The mass media once again dutifully follow and relay, as if it were true, the “alternative medicine” narrative, trumpeting how often people resort to alternative or “complementary” remedies (I guess this was a slow news day, huh?):

Many Americans turning to unconventional medicine

About four in 10 U.S. adults and one in nine children are turning to unconventional medical approaches for chronic pain and other health problems, health officials said on Wednesday. …

About 38 percent of adults used some form of complementary and alternative medicine in 2007, compared to 36 percent in 2002, the last time the government tracked at the matter.

For the first time, the survey looked at use of such medicine by children under age 18, finding that about 12 percent used it, officials said. The reasons included back pain, colds, anxiety, stress and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, according to the survey.

Folks, this is not proof that alternative or complementary medicine works. Just because people do something, or believe something is true, does not grant it veracity. To believe this is known in Latin as argumentum ad populum, and in English by various names, such as appeal to popularity, bandwagon fallacy, argument by consensus, or authority of the many. Whatever name you give it, it’s wrong. Once upon a time most of humanity believed the earth was the center of a cosmos only a few thousand miles in diameter, with the sun, moon, etc. revolving around it. All of those people turned out to have been wrong.

In a similar way, that lots of Americans resort to questionable remedies, does not mean they actually work. It just means that lots of people think they work. Big difference.

The Reuters story continues:

Overall, the most common category of complementary and alternative medicine used was natural products such as herbal medicines and certain other types of dietary supplements other than vitamins and minerals.

The problem with this is that, it turns out a lot of these herbal remedies don’t work! The more studies are done on them, the more we find out out how useless they are. Here are some stories showing how this is the case:

Echinacea unproven to have value as cold treatment

Ginkgo Biloba Does Not Reduce Dementia Risk, Study Shows

Saw Palmetto No Better Than Placebo For Enlarged Prostate

… and many more, all available by Googling “<herb name> effectiveness

In fact, I will have more to say about the effectiveness of dietary supplements in my next blog entry

Tags: , , , ,

Comments are closed.