Announcing: Video Lecture Course on Science-Based Medicine

A couple of years ago, the James Randi Educational Foundation commissioned me to develop a series of 10 video lectures on Science-Based Medicine. After a lot of work and many vicissitudes, it is now available. The lecture titles are: Science-Based Medicine vs. Evidence-Based Medicine What Is CAM? Chiropractic Acupuncture Homeopathy Naturopathy and Herbal Medicine Energy Medicine Miscellaneous

Recent Developments in “Eastern” Science

An email correspondent occasionally sends me items of interest from the Indian press. He recently sent me two clippings about initiatives to solve all of India’s problems by studying the Vedas (for Hindus) and the Qu’ran (for Muslims). The Vedas The headline read, “For diabetes, cancer cure, Raj institute to study the Vedas.” The article

A Misguided Study to Test the Reliability of Traditional Chinese Medicine Pulse Diagnosis

Pulse diagnosis and tongue diagnosis are widely used in traditional Chinese medicine. They are based on imagination, not on anatomical and physiologic reality. Pulse diagnosis History of pulse diagnosis Pulse diagnosis was an important part of ancient medicine in Egypt, Greece, India, Tibet, and elsewhere. The specific methods used were ambiguous and varied widely from

Facial Cupping: A Kinder, Gentler, Sillier Kind of Cupping

A new cupping fad using silicone devices is gentler than traditional cupping, but even sillier. There is no evidence of health benefits. I keep thinking, “Now I’ve seen everything,” and I am constantly being proven wrong. I recently came across the new fad of facial cupping. After I stopped laughing, I went on to an

Corydalis: An Herbal Medicine for Pain, with Some Thoughts on Drug Development

Ever since William Withering published his classic treatise on Foxglove in 1775, science has been testing herbal medicines and trying to establish a scientific basis for the ones that work. As many as half of today’s prescription drugs were derived from plants. A new study published in Current Biology by Zhang et al. has identified a compound in a traditional herbal

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Didn’t Win a Nobel Prize, Scientific Medicine Did

Tu Youyou, a Chinese researcher, was awarded half of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Medicine for her discovery of , a malaria drug. This has been touted as a victory for traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and herbalism. It is anything but. Treatment of malaria had become problematic; there were a number of effective medications, but

Smokey the Bear Medicine and Prevention

When I was an intern, we used to joke that we were practicing “Smokey the Bear” medicine: stamping out forest fires. Patients would wait until a spark of disease had developed into a dangerous flame, and then they’d expect us to deal with it. We were mostly doing disaster control, and we wished we could

Study of “Acupressure” for Constipation

A recent study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine evaluated a treatment for constipation. It tested whether training patients to massage the perineum (the area between the vagina or scrotum and the anus) would improve their reported bowel function and quality of life at 4 weeks after training. They found that it did. It’s a simple, innocuous

The Reality of Ancient Wisdom: Acupuncture and TCM Weren’t So Great

A Chinese barefoot doctor performing acupuncture A mythology has grown up around traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). The ancient wisdom of the inscrutable Orient supposedly helped patients in ways that modern science-based medicine fails to understand or appreciate. A typical claim found on the Internet: “The ancient beliefs and practice of traditional Chinese medicine have been