Tag Archives: history patent medicine

Shaming the shamans


Red-crested Pochard – public domain

When you’re injured, every person and even every dog and cat you know offers you advice to help you heal faster. Some of this advice is good. Unfortunately, a lot of the advice I receive is just plain bad, even though the people recommending it may mean well. The advice I receive from dogs and cats is generally better – this is because dogs and cats can detect pseudo-science and charlatanism much better than humans.

No, I don’t want to see your homeopath, reiki-master, shaman, faith-healer, naturopath, chiropractor, acupuncturist or any other quacks. For reasons explained in my post, “There is no magic in joggling“, I am no friend of quackery, which in recent decades has successfully rebranded itself as “alternative medicine” to make it seem legitimate.

I know, I know, so many people claim “but it works for me!”. However, testimonials are worthless, testimonials are not evidence of efficacy. Testimonials were regularly used to promote fraudulent patent medicines a century ago, and these “medicines” were very often nothing but alcohol or colored water.


To a large extent, it is because of the placebo effect that so many sick people feel better after taking fake medicine. Besides this, so many illnesses naturally run their course, like the common cold or allergy symptoms.

Now really, what is the difference between the patent medicine pictured on the right, and nearly everything coming out of the alternative medicine world these days?

Another question: Who here wants to be taken to a homeopath, or a naturopath, or a Reiki-master after getting severely injured in a car accident?

When it comes to evaluating health products, never trust testimonials or advertising. Use PubMed to research health claims. It’s not perfect, but it gives you access to peer-reviewed scientific literature.

If my knee doesn’t get better or the pain gets worse, I will go seek the help of a medical doctor. Shocking, I know.