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Alternative or "non-Western" Treatments

If you're here, something bothers you about Western Medicine approaches.  You might feel that there are other ways of "knowing" things besides typical "science". 

Fine.  You are free, fortunately, to look at treatment you wish to seek .  May I just offer one caution. 

Watch out for people who are trying to make money from your suffering.  Examine their motives.  For example, I'll show you a website about St. John's wort in a moment.  All of the information is accurate: St. John's Wort has good evidence from randomized controlled trials that is superior to placebo.  It is regarded as an "alternative medicine" because you can buy it without a prescription, but there is good evidence that it works, and pretty good evidence it won't harm you (at least no more so than taking a conventional antidepressant medication). 

On this Wort site, there are no inaccurate claims.  Evidence is cited.  But there at the end, ah, the people who provided you this information are ready to sell you some too.  And lo, here's the site appearing second on a list of recommended sites, where the subject is anxiety.  What's going on here?  Has St. John's Wort been tested in the treatment of Panic Disorder?  Is is better than the non-medication approaches, for which there is excellent evidence? 

You just got "switched", and if you weren't careful, you could easily conclude that you should try St. John's Wort for your panic disorder.  And the people who helped you get switched are going to make money if you decide to try that herb.  But there is no evidence that the herb is better than short-term, cognitive-behavioral therapy -- which appears to be better in the long run than treatment with regular antidepressants. 

This kind of thing is going on all over the internet.  Here's one more example.  The number one recommended site, on the same list that included St. John's Wort as a treatment for panic disorder, is for a psychologist's site.  Although he describes the same cognitive-behavioral therapy that has been tested repeatedly and shown effective for panic, and he even cites the main researchers (Barlow and Craske) -- he's selling his own treatment program for $98.  Has his treatment program been tested?  No!  

So if you wish to examine "alternative" treatments, that's fine.  Just take with you some caution and skepticism.  In my opinion, if you apply the same dose of skepticism to most "alternative" treatments and to Western Medicine approaches, the most of our current Western traditional approaches will end up looking better.  Although there are some notable exceptions: St. John's Wort may be almost as good an antidepressant as the usual Prozac/Paxil/Zoloft crowd, and appears to have fewer side effects.  Physical activity has antidepressant properties too -- and may be as good as something like Zoloft, according to a recent study.  It certainly has fewer risks and side effects (except good ones, like weight control and increasing bone density and lowering cardiac risk!). 

If you're still worried about all this, you might wonder if you can even trust what I'm telling you here.  Fine.  Try this