New book in Dutch

Eet vet word slank

Eet vet word slank gepubliceerd januari 2013

In dit boek lees je o.a.: * heel veel informatie ter bevordering van je gezondheid; * hoe je door de juiste vetten te eten en te drinken kan afvallen; * hoe de overheid en de voedingsindustrie ons, uit financieel belang, verkeerd voorlichten; * dat je van bewerkte vetten ziek kan worden.

Trick and Treat:
How 'healthy eating' is making us ill
Trick and Treat cover

"A great book that shatters so many of the nutritional fantasies and fads of the last twenty years. Read it and prolong your life."
Clarissa Dickson Wright

Natural Health & Weight Loss cover

"NH&WL may be the best non-technical book on diet ever written"
Joel Kauffman, PhD, Professor Emeritus, University of the Sciences, Philadelphia, PA

Alternative Medicine: Your Money and Your Life?


Knowledge is power. So also is supposed knowledge. Which is why those who practise mysterious skills have also been extremely anxious to conceal exactly what it is they do. If the ancient Greeks had been able to see the backstage activities of the priests of the Oracle at Delphi, those priests would soon have been out of a job. Nobody appreciates this better than the alternative therapist.
   As medical science discovers ever more treatments for the diseases of our modern society, people's expectations grow and they demand more of medicine. Disease patterns have changed. The eradication of diseases such as typhoid and cholera was accomplished with the introduction of clean piped water, better sewerage systems and better nutrition. Medicine played very little part in the changes that doubled average British life spans. Later, with the discovery of penicillin and the sulpha drugs, many other killer diseases became curable. But even they were only the beginning. Today, we see regular reports in the press of amazing medical advances that foster expectations of a rapid and complete cures in all cases in western societies. Certainly, in many cases, cures that would once have been thought of as miraculous are possible, but when the instant cures demanded do not materialise, patients become disappointed with their physician and resort to alternative or complementary medicine. Once there, the patient finds that the alternative practitioner takes an intense interest in him as a person with time to listen and to talk. He becomes hooked.
   Many of the medical problems of our western world are still caused by the environment in which we live. But they are not the diseases of childhood caused by the filthy conditions of the last century. Indeed in many cases they are not diseases at all but illnesses. Although these two are synonymous to many, there is a difference between a disease and an illness; the disease being caused by a virus or bacterium that must be killed to effect a cure, for example, where illness can be a feeling of being unwell that is not caused by an organism.

The placebo effect

When an ailment is treated successfully, by whatever means, that success may be for of one of three reasons. The first is that the cure is a direct result of the treatment, as in the case of a bacterium killed by an antibiotic. The second is that the disease is what is known as self-limiting – in other words, the natural healing power of the body will clear it up eventually whether it is treated or not, as in the case of a cold. The third is where a substance that has no curative powers is given but, because the patient believes it is a curative treatment, he gets well. This is called the placebo effect.
   The idea of placebos dates back to the dawn of medical history but the term in a medical sense wasn't coined until 1890. The editor of the Medical Press talks of the case of a woman who successfully sued her physician for using an injection of water and charging her for morphine. The editor says 'We feel sorry for it, but apparently the law does not think well of placebos'. Despite the physician's use of water, however, the lady had thought it to be morphine at the time and had been cured. If the physician had told her that it was water, her cure would probably not have happened.
   The majority of people attending a doctor's surgery will have symptoms such as headache, backache, tummy upset, sore throat or tiredness. When a person with such a complaint has faith in his physician and the physician demonstrates faith in his treatment, the combination is powerful enough to effect an improvement, and in most cases, a cure. Generally, no medication is needed. However, the patient is conditioned to expect medication and feels cheated if told merely to go home and rest. The doctor, knowing this, prescribes something. In conventional medical practice, placebos tend not to be water but some licensed medicine, tonic, cough syrup, etc., which will have no adverse side effects but will be efficacious because the patient believes that it will – the placebo effect. It has been estimated that between 35% and 45% of all prescriptions today are unlikely to have any therapeutic effect on the diseases for which they were prescribed.
   Patients are deluded into thinking that their treatment is curing them; doctors too may come to believe it. The distinguished physician, Richard Asher, pointing out that a therapist's enthusiasm was as important to the success of a treatment as the faith of his patient went on: 'If you can believe fervently in your treatment, even though controlled studies show that it is quite useless, then your results are much better, your patients are much better, and your income is much better too.'
   The placebo effect is very strong. This was demonstrated very convincingly during the Korean War. An American surgeon was treating wounded soldiers at a M.A.S.H. unit, when he experienced an agonising pain in his abdomen. He diagnosed acute appendicitis. Knowing that if he stopped work he would be risking the lives of the wounded, he instructed a nurse to give him an injection of morphine. She gave him an injection, the pain went and he continued working pain free. Later he was operated on for a ruptured appendix. Some time after that, the surgeon read through the case notes on himself. He saw that the nurse had not given him morphine. Realising that his judgement might be impaired if she gave him the drug, she had merely given the surgeon an injection of salt water. His belief in the power of morphine was so strong, however, that the placebo had killed all sensation of pain.
   The power of placebos is confirmed constantly in double-blind, controlled trials that are used to test the efficacy of drugs and other treatments. Patients are divided randomly usually into two groups; one group will take the drug, the other, acting as controls, will be given something which seems identical to the drug but which is actually an inert substance with no curative powers - the placebo. Neither the patients nor the doctors administering the substances know who is taking which. They are both 'blind'. Under these circumstances, you might expect a change in those taking the drug while those taking the placebo would remain the same. In fact, invariably, there are changes in both groups; the changes in the symptoms of those taking the placebo mimicking the changes in those taking the drug. This then is the placebo effect.
   If a patient does get well under these circumstances, it may be no bad thing. The medical practitioner has determined that there is no disease present, so the opportunity for effective treatment is not missed; as the inert placebo can have no adverse side effects, it can do no harm; and the cost is minimal. Under these circumstances, all should be well.
   It was undoubtedly this placebo effect that many alternative treatments relied upon when they began. You can make up your own mind from their histories outlined below. It may also be this placebo effect upon which some alternative therapists rely for the apparent effectiveness of their treatments today. Many have been developed since their inception. Where conventional medicine and alternative medicine have tended to differ is, to some extent, in their philosophies. The difference is between science and reason at the one extreme, and quackery and the dishonest exploitation of human suffering on the other. Both profess an honest search for truth and, for patients to benefit, both rely to at least some extent on faith.

Conventional vs Alternative Medicine

The Chinese have a proverb. It states that:

The superior doctor prevents sickness
The mediocre doctor attends to impending sickness
The inferior doctor treats actual sickness

Conventional medicine is not without its faults. It relies not so much on preventing disease, but on treating it. To this extent, if the Chinese proverb is to be believed, conventional medicine is practised largely by mediochre and inferior doctors. They also concentrate on treating specific disorders or symptoms rather than the whole person. Alternative medical practitioners, on the other hand profess to take a different approach, treating the person as a whole – a 'holistic' approach – rather than symptoms, although not all do: homoeopathy, for example, concentrates on creating the same symptoms as the disease being treated.

Alternative medicines

Since the time of Hippocrates, the practice of medicine has been determined by two opposing philosophies: the scientific and the non-scientific; the rational and the absurd. Although the demarcation between conventional 20th century medicine, the scientific, and the many alternative medicinal practices, the non-scientific, is blurred to some extent because there are no criteria for the demarcation of the absurd, there is a distinction we can use:

  • where medicines are clinically tested and evaluated in well-conducted controlled trials, they can be fairly said to be scientific.

  • where they do not derive from any coherent body of evidence and they have not been the subject of critical assessment either of their efficacy or of their safety, they must be suspect.

In considering or selecting a medical treatment within conventional medicine, there is always recourse to their governing body or to law if anything goes wrong; outside conventional medicine, this may not be the case. It seems to me sensible to look at both before deciding on which way to go.
   Below are some of the more popular alternative treatments that appear to me to have an unscientific foundation.


Acupuncture has been around since about 300 BC. In China, it was a religious ritual of bloodletting, in principle similar to the use of leeches of western medicine, which later developed into pricking with needles at points along 'meridians'. These meridians were imaginary lines on the body believed to be linked to internal organs, although they totally disregarded the anatomy, following instead what are called 'yin-yang' lines. Acupuncture was banned in China by the Emperor in 1822 as it was a serious bar to progress in medicine.
   The practice was only revived for political reasons by Chairman Mao as a cheap form of anaesthesia. You may be interested to learn that acupuncture in 1972 was 'usually performed by a young girl aged 20-25 who is politically sincere and who spends 2-3 days in advance of the operation in encouraging the patient in his mental attitude, especially towards the works and thoughts of Chairman Mao'. Acupuncture has always been mysterious in the West but that mystery disappears when we find that the patients were carefully selected and that only some 10-15% of those carefully selected patients were deemed suitable; the acupuncture was used in conjunction with premedication, a local anaesthetic and other drugs, and an intravenous drip; and that, despite all this, not all patients were anaesthetised sufficiently. The reports of acupuncture as an anaesthetic tapered off rapidly in the late '70s and in 1980 when two Chinese professors denounced it as a myth and a political hoax.
   There have been numerous clinical trials of acupuncture; none has been able to demonstrate any differences in pain relief between treatment and placebo groups. Not one has been able to show any lasting benefit from the treatment.


Aromatherapy is a form of herbalism where plant oils generally are massaged into parts of the body or inhaled, rather than being taken internally. Like most alternative strategies its concept has been around for centuries although the term 'Aromathérapie' was coined in the 1928 by a French chemist, René Maurice Gattefossé, whose family owned a perfume factory. Patricia Davis, founder of the International Federation of Aromatherapists, defines aromatherapy as 'the art - and science – of using essential plant oils in treatments'. This is an inaccurate and misleading description as for it to be a science, there would have to be clinical trials to provide evidence of efficacy, and there are none, and the word 'essential' which might infer that it is necessary, only means that the oils have an essence or smell.
   Aromatherapy should not be undertaken lightly. As Patricia Davis, herself, warns, the oils used can build up toxins in the body and there have been several deaths attributed to aromatherapy. Her advice is to be sure to consult a qualified aromatherapist before embarking on any treatment. As anyone can set up as an aromatherapist, you may consider it prudent to consult someone rather more qualified than that.
   It is claimed that aromatherapy can treat all manner of ailments. Apparently, the oils will help the body to destroy viruses and in this context, says Jean Valnet, President of the French Society, the smaller the amount of oil used, the greater is the effect. Presumably, therefore, using the smallest dose – none – will be the most effective!
   The two oils which Davis claims will cure practically anything are lavender and fennel. Strangely, however, she says that fennel is toxic and should never be used.
   Aromatic oils are frequently used in conjunction with other quack remedies and practices. For example many aroma-therapists tailor their treatment to a person's star sign. Plants are linked to signs of the Zodiac and an oil used to treat an Aries would not be used to treat the same complaint in a Leo. Other aromatherapists work on a person's aura or use acupuncture points as the site for their treatment. The new Reflexology or Zone therapy points are also used, so that someone who has a backache might be treated by having a spot of oil rubbed into a toe!
   The oils, we are told, are antidotes to homoeopathic remedies and the two should not be used together. In fact, it seems that the effect is so strong that, ideally, they should not even be kept in the same room.
   There is little doubt that in the modern, Western world there is a great deal of mental stress, and that a massage in a nice-smelling environment may help a person to relax. But there is little evidence that aromatherapy really does anything more than that – and the oils can cause harm. Aromatherapy may treat an imagined illness but claims of cures for diseases caused by micro-organisms are totally unsubstantiated.

Bach's Flower Remedies see Homoeopathy.

Biomagnetics, Radionics, and Radiesthesia

Biomagnetics is an extension of spondylotherapy invented by George de la Warr who died in 1969. His equipment consisted of a box in which were receptacles to hold blood, hair or other samples. From these receptacles were wires that led to eight control knobs on the front of the box and a rubber pad on top.
   The procedure was as follows: With all the knobs set to zero, you placed samples from your patient into the box and rubbed your fingers on the rubber pad. If your fingers stuck suddenly, you noted 0 on the first knob; if they did not, you turned that knob to 1 and tried again. You kept repeating the procedure, turning the knobs up until the fingers did stick giving you a number somewhere between 0 and 99,999,999. Then you looked up that number in de la Warr's Guide to Clinical Condition and that would tell you what was wrong with the patient.
   Once a diagnosis was arrived at, a similar box was used to treat the patient. Looking up its 'Broadcast Treatment Rate', you set up dials on this box and healing rays radiating from the box would cure the patient – wherever in the world he was and whether he knew he was being treated or not. Sometimes, 'practitioners will add the appropriate homoeopathic remedy, colour, flower remedy, vitamin or mineral sample by placing it on the treatment set near the blood spot'. It seems that a yellow/orange colour, for example, is good for liver disease, hard chronic tumours, idiocy and ulceration of the lung.
   Biomagnetic treatment was so effective that, we are told, it could cure illnesses which hadn't yet occurred. On one occasion, while de la Warr was in Oxford, he was given a hair from a man who was fifty miles away in a London hospital. By examining the hair, de la Warr diagnosed that the man had tuberculosis in one lung. X-rays taken by the hospital showed no signs of disease so, obviously, he hadn't actually got tuberculosis yet. De la Warr broadcast his healing rays and the patient never did develop tuberculosis. Now, isn't that amazing!
    Radionics, or Drown Radio Therapy , was pioneered in the 1930s by Dr Ruth Drown, in collaboration with George de la Warr and Albert Abrams. It too used a mysterious black box to send healing waves through the air to alleviate illness. In this case, Dr Drown had a collection of samples of her patients' blood which she kept on blotting paper. If a patient didn't feel well, he would telephone Dr Drown, and she put the relevant sample in the box and 'broadcast' the appropriate waves towards the patient's home. Well, it saved time and the trouble of having to go out. Does it work? When tested by the Biological Sciences Division of the University of Chicago in 1950, Dr Drown's diagnoses were so far divorced from reality that she gave up before completing half of them.
    Radiesthesia was invented by a priest, Abbé Mermet. It was the original dowsing concept on which Biomagnetics was based. When a shaman had difficulty communicating with the spirits, he used a stick – the magician's wand. A number of such aids were used and, instead of a stick, the Abbé used a pendulum to pick up the 'vibrations'. To diagnose disease using Radiesthesia, a sample from the patient was placed with 'an inert powder impregnated with the vibrations of various diseases' and a homoeopathic remedy. Then the pendulum was swung over them and by some obscure means, the patient was cured. Radiesthesia was fashionable in the 1930s and may still be found occasionally today.

Chiropractic see Osteopathy.

Colour Therapy

In some respects, colour therapy is already an everyday practice. We all have our favourite colours with which we like to live. Colour therapy is a bit like aromatherapy. The difference is that colour therapists believe in the therapeutic effects of coloured lights instead of smells. The ancient belief that colours can heal was developed into an alternative medical treatment in the twentieth century. It is based on the colours associated with various emotions as in 'seeing red' when one is angry, or being green with envy, or is that a relaxing colour?
   But Colour Therapy here is not just matter of finding what a person likes and painting his living-room walls with it, but a deception. The best-known example of this confidence trick seems to be the Spectro-Chrome Therapy machine of Colonel Dinshah Ghadiali. The way it worked was that after determining what was wrong with your patient, you slid an appropriately coloured piece of glass into the machine, switched on a light in the machine and the patient was healed by coloured light that emerged. But there was another twist. In order for it to work, the patient also had to give up all food and drink that he enjoyed.
   Another practitioner, William Estep, claimed that by shining coloured lights onto plain water, he could change it into an effective medicine. Just think, if Christ had had that, he might have produced Sanatogen.


Dianetics is the brainchild of the science fiction writer, Lafayette Ronald (Ron) Hubbard, who founded Scientology in 1952. Its first mention was in a 1950 article in Astounding Science Fiction. Hubbard claimed that dianetics was 'a milestone for Man comparable to his discovery of fire and superior to his invention of the wheel and the arch.'
   Dianetics is so convoluted that it is difficult to summarise. The theory is that we each have two minds. One is like a computer and is perfect, the other is the source of all the elements which make that computer malfunction. This reactive mind, it seems, remembers everything which happens to us and, as some of the things are not nice, we remember these 'engrams' and become unhappy. Where the dianetic therapy is used is in ridding the patient of these engrams by making him re-live them until they are erased from his memory. Once you are 'clear' of all your engrams, Dianetics teaches that your IQ knows no limit. As Hubbard put it: 'The Dianetic Clear is to the current normal individual as the current normal individual is to the severely insane.'
   Like a number of other pseudo sciences, dianetics had its box of tricks to aid the auditing process. This one was called an electropsychometer. Even when the patient said that nothing was bothering him, if the needle on the box moved, this indicated that an engram was lurking somewhere to be cleared.
   Later, other concepts were added; one of which was the 'thetan'. The thetan, it seems, is an immortal being which is such a fine mind that 'a raving mad thetan is far more sane than a normal human being'. At the moment it is 'you' but it can remember past lives going back trillions of years (according to Hubbard), and its memory includes all the engrams that entails. Clearing you of these engrams frees the immortal thetan. It didn't matter to Hubbard that we haven't been around for trillions of years. He frequently used even more ridiculously large numbers. He talks, for example, of 'creation implants' which happened seventy trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion years ago. To put that in context, it is generally accepted that the Universe began only a mere 15 billion years ago.
   There is a story that Hubbard invented Scientology as a bet that he could invent a new religion and become rich on it. People's gullibility won him that one; and, it seems, they continue to fall for it.

Eye Exercises

Biologists teach that the eye focuses by altering the thickness and curvature of the lens, making it fatter and shortening its focal length when looking at close objects, and making it thinner and lengthening its focal length when looking at distant objects. But Dr William Bates, who died in 1931, believed that biologists had got it wrong. He said that what really happened was that the lens moved backwards and forwards, like the camera lens does. This was accomplished, he said, by muscles which squeezed the eye thus changing the distance from the lens to the retina. There are animals whose eyes do focus in this way, but man isn't one of them.
   Dr Bates' cure for sight problems was not spectacles but exercises designed to strengthen or relax the squeezing muscles. Some of the exercises were quite dangerous; he recommended staring at the Sun, for example. Doing so would destroy part of the retina and cause blindness.

Faith Healing

Faith healing in its most public form consists of the laying on of hands at revivalist meetings. But ordinary hands will not do. At one time, only Royal hands were effective and healing was a royal prerogative for some 700 years. King Pyrrhus we learn, cured the sick by laying his toe on them. Nowadays the powers of healing are generally attributed to religious persons. However, it has been argued that if the power of prayer were as powerful as the religious community would have us believe, it should be possible to demonstrate evidence of increases in longevity. By studying tables of longevity, Galton noticed, however, that royalty and the clergy did not enjoy long lives. He also noted that churches and cathedrals were just as likely to be damaged by lightning, earthquakes or fires as any other buildings of comparable size.
   The church best known for its reliance on faith rather than conventional medicine to treat sickness is the Church of Christ Scientist, founded by Mary Baker Eddy in the 19th century because she was disillusioned with homoeopathy. She reasoned that, since a homoeopath's patients were cured with remedies which contained nothing, then diseases didn't exist. Indeed, the church teaches that disease is not real but a dream from which the patient must be awoken. 'Tumours, ulcers, tubercles, inflammation, pain, deformed joints are waking dream-shadows, dark images of mortal thought which flee before the light of Truth.' By 'dissolving the mental attitude from which all diseases ultimately stem', diseases such as cancer, meningitis, club foot and pernicious anaemia can be cured. Similarly, the church teaches that poisons do not exist. They teach, for example, that strychnine is harmless, and that it is only the belief that strychnine can kill that is responsible for a person's death. Personally, I wouldn't want to risk it.
   Studies of strict religious groups have usually shown that their adherents do tend to live longer than the general population. However, a study of mortality patterns, carried out by a coroner in 1956, found that the average age at death of Christian Scientists was significantly lower than average and that they suffered higher incidences of heart disease and cancers.
   Incidentally, a very young girl, asked what she understood by the word 'faith', defined it as 'belief in the untrue'. Now there is a sensible girl.

Homoeopathy and Bach's Flower Remedies.

Homoeopathy was invented by Christian Friedrich Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843) in 1796 as a reaction to excessive bloodletting, purgation, induced vomiting and the non-scientific approach of the medical profession of his time. He became very successful during the period 1821-43. Homoeopathy works on the principle that the symptoms that the patient is displaying of a disease are not caused by the disease, but are the body's way of combating the disease. The homoeopath does not treat diseases, he treats symptoms. So the homoeopath gives the patient a medicine which will cause the same symptoms as he is already displaying thus, so the theory goes, assisting the body to fight the disease. An example might be to brush a person suffering from measles with nettles! Hippocrates, the father of medicine said: 'By opposites opposites are cured.' Homoeopathy's motto: 'Like cures like' is the exact opposite of this.
   Hahnemann originally conceived homeopathy as a form of placebo treatment where dilute substances which were believed to mimic the symptoms were given. Later, he introduced 'Succussion' and 'Dynamism' to homoeopathy, and the potency theory of 'vitalism' where the spirit of the person entered the dilute solution to bring about a cure.
   Homoeopathic remedies use active substances, but in infinitesimally small quantities. Indeed, Hahnemann advised that they should be so dilute that 'not a single molecule of the curative substance should reach the patient's lips'. To achieve this, homoeopathists take one drop of active substance and mix it with 100 drops of distilled water. One drop of the mixture is then mixed with another 100 drops of water. One drop of that mixture is mixed with yet another 100 drops of water, and on it goes. Each of these mixes is called a 'potency' because it is supposed that with each dilution, 'vital force' is imparted to it and the medicine gets more potent. The usual minimum commercial potency is 12. This means that one drop has been mixed with 100 drops 12 times so the dilution is one part in 1000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 (10 -24 ). But homoeopathic remedies can be bought with potencies as high as 30, or one part in 1000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 (10 -60 ). That is the equivalent of one grain of sand in a volume many times greater than that of our entire solar system! These, it seems, are even more effective.
   But even that is really only a start. The World Health Organisation reports that dilutions, sorry, potencies, of over 100,000 (10 -200,000 ) have been used successfully. It would not be unreasonable for you to wonder how a quantity as minute as nothing at all can do any good. Well, this is where 'succussion', or 'dynamism' or 'potentisation' comes in. Like James Bond's Martinis, it seems that it is important that these mixes are shaken, not stirred. By this means, we are asked to believe, the water 'remembers' the active substance which was mixed in it originally even though it is no longer present. We are not told, however, why it doesn't remember all the other chemicals, fish droppings and toxic waste that were mixed with it when it was sea and river water.
   The Dean of the Faculty of Homoeopathy in Great Britain prescribed common salt, diluted so that there was not one molecule left, to treat 'a girl with a broken love affair or a woman who has never been able to cry'. Well, tears are salty, aren't they? Because red pepper gives people feelings of homesickness, a German homoeopathist suggested that the 11 million foreign workers in Europe might benefit from a homoeopathic dose of red pepper.
   There have been many trials into homoeopathy; not one has ever found any evidence of benefit. A French clinical trial that purported to do so was reported in Nature in 1988. It made sweeping claims and was hailed by homoeopaths as scientific proof of the veracity of their claims. However, the editor of Nature was attacked for publishing nonsense so he, together with the man who had exposed Uri Geller's paranormal powers and a specialist in scientific fraud, asked the French laboratory to repeat the tests in their presence to confirm the results. Their request was granted but with them present, the laboratory was quite unable to repeat its original findings.
   Dr David Reilly, a staunch defender of 'scientific' homoeopathy said after the first French trial: 'If we prove the observations wrong we will have exposed homoeopathy as one of medical science's greatest misadventures – a folly so massive it will merit study in itself'. They did, and it is.
   Reilly and colleagues conducted a study of their own in 1986. It was, he claimed, the first double-blind, controlled trial of homoeopathy in hay fever. At the end of the 5-week trial a third of the subjects had given up and left, far too high percentage for an acceptable trial. Nevertheless, they published conclusions – which were so erroneous that they provoked a vast amount of correspondence.
   Because homoeopathy is sponsored by the Royal Family and its supposed remedies are prescribed by some general practitioners, it has been given a veneer of respectability. That, however, doesn't make it any less ridiculous.
   A variation of homoeopathy is Bach's Flower Remedies , the brainchild of Dr Edward Bach (1886-1936). This claims to cure ailments as diverse as itches, cuts and bruises, premature ejaculation, Delirium Tremens, fever, convulsions, and painful periods. Dr Charles Elliott, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth's homoeopath, called it 'one of the most comprehensive state-of-the-art systems of healing known'. Its claims don't stop at curing humans, apparently; we are asked to believe that it will revive unconscious animals if it is rubbed behind their ears and that it is even a tonic for out-of-sorts plants.


Iridology is a diagnostic technique which involves gazing into the eyes. Its proponents believe the body's organs are shown in the iris, and that the iris shows what illness a patient is suffering. It was invented in 1881 by a man named von Péczely. Because it is still believed in today, a test was carried out in 1988 to test the diagnostic accuracy of those who professed to use it. It is claimed that gall bladder disease is the easiest condition to find so 39 subjects known to have the disease and 39 healthy controls of the same sex and age were sent to five leading iridologists. On average each iridologist got about half of the diagnoses correct, about what one would expect to get by chance. When the results of the trial were sent to the iridologists, they were disappointed but said that evaluating the image of the iris without other medical information from the patient was difficult - but then if the practitioner had the other information, why would he need iridology? The study concluded that iridology was not a useful diagnostic aid.
   A later study of the change in doctors' belief in iridology was carried out. The paper mentioned above was sent to physicians who had written articles in medical and alternative medical journals in favour of iridology, and they were asked whether it had changed their belief in the reliability in the procedure. While the belief of the conventional doctors, on average, changed from 50% belief to strong disbelief, there was less impact on practitioners of alternative therapies. They, it seems, preferred to prolong the myth.

Metamorphic Technique see Reflexology


Naturopathy can trace its history back for centuries. It is a hotchpotch collection of pseudo-medical therapies which have as their base teachings that all illness can be treated by purely natural means. What he believed to be its fundamental principles were laid down by Harry Benjamin in 1936. The first principle was ' that all forms of disease are due to the same cause , namely the accumulation in the system of waste materials and bodily refuse, which has been steadily piling up in the body . . . through years of wrong habits of living' (Benjamin's italics). To rid the body of these accumulations, Benjamin proposed: fasting, scientific dieting, hydrotherapy, general body-building and hygiene, and psychotherapy. These pose questions such as: how long should one fast and may one drink; what constitutes a 'scientific diet'; as there are many contradictory forms, what form of psychotherapy should be undertaken. Naturopaths vary so much that you may not get the same answer from any two.
   The best-known proponent of naturopathy this century was probably John H Kellogg, the brother of the man who invented cornflakes. The Kellogg family were Seventh Day Adventists. As Seventh Day Adventists, by and large, are vegetarians, his brand of naturopathy was vegetarian based. Other aspects of naturopathy include: belief that fasting will cure cancer and other serious diseases; the belief that germs do not cause disease, it is the disease which causes germs; and most naturopaths believe strongly in 'colonic irrigation', where a hose pipe is inserted into the rectum and copious amounts of water are flushed up it. In some cases it may have done some good but it is anyone's guess how many people have been killed in this way.
   Naturopaths are hard to find in the High Street. Where they flourish is on Health Farms , most if not all of which operate on the principles of naturopathy.

New Age Treatments

Cashing in on the current trend towards 'complementary' medicines are a number of new confidence tricks which masquerade under the generic title of New Age treatments. They include sticking lighted candles in the ear. This is supposed to create a chimney effect and suck pressure out of the head which, it is claimed, will cure such ailments as migraines and clear ear wax. Nonsense. Even if there were a chimney effect, it would have to be very strong for that. And as for pressure in the head, firstly the eardrum would stop any flow and, even if this were ruptured (which a suction strong enough to remove ear wax would undoubtedly do), all that could be sucked out would be air from the back of the nose via the Eustachian tube which connects the middle ear to the back of the throat (pharynx). Perhaps those who believe in this idea would be well advised not to venture outside on a windy day – the wind going in one ear, so much stronger than the effects of a candle, might blow their brains out of the other!
   A friend of mine uses another similar treatment which, he says, is called holistic therapy . In his case, he has a pain which, he has been told, is caused by a trapped nerve where it emerges from his spine into his shoulder. The holistic therapist uses suction pads on the skin. These, it appears, are supposed to suck the trapped nerve to another position so that it is no longer trapped. The relief he gets is only temporary.
   Another 'New Age' treatment is crystal therapy where crystals of various minerals are supposed to make you better if, for example, you sleep with one under your pillow. Is it possible to get any sillier? Well, probably – new ones are being dreamed up all the time.

Osteopathy, Chiropractic and Somatography

Osteopathy was discovered in 1876 by Andrew Still, a bone setter in Missouri. When three of his children died from meningitis, he lost faith in the medical profession and developed the bizarre theory that all diseases were caused by pressure on blood vessels, particularly in the spine. These pressures apparently were caused by misalignments of the vertebrae for which he invented the term 'subluxations'. To give some idea of the power of osteopathy, Still claimed to have cured baldness, growing three inches of hair on a bald head in only one week! He even claimed that in one small American town he reset seventeen dislocated hips in one day. Why there should have been quite so many dislocated hips in one town on that particular day, we shall never know.
   A review of 35 trials into the efficacy of spinal manipulation for patients with back or neck pain was published in 1991. Eighteen of the studies (51%) showed favourable results for manipulation; 5 more reported positive results in sub-groups; and 8 attempted to compare manipulation with some form of placebo, with inconsistent results. But all the trials were poorly conducted and most of them reported only short-term effects. The studies that included a long-term follow-up mostly showed no positive results. Others, particularly those that were better conducted, reported that the placebos gave better results than the manipulation! The authors conclude: 'The results of all the trials presented indicate that manipulation is not consistently better than other therapies.'
    Chiropractic was invented by Daniel Palmer, an Iowa grocer, in 1895. It is similar to osteopathy but more restricted and even more naive. It was advertised as a cure for almost all human ailments from tonsillitis to cancer. In a way it is similar to acupuncture or zone therapy in that chiropractors believe that there are control points ranged along the spine.
   In 1976 an experiment to test the claims of chiropractors was carried out in Philadelphia by the Committee Against Health Fraud. A healthy 4-year old girl was taken to five chiropractors. The first diagnosed 'pinched nerves to her stomach and gallbladder', the next a 'twisted pelvis', the third thought she would suffer 'headaches, nervousness, equilibrium and digestive problems due to spinal misalignment' in the future, yet another said she had a 'short leg' which if uncorrected would cause her to suffer 'bad periods and rough childbirth', and the last said that she required immediate treatment for a misaligned hip and neck.
    Somatography is yet another form of manipulation therapy. Invented in the 1960s by Bryn Jones, it differs only in that the patient isn't touched – it is only the patient's aura which is massaged.
   Backache, particularly in the lower back is a common complaint. This complaint is the single most common reason for people's consulting a manipulator. In the vast majority of cases it will clear up by itself without any treatment at all, and the claims for the effectiveness of manipulative treatments are unsubstantiated.

   Having said that, all forms of manipulative therapy from the ones mentioned to the various forms of massage and physiotherapy do have a calming and relaxing effect (with the possible exception of somatography) which may be just what is required to relax stresses within the body.

Radionics see Biomagnetics

Reflexology or Zone Therapy, and Metamorphic Technique

Reflexology is like acupuncture only even more absurd. The concept goes back to ancient Egypt but the present theory and mode of use was the brainchild of an American named Eunice Ingham early in the 20th century. It seems that the body can be divided into ten zones (hence its other name, Zone Therapy), and each of the zones corresponds to a finger or, more generally now, a toe. These zones are subdivided then into 'reflex points' on the foot corresponding to the various internal organs. The reflexologist presses various points on the foot and, if discomfort is felt, that indicates a problem in some organ of the body. Continuing to apply the pressure until the discomfort disappears, is supposed to cure the ailment.
    The Metamorphic Technique was developed in the 1960s by Robert St John. Originally it was based on Reflexology but now they differ from each other significantly. Anyone may practice the technique: all one needs, apparently, is the right attitude
   Aromatherapists also use reflexology points. Well, it saves time, the patient doesn't have to get undressed and as it doesn't require as much oil, it is cheaper and thus more profitable for the therapist.
    The technique is based on the assumption that our physical, mental, and emotional structures are built up in the nine months from conception to birth, and that later disorders are traceable to experiences during this period in the womb. Practitioners of the technique work on the spinal reflexology points in the feet which are now considered to correspond not only to the spinal vertebrae but also to the 38 week pre-natal period (see Figure 1). Massaging the feet for about half-an-hour each brings this formative period back into focus so that energies blocked at that time are freed. The idea seems to be that using the technique releases the patient's innate ability to change, allowing things that go wrong in the womb to be corrected later. Its practitioners believe that even genetic disorders can be corrected by these means. In which case, one wonders why we waste so much time, money and resources treating cystic fibrosis, spina bifida, and so on, when all that is needed to cure these conditions is a little foot massage!


According to Dr Albert Abrams' theory of spondylotherapy, every disease has a characteristic set of vibrations. These could be detected by a device called an oscilloclast, a box of tricks which had two external wires. One wire ran to a power supply, the second to the forehead of a healthy volunteer who, for some reason, had to face west. A sample of blood from the patient was placed in the box and Abrams manipulated the healthy volunteer's abdomen until he detected the vibrations of the disease on the blood sample and was able to diagnose the disease. Later Abrams found he didn't need a blood sample, claiming he could do as well with a sample of handwriting.
   It appears that to test Abrams' claims, the American Medical Association sent him a blood sample from 'Miss Bell'. Dr Abrams diagnosed cancer, sinusitis and an infection in Miss Bell's left fallopian tube. 'Miss Bell' was actually a healthy, male guinea pig! On another occasion Dr Abrams diagnosed cancer, malaria, diabetes and clap in a sample which had been obtained from a chicken.


Trepanation was a surgical technique used by Tibetan monks to open the 'third eye'. They drilled a hole in the skull in the region of the pineal gland and then poked around inside with a sharp stick. With this third eye open one was supposed to be able to see a person's aura (presumably enabling him to practise somatography). In Europe, trepanation was 'invented' by a Dutchman, Bart Huges in 1965. He didn't claim to be able to see auras. Instead Huges claimed that the procedure relieved the hydrostatic pressure on the brain allowing the arteries to expand. Huges claimed that it was similar to having a permanent LSD trip.
   During the times of LSD and hippies, there was an underground magazine Gandalf's Garden . In an article recommending trepanation the authors warned: 'We do not advise anyone to try trepanning themselves, since even a fractional miscalculation could cause death or insanity.' Wouldn't you have to be insane already?

Zone Therapy See Reflexology


The various therapies outlined above differ from conventional medicine in a number of important respects. Firstly, they tend to be irrational: claiming to cure practically everything. Secondly, when they are tested clinically, they consistently fail to live up to their promises. In fact, many won't work anywhere if there is a sceptic present. How can it be that a remedy doesn't work merely because there is someone around who doesn't believe in it? It really beggars belief.
    Conventional medicine may only be practised, by law, by those who have had a considerable amount of higher education and university, medical training. A study in Britain, published in 1985, showed that only 50% of alternative medical practitioners had had any secondary or tertiary education. Many also had no qualifications, even in the therapy they professed to practice.
   The placebo effect is strong. Many ailments have psychological causes. They, and many more which are caused by bacteria and viruses, are self-limiting; that is, they will get better by themselves without any treatment. These can be 'cured' by anything, no matter how absurd - whether you believe in it or not.
   In the cholera epidemic of the 1850s, the death rate in the London Homoeopathic hospital was 18% while in many others, which practised blood letting, it was 2-3 times as high. Homoeopathic treatment didn't do anything, but it was better then to do nothing than deplete a sick person's reserves of strength with leeches. But today that is not the case. Since the discovery of sulpha drugs in 1935, homoeopathy has been obsolete.
   Most back pain is psychosomatic – produced by the brain. That is not to say that back pain sufferers are malingerers or 'imagine' their pain. It has been discovered that, although many more people use backache to obtain sick notes to excuse their not working, the actual numbers of cases of back pain has changed very little since the last century. Many try conventional medicine's answer, the physiotherapist, then an osteopath or chiropractor. A trial on several where all these had failed, using the newly-developed positron emitter (PET) brain scanner, discovered that areas in their brains were more sensitive to the pain. This, in turn, increased the tension in their back muscles thus increasing the severity of the pain. It was a vicious circle. What they needed was not the manipulation they had been getting, but simply to relax. Where manipulation had worked, whether from conventional or alternative medical sources, it was not the treatment itself that was found to be beneficial – merely the relaxation. And since an alternative therapist, charging by the hour, can afford to spend more time with his client, in this situation he is likely to be more successful. But all the patient really needs is to rest – which costs nothing.
   Many of those who resort to alternative remedies do so because conventional drugs may have uncomfortable side effects. On the whole, there are few side effects with alternative medicines; but then, a treatment can't have side effects if it doesn't do anything. Most alternative treatments are not harmful in themselves (although some are), the real danger with these treatments is that medically untrained alternative practitioners may miss important symptoms and deny a patient effective therapy. By resorting to such dubious practices, a seriously ill person could waste precious time so that by the time he goes to a conventional doctor with cancer, say, it is too late to treat it. In the USA, an estimated $10 billion is spent annually on alternative therapy and half of that is spent on cancer 'cures'. It is becoming a growth industry in Britain as well. It is unfortunate that influential people, such as the British Royal Family, help to give credence to these therapies. By so doing, they do a grave disservice to their subjects.
   Most alternative practitioners really believe in their products but some are opportunist charlatans and their 'remedies' are a cruel hoax. As Beaven points out: 'Practitioners of alternative medicine, unfettered by regulatory standards, or any established code of ethics take advantage of minors and the credulous. Ethnic minorities, immigrants and younger people are among those who may not understand methods of access to orthodox medicine and are particularly vulnerable.' They prey on the gullible and the sick – a case of your money and your life.

NOTE: I first wrote this article in 1991. Since then there have been some changes in the alternative medical world: there is now more regulation in some of the disciplines, for example. It has also become clear that the conventional medical world is not without its own charlatans, as other papers on this and other websites demonstrate.

   Also, driven by 'Big-Pharma' to make profits and, it must be said in fairness, the US FDA's insistence that all new drugs be tested at vast expense, the necessity to ensure that new 'conventional' treatment modalities manage to reach statistical significance – all that money spent would be wasted if they don't – has also biassed the other side of the medical fence towards quackery.
   Under the circumstances, it seems that the best advice I can think of is for anyone who has a medical problem to check out both sides of the medical divide as widely as possible, look at the evidence for both, see which ones make more sense and are more likely to be of value, and then make their own informed decision on which way they want to go for treatment.
   But I repeat, always get a qualified diagnosis first.


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Last updated 2 June 2001

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