According to research conducted by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, almost 40% of Americans believe that alternative medicines alone can treat cancer. This is concerning since data suggests that patients who use complementary treatments instead of conventional cancer care die at a slightly higher rate. What about untested methods of alternative medicine? Let’s find out in detail.
Alternative treatment refers to non-standard therapy used instead of standard therapy. But, alternative therapy typically refers to treatments used along with standard therapy.
Patients with chronic illnesses that consider alternative therapies are likely to use conventional medicine routinely and consistently. However, they do not often notify their doctor about the consequent use of alternative medicine.
In certain cases, complementary methods can enable cancer patients to feel better. But, they have to use it with standard treatment and advice from a health care provider. Alternative treatments are often appealing when they use their own body, mind, or things that you can find in nature. Often these approaches wrongly claim to prevent, detect, or treat cancer. Actually, scientific testing showed that they do not work.
And, in the worst cases, certain alternative therapies can be harmful or even deadly. Some can also interfere with the way standard cancer therapy works. Are you concerned about using some non-traditional medicine? Then, it’s best to first talk to the healthcare provider.
Risk Connected with Untested Methods of Alternative Medicine
Alternative medicine consists of a wide variety of alternative methods and treatments. The shared feature is a claim of healing that is not based on the scientific method. Alternative medicine practices with their foundations and methodologies are complex. We can classify alternative medicine practices according to their cultural origin or beliefs.
1. Naturopathic Medicines
Naturopathic medicine claims that the body cures itself by utilizing the supernatural vital energy that drives its processes.
It embraces many remedies. These include herbs, massage, acupuncture, exercise, and nutrition counseling.
Naturopathy was brought to the United States from Germany in the 1800s. But, some of the treatments are centuries old. So, today, it combines traditional treatments with some elements of modern science. It is one of the untested methods of alternative medicine.
Issues with Naturopathic Medicines:
Many naturopaths have rejected vaccination. And, the clinical evidence does not support claims that naturopathic medicine can treat cancer or any other illness.
Some naturopathic medications have known side effects and risks:
Supplements (vitamin and herbal). Some of these can interfere with prescription drugs. At high doses, those vitamins can increase your risk of developing a disease like cancer.
Spinal adjustments. Your doctor may apply pressure to your spine as part of naturopathic therapy. This can damage the arteries, muscles, bones, and spinal discs. It can lead to a stroke in rare situations.
Detox diets. These treatments are designed to remove toxins from your body. They include the cutting or fasting of such foods. That means going without eating for periods. This can be risky for those with health illnesses, such as diabetes. If you’ve been on a diet for a long time, you run the risk of not having enough nutrients.
The belief that a drug that causes sickness symptoms in healthy people cures similar symptoms in sick people. It is one of the untested methods of alternative medicine.
Issues with Homeopathy:
It was established before knowledge of atoms and molecules or basic chemistry. This shows that repetitive dilution, as used in homeopathy, only provides water. So, homeopathy is not scientifically true.
Some Homeopathy medications have known side effects and risks:
The FDA oversees homeopathic treatments. But it doesn’t check to see if it’s secure or effective. Also, most of them are so watered down that they don’t cause any side effects. But there are exceptions to this. Homeopathic medicines may contain many active ingredients. These include heavy metals, which may be dangerous.
Case in point. In 2016, the FDA issued an alert against the use of homeopathic teething tablets and gels. It was to potential health risks to infants and children.
3. Traditional Chinese medicine
Traditional Chinese practices and beliefs, together with changes introduced by the Communist Party, make up TCM. So, it is one of the untested methods of alternative medicine. Common practices include:
- Herbal medicine
- Acupuncture (inserting needles in the body at specified points)
- Relaxation (Tui na)
- Exercise (qigong)
- Nutritional therapy
Issues with Traditional Chinese Medicine:
Practices are based on beliefs in spiritual energy called qi.
Some Traditional Chinese medicine has known side effects and risks:
Each herb and combination may have its unique side effect. For example, a herb named ma huang (Ephedra), an ingredient in several therapies, is a stimulant that can increase heart rate and blood pressure. Hence, it increases the risk of stroke or heart attack.
In herbal mixtures, adverse effects can also occur from interactions between active ingredients.
4. Ayurvedic medicine
Traditional Indian medicine. Ayurveda believes in the presence of three elemental substances, doshas (called Vata, Pitta, and Kapha). It claims that the balance of doshas results in wellbeing, while the imbalance causes illness. So, such disease-inducing imbalances can be modified and balanced with traditional herbs, minerals, and heavy metals.
Ayurveda stresses the use of medicinal remedies and therapies for some animal products and additional minerals. These include sulfur, arsenic, lead, and copper sulfate.
Issues with Ayurvedic Medicine:
There are some safety questions about Ayurveda. Two U.S. Studies find that about 20% of Ayurvedic Indian-made patent medicines contained harmful amounts of heavy metals. These include lead, mercury, and arsenic. And, A 2015 U.S. consumer report has found high blood lead levels in 40% of those tested. Other issues include the use of herbs containing toxic compounds and lack of quality control. Incidents of heavy metal toxicity are due to the use of these compounds in the United States.
Some Ayurvedic medicine has known side effects and risks:
Certain Ayurvedic plants may have side effects. Even they may interfere with conventional medicinal products. To avoid this, talk to your doctor if you are using or want to use some Ayurvedic remedies.
- Triphala: Diarrhea and abdominal pain, especially at high doses
- Boswellia: Stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea, and allergic rash (when applied to the skin)
- Gotu kola: Stomach upset, nausea, light sensitivity, and an allergic skin rash (when applied to the skin)
The Practitioners place their hands on the patient near the Chakras that they believe are sources of supernatural energies. They believe that these supernatural energies will be transferred from the practitioner’s palms to heal the patient.
Issues with Reiki:
Lack of clear scientific evidence.
Some Reiki medicine has known side effects and risks:
- Cold throat and sore throat
- Abdominal disturbances/stomach diseases
- Fatigue and increased sleep needs
- Lower energy
- Pain and sensations in various areas of the body, often in the heart and brain.
- The emergency of unhealthful old mental-emotional patterns
- Life changes-relations, job, location, etc
The Bottom Line
It is time for the scientific world to stop giving alternative medicines a free ride. There can be no two types of medicine—the traditional and the alternative. Only the medication has been adequately tested and the medicine that does not have. If a treatment has been rigorously checked, it is no longer important to consider an alternative at the outset. It will be accepted if it is found to be reasonably safe and effective. But assertions, speculations, and testimonials are no substitute for evidence. Alternative medicines should be subject to no less rigorous scientific testing than is required for conventional treatments.