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Skepticism · agriculture · politics · technology
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Skepticism · agriculture · politics · technology

Ancient and Oriental medicine

| Posted on in science, skepticism, technology
Hippocrates: a conventionalized image in a Rom...
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While it seems like an oxymoron, the concept of ancient medicine has always been a moneymaker for con artists and bamboozlers. I have no idea why, but for some reason, many of the more gullible among us can be convinced that older remedies are somehow more valid than modern medicine. A very similar con is labeling alternative treatments as Oriental, implying that they know something in Asia that we don’t in the rest of the world. While I’m sure there is cutting-edge medical research happening in Asia, I’m guessing the little house on the corner with the Oriental medicine sign doesn’t subscribe to many peer-reviewed scientific journals.

There are a couple of points that can be made to quickly dissuade you from running to your local alternative treatment shop for a walletectomy.

Ancient medicine was brutal. Bloodletting. Blistering. Amputation. Plastering. Purging. There are a ton of examples of past practices that we know now to be more harmful than helpful. Not all ancient treatments are harmful. There are also a ton of practices discovered long ago that do much more good than bad. These beneficial treatments are used regularly by practitioners of modern medicine.

Treatments that show promise are absorbed into modern medicine. While I’m sure they know many things in Asia and in the past that we may not, the nature of modern medicine is one of sharing. Findings are published and reviewed by others. Any treatment that shows promise  is studied in depth so that we know how and why it works and to what degree it works. If the practices of ancient or foreign alt-med purveyors were in any way sound or their positive results were repeatable, those practices would become valid, go-to solutions for modern doctors. The very fact that these treatments aren’t used by modern medical professionals means that these alt-med remedies either don’t work or are actually harmful. Secrets are hard to keep, and you’re crazy if you think your local alt-med shop has a treatment that hasn’t been tried or reviewed and dismissed by modern medicine.

Science is a great thing. It rewards good ideas and makes them better. It punishes bad ideas by naturally discrediting them. When applied to medicine, science helps doctors use the good ideas to make us better and healthier. It doesn’t care how old those good ideas are – if they work and they’re appropriate, they’re accepted. If ideas don’t work or aren’t appropriate, they’re relegated to the realm of alternative medicine.