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Published: 31 October 2007

352 Pages | 14 illus.

5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches

ISBN: 9780195313680

Also Available As:


Bookseller Code (05)

Snake Oil Science

The Truth about Complementary and Alternative Medicine

First Edition

R. Barker Bausell, PhD

Every year millions of people flock to complementary and alternative therapists offering a vast array of treatments ranging from acupuncture to biofeedback to urine injections. Millions more purchase over-the-counter alternative medications, such as glucosamine, herbs, and homeopathic remedies. While consumer motivations for turning to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) vary, there is one common element among them all: a belief in their effectiveness. This belief appears to be prevalent among all elements of society, from scientists and physicians to celebrities such as Prince Charles and Oprah Winfrey to clerical workers and senior citizens.

Do these therapies actually work? And if they work, how do they work? This book is about the science of complementary and alternative medicine, about how that science is conducted, how it is evaluated, and how it is synthesized to arrive at a bottom-line conclusion about whether CAM therapies work. It is also about the phenomenon of the placebo effect, and the extent to which it is at play in a given CAM therapy's efficacy. Are CAM therapies in fact nothing more than creatively packaged placebos? In exploring this question, Barker Bausell provides an authoritative and engaging look at the nature of scientific evidence and at the logical, psychological, and physiological impediments that can confound such evidence in the world of CAM research. Ultimately, the book is not so much opposed to CAM as to the shoddy science upon which CAM claims are based, and in fact it closes with a chapter about how one might maximize the placebo effect that Bausell asserts is the main 'ingredient' of most CAM therapies. For general readers, students, and professionals (e.g., clinicians who are routinely asked by their patients for CAM recommendations), the book is a learned, witty examination not just of the scientific process as it is applied to CAM but also of the wonders of the human mind/body system.

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