The truth goes unheardMy attempt to get a weekly health column in the local newspaper to combat a new herbalist's column has been unsuccessful. The response to my request was as follows:
Thanks for your suggested alternate alternative medical column. Being somewhat of a skeptic I suppose I could write an alternative astrology column in the XXXXXX every day but I feel secure that my skepticism, mixed with a liberal dashing of tongue in cheek and a tad of pride does not allow me to.
After due consideration XXXXXX and I have decided against running the alternate, alternative column, however we offer you the age-old alternative of writing a letter to the editor. It doesn't get you published as often, but at least you get to make your point in public.
Regardless of the knock-back, I have decided to continue with the weekly health article. Each week I will submit an article to the newspaper and publish a copy here.
So. Here we go!
Welcome to the first critical thinking article on alternative medicine. Alternative medicine is those treatments that have either failed to be proven effective or have yet to be properly tested. It would be a surprise for many to realise just how widespread alternative medicine has become in Australia.
Evidence Based Medicine is not opposed to the use of herbs and natural therapies. When something is proven to work, such as the bark of the willow tree to relieve pain, Evidence Based Medicine will investigate and test the treatment. Scientists will determine which part or parts of the plant are the active ingredients that provide the positive effect. In the case of willow bark, the positive ingredient is salicylic acid.
The other factor to consider is that herbs and natural therapies can be dangerous. One of the greatest preventable killers in society today is the natural herb called tobacco. Arsenic, mercury and even uranium are naturally occurring substances. Natural does not mean safe. This is a problem with willow bark as the salicylic acid can burn a hole in your stomach.
The concentration of salicylic acid in willow bark varies from tree to tree and also from one part of the tree to another. There is no way to know how much of the active ingredient you are getting. Scientists have been able to manufacture the salicylic acid where they know the exact dosage. What’s more they found that if they converted it to acetosalicylic acid, the substance keeps its pain relieving properties, but is much less harmful.
Even when it’s proven, consumers have the choice between eating the ground up willow bark, containing an unknown quantity of the active mixed with other substances or a guaranteed known dosage of the pure active ingredient. I’ll take the safer, known dosage. It can be found on any supermarket shelf labelled “aspirin”.