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Publisher's Summary

Energy medicine. Acupuncture. Superfoods. Healing magnets. What does the scientific evidence really say about these and other "alternative medicine" treatments for personal wellness?

How can we know if a natural remedy is safe and effective? How can people become their own best skeptical consumer of health news in the media? Join neurologist and science educator Dr. Steven Novella for a fascinating exploration of these and other important questions about the truths—and myths—behind alternative medicine.

Perhaps the most important skill to have in this brave new world of ever-changing medical news is the ability to evaluate sources and information, and to think critically about how alternative medicine is marketed, regulated, and used. Dr. Novella takes a rigorous, science-based approach in exploring so-called "popular" and "cutting-edge" trends. Armed with this knowledge, listeners will be in a much better position to assess alternative pathways to physical health.

Dr. Novella’s 10 leading-edge lectures will answer such questions as:

  • Do magnetic fields really have useful biological properties?
  • Why is chiropractic treatment no more effective for pain management than simple physical therapy? 
  • Can brain games truly make one smarter or help in staving off dementia?
  • Can homeopathic remedies, such as those derived from plants and minerals, really cure ailments?
  • Does cupping therapy really help to reduce pain and inflammation, while increasing blood flow?

Dr. Novella provides insights on the ever-widening gap between alternative medicine and scientific medicine, giving listeners the confidence they need to become their own best health advocates.

©2019 Audible Originals, LLC (P)2019 Audible Originals, LLC.

Our favorite moments from The Skeptic's Guide to Alternative Medicine

Chapter Three – Lecture Two
  • Chapter Three – Lecture Two
Herbs and Supplements
-0.00
Chapter Five – Lecture Four
  • Chapter Five – Lecture Four
Healing Magnets
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Chapter Eight – Lecture Seven
  • Chapter Eight – Lecture Seven
Chiropractic Treatment
-0.00
  • Chapter Three – Lecture Two
  • Herbs and Supplements
  • Chapter Five – Lecture Four
  • Healing Magnets
  • Chapter Eight – Lecture Seven
  • Chiropractic Treatment

Publisher's Summary

Energy medicine. Acupuncture. Superfoods. Healing magnets. What does the scientific evidence really say about these and other "alternative medicine" treatments for personal wellness?

How can we know if a natural remedy is safe and effective? How can people become their own best skeptical consumer of health news in the media? Join neurologist and science educator Dr. Steven Novella for a fascinating exploration of these and other important questions about the truths—and myths—behind alternative medicine.

Perhaps the most important skill to have in this brave new world of ever-changing medical news is the ability to evaluate sources and information, and to think critically about how alternative medicine is marketed, regulated, and used. Dr. Novella takes a rigorous, science-based approach in exploring so-called "popular" and "cutting-edge" trends. Armed with this knowledge, listeners will be in a much better position to assess alternative pathways to physical health.

Dr. Novella’s 10 leading-edge lectures will answer such questions as:

  • Do magnetic fields really have useful biological properties?
  • Why is chiropractic treatment no more effective for pain management than simple physical therapy? 
  • Can brain games truly make one smarter or help in staving off dementia?
  • Can homeopathic remedies, such as those derived from plants and minerals, really cure ailments?
  • Does cupping therapy really help to reduce pain and inflammation, while increasing blood flow?

Dr. Novella provides insights on the ever-widening gap between alternative medicine and scientific medicine, giving listeners the confidence they need to become their own best health advocates.

©2019 Audible Originals, LLC (P)2019 Audible Originals, LLC.
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About the Professor

Dr. Steven Novella is Assistant Professor of Neurology at the Yale School of Medicine. He earned his MD from Georgetown University and completed his residency training in neurology at Yale University. Dr. Novella is active in both clinical research and in medical education at every level, including patients, the public, medical students, and health professionals. An expert in neuroscience, Dr. Novella focuses his practice on headache medicine. His NeuroLogica blog is considered one of the top neuroscience blogs and covers issues in neuroscience as well as the intersection of science with the media and society. Dr. Novella is also the founder and senior editor of Science-Based Medicine, a medical blog dedicated to promoting the highest standards of basic and clinical science in medical practice. Dr. Novella is president and co-founder of the New England Skeptical Society, a nonprofit educational organization designed to further public understanding of science. As the host and producer of an award-winning science podcast,The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe, Dr. Novella explores the latest scientific discoveries, the presentation of science in the mainstream media, and public understanding and attitudes toward science.

What listeners say about The Skeptic's Guide to Alternative Medicine

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An interesting look at one mans bias

Full disclosure I am a licensed acupuncturist in the US.

Dr. Novella provides a deep dive into alternative medicine as understood from the western medicine paradigm. Unfortunately he does little to distinguish between studies he is citing and his own opinion.

He makes wonderful observations on herbal remedies and the need for them to be more closely regulated, and has interesting perspectives on medical devices and homeopathy.

Once he reached energy medicine, however, it became clear he was talking (at least on this topic) as an outsider looking in, likely with the most introductory understanding of the topic he was critiquing.

Of course that’s fine, and be honest about your exposure and knowledge of the topic before explaining it or casting your perspective on it.

Why do I say he lacked deeper understanding? First his explanation of “Qi” was inaccurate and reductive. Many westerns confuse with as energy, based off of poor early translations of Chinese to English. However he goes further to translate it to men’s blood, which is wildly inaccurate.

He then has to go into explaining the mechanics of energy medicine not on the merit or theory they’re based on, but rather through a strange straw man argument dealing with a metaphorical child and their favorite toy.

I’ll admit it made me laugh, both with him and at what he was saying.

I’ll continue to update this review as I carry on.

This is by no means a suggestion to skip this course. It is very interesting. Instead, maybe think of this as a lecture to spring board a deeper dive into the wider would of holistic medicine.

Cheers

12 people found this helpful

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CLINICAL PROOF

Many listener/readers will be disappointed, if not outraged, by Steven Novella’s criticism of alternative medicine and medical treatments. He notes that many such treatments are untested by properly conducted experiment, and replication. He notes many alleged medical treatments and cures either fail clinical tests or are not tested at all.

The public is forearmed by Novella’s critique of alternative medicine. Be skeptical about what your friend, an acquaintance, a mother, a sister, a brother suggests is a remedy for your malady. Be particularly skeptical of an industry unsupervised by the FDA. Everyone should be wary of unqualified medical treatment, prescribed medicines, vitamins, and herbs. Companies in the field of alternative medicine are not in the business for your health. They are in the business of making money.

It seems prudent to suggest one should reserve a measure of skepticism for all purveyors of cures, even medical professionals. As is true of all humans, medical professionals can be seduced by the desire for money, power, and prestige--even at the expense of those who seek care.

9 people found this helpful

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Skeptics Guide to Whatever... Get on Board

Just listen you dumdum. These guys are responsible to their entire audience (highly educated, comprised of engineers doctors and scientists) to get things right, and to miss a fact or interpretation would be the death of their enterprise. If something is even remotely off, the next publication podcast or whatever quickly corrects it. If you want to be right about the world around you, and I just believe it feels right, get on board. You dumdum. ;)

8 people found this helpful

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Pointless, depressing listen

There’s no guidance, only hours of typical western physician elitist lectures that could have been conveyed in two sentences.

Author’s message: No alternative medical technique is effective. Stick with westernized medicine.

7 people found this helpful

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Skeptic or closed minded.

This is not an even handed review of alternative medicine. The author presents very good points but is a little one eyed related to topics like chiropractic, cognitive training and acupuncture that are accepted by mainstream modern medicine. This could have been a great book if the object had been a little more even handed.

7 people found this helpful

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Skepticism Distilled

Doctor Novella offers principles of how non-experts can distinguish medical reality and avoid quackery. His presentation of what science shows is clear and to the point. Recommended.

6 people found this helpful

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Alt treatments that do not work

Excellent review about what alternative medicine does not do. I have had so many patients who probably out of desperation and ended up actually worst off trying pseudo science which delayed needed treatment. I suppose we all want miracles but modern medicine has in many diseases done just that. Good audio book !

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Biased

The author spends a great deal of time talking about bias as it relates to research findings, then spends a majority of his time presenting his biases to the reader on a silver platter. If there's something negative to say, he finds a way to say it. If there's something positive to say, he finds a way to avoid it. Chapter one is pretty good, but you'll need more than a grain of salt for the others.

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Misleading.

The short exeurp summarized herbs as medicines and need to be treated as such. Recommends talking to your Doctor for prescription medications you're taking for interactions.

Sounded great. Nope, it's a chapter after Chapter of here, this is whyp they are wrong. Nothing works.

4 people found this helpful

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Essential information everyone should know

The author gives a concise and completely understandable explanation of what everyone should know when seeking medical services and advice. Knowing what are the acceptable science-based practices and being able to spot what is not is essential for choosing the best medical care available. While this subject is definitely not simple, Dr Novella clearly defines what the red flags are for identifying questionable treatments and practices. I feel well prepare, thanks to this guide.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Mr W.
  • 07-22-20

First class insight into alternative medicine

Clear and concise, this course provides an excellent description of alternative medicine and the reasons why it should be viewed with caution from a science-based perspective. Without bias, sound reasoning is given throughout. an excellent course.

2 people found this helpful

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  • maria
  • 03-01-22

Detailed study of the alternative medicine

very easy to understand and follow. Origins and descriptions of each type of alternative medicine, what they manifest to offer, then compared to the scientific studies carried on their affirmations. Very interesting and enlightening.

1 person found this helpful

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  • indykatley
  • 02-06-22

Meh

It felt like the author was determined to prove alternative medicine as fraud. Not that (all) alternative medicines and methods are valid, I don't claim that, no, but not all of them are invalid. He collectively talks about groups of medicines (see herbs) and discards the potential benefits of all of them. I was expecting a more objective look to this very interesting topic.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Ant0nia
  • 01-20-22

In depth and informative

I listen to this book with great interest. I was most impressed with the information provided, would recommend it to everybody

1 person found this helpful

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  • David Lynch
  • 08-25-21

Excellent course

Most interesting and shocking that there is still so much woooo in the world recommended listening

1 person found this helpful

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  • al
  • 07-30-20

Everyone needs to listen to this

There are so many people out there who lack a funding grasp of science who fall prey to these ludicrous ideas that it's no wonder that the world at large doesnt listen to experts anymore. Especially when even experts can fall foul of not listening to the evidence and drawing their biased conclusions. The ability to think critically needs to be taught from a much earlier level to save people and their pets from those out to make a quick buck from those who don't but should know better.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Miss W
  • 09-13-22

waste of time

so biased i can't even finish it, I expected better from a audible original

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  • toby moate
  • 08-27-22

Good clear debunking of some alternative therapies

As a doctor and psychiatrist (nhs) I have to put up with a lot of anti-science nonsense. This book was thus most appreciated to remind me of the evidence or lack of it. Thank you.

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  • Sean
  • 08-25-22

Excellent look at alternative medicine

Well argued and clear dismantling of alternative medicine. Good introduction to scientific skepticism. A must-listen for people who believe in science, reason and critical thinking.

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  • Paulina
  • 02-02-22

Scientifically proven but not

In the book the author is presenting topic well presenting scientific evidences however in many cases we still are not sure on the scientific results which he touches in the book. I am physicist and all the knowledge about physics is based on just a few axioms which physics is built on. That is why energy healing or acupuncture may work.
Acupancture evolved the same as traditional medicine which was sometimes brutal.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 08-24-22

Mostly on point

Interesting and fairly informative.
Claims often undermined by fallacies of structure, ad-hominem, and assertions without evident backing. While for many instances these could have been footnotes missing in the audiobook version, the consistent application of these fallacies with no references suggests this may have been an oversight from author/editor. Such fallacies remove the weight of the related claims, even if they're actually valid.

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  • Katherine Trees
  • 04-20-22

great in-depth and historical information

As someone who has used many types of alternative medicine and now works as a nurse this was great. The approach to the topic is from a medical and scientific model. What I liked most was the encouragement to be a critical thinker about all aspects of health. The history underlying most modalities of alternative medicine. I highly recommend it. The performance was a little dry and may be confusing to someone with little experience or understanding of ‘health’.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 01-13-22

Science explained simply

This is a well considered scientific review of popular ‘alternative’ medicines. Unfortunately I suspect it is unlikely to be read or understood by its victims. Nonetheless its description of scientific trials, statistical analysis, levels of evidence, and burden of proof should make it a compulsory subject for high school students.

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  • barpe1
  • 12-30-21

Clear and Balanced

Should be compulsory listening to help avoid the spreading disease of pseudo science. A brilliant analysis always backed up with evidence of the false claims of alternative medicine.

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  • Nathan Daly
  • 09-10-21

excellent

A very good and concise summary of the issues and how to avoid charlatans.