I think it was late Norman Cousins who said that the medicine that is being practiced today is frontier science and there is more that we don’t know than we know. This truth is appreciated more by older doctors like me than by the younger ones. This is because of the experience of watching some die due to inexplicable reasons and some who survive once again inexplicably. This knowledge has made me if not encourage, not to discourage patients seeking cure by alternative approaches when there is no definite remedy available, such as homeopathy and naturopathy. But my experience with these is generally disappointing. I have had a homeopath treating a patient of mine who had tuberculosis of the lymph nodes of the right side of neck some five years ago. The nodes swelled and swelled with tubercular pus and ultimately gave away with copious discharge of pus which went on for several months before healing took place by scarring. This was how Tubercular infection ended in the old days before the advent of effective chemotherapy. Of course the homeopath took the credit for curing her. She came to see me couple of months ago, this time there were swellings on the left side. I had an opportunity to examine the other side where in healing had taken place with scarring. The whole of the neck under her skin was devoid of tissue and there was a healed scar well hidden in the dimple above the inner aspect of collar bone effectively coumaflaged by a necklace! This time too I explained to her as I did previous time. Thankfully she agreed to the chemotherapy and she is well on her way to cure and hopefully I will have succeeded in getting rid of the germ and it will not show up elsewhere again!
It is well known medical fact that quite a few ailments especially one like headaches, back aches, mental ailments do well initially whatever may be the therapy. Allopathy, homeopathy or anypathy, they get better, and some for ever get rid of their complaints. These are the persons who spread the word around regarding the miracle cure. Most illnesses are self limiting and it doesn’t need a doctor to cure these. Here lies the success of the alternative systems. Curing the illness which is self limiting any way! Recently I have had a patient who had a huge hydrocele [collection of fluid inside the testicular sac] who was being treated by Ayurvedic medicine! It was only getting bigger and bigger and when I saw resembled a small coconut!
Sometimes, I do feel I am biased against these systems of therapy as I see only their failures. But recently there was a review article in the prestigious medical journal, The Lancet, debunking homeopathy with facts and figures. So despite this knowledge why do I leave my patients to their ways? I don’t do this without first trying to dissuade them. But I cannot and will not force them as often it is of no use especially in chronic illnesses like asthma and diabetes.
Latest to this list is the ever growing popularity of Yoga in it different forms. Here again, as a form of relaxation to the ever active mind it may be helpful but curing an existing illness it is doubtful. In a recent double blind study that I know of where spiritual healing was tried against conventional healing in cases of chronic back ache, failed to prove that it is of any use. People also seek help as they have no alternative, like those who are terminally ill with cancer, but I am yet to see one recovering. All of them ultimately die. But the believers are a different set of people who are brain washed into believing what they are told. It also gives them a pass time, some thing to do. But the greatest danger in these practices is that it takes away the ability to think differently and hinders their personality development.
I have seen this happen to many followers of these spiritual healers, god men and women over the many years I have spent in the practice of medicine.