Books,  General

Thoughts on the business of alternative medicine

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I’ve never been a fan of alternative medicine. One day, while browsing at the local library, I saw a book called “Suckers: How Alternative Medicine Makes Fools of Us All“. I took it off the shelf and borrowed it.

I didn’t need to be convinced of the inefficiency of homoeopathy or magnet therapy. Yet I was just curious about what I would learn from this book. Now I’ve reached page 43 and it is too early to talk more about this book. Yet I’ve read some mind-blowing information so far and I felt the need to share it here.

The author writes that “the total UK annual spend for Complementary and Alternative Medicine” [CAM*] are £4.5 billion. £191 million is spent on alternative remedies. £22 million is spent on complementary practitioner consultations every year. The numbers are increasing as the number of practitioners is increasing. In the UK in 2005 “they were thought to number around 47,000”. GPs were only around 35,000.

does alternative medicine work?

Reading further, I reached page 20. I found out something I never knew nor thought about: [in the UK] “only osteopaths and chiropractors are legally obligated to have undertaken approved training courses and to be registered with a professional body. Outside these two disciplines, CAM is unregulated.”

This means that if one decides to set oneself up as a practitioner offering Reiki or acupuncture, one is free to do so overnight. Without any training or anything else. I also learned that the professional bodies for herbal medicine and homoeopathy “have no power to regulate what their members actually do”. The initials IACBP after a practitioner’s name “have no legal or regulatory status”.

The book continues with a short guide on “how to spot a quack”. This is the chapter I have reached so far. I am not sure this book can convince those who believe in CAM or that it is written for those who don’t believe in CAM. But it sure is interesting to read and to find out about this business. Unfortunately, this is a big business that sometimes costs lives…

What are some examples of alternative medicine?

Complementary and Alternative Medicine include acupuncture, aromatherapy, astrological medicine, Bach flower remedies, bio-resonance therapy, chiropractic, colonic irrigation, colour therapy, cranial osteopathy, crystal healing, ear acupuncture, homoeopathy, reiki, vibrational healing and more.

[the complete list can be found in the mentioned book, page 2, or on wikipedia].

Does alternative medicine work?

photo: reddit (quote by Tim Minchin)

At times, alternative medicine might appear to work – keep in mind that placebo is pretty powerful. See the below recommendations for more on the topic.

Further reading – books that talk about or touch on the subject of alternative medicine (aff links):


  • Rianna Stavrides

    Very enlightening! Health is a very important topic and people should be aware of what would work and not. There are plenty of “quacks” where I came from and I always try to do a lot of research before I do anything to my body.

    • raluca

      I think there are “quacks” everywhere these days, and it’s getting more and more difficult to know whom and what to trust. Research is what I do too, but sometimes it feels as if it would’ve been easier if I has studied medical school :))

  • Margaret

    I think there are many fake practices out there. Those who are into them tend to be dreamers, always looking to do things that aren’t mainstream. I have had some help with my migraines with accunpuncture however most of the other ‘practices’ on the list are off in my opinion.

    • raluca

      Some may be dreamers, but some are just desperate or just hoping to cure a terrible illness without the ‘mainstream’ medicine. And there are those who take advantage of their fragile state of mind.

    • raluca

      Thank you! I do hope it helps people be more aware of ‘quacks’ and spot them so they can avoid them, for their own health and well being 😉

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