Alternative Medicine--buy this book!Alternative medicine; the Christian handbook, updated, expanded, Zondervan, 2006 by Donal O'Mathuna, PhD and Walt Larimore, MD (£13.57 / US$26.37 /EUR19.99) is a good investment for your home or public library. I know the author personally (he lives in Ireland, but got his PhD from Ohio State and married the daughter of friends) and Zondervan is a publisher I trust. It is written in a rather dry, non-confrontational, common sense style that I'd almost forgotten existed in books for the general public, especially for a topic that exalts in sound bites and teaser phrases like "secrets to," "seven steps to," "never before revealed," "they don't want you to know this," "as seen on television," "all-natural," and "suppressed." If you are familiar with the term "evidence based medicine," or "literature review," this would be that. These authors take the claims of alternative therapies (acupuncture, chiropractic, energy medicine, herbal medicine, garlic, noni juice, etc. and many others) and then look at the clinical and research studies (if they exist) and give the therapy, claim or technique ratings. At first I found the rating system of 1 to 4 a bit off-putting--check marks (4 for multiple high-quality randomized controlled trials), x-marks (evidence against, 4 for multiple high-quality randomized controlled trials), recommendation scale of happy faces (4 for 75%-100% confidence that the therapy is potentially beneficial), area of spiritual concern of interest to Christians is designated with thumbs down (4 thumbs down is a therapy involving spiritual practices in direct conflict with biblical teaching). But once I got used to it, found the system easy to follow.
Noni juice, for instance, a product I've only tasted, gets 2.5 pages--what it is, what the claims are, the study findings, the cautions, recommendations, dosage, treatment categories, whether its claims are scientifically questionable, is it quackery or fraud (these differences are explained in another chapter) and further reading.
Some concerns are: 1) there are no quality standards unlike most herbals, so there is no way to judge what you're buying; 2) some companies take the leftover by-products of juicing and sell as "100% noni fruit powder," and so the product would not have the ingredients of noni juice, 3) the published literature is for a tree native to Hawaii, but most of the products come from trees grown on other South Pacific Islands which probably have different chemical constituents, 4) "wild harvested" is not of consistent quality or origin, 5) when commercially grown, it has pesticides and herbicide residues, including some not allowed in the U.S. and Canada, 6) some, but not all, noni juice is pasteurized, which kills pathogens but may inactivate some compounds, but no studies have been done.
Noni juice can interact with other medications (and drinkers may neglect to mention it to their doctor who is prescribing a diuretic or blood pressure medication) causing nausea or cardiac arrhythmias, and shouldn't be used by anyone with kidney or liver problems, and the authors don't recommend it for breast-feeding women. There were no spiritual claims for this product.
However, the authors say it does have many vitamins--just no curative properties for arthritis, menstrual cramps, digestion or cancer, and if what you're buying hypes that, disregard it and just enjoy it as a juice that smells like rotten cheese that tops the list of worst tasting and best selling to a very gullible public.
The book has 510 pages, is well indexed (by subject, scripture and therapy) and formatted, has lengthy bibliographies, a rating system, and the authors are a medical doctor and a pharmacist whose PhD research was in identifying potential new drugs from herbal remedies and an MA in theology from Ashland Seminary in Ohio and who taught at Mt. Carmel College of Nursing here in Columbus. And as mentioned above, I know him--went to his wedding which was during the worst spring snow storm in the history of central Ohio. The minister couldn't get there.