08 Feb

alternative medicine

I drink quite a lot. I won’t say how much, as it would shock some people, and other more serious drinkers (who I might call alcoholics) might think it trivial. Suffice to say it is enough that my wife thinks I’m in danger of my liver exploding and taking out the neighbourhood with it.

So, she “proposed” that I take milk-thistle tablets to make sure that doesn’t happen. In fact, it was less of a proposal than that I came home one day and she shoved a box of the things in front of me and said “take two”.

That annoyed me – not the fact that she might have been looking out for my welfare, but the fact that she, instead of asking a doctor about it, bought some pills because they are “believed” to have good effects on the liver.

Believed by who? Whenever I see a sentence which is qualified by “it is said” or “it is believed”, I always add in a modifier – “by gullible people”, which injects a bit of reality into it.

Example sentences: milk thistle is said, milk thistle is believed, it is said that milk thistle

Never mind whether any of that is true or not. There is a more fundamental problem here. You should never undergo a course of self-medication without the prior approval of your doctor; especially if the medicine has not been clinically proven to be safe.

The actual brand that was thrust upon me was Sona Milk Thistle. Have a read of that page.

There are vague sentences in there – “helpful during the festive season”, “supports the liver”. “helpful” and “supports” are not clearly defined terms – exactly what does it mean to be helpful during the festive season (here – let me help you with those drinks)? Exactly what does it mean to support the liver (oops – that liver is slipping – let me prop it up)?

The only clearly stated sentence in the descriptive paragraph is “Milk Thistle has been used extensively for liver diseases and jaundice”. Now, the thing is – I don’t have liver disease, and I also don’t have jaundice, so why should I take it?

I prefer my medicines to have very clear purposes – “anti-inflammatory” – “anti-histamine” – “pain relief”. If the purpose of the medicine is “said to support”, then I don’t want to know.

By the way – read Derren Brown’s autobiography – it’s full of logic and wit. One piece explains that alternative medicine by definition has not been proven to work – if it has undergone clinical trials and has been proven to work, then it automatically becomes medicine, and is no longer alternative. So, avoid “alternative” medicine as there is no way to know what the hell you’re doing to your body.