Alternative, Natural Health Remedies | Health Blog

Date: 06/13/2009    Written by: Jon Barron

Media Trashes Alternative Treatments in Spite of Facts

Alternative Health

As of 2006, United States citizens spent $27 billion annually on alternative and complementary treatments. According to a New York Times survey, 48% of adults in the United States used at least one alternative or complementary treatment in 2004 -- and that percentage has probably climbed in the intervening years. And most insurance companies now reimburse alternative practitioners. But despite the popularity of alternative medicine, the press persists in trying to persuade readers to avoid alternatives at all costs.

Take, for example, the article cited above that appeared this week on entitled, "Alternative Herbs and Medicines Grow in Popularity." The article begins by acknowledging that alternatives have become increasingly mainstream, musing that the public seems to distrust drug companies. (I wonder why.) But quickly, it changes tone, using the familiar scare tactics: "Dietary supplements do not have to pass any safety tests before being sold. Some contain lead and arsenic, and some obstruct other medicines from working, like birth control pills," it warns. The article then complains that within the past 15 years, the Feds spent $2.5 billion researching the health effects of alternatives, but "nothing monumental has been discovered, aside from the use of acupuncture and ginger for chemotherapy-associated nausea."

Although it does admit about halfway down that few supplements cause any health problems, it reiterates the warning about lead content and then mentions the scary "tainted" possibility. Finally, it admits that pharmaceuticals like Vioxx can have problems, too, but says that, "The difference is that at least these medicines have rules, guidelines and watchdog groups that follow their usage." In other words, go to the doctor and get a prescription. Oh, and die!

Unfortunately, no author took credit for this article, and it's no wonder. Who would want to take credit for such a marvel of distortion? Because the facts make clear these things:

  1. Prescription drugs are now the fourth leading cause of death in the US, just behind cancer, heart disease, and stroke.
  2. Over two million people experience drug-related disabilities or serious drug reactions each year.
  3. Deaths by pharmaceutical poisoning rose 62.5% between 1999 and 2004. (Ahh! But at least those drugs are untainted by lead!)
  4. A recent Consumers Union study found that medical errors kill nearly 98,000 people in the United States each year and cost $17 billion to $29 billion a year. That figure hasn't improved in the past 10 years and shows no evidence of future improvement.
  5. Most of those errors come from giving or prescribing the wrong drug, giving patients the wrong dose or giving the drug in the wrong way. Note that the drug needs to be capable of causing death in the first place, even if by improper prescription.
  6. While prescription drugs kill about 140,000 Americans a year, herbs and nutraceuticals kill fewer than 100 (with most of those attributions being highly questionable).

Obviously, in spite of the "rules, guidelines and watchdog groups" that regulate and oversee prescription drug -- pharmaceuticals are among the most dangerous substances on the planet. While drugs sometimes can heal or ease symptoms, they often do no better than alternatives, and very, very often, they do far worse. There is a reason so many people turn to alternatives, and in spite of what articles like the one in RedOrbit imply, that reason is NOT that people are stupid.

And as for the "nothing monumental" having been discovered about the healing power of alternatives, the author seems to not read the health news. Review my blog entries for the past six months and you'll see articles citing studies showing that green tea extract blocks AIDS, probiotics prevent and heal heart disease, green pea protein lowers blood pressure and intervenes against kidney disease, a homeopathic approach to peanut allergies seems to work a cure, the enzyme nattokinase reduces Alzheimer's risk, magnets work better than antidepressants, and so on. These studies were reported in the major health media, which, I realize, is not necessarily testimony to their accuracy. But at least they match the standards established by the medical community.

But it isn't only the folks at RedOrbit trying to debunk natural care. Such articles pop up constantly like pimples on a teenager. One notable article a few years ago appeared in the New York Times and then was widely distributed. It complained that U.S. residents "do not appear to care that there is little, if any, evidence that many complementary therapies work"; and that "alternative therapy practitioners do not have a fraction of the training mainstream doctors do." But if those NYT authors had bothered to consider the fact that the training those mainstream doctors received results in 98,000 deadly errors annually, to say nothing about the disability and suffering caused by their millions of non-fatal errors annually; if they had recognized that there's little if any evidence that plenty of mainstream treatments work (flu vaccines, hormone replacement therapy, and angioplasties for example), they might not have made the statement.

Of course not every alternative therapy works, not every herb affects a cure, and a few people here and there have allergic reactions to herbs; but the track record sure is a lot cleaner for alternative medicine than it is for the mainstream. Plus, the record speaks for itself: a plethora of studies show that natural substances and approaches often beat out mainstream medicine in effectiveness, safety, patient satisfaction, and cost.


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    Submitted by BeTrueSeekTruth on
    July 20, 2009 - 2:09am

    If a healthy person does not take prescription drugs they will not die.
    However if a healthy person does not eat or drink they will die.
    Moreover, if a healthy person consistently eats food that contains toxins, pesticides, or genetically modified ingredients they will soon experience symptoms of dis-ease.
    How then can the media state that natural cures do not work? A simple blatant lie.

    Submitted by BeTrueSeekTruth on
    July 20, 2009 - 1:51am

    I haven't really been sick in the 3 plus years I stopped taking conventional medicines for colds and allergies and have replaced them with an organic diet, excercise, spring water, and homeopathic remedies. I received a flu shot 7 years ago and promptly developed severe bronchitis, to the degree I've never had before. Needless to say, I haven't had one since.
    The doctors and the pharmaceutical companies have worked hard to create the mythology that only they can cure, when in reality, they cure very little, mostly suppressing symptoms, and do a lot of long term harm with their toxic treatments.

    Submitted by Dale Taylor on
    July 19, 2009 - 7:46pm

    The Media is uneducated. They do not study about altenative healing and they have sold their lives and ours out to the demons of regular medicine. Not funny when they tell you there is "no hope at all" so you have to search on your own. Yet, you study and search long enough, you do find an alternative healing method. I have two loved ones who are alive today no thanks to the news media and their stupidity. I am so tired of people who just don't give a fig and are wimps about health etc.

    Submitted by Daniel Loffreda on
    October 26, 2009 - 10:41am

    I would like to change the subject because I need your help regarding how to fight the H1N1 flu for children.
    In today's article (10-25-08) Dr. Jon Barron states that people can fight this particularly dangerous strain of flu by using on the the following remedy:
    AHCC, olive leaf extract capsules, grapefruit seed extract, proteolytic enzymes, eldelberry extract, and a ""good"" blood cleansing agent.
    The question I have is this:
    Is it safe to give these products to my grand children (two girls age 3.5 years and 4 mobths old?
    Does anyone know the answer to this question? Please, if you do write to me with the details.
    Or, if you someone that knows or may know, please let me know.

    Thanks and happy and healthful life for all of us ansd our families


    Submitted by Dave on
    July 7, 2009 - 12:25am

    Questions regarding a doctor's training.
    How much time is spent on nutrition?
    Is it differet in the UK and USA?

    Submitted by Doug Cook on
    July 19, 2009 - 11:24pm

    I had come across some statistics that are a little different regarding the risk of mainstream medicine and the safety of supplements:
    American Association of Poison Control Center
    783,936 people in the United States die every year from
    Medical error
    Death by Medicine, by Drs. Gary Null, Carolyn Dean, Martin Feldman, Debora Rasio and Dorothy Smith
    American Association of Poison Control Center
    This is the leading cause of acute liver failure
    OTC acetaminophen
    responsible for 56,000 emergency room visits and 456 deaths annually, according to studies done between 1990 and 1998
    Larson A, Polson J, Fontana R, et al. Acetaminophen-Induced Acute Liver Failure: Results of a United States Multicenter, Prospective Study. Acute Liver Failure Study Group, Hepatology; December 2005
    American Association of Poison Control Center
    Responsible for less than 1 death per year (’83-’07)
    Nutritional supplements
    [mostly iron, far fewer than laundry and dishwashing detergents. This is not from under-reporting]
    Annual Reports of the American Association of Poison Control Centers' National Poisoning and Exposure Database

    Submitted by Jamesina Goulbourne on
    June 15, 2009 - 1:21am

    Your right there Jon, and yet in the same vein they will report in the headlines about some pharmaceutical drug that is causing more problems than solutions.
    Take for instance Statins. In June 2006 the UK`s Daily Mail newspaper(also online) reported on the bad side effects of Statin drugs, as if it only came to light yesterday, yet these drugs have been on the market for years with some brands being withdrawn after actually causing deaths.
    The only way forward is to educated as many people as possible so they can make informed choices.
    Great article!

    Submitted by mary blanchard on
    July 20, 2009 - 3:24pm

    I know I will sound like a crazy conspiracy theorist, but I think our govt., particularly the FDA and pharma companies, to stay sick because that is where the money is for the drug peddlers, the pharma and insurance companies and so on. If we had a world full of well people, who would make money from that, apart from the people who should: sustainable and ethical farmers and those that teach preventative health. If our leaders wanted us well, they would make sure healthy food was available for all, not just a few who can afford it, or like me, really can't but buy it anyway, and scrounge around to pay the bills (and no, I don't have cable, go get coffee, get any beauty treatments etc. so I can afford better quality food)

    Submitted by P Newsman on
    July 19, 2009 - 3:24pm

    A medical doctor spends 2 weeks studying nutrition in med school. Would you go to a doctor who doesn't know what you should eat, what vitamins to take, what supplements work?
    They study drugs, and surgery -its like cut and burn your body with drugs.
    Not for me thanks. I prefer working with my body's immune system rather than trying to kill it in a big hurry by using drugs.
    It is a pill popping society that is causing even the water treatment plants to be unable to take the pharma drugs out of our drinking water.
    That tells you that we are taking far too many drugs for every little tiny problem including yellow toe nails, or dry eyes. Come on know how to keep yourself healthy, by not taking drugs and not going to a ""med doctor"" who doesn't know squat. Go to a holistic doctor- you will live longer and be healthier.
    By the way, that Swine Flu Vaccine-that Obama bought 1 billion dollars worth of: is untested, contains mercury, will cause massive neurological damage to kids, will be mandated, and you cannot sue the drug maker -because SillyBus just helped pass a law to make the drug companies -go free in case they permanently damage you or your family.
    Obama can stick his Piggy Flu vaccine where the sun don't shine.

    Submitted by Philippine on
    July 20, 2009 - 1:49am

    How can we make these statisics available to the front pages and to the administration. It seems to be the right time to really change our healthcare system and incorporate preventive and altenative medicine into our medical coverage and lifestyle.
    where can we find those stats ?

    Submitted by tom milton on
    July 6, 2009 - 5:14am

    End of 3rd paragraph should read ""Oh,and die under supervision!""
    I came close with one of the statins to lower cholesterol after my open heart bypass surgery.

    Submitted by will simon on
    July 6, 2009 - 6:19am

    You can't watch the evening news without being subjected to at least five pharm. comercials. I turn off the sound and just read the closed captioning about the posible side effects. If people would read the captioning without the pretty background music I don't think anyone would use the drugs. With these companies the main sponsors of these news broadcasts it's no wonder you can't get an objective report on pharms. They are not likely to bite the hand that feeds them.

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