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There’s little or no scientific evidence behind alternative therapies like energy healing, acupuncture, and homeopathy. Yet many of the most prestigious hospitals in the US — which are dedicated to the pursuit of evidence-based medicine — offer such therapies nonetheless.

They find a ready market in patients who are wary of conventional medicine — and eager to try to ease their symptoms with dietary supplements, naturopathic remedies, and relaxation techniques ranging from art therapy to a meditative stroll through a labyrinth.

All told, it’s a $37 billion-a-year industry.


Here, a look at the types of alternative medicine and wellness therapies offered by 15 top hospitals:

  • A hit job article with no evidence and blatantly ignorant about the science behind non-allopathic, non-conventional therapies.
    The University of VA, for one small example, recently discovered lymphatics in the saggital sinus in the brain; previously conventional medicine believed there was no lymphatics in the brain. But Ayurvedic has known it for hundreds and hundreds of years. Lymphatic massage is a great way to assist removal of the 3 pounds of yearly waste that the lymphatics drain from the head.
    Open up the PubMed database, and do some research before writing anything else on this topic.

  • What irresponsible reporting. To lump all “alternative” therapies together, then to say there is little or no evidence behind alternative therapies is just wrong. How about doing a PubMed search on evidence based studies on acupuncture? Please, do your homework and get your facts straight before spreading misinformation.

  • Dear Dr. Schneiderhan: If “alternative” practices were evidence-based, there would be not need for “integrative medicine” departments. These practices would just be part of medicine.

    It is unethical to fund most, if not all, “alternative medicine,” it being a waste of scarce resources to study practices with such implausible benefit. Indeed, if practices such as acupuncture, “energy medicine,” or homeopathy, for example, were demonstrated to be real, then whole fields of physics, chemistry, and biology would be overturned. We should not continue to throw away millions of taxpayer dollars on such flimsy hypotheses. (This is money better spent, for example, on studying rare diseases.) NCCIH (previously OAM and NCCAM) has already spent over $2 billion on CAM practices and hasn’t validated a single one.

    Where integrative practices may have something of value to offer the public, those things are already being done better by science-based professionals, such as physical therapists and dietitians.

  • When did massage become “alternative medicine”? Or diet, for that matter?

    As for Reiki, it is the same thing as Therapeutic Touch and Healing Touch, just a bit different training. All of these do hands-on and hands-off to “manipulated the human energy field” for therapeutic benefit. The fundamental claim of these is that the practitioner can feel this energy field and where it needs fixing, but when put to the test, they can’t feel it.

    A 4th grade girl’s science fair experiment published in JAMA showed quite clearly:

    “A Close Look at Therapeutic Touch”

    So are kids smarter about “alternative medicine” than hospital administrators?

    • Agreed!

      What’s the alternative to yoga, massage, Reiki? Prescription drugs, alcohol and lots of unnecessary visits to the ER for anxiety, depression etc?

      I prefer the focus on compassionate, healing arts.

    • Haha! When is a science fair experiment on par with scientific research for proving or disproving anything. Challenges abound in providing rigorous scientific inquiry for topics outside the medical paradigm but there are numerous good quality studies of many modalities that will provide evidence of effectiveness of said modalities. Check with your college librarian to help you conduct a search.

    • A hug and some deep breaths aren’t going to help me.
      27+years of good pain control with oxycontin. My Newbie Dr said she studied that it’s not helpful for pain. STUDY ME 😱
      Stopping my tx is inhumane.
      I’ve got secondary serious health problems because of the pain.
      If they want me to suffer more & die quicker they’ve succeeded.

  • Where is your proof there is no evidence to CAM therapies? You cite no RCT references, and imply that everything the medical profession does is proven. What you fail to mention is the BMJ did a study showing 2/3rds of medical treatments are unproven, ineffective, or too dangerous to use. The BMJ also published an article showing medical care is the third-leading cause of death in the USA. I say let the free market decide; remove barriers as these hospitals are doing, and let the patients vote with their feet.

  • I find this lengthy article lacking in facts and exhibiting irresponsible writing. One example is the statement that Medicare does not pay for acupuncture. That is false as Medicare has been paying for this for years,depending on the provider. Since this article was just published,I assumed it was composed recently but I felt as if I were back in the 80s. Many of the above mentioned modalities have proven efficacy by neuroscience studies and are well known as legitimate treatment. I found this article to be a general bashing of any medical treatment aimed at PREVENTING disease or any not involving surgery or pharmaceuticals. Very disappointing to see this published here.

  • While I appreciate STAT’s efforts to identify pseudo-scientific treatments, this article is very poorly conceived as casts a net that includes multiple treatments with substantial evidence base (e.g. meditation, yoga) together with treatments lacking virtually any credible research (reike). In the 21st century, providers viewing treatments like mindfulness and yoga as “alternative” are in sore need of updating their knowledge base. It’s disappointing to find STAT perpetuating these same myths – it’s sloppy and lazy; a disservice to your readers.

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