Reading Up on Alternative Medicine?
Q. There are so many books available about alternative medicine. Apart from your own (I have them all), are there any others that you recommend?
It can be hard to sort out the worthwhile books on alternative medicine from all the rest. As a general rule, the credentials of the author can give you a pretty good idea as to whether the information in the book is solid, speculative, or nonsense. My good friend, Kenneth R. Pelletier, M.D., has a new book out this month that can give you an excellent overview of complementary and alternative medicine. Pelletier's credentials are impeccable. He's a clinical associate professor of medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine and a director of their Complementary and Alternative Medicine Program (funded by the National Institutes of Health). He has written seven books and more than 200 professional articles. His first major book, "Mind as Healer, Mind as Slayer," defined the emerging field of mind/body medicine. Since then -- always drawing on mainstream science -- Pelletier's work has continued to create the foundation for our understanding and application of mind/body medicine.
Pelletier's new book "The Best Alternative Medicine: What Works? What Does Not?" objectively reviews what alternative treatments are effective, based on the latest research worldwide. He begins with one of the first things aspiring physicians learn in medical school, "think horses, not zebras." It's an admonition to rule out the most likely cause of an illness before considering unlikely ones. These days, the "horses" we're dealing with in medicine are mostly chronic, degenerative diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and depression -- all strongly linked to lifestyle factors (smoking, overeating, inactivity, etc.)
After explaining what alternative and complementary treatments work, which ones don't, and what studies are underway, Pelletier describes proven complementary and alternative approaches to conditions ranging from acne and atherosclerosis to fibromyalgia, hay fever, and yeast infections. He also refers the reader to discussions of the studies underlying each treatment.
I wrote the introduction to Pelletier's book, and I'll repeat here what I said there: "This is information that the consumer can trust....It is an important work that will greatly further the movement toward a sound integrative medicine." If you buy only one book on alternative medicine (besides mine, of course), this is the one I'd recommend.