Knocking Alternative Medicine

Just because American medicine, with the exception of heroic interventions and emergency procedures, is terminally broken, doesn’t mean that just any alternative is automatically a better option.

In the past 40-odd years, Americans have gone so far down the path of embracing alternative therapies that the road is paved with radical, nonsensical variants undeserving of attention. Heartland Healing is supposed to be in favor of alternative healing arts. And in general, we are. But there is a cogent argument demanding closer inspection of therapies that appear to be making their mark just because they can be called “alternative”.

IFTTT Life isn’t as simple as computer programs. It’s simpler. I have a gadget that starts our 1960s-era coffee pot from my iPhone. The outlet the pot is plugged into is controlled by a protocol called IFTTT, for “if this, then that.” A computer-controlled device is that easy.

“If this, then that,” doesn’t work so well for human decision-making, though. We’re not digital animals. We’re analog. Not quantized, but infinitely variable, as analog is. It follows then, that health care can’t be viewed within the context of the truncated syllogism, “if this, then that”, or, “If this American health care is broken then that option must be better.”

Yes, the American health care system — actually a “disease-care” system — is radical, deadly, nonsensical and broken. But some of what are called “alternative” therapies are not the answer. We are inundated by new “alternative” therapies. Some are real doozies. Some use electronics to read auras or brainwaves or “somatic potentialities.” Some soak body parts in weird solutions or run lasers or flashing lights across the body. Once I heard, “We’ll just put this headband on you and plug it into the laptop and find out how your relationships are affecting your health.” If it’s a therapy that seems straight out of Star Trek, leave it on the holodeck.

And nutritional supplements? Are you kidding? There are thousands of them and each one is the latest in reductionist science promising to rebalance this or eliminate that. Entire stores and businesses are stocked shelf by shelf with pills and capsules of ambiguous origin. Crazy nutritional regimens are particularly suspect. Now we’re going to eat like a caveman? A bit of news for Paleo-dieters. Early man was an opportunist when it came to eating animals. Humans were carrion diners long before they were hunters. If you want to eat like our hunter-gatherer ancestors, then learn to hunt first. Going to the store and buying meat isn’t hunting. Better yet, start patrolling for road kill and live like a true early human.

How can there be so many panaceas and still Americans are so sick? More importantly, how can anyone choose from among the daffy alternatives that keep showing up and determine those alternatives that may actually be of help? This is my own personal opinion.

Time tested The most sensible therapies to me are traditional ones. Traditional implies the test of time. It’s not a tradition if it’s new. American medicine is an immature upstart when compared to acupuncture, traditional Chinese medicine or herbal medicine. So using the term “traditional” in describing conventional medicine is incorrect. It’s not “traditional” if it’s only a hundred years old and American medicine is based primarily on technology and drugs that have not stood the test of time. That’s why we see drugs and techniques, artificial body parts, failing and recalled constantly. We are actually test subjects for these modern drugs and procedures. A thousand years from now, do you think anyone will know what the recalled faulty Stryker hip replacement was? But three thousand years later, we still use and benefit from acupuncture. When I consider a therapy, I reflect that if it’s been around for a few thousand years with apparent success in healing people, there must be something to it. An “alternative” therapy that is brand new or based on modern technology is one I look askance at.

Nature or technology? Another thing I consider is, does the therapy, even though called alternative, move me closer to nature or closer to technology? Technology is transient. Nature endures.

Magic bullet? I ask myself, does a therapy have the aura of “magic bullet” around it? A sensible therapy should be holistic, i.e., honoring the entire system it seeks to heal. Any one single therapy, alternative or conventional, that is touted as a cure-all for a specific begs for dismissal. That is not to say that a specific treatment is fallacious for a specific symptom, as a tourniquet will of course stop bleeding.

What does your gut say? We can trust intuition when it comes to health. Too often we are mesmerized by conventional medicine ads. And likewise, we are now too often smitten by the very fact alone that something is an alternative. Trusting your feelings is more valid than ever when choosing to work with a practitioner and accepting their advice and guidance. Of course, the average American is so out of touch with his or her feelings that reconnecting with feeling is the first step.

Be well.

Heartland Healing is a New Age polemic describing alternatives to conventional methods of healing the body, mind and planet. It is provided as information and entertainment, certainly not medical advice. It is not an endorsement of any particular therapy, either by the writer or The Reader. Visit for more information.

posted at 10:05 pm
on Friday, January 10th, 2014


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