Archive for the Alternative Medicine Category

An Introduction to Homeopathy: Part 2

Posted in Alternative Medicine on April 21, 2008 by moonflake

In Part 1 of this article, we took a look at the origins of homeopathy and the formulation of its theories, which should have alerted almost any reader to the possibility that the theory of homeopathy just doesn’t hold water. However, a surprising number of homeopathy proponents are utterly unaware of this history, just as many of us may be unaware of the history of most of the conventional medications we take for granted. As such, homeopaths will often attempt to justify why or how their favourite remedy works, with arguments that are blind to its origins. In Part 2, we’ll take a look at some of these.

As a caveat, this is only an introduction, so I will merely be touching on some of the arguments. I would greatly encourage further reading on the topic.

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An Introduction to Homeopathy: Part I

Posted in Alternative Medicine on March 29, 2008 by moonflake

The first time I heard about homeopathy was when my sister asserted that she was planning to become a homeopathic doctor. As with many of my sister’s grand plans for life, this came to precisely nothing, but it got me wondering what exactly homeopathy was. The truth of it surprised me, no less so because it seems so prevalent on pharmacy shelves and so easily accepted by the average consumer. Many assume it’s simply a form of ‘natural medicine’ or ‘traditional healing’, but the facts may be surprising even to those who think they know a little about it.

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Danie Krugel expands his imaginary product line

Posted in Alternative Medicine, Pseudoscience, South Africa on February 28, 2008 by moonflake

Bloemfontein’s favourite son is at it again, folks. His new product is a mysterious device capable of detecting a substance at a distance provided it is given a sample of that substance…. hang on a second, isn’t this his last product, you ask? Oh no, this time the substance being detected is cancer, so it’s a totally different thing. Never let it be said that Danie Krugel is a one-trick pony.

The original article appeared in the Afrikaans-language Rapport, and the SA Skeptics forum have provided a translation here. In it, Danie supposedly is able to differentiate vials of blood containing cancer from those that do not. Since the ‘tests’ were performed in the office of a local internist, and then by the journos at the Rapport, I hardly think we can consider the results reliable. Perhaps now that Danie has voyaged into the realm of medicine, he will consider submitting his device to a double-blind, controlled trial? Yeah, you’re right, probably not.

To start with, I find it telling that after his spectacular failure in finding Madeleine McCann, and the subsequent pummeling he took in the internation press, Danie has moved away from body-finding and into cancer-sniffing. Allow me to remind you that Danie claimed to know where Madeleine McCann was buried, and yet there has been no digging whatsoever in the area he has marked out. Does this not strike anyone as odd, considering how ingenious Danie was at obtaining digging equipment, able bodies and cameras to upturn an area the size of two football fields, on a similar hunch about the Van Rooyen victims? Frankly, if I knew where that little girl was buried, and no one would listen to me, I would have set to digging that beach up with my bare hands to prove it to them. But not Danie. He slinks back to South Africa, stays quiet for a few months, then suddenly appears with a new shiny silver case containing yet another ‘invention’.

So let’s examine some of the details of this new article. Apparently Danie has ‘loaded’ his device with various forms of cancer already. Immediately this makes me wonder where he got it from. I don’t know about you guys, but samples of cancer are not something I come across in everyday life. Either Danie has been dumpster-diving in medical waste, or someone is supplying him – the man obviously has an accomplice in the medical community. All eyes should at this point be swivelling towards the internist who assisted him in testing the device. I would suspect that Danie did not just walk into this person’s office and claim he was looking for an objective witness with a medical degree, but rather that this is the culmination of a carefully planned scheme. Either that, or Danie is lying about the device being loaded with cancer samples.

There are also some distinct differences between this device and the last. Danie’s previous Matter Orientation Device, which worked on the same apparent principle of like communicating with like, was so sensitive that given any sample it would only detect the source of that sample, and not any other similar source. Given a sample of hair, it would react only to the person from whom that hair was taken, and not just to any hair (or poorly made wig) that happened to be in the vacinity. So I would wonder how it is that Danie’s current device is so much less precise? It apparently goes off in the presence of any cancer. However, cancer as we all know is genetically specific material, so I would expect that Danie’s technology would only register in the presence of the rest of the tumour from which the sample was taken (we look pointedly at the internist again), or perhaps in the presence of the person from which the sample was taken. Unless Danie’s lying again.

And now, this device is only able to detect cancer within 4m, whereas his previous device could find its match anywhere on the entire planet. Again, the device seems somehow weaker than the last… the claims, somewhat toned down. But then again, the case also seems smaller, so perhaps he’s using fewer fairies this time.

All I can say is that I’m looking forward to seeing how this new ruse of Danie’s pans out.

Manto: Western trials not fit for traditional medicine

Posted in Alternative Medicine, Science, South Africa on February 27, 2008 by moonflake

Well, here we go again. Our esteemed baby-killer-in-chief Manto Tshabalala-Msimang has now declared that African Traditional Medicines, while being subjected to research and development, should not become bogged down in ‘western’ clinical trials. Apparently, “We cannot use Western models of protocols for research and development… Clinical trials need protocols for traditional medicine.”

May I remind everyone again that this woman supposedly has a medical qualification? That she is a medical doctor? And yet here she stands, blatantly claiming special privilege for african medicine, referring to clinical trials as ‘western’… and then goes on to warn against “charlatans tarnishing the image of this sector … who promise our desperate help-seeking people all sorts of things that are not practically possible to deliver”. So…. all of them, then?

And then, the coup de grace of evidential reasoning, she quantifies why african medicine is so special that it does not need to be tested… because it has been used for thousands of years. Wow. Really? Under that logic, perhaps we should revert to slavery, forced marriage, human sacrifice and colonialism… all practices with thousands of years of tradition behind them. Perhaps we should go back to other traditional forms of healing: bloodletting, amputation, trepannin and electroshock therapy? Perhaps we should throw out the whole court system and bring back trial by combat? And perhaps we should bring back that wonderful old-time tradition of women not being allowed to hold public office?

Get a few things straight, Manto: traditional does not mean right. There is no such thing as ‘western’ clinical trials, there are only clinical trials, performed everywhere in the world. And there is no such thing as western medicine, chinese medicine or african medicine: there is only medicine, which is the stuff that has been tested objectively and found to work, and all the other stuff that people claim is medicine, which is the stuff that may well be helpful, harmful or placebo, but which we don’t know until we test it.

And then the Doctors for Life International group responded with one of the worst press releases ever, using as their primary argument for testing of traditional medicine, the possibility that we won’t know if it contains human body parts or not if we don’t test it. Oh, and it’s the biggest culprit in fatal poisoning in the country. Nicely done guys. While both your points are 100% accurate, all you serve to do is give her more ammunition to claim that you are only villianizing her precious african medicine and that you don’t understand it.

What needs to be addressed here is the fundamental racism that causes her to refer to all scientific advancements as ‘western’, the reverse of which is that she is basically calling africa an unscientific backwater that rejects all modern understanding of chemistry, biology and medicine. Get it straight: we are all human beings, we all have the same biochemistry, what works on a western person works on an african person works on a chinese person. We are all prone to the placebo effect, we all deserve medicine that works, and we all deserve not to be taking something that doesn’t. We all deserve for you to subject anything you suspect might be useful to clinical trials, so that if it is medicine it can be manufactured and distributed to help the world. And if it’s not, it can be outlawed, to protect the world. The only people you hurt by not doing this, is the africans already taking it.

Bill Maher fired as new favourite person

Posted in Alternative Medicine, Humour on November 9, 2007 by moonflake

Because as some kind people have informed me, he is an anti-vaccination nutjob. Apparently he also believes in homeopathy and supports PeTA.

Although oddly he wrote a pro-HPV vaccination opinion piece for that was awesome. Which makes me think he is only a skeptic when it serves a purpose he likes. In other words, it wasn’t so much a pro-vaccine piece as an anti-Christian piece. Which would normally be just fine by me, but unfortunately he also likes to ridicule the medical establishment and will push alternative medicine and wingnut ideas to do so, which makes him fired.

Not quality, Bill.

Fake AIDs cures in the SA news again

Posted in Alternative Medicine, HIV/AIDS, South Africa on September 17, 2007 by moonflake

Two fake AIDs ‘cures’ have been in the news again this weekend.

  • Former Midweek Cuckoo Olga Visser‘s AIDS ‘cure’ Virodene (actually industrial solvent dimethyl formamide) was apparently funded by someone in the presidency, to the tune of tens of millions of rands, after the drug had already been banned in SA. Yes, that’s right, your tax Rands have been at work to fund the illegal testing of a toxic chemical on human subjects in Tanzania. Go Team!
  •  ‘Healer’ Freddie Isaacs (also known as the Madman of Cradock) has been selling an AIDs ‘cure’ to unsuspecting patients, when it has not yet been tested by the MRC. The plant product has been patented by a local pharmaceutical company, but has not yet been tested on humans, nor tested for toxicity. While they don’t say it outright, I suspect this ‘plant product’ is sonneblom, which Freddie determined was a potential cure for AIDS when it came to him in a dream. It shows some potential action against HIV in the lab, which is awesome, but which is also a damn long way from being sold to people. However, while the company is waiting for testing, the drug is being manufactured and labelled as a ‘nutritional supplement’. I’m not sure what bothers me more: that yet another fake AIDs drug is being sold to desperate people by a nutcase, or that it’s freely admitted that totally untested chemical substances can merrily be labelled ‘nutritional supplements’ in the meantime. Yes, that’s right, the MRC, similar to the FDA, has absolutely zero jurisdiction over ‘supplements’, so if you want to get something on the shelves without having to test it, just label it as such.

Enough with the vitamin C already

Posted in Alternative Medicine on September 6, 2007 by moonflake

Okay, so i’ve been horribly sick the last week with this insane flu that’s going around, but possibly the most irritating thing about being sick is all the people telling me to take lots and lots of vitamin C. And then on top of it, I woke up the other morning to the sound of Patrick Holford on the radio assuring the DJ that you should definitely be taking megadoses of vitamin C if you have a cold, and the worst thing that could happen is that you ‘got the runs’, but it was like curry that way.

I’ve bloody well had enough of the lot of you.

So here it is for you: in nearly 40 years of studies and meta-studies, no one has ever been able to prove that you can prevent colds and flu by taking mega-doses of vitamin C. Some of the studies showed a small decrease in the duration of the illness if you were already taking vitamin c regularly before the onset of the illness, but other studies showed the same sort of results regardless of whether the dose was 250mg or 10,00mg. Studies also show you don’t get any benefit from taking a megadose once you’ve already got the cold.

So considering I can get the same (questionable) benefit by drinking a glass of orange juice as I can taking ten tablets, and seeing as the readily admitted side effects are far worse that what’s being treated in the first place, improvement or not, and seeing as it’s only possibly beneficial if I’ve being doing it on a daily basis starting quite some time before I ever got the cold, there is no bloody reason to tell me to stuff myself with vitamin C when you hear I have the flu. So cut it out.

The funniest thing about all of this is that the same people who push the vitamin C urban legend are the ones who complain about Big Pharma, yet it is this same Big Pharma behind the legend in the first place. The Linus Pauling Institute, the chief instigator of the whole myth, is funded by one of the biggest vitamin C manufacturers in the world, global pharmaceutical giant Hoffmann-La Roche. Patrick Holford is himself head of a hugely profitable, multinational pharmaceutical company peddling vitamin C and other products to the credulous masses, without the inconvenience of having to answer to the FDA or publish any studies to back up his claims. These people are Big Pharma, with the added bonus of not having to bother with nonsense like bribing federal watchdogs or faking lab results. They are in it for the same reasons as Pfizer and all the others – the money. And you lot are far too enamoured of your little old wives’ tale to bother checking if any of it is actually true. You just keep on repeating the line you’re fed in all the marketing material these people push out. Wake up and smell the propaganda, you pill-popping sheep!

Christ, I think my irony gland just exploded.