I cringe a little inside every time I see one of those PowerBalance bracelets. In fact, I cringe a little inside every time I see things related to alternative medicine. Alternative medicine can be difficult to talk about. There are a lot of different kinds.
There’s acupuncture, vitamin treatments, herbal treatments, chiropractics, prayer, homeopathy, etc. Because of this, alternative medicine can be hard to define. One view is that alternative medicine lies outside the realm of scientific evidence. Traditional medicine is based in science and evidence, whereas alternative medicine lies outside of this.
One common factor, and in my opinion, explanation, for the wide variety and alleged success of alternative medicine is the placebo effect. This effect is a well-documented and useful tool in modern medicine. To say that a treatment works, one must show that it isn’t just the placebo effect at work. The effectiveness of many alternative medicines is likely due to the placebo effect.
The PowerBalance bracelet is a perfect example of the placebo effect. To those unaware, PowerBalance makes plastic bracelets with hologram stickers. These bracelets supposedly improve strength, balance and flexibility. This was allegedly due to the holographic technology of the bracelet working with the natural energy of the body.
Due to the medical claims of the company, the bands were tested. After results of the findings, PowerBalance eventually admitted deception. In 2010 PowerBalance released a statement, recanting former claims of their bracelets’ abilities and admitting to misleading conduct. In other words, it was a scam. The bracelets don’t actually do anything; it’s just the placebo effect at work.
Another common alternative medicine practice is homeopathy. Many people may not know this alternative medicine by its name, but it is rather common. There is a relatively popular cold remedy out now by the name of Zicam. It is said to cure colds and is a prevention medicine, aka a homeopathic medicine.
Homeopathy is a form of alternative medicine that claims that diluted medicines can still be effective. The idea is to take a real medicine, a given chemical, and dilute it in water. Then dilute it repeatedly until there is none of the original chemical left. Homeopathy often claims that the more diluted the medicine, the more powerful it is.
Homeopathy fails in the same respects as PowerBalance. The treatment works because of the placebo effect. Many studies have been conducted to test the claims of homeopathic medicine. All of them came to the same conclusion; it doesn’t work.
There are many other cases of alternative medicine that rely on the placebo effect. Emergen-C is one of these. Emergen-C claims to use mega-doses of vitamins like Vitamin C to prevent the incidence of the common cold or to increase overall health. These are just a few examples.
So why do I care about alternative medicine? Shouldn’t I just mind my own business and let people do what they want with their own bodies and time?
I care because alternative medicine is dangerous. When somebody markets himself or herself as having legitimate medical treatments that don’t actually work, he/she is endangering other peoples’ lives.
I care because people claim to use homeopathy to treat cancer, and then people die. I care because alternative medicine practitioners sell products that don’t actually do anything and get rich because of it.
I remember watching a television show about people allergic to either a large number of foods or to specific ones, or both. I remember one of the people got very desperate to eat normal foods again and went to a homeopathic clinic. The doctor prescribed her “medicine” and told her to follow his prescription for a short period of time. After that, he told her she was cured and could begin eating foods that “traditional” medicine said she couldn’t.
When she went out to eat in celebration, she ate food she was supposed to be allergic to. In the middle of her meal, she went into severe anaphylactic shock and was rushed to the hospital. The homeopathic doctor blamed her, saying she didn’t listen to him.
Alternative medicine can be dangerous. I have no problem with people trying other things in addition to traditional medicine, but remember, it’s alternative for a reason.