Home / Op-Ed / The cure to homeopathy: an analysis of “alternative medicine”

The cure to homeopathy: an analysis of “alternative medicine”

author: derek cameron | contributor

Credit: Klätterträdet via Flickr

“Lovett went to trial and was found guilty of failing to provide the necessaries of life and negligence causing death. Doctors testified that antibiotics could have easily remedied her son’s medical problems. Instead, a ten-year-old boy is dead.”

Alternative medicine has been making a bit of a come back, which is an unfortunate fact for Tamara Lovett’s seven year-old son. Her son contracted various infections, including meningitis and pneumonia. For ten days, Lovett did nothing as her boy deteriorated. Nothing, that is, except give him dandelion tea, oil of oregano, and various other natural products. He died covered in his own vomit. Her son had no birth certificate and had never been to a doctor.

Lovett went to trial and was found guilty of failing to provide the necessaries of life and negligence causing death. Doctors testified that antibiotics could have easily remedied her son’s medical problems. Instead, a ten-year-old boy is dead.

A quick perusal of the data on dandelion tea reveals a lot about its perceived benefits, one might be forgiven for thinking it was a miracle drug for users of natural medicine. Among listed uses its use as a diuretic, an “immuno-stimulant.” antiviral, antitumor, wart remedy, appetite stimulant, and the list goes on. It mentions that there is “no standard preparation” and “no recommended dose for children.” In other words, they don’t understand how it works enough to qualify doses and prepare it — sounds fishy to me. Another quick look at the data is telling, as one compilation of the data notes: “no randomized, controlled trials in humans have evaluated dandelion’s effect” on the list of uses I just mentioned.

No trials…so what do natural remedies rely on? “Long historical tradition,” according to the same paper. That’s right! There is no data. If anything could convince you about the limited legitimacy of alternative medicine it’s this, no naturopath, homeopath, or other quack doctor goes through experimental tests to determine if their claims are true. It’s time to crack down on natural quackery!

Now, this is not to say I think all alternative medicine is bunk. There are plants with active ingredients, but those active ingredients are limited in the scope of their real effectiveness. Plants with real effect are mixed with plants that have no real effect. If naturopaths wanted to prove their claims they need to ground them in scientific trials. Problem is, they don’t. Justification for some herbal remedies is simply “it is known.” And homeopathy, the absolute worst example of quackery, explains itself as such, active ingredients are diluted by water, the memory of the ingredient grows stronger as it is diluted more. What crock! However, there is research being done on some alternative medical procedures that show some effect. Acupuncture has been linked to reduced pain — I’m willing to accept that. But, until there is testing and data, alternative medicine must be dismissed out of hand.

What is necessary today is more regulation and professionalization of alternative medicine. All people who practice medicine should go to medical school. What naturopath can recognize meningitis? None. They don’t have the technical knowledge. Naturopaths treat symptoms, not causes. The parts of alternative medicine that can be scientifically proven should be brought into the mainstream — with understandings of its limitations. People who prefer not to pop pills should be given alternatives, if there are any. I don’t think there are any natural products that can treat meningitis, and in that case, conventional medicine must step in. Alternative medicine oversteps its bounds and claims what it cannot deliver; this costs lives of innocent children and should be utterly repressed.

Natural medicine sounds like a fairytale, it sounds nice. But life is not based on what sounds nice; it’s based on truth. Natural medicine users need to grow up and realize they are pursuing nonscientific bunk before more kids die, and they are, seven other similar cases are on trial in southern Alberta alone.

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