Western enabling vs Eastern Empowering:

Dear Dr. Brilliant cliché;

I was diagnosed with a dangerous chronic disorder in my mid twenties and given a bleak prognosis by my doctors which included probable dialysis by the time I reached 50 due to the medication I would be forced to take to survive. The medicine made me so ill I could barely function and I was not looking forward to a lifetime of it. So I looked into alternative medicine.

Over the years, I have come to rely on alternative medicine for just about everything that ails me. When I had bronchial pneumonia I went to an acupuncture doctor who cured me without antibiotics and without any relapses. My chiropractor relieves me of the chronic pain where my back is affected by my disorder. Alternative medicine has given me back my life when the medical intelligence of the day had nothing to offer but pills and side effects that were as bad as my disease.

I hear people who’ve had no experience at all with alternative medicine bashing it constantly. The medical examiner’s office in my state referred to acupuncture as “voodoo garbage” when I called to ask about insurance coverage. And yet acupuncture is a medical system thousands of years old and even Harvard Medical school values it enough to sink millions into research. So why is the American public so ignorant on this subject?

There seems to be an active plot on the part of the medical community to discredit the reputation of all medicine outside it’s jurisdiction and control. They rant that it is not as “well regulated” as the pharmacy industry. Haven’t these idiots noticed that it also doesn’t kill anywhere near the number of people that prescription medicine does?

Annie Getyourgun

Dear Annie,

Western medicine’s opinion on alternative medicine can be summed up by the book Do You Believe in Magic? The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine, Paul A. Offit, MD. This book is getting a lot of press. It’s general opinion is that all alternative medicine is placebo. But unfortunately it misses the point. Reality is ambiguous and the same information can be looked at more than one way, giving different results depending on the looker’s own perspective.

There is a big difference between eastern and western philosophy when it comes to healing. Western medicine often forces the body to do something it currently does not want to do or blocks something it is doing. These methods work but often not for long, since the body inevitably continues on the path it was on before it was so rudely interrupted. For instance, western medicine might inject cortisone into an inflamed joint. This works but if done too often it causes damage to the body.

Eastern medicine instead helps the body to help itself. Acupuncture inserts tiny needles which balance the energy flow in the body. Folk medicine treats arthritis with bee stings, which invokes a natural immune response in the body. These methods can be repeated indefinitely; the effect is indirect yet produces a healing effect. Only through western eyes it can be construed as placebo simply because \the initial needle didn’t have any direct effect. But this misses the overall triggering of effects which subsequently help the body to help itself.

Western medicine acknowledges that placebos can activate the immune system. I am not sure why it misses that this is often the purpose and intent of western medical treatment as well.

Alternative medicine is usually far cheaper to administer and has shown to be quite effective. It would be my hope one day that all medicine can be approached this way and that western medicine becomes the minority alternative.

Western philosophy in general subjugates nature to man’s will, but this can only be done for so long. In the end nature always wins out. Eastern philosophy tries to understand the direction nature is heading and get behind that force to affect change in balance and harmony with nature.

Dr. Brilliant cliché

Granny says: Don’t even get me started on this subject. I produced a TV show for seven years called Fixing The Human Machine, which was about both alternative and western medicine. I read volumes on the subject, interviewed both medical doctors and “alternative” healers, and I discovered a very interesting thing (admitted to me by an eye specialist at a large institution.) He said that 85% of the time, when western medicine elicits a “cure” they aren’t really sure how it happens. They just keep throwing treatments at symptoms until something works.

Considering that this is true, I am uncertain how anyone gets the nerve to call alternative medicine pure placebo. First, alternative medicine is not all the same. It varies from doctors of traditional Chinese medicine who have been through more school than most western doctors…to reiki healers who work with the energy of the body while never actually touching it. Medicine ranges from homeopathy (which is as well regulated as the pharmaceutical industry) to herbal science to folk lore. Treatments range from needles to hot stones to crystals. Some of it is pure scam and BS. Some of it is from science and studies far older than western medicine. But it most certainly does not all fall neatly into the same treatment spectrum.

Secondly, I don’t even think western medicine has the tools to measure or gauge the effect of alternative methods. Western research tried isolating beta carotene to treat lung cancer because the vitamin in natural foods seemed to make tumors shrink. They discovered, quite to their embarrassment and dismay, that isolated beta carotene accelerates the growth of lung tumors. That’s because they don’t understand the importance of balance in natural healing. What one cannot understand, one cannot see. So what relevance does this judgement of “nothing but placebo” have?

People fear change. Most of us were raised on the family GP, pills and surgery. Anything else sounds like voodoo because we don’t understand it. But this fact remains true- ultimately, the body always heals itself. If it does not, the change cannot be a permanent fix because as long as the body is alive, it will revert to it’s default settings left to it’s own devices. Science calls this “relapse.” I call it the end result of smoke and mirrors.

What is placebo and what is reality? Reality is what works. And so far, American medicine does not have the track record it needs to be passing judgement on alternative healing. Physicians, heal thyselves.


About Dr. Brilliant Cliché

Dr. Brilliant Cliché and the Granny Dr. are a fictional web presence and advice blog. Together we offer a joint perspective that is deep but not academic, entertaining but not fluff, and educated yet street smart. By joining the internet community we hope to share thoughts and stimulate insightful conversation around pressing issues that affect us all. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts. (This is not a site for therapy nor does it intend to replace medical or other professional care. ) You can leave comments here or email The Dr. at dr.brilliantcliche@yahoo.com and don’t forget to like us on facebook. Our facebook page is Dr. Brilliant Cliche
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