Posts Tagged ‘Alternative medicine’


Alternative medicines are popular, but do any of them really work?

(ISTOCKPHOTO/ ) - Coconut oil is sometimes recommended for helping prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

(ISTOCKPHOTO/ ) – Coconut oil is sometimes recommended for helping prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

By Paul Offit

If people want to burn fat, detoxify livers, shrink prostates, avoid colds, stimulate brains, boost energy, reduce stress, enhance immunity, prevent cancer, extend lives, enliven sex or eliminate pain, all they have to do is walk in to a vitamin store and look around.

The shelves will be lined with ginkgo or rose and orange oils touted as aids for memory; guarana and cordyceps for energy; chicory root for constipation; lemon balm oil, ashwagandha, eleuthero, Siberian ginseng and holy basil for stress; sage and black cohosh for menstrual pain; coconut oil and curry powder for Alzheimer’s disease; saw palmetto for prostate health; sandalwood bark to prevent aging; garlic for high cholesterol; peppermint oil for allergies; artichoke extract and green papaya for digestion; echinacea for colds; chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine for joint pain; milk thistle for hepatitis; St. John’s wort for depression; and tongkat ali for sexual potency.

The question, however, is: Which products work? And how do we know they work? Fortunately, thanks to James Lind, we can figure it out.

When Lind climbed aboard the HMS Salisbury intent on testing whether citrus was a cure for scurvy in 1740, he moved medicine from a faith-based system to an evidence-based system. No longer do we believe in treatments. We can test them to see whether they work.

Although the size and cost of clinical studies have increased dramatically since the days of Lind, the claims made about alternative remedies are testable, eminently testable.

In that sense, there’s no such thing as alternative medicine. If clinical trials show that a therapy works, it’s good medicine. And if a therapy doesn’t work, then it’s not an alternative.

For example, Hippocrates used the leaves of the willow plant to treat headaches and muscle pains. By the early 1800s, scientists had isolated the active ingredient: aspirin. In the 1600s, a Spanish physician found that the bark of the cinchona tree treated malaria. Later, cinchona bark was shown to contain quinine, a medicine now proven to kill the parasite that causes malaria. In the late 1700s, William Withering used the foxglove plant to treat people with heart failure. Later, foxglove was found to contain digitalis, a drug that increases heart contractility. More recently, artemisia, an herb used by Chinese healers for more than a thousand years, was found to contain another anti-malaria drug, which was later called artemisinin.

“Herbal remedies are not really alternative,” writes Steven Novella, a Yale neurologist. “They have been part of scientific medicine for decades, if not centuries. Herbs are drugs, and they can be studied as drugs.”

Looking at the claims

In many case, though, when natural products have been put to the test, they’ve fallen short of their claims. For instance, although mainstream medicine hasn’t found a way to treat dementia or enhance memory, practitioners of alternative medicine claim that they have: ginkgo biloba. As a consequence, ginkgo is one of the 10 most commonly used natural products.

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Driving affects ovaries and pelvis, Saudi sheikh warns women

Saudi Sheikh Saleh al-Luhaydan said driving “could have a reverse physiological impact” on women. (Al Arabiya)
Al Arabiya

Saudi women seeking to challenge a de facto ban on driving should realize that this could affect their ovaries and pelvises, Sheikh Saleh bin Saad al-Luhaydan, a judicial and psychological consultant to the Gulf Psychological Association, told Saudi news website sabq.org.

Driving “could have a reverse physiological impact. Physiological science and functional medicine studied this side [and found] that it automatically affects ovaries and rolls up the pelvis. This is why we find for women who continuously drive cars their children are born with clinical disorders of varying degrees,” Sheikh al-Luhaydan said.

Saudi female activists have launched an online campaign urging women to drive on Oct. 26.

More than 11,000 women have signed the oct26driving.com declaration that says: “Since there are no clear justifications for the state to ban adult, capable women from driving. We call for enabling women to have driving tests and for issuing licenses for those who pass.”

Sheikh al-Luhaydan urged these women to consider “the mind before the heart and emotion and look at this issue with a realistic eye.”

“The result of this is bad and they should wait and consider the negativities,” he said.

Twitter reaction

Al-Luhaydan’s statement drew immediate reaction on social media, with many Saudis ridiculing his “great scientific discoveries.” An Arabic Twitter hashtag “Women_driving_affects_ovaries_and_pelvises” was created and is going viral among Arab users.

Female twitter user @Shams_AlShmous sarcastically applauded the sheikh’s “exclusive scientific achievement.” A female user with the name of Ms Jackson @B_B1ack tells everyone: “What’s your understanding of physiology, leave it to our Sheikh al-Luhaydan”.

Another female @Mshaal80 asked whether al-Haydan “studied Shariah, medicine or foolishness.”

Not part of Sharia

The head of the kingdom’s religious police said last week that the “Islamic sharia does not have a text forbidding women driving.”

Sheikh Abdulatif al-Sheikh stressed that since he was appointed as head of the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice religious police have not pursued or stopped a woman driving.


Religious Experiences Shrink Part of the Brain

            By ANDREW NEWBERG – SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN
A study links life-changing religious experiences, like being born again, with atrophy in the hippocampus

The article, “Religious factors and hippocampal atrophy in late life,” by Amy Owen and colleagues at Duke University represents an important advance in our growing understanding of the relationship between the brain and religion. The study, published March 30 in PLoS One, showed greater atrophy in the hippocampus in individuals who identify with specific religious groups as well as those with no religious affiliation. It is a surprising result, given that many prior studies have shown religion to have potentially beneficial effects on brain function, anxiety, and depression.

A number of studies have evaluated the acute effects of religious practices, such as meditation and prayer, on the human brain. A smaller number of studies have evaluated the longer term effects of religion on the brain. Such studies, like the present one, have focused on differences in brain volume or brain function in those people heavily engaged in meditation or spiritual practices compared to those who are not. And an even fewer number of studies have explored the longitudinal effects of doing meditation or spiritual practices by evaluating subjects at two different time points.

Read more

http://richarddawkins.net/articles/633202-religious-experiences-shrink-part-of-the-brain

Wikipedia:
Andrew Newberg, M.D. is an American Neuroscientist who is the Director of Research at the Myrna Brind Center for Integrative Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and Medical College, an Adjunct Professor of Religious Studies and an Associate Professor of Radiolog…Read more