There are so many complementary treatments out there, it’s simply impossible to keep up. As an allopathic, Western-trained doctor, I have enough trouble keeping on top of my family medicine literature, so I have even less time to learn about other types of medicine. So, I’ve developed my own screening techniques to weed out good from bad. I’ve mentioned this subject before, but I’d like to mention a nice summary from the good consumer website, Mayoclinic.com. They have a nice review article that helps consumers fine-tune some critical analysis (Alternative medicine: Evaluate claims of treatment success). One crucial element is trying to see through a website’s promotions to find real evidence of effectiveness. There are a lot of red flags: big promises; guarantees and money-back offers; and my favorite red flag, testimonials:
Testimonials. Anecdotes from individuals who have used the product are no substitute for scientific proof. If the product’s claims were backed up with hard evidence, the manufacturer would say so.
So, if you see any website with big top banners linking to testimonials and not to research/evidence, then forget about that product. A testimonial is scientifically worthless; that patient could simply be one of the ~30% of people who benefit from the placebo effect of any pill.
As for my favorite websites, I like:
- Mayo Clinic supplement lists
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
- Natural Medicines Database Clinical Management Series
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