the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare. The National Medicinal Plants Board was also established in 2000 by the Indian government in order to deal with the herbal medical system.[24]

There are many forms in which herbs can be administered, the most common of which is in the form of a liquid that is drunk by the patienteither an herbal tea or a (possibly diluted) plant extract.[25] Whole herb consumption is also practiced either fresh, in dried form or as fresh juice.[citation needed]

Several methods of standardization may be determining the amount of herbs used. One is the ratio of raw materials to solvent. However different specimens of even the same plant species may vary in chemical content. For this reason, thin layer chromatography is sometimes used by growers to assess the content of their products before use. Another method is standardization on a signal chemical.[26]

Herbal teas, or tisanes, are the resultant liquid of extracting herbs into water, though they are made in a few different ways. Infusions are hot water extracts of herbs, such as chamomile or mint, through steeping. Decoctions are the long-term boiled extracts, usually of harder substances like roots or bark. Maceration is the old infusion of plants with
high mucilage-content, such as sage, thyme, etc. To make macerates, plants are chopped and added to cold water. They are then left to stand for 7 to 12 hours (depending on herb used). For most macerates 10 hours is used.[27]

Tinctures are alcoholic extracts of herbs, which are generally stronger than herbal teas.[28] Tinctures are usually obtained by combining 100% pure ethanol (or a mixture of 100% ethanol with water) with the herb. A completed tincture has an ethanol percentage of at least 25% (sometimes up to 90%).[27] Herbal wine and elixirs are alcoholic extract of herbs, usually with an ethanol percentage of 12-38%.[27] Herbal wine is a maceration of herbs in wine, while an elixir is a maceration of herbs in spirits (e.g., vodka, grappa, etc.).[29]Extracts include liquid extracts, dry extracts, and nebulisates. Liquid extracts are liquids with a lower ethanol percentage than tinctures. They are usually made by vacuum distilling tinctures. Dry extracts are extracts of plant material that are evaporated into a dry mass. They can then be further refined to a capsule or tablet.[27] A nebulisate is a dry extract created by freeze-drying.[citation needed]Vinegars are prepared in the same way as tinctures, except using a solution of acetic acid as the solvent.[citation needed]Syrups are extracts of herbs made with syrup or honey. Sixty-five parts of sugar are mixed with thirty-five parts of water and herb. The whole is then boiled and macerated for three weeks.[27]

The exact composition of an herbal product is influenced by the method of extraction. A tea will be rich in polar components because water is a polar solvent. Oil on the other hand is a non-polar solvent and it will absorb non-polar compounds. Alcohol lies somewhere in between.[25]

Many herbs are applied topically to the skin in a variety of forms. Essential oil extracts can be applied to the skin, usually diluted in a carrier oil. Many essential oils can burn the skin or are simply too high dose used straight; diluting them in olive oil or another food grade oil such as almond oil can allow these to be used safely as a topical.[30][unreliable source?] Salves, oils, balms, creams and lotions are other forms of topical delivery mechanisms. Most topical applications are oil extractions of herbs. Taking a food grade oil and soaking herbs in it for anywhere from weeks to months allows certain phytochemicals to be extracted into the oil. This oil can then be made into salves, creams, lotions, or simply used as an oil for topical application. Many massage oils, antibacterial salves, and wound healing compounds are made this way. One can also make a poultice or compress using the whole herb or the appropriate part of the plant, which is usually crushed or dried and re-hydrated with a small amount of water and then applied directly in a bandage, cloth, or just as is.[citation needed]

Inhalation, as in aromatherapy, can be used as a mood changing treatment[31][32] to fight a sinus infection or cough [33][citation needed], or to cleanse the skin on a deeper level (steam rather than direct inhalation here)[citation needed]

A number of herbs are thought to be likely to cause adverse effects.[34] Furthermore, “adulteration, inappropriate formulation, or lack of understanding of plant and drug interactions have led to adverse reactions that are sometimes life threatening or lethal.[35]” Proper double-blind clinical trials are needed to determine the safety and efficacy of each plant before they can be recommended for medical use.[36] Although many consumers believe that herbal medicines are safe because they are “natural”, herbal medicines and synthetic drugs may interact, causing toxicity to the patient. Herbal remedies can also be dangerously contaminated, and herbal medicines without established efficacy, may unknowingly be used to replace medicines that do have corroborated efficacy.[37]

Standardization of purity and dosage is not mandated in the United States, but even products made to the same specification may differ as a result of biochemical variations within a species of plant.[38] Plants have chemical defense mechanisms against predators that can have adverse or lethal effects on humans. Examples of highly toxic herbs include poison hemlock and nightshade.[39] They are not marketed to the public as herbs, because the risks are well known, partly due to a long and colorful history in Europe, associated with “sorcery”, “magic” and intrigue.[40] Although not frequent, adverse reactions have been reported for herbs in widespread use.[41] On occasion serious untoward outcomes have been linked to herb consumption. A case of major potassium depletion has been attributed to chronic licorice ingestion.,[42] and consequently professional herbalists avoid the use of licorice where they recognize that this may be a risk. Black cohosh has been implicated in a case of liver failure.[43] Few studies are available on the safety of herbs for pregnant women,[44] and one study found that use of complementary and alternative medicines are associated with a 30% lower ongoing pregnancy and live birth rate during fertility treatment.[45] Examples of herbal treatments with likely cause-effect relationships with adverse events include aconite, which is often a legally restricted herb, ayurvedic remedies, broom, chaparral, Chinese herb mixtures, comfrey, herbs containing certain flavonoids, germander, guar gum, liquorice root, and pennyroyal.[46] Examples of herbs where a high degree of confidence of a risk long term adverse effects can be asserted include ginseng, which is unpopular among herbalists for this reason, the endangered herb goldenseal, milk thistle, senna, against which herbalists generally advise and rarely use, aloe vera juice, buckthorn bark and berry, cascara sagrada bark, saw palmetto, valerian, kava, which is banned in the European Union, St. John’s wort, Khat, Betel nut, the restricted herb Ephedra, and Guarana.[35]

There is also concern with respect to the numerous well-established interactions of herbs and drugs.[35] In consultation with a physician, usage of herbal remedies should be clarified, as some herbal remedies have the potential to cause adverse drug interactions when used in combination with various prescription and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, just as a patient should inform a herbalist of their consumption of orthodox prescription and other medication.

For example, dangerously low blood pressure may result from the combination of an herbal remedy that lowers blood pressure together with prescription medicine that has the same effect. Some herbs may amplify the effects of anticoagulants.[47] Certain herbs as well as common fruit interfere with cytochrome P450, an enzyme critical to much drug metabolism.[48]

A 2013 study published in the journal BMC Medicine found that one-third of herbal supplements sampled contained no trace of the herb listed on the label. The study found products adulterated with filler including allergens such as soy, wheat, and black walnut. One bottle labeled as St. John’s Wort was found to actually contain Alexandrian senna, a laxative.[49]

Researchers at the University of Adelaide found in 2014 that almost 20 per cent of herbal remedies surveyed were not registered with the Therapeutic Goods Administration, despite this being a condition for their sale. They also found that nearly 60 per cent of products surveyed had ingredients that did not match what was on the label. Out of 121 products, only 15 had ingredients that matched their TGA listing and packaging.[50]

In 2015 the New York Attorney General issued cease and desist
letters to four major U.S. retailers (GNC, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart) who are accused of selling herbal supplements that were mislabeled and potentially dangerous. 24 products were tested by DNA barcoding as part of the investigation, all but five contained DNA that did not match the products’ labels. The investigation was prompted by the 2013 BMC study.[51][52]

A herbalist is:[53][54][55]

Herbalists must learn many skills, including the wildcrafting or cultivation of herbs, diagnosis and treatment of conditions or dispensing herbal medication, and preparations of herbal medications. Education of herbalists varies considerably in different areas of the world. Lay herbalists and traditional indigenous medicine people generally rely upon apprenticeship and recognition from their communities in lieu of formal schooling.

In some countries formalized training and minimum education standards exist, although these are not necessarily uniform within or between countries. For example, in Australia the currently self-regulated status of the profession (as of April 2008) results in different associations setting different educational standards, and subsequently recognising an educational institution or course of training. The National Herbalists Association of Australia is generally recognised as having the most rigorous professional standard within Australia.[56] In the United Kingdom, the training of medical herbalists is done by state funded Universities. For example, Bachelor of Science degrees in herbal medicine are offered at Universities such as University of East London, Middlesex University, University of Central Lancashire, University of Westminster, University of Lincoln and Napier University in Edinburgh at the present.[citation needed]

The World Health Organization (WHO), the specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) that is concerned with international public health, published Quality control methods for medicinal plant materials in 1998 in order to support WHO Member States in establishing quality standards and specifications for herbal materials, within the overall context of quality assurance and control of herbal medicines.[57]

In the European Union (EU), herbal medicines are now regulated under the European Directive on Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products.

In the United States, herbal remedies are regulated dietary supplements by the Food and Drug Administration under current good manufacturing practice (cGMP) policy for dietary supplements.[citation needed] Manufacturers of products falling into this category are not required to prove the safety or efficacy of their product so long as they don’t make ‘medical’ claims or imply being other than for ‘dietary supplement’ use, though the FDA may withdraw a product from sale should it prove harmful.[58][59]

The National Nutritional Foods Association, the industry’s largest trade association, has run a program since 2002, examining the products and factory conditions of member companies, giving them the right to display the GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) seal of approval on their products.[citation needed]

Some herbs, such as cannabis and coca, are outright banned in most countries though coca is legal in most of the South American countries where it is grown. The Cannabis plant is used as an herbal medicine, and as such is legal in some parts of the world. Since 2004, the sales of ephedra as a dietary supplement is prohibited in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration.,[60] and subject to Schedule III restrictions in the United Kingdom.

Native Americans medicinally used about 2,500 of the approximately 20,000 plant species that are native to North America.[61]

Some researchers trained in both western and traditional Chinese medicine have attempted to deconstruct ancient medical texts in the light of modern science. One idea is that the yin-yang balance, at least with regard to herbs, corresponds to the pro-oxidant and anti-oxidant balance. This interpretation is supported by several investigations of the ORAC ratings of various yin and yang herbs.[62][63]

In India, Ayurvedic medicine has quite complex formulas with 30 or more ingredients, including a sizable number of ingredients that have undergone “alchemical processing”, chosen to balance “Vata”, “Pitta” or “Kapha”.[64][65]

In Ladakh, Lahul-Spiti and Tibet, the Tibetan Medical System is prevalent, also called the ‘Amichi Medical System’. Over 337 species of medicinal plants have been documented by C.P. Kala. Those are used by Amchis, the practitioners of this medical system.[66][67]

In Tamil Nadu, Tamils have their own medicinal system now popularly called Siddha medicine. The Siddha system is entirely in the Tamil language. It contains roughly 300,000 verses covering diverse aspects of medicine. This work includes herbal, mineral and metallic compositions used as medicine. Ayurveda is in Sanskrit, but Sanskrit was not generally used as a mother tongue and hence its medicines are mostly taken from Siddha and other local traditions.[68]

In Indonesia, especially among the Javanese, the jamu traditional herbal medicine is an age old tradition preserved for centuries. Jamu is thought to have originated in the Mataram Kingdom era, some 1300 years ago.[69] The bas-reliefs on Borobudur depicts the image of people ground herbs with stone mortar and pestle, drink seller, physician and masseuse treating their clients.[70] All of these scenes might be interpreted as a traditional herbal medicine and health-related treatments in ancient Java. The Madhawapura inscription from Majapahit period mentioned a specific profession of herbs mixer and combiner (herbalist), called Acaraki.[70] The medicine book from Mataram dated from circa 1700 contains 3,000 entries of jamu herbal recipes, while Javanese classical literature Serat Centhini (1814) describes some jamu herbal concoction recipes.[70]

Though highly possible influenced by Indian Ayurveda system, Indonesia is a vast archipelago with numerous indigenous plants not to be found in India, which include plants similar to Australia beyond the Wallace Line. Indonesians might experimented and figure out the medicinal uses of these native herbal plants. Jamu may vary from region to region, and often not written down, especially in remote areas of the country.[71] Although primarily herbal, materials acquired from animals, such as honey, royal jelly, milk and ayam kampung eggs are also often used in jamu.

According to Eisenburg: The Chinese and Western medical models are like two frames of reference in which identical phenomena are studied. Neither frame of reference provides an unobstructed view of health and illness. Each is incomplete and in need of refinement.” Specifically, the traditional Chinese medical model could effect change on the recognized, and expected, phenomena of detachment to patients as people and estrangement unique to the clinical and impersonal relationships between patient and physician of the Western school of medicine.[72]

Four approaches to the use of plants as medicine include:[73]

1. The magical/shamanicAlmost all societies, with the exception of cultures influenced by Western-style industrialization, recognize this kind of use. The practitioner is regarded as endowed with gifts or powers that allow him/her to use herbs in a way that is hidden from the average person, and the herbs are said to affect the spirit or soul of the person.

2. The energeticThis approach includes the major systems of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, and Unani. He
rbs are regarded as having actions in terms of their energies and affecting the energies of the body. The practitioner may have extensive training, and ideally be sensitive to energy, but need not have supernatural powers.

3. The functional dynamicThis approach was used by early physiomedical practitioners, whose doctrine forms the basis of contemporary practice in the UK. Herbs have a functional action, which is not necessarily linked to a physical compound, although often to a physiological function, but there is no explicit recourse to concepts involving energy.

4. The chemicalModern practitioners – called Phytotherapists – attempt to explain herb actions in terms of their chemical constituents. It is generally assumed that the specific combination of secondary metabolites in the plant are responsible for the activity claimed or demonstrated, a concept called synergy.

Herbalists tend to use extracts from parts of plants, such as the roots or leaves but not isolate particular phytochemicals.[74] Pharmaceutical medicine prefers single ingredients on the grounds that dosage can be more easily quantified. It is also possible to patent single compounds, and therefore generate income. Herbalists often reject the notion of a single active ingredient, arguing that the different phytochemicals present in many herbs will interact to enhance the therapeutic effects of the herb and dilute toxicity.[75] Furthermore, they argue that a single ingredient may contribute to multiple effects. Herbalists deny that herbal synergism can be duplicated with synthetic chemicals They argue that phytochemical interactions and trace components may alter the drug response in ways that cannot currently be replicated with a combination of a few potentially active ingredients.[76][77] Pharmaceutical researchers recognize the concept of drug synergism but note that clinical trials may be used to investigate the efficacy of a particular herbal preparation, provided the formulation of that herb is consistent.[78]

In specific cases the claims of synergy[79] and multifunctionality[80] have been supported by science. The open question is how widely both can be generalized. Herbalists would argue that cases of synergy can be widely generalized, on the basis of their interpretation of evolutionary history, not necessarily shared by the pharmaceutical community. Plants are subject to similar selection pressures as humans and therefore they must develop resistance to threats such as radiation, reactive oxygen species and microbial attack in order to survive.[81] Optimal chemical defenses have been selected for and have thus developed over millions of years.[82] Human diseases are multifactorial and may be treated by consuming the chemical defences that they believe to be present in herbs. Bacteria, inflammation, nutrition and ROS (reactive oxygen species) may all play a role in arterial disease.[83] Herbalists claim a single herb may simultaneously address several of these factors. Likewise a factor such as ROS may underlie more than one condition.[84] In short herbalists view their field as the study of a web of relationships rather than a quest for single cause and a single cure for a single condition.

In selecting herbal treatments herbalists may use forms of information that are not applicable to pharmacists. Because herbs can moonlight as vegetables, teas or spices they have a huge consumer base and large-scale epidemiological studies become feasible. Ethnobotanical studies are another source of information.[85] For example, when indigenous peoples from geographically dispersed areas use closely related herbs for the same purpose that is taken as supporting evidence for its efficacy.[citation needed] Herbalists contend that historical medical records and herbals are underutilized resources.[86] They favor the use of convergent information in assessing the medical value of plants. An example would be when in-vitro activity is consistent with traditional use.

Indigenous healers often claim to have learned by observing that sick animals change their food preferences to nibble at bitter herbs they would normally reject.[87] Field biologists have provided corroborating evidence based on observation of diverse species, such as chickens, sheep, butterflies, and chimpanzee.The habit has been shown to be a physical means of purging intestinal parasites. Lowland gorillas take 90% of their diet from the fruits of Aframomum melegueta, a relative of the ginger plant, that is a potent antimicrobial and apparently keeps shigellosis and similar infections at bay.[88] Current research focuses on the possibility that this plants also protects gorillas from fibrosing cardiomyopathy which has a devastating effect on captive animals.[89]

Sick animals tend to forage plants rich in secondary metabolites, such as tannins and alkaloids.[90] Since these phytochemicals often have antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal and antihelminthic properties, a plausible case can be made for self-medication by animals in the wild.[88]

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Herbalism – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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