Part one of this series of posts was a po-faced commentary on the uncritical promotion of alternative medicine in the mainstream media. I pointed out the poor reporting of non-mainstream therapies, the inaccuracy and the incompleteness of press articles. I argued that this was a worthy reason for blogging about alternative medicine.
Another reason is that of entertainment. Proponents of alternative medicine might be wrong, but some of their ideas are fascinating. And, occasionally, hilarious.
Homeopathy is perhaps the best place to start. The idea of providing medicines that contain no medicine is itself absurd, but homeopathy has also given us succussion (the idea that banging homeopathic products on a leather bound book makes them potent), remedies that are based on the light of Saturn, the Berlin wall, a shipwreck, or twiglets, and (my favourite) the paper remedy:
I remembered the idea of the paper remedy, so I wrote down my constitutional remedy and the potency one higher than my regular potency, placed in under a plastic cup and left it for ten minutes. I then drank the water and within ½ hour my symptoms subsided much to my surprise.
A word vibrates, and a word with the name of the remedies vibrates too and programms this vibration into the water. A thought is also vibration.
I wonder if somewhere right now, someone is making a homeopathic paper remedy by writing down on a piece of paper “Twiglet 30C”, popping it underneath a glass of water, and solemnly telling their patient that what is written on the piece of paper will program the water in the glass with a vibration that transfers into it the healing energy of a medicine that is based on twiglets but contains no twiglet. Cosmic twiglet vibrations. It’s not every day you get to type that.
Perhaps the closest contender to the homeopaths is Kadir Buxton. It’s hard to tell whether Kadir-Buxton is a great British eccentric or whether his website is a fantastic spoof. See for yourself. There is an index on the left hand side of the page. Check out the Hendrix Method, Post Sex, the Orgasmic Nose, and The Drinking Game That Saves Lives.
There are other examples of eccentric ideas, but no-one seems to manage to come up with the goods quite as consistently as the homeopaths. There’s Reiki Distance Energy Healing and Cosmic Reiki (includes a lovely quote from Hawayo Takata’s diary – apparently some teachers refer to reiki as The Cosmic Wave “because it radiates vibrates of exultant feeling and lifts you into harmony”), reflexology’s invisible life force (see also chiropractic’s innate intelligence, acupuncture’s Qi, homeopathy’s vital force…), Hulda Clark’s Zappers, Hopi ear candles (which are not only ineffective and potentially harmful but also have nothing to do with Hopi Indians) and unicorn badges to repel head lice. Then there’s orgone.
As well as claiming to be able to improve your health, your vitality, and the nutritional quality of your food with orgone energy health products, advocates can also be seen refreshing the environment with orgonite.The whale.to website, run by an orgone enthusiast, is a rather wonderful collection of odd ideas and fantastic conspiracy theories. I think my favourite page there is the one titled Lines of Force Around Our Flying Dolphin.
Fantastic stuff, but I bet none of them would ever have come up with the idea of making a remedy out of twiglets.
A tip of the hat to the denizens of the Bad Science forum who suggested several of the therapies included here.