What is it with Mormons and Alternative Medicine?

Raise your hand if you’ve ever sneezed at church, only to have a church member suggest some sort of herbal remedy. Echinacea, goldenseal, St. John’s Wort, chapparal, clover honey, ginsing . . . you name it, and it’s been offered to me at some point by a church member. Along with suggestions for magnetic treatment, and intestine cleansing, and acupuncture. Have you ever had your LDS friend’s mother ask you, with a straight face, “How many bowel movements do you have each day?” I have. (I dodged the question; she told me that anything less than three was unhealthy). And there is the evil flouridation, of course. And all of the attendant conspiracy theories about how doctors already know the cure for cancer and AIDS and arthritis, but they’re shilling for the pharmeceutical companies, and so they won’t tell you their secrets. (But that’s okay — just hook up a battery to this radio device, and sit next to it every day for an hour, and you’ll be guaranteed to be cancer free).

Why is it that Mormons are often believers in, shall we say, unorthodox medical practices? I mean, for crying out loud, we have a heart surgeon for an apostle! Isn’t it about time we came to terms with modern medicine?

137 comments for “What is it with Mormons and Alternative Medicine?

  1. Eric S
    April 26, 2005 at 4:49 pm


    I’m guessing you live in Utah. Never had those experiences with the saints in Texas. Perhaps this is a cultural thing with long-time members?

  2. Ana
    April 26, 2005 at 4:51 pm

    Maybe because we believe in healing by the power of the priesthood, we’re naturally more open to non-scientific methods of healing. If there’s power in the laying on of hands, why not power in a crystal? (Not that I think there is, but some do, and maybe they’re not completely stupid to think so.)

    Also, there’s Doctrine & Covenants 89:10-11.

    10 And again, verily I say unto you, all wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man—

    11 Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with aprudence and thanksgiving.

    Room for interpretation there, and some take all the room they can get.

    I know multiple LDS women who have had bad experiences with doctors when having their fourth, fifth, or sixth babies, especially if they were over 40 at the time. Most of these are women of my mom’s generation, I’d say 55 and older. They were urged to abort, questioned about their decisions, belittled and sometimes even verbally abused. No wonder they hesitate to go to a doctor.

    Some LDS people also come from backgrounds where you culturally just do not call a doctor for every little thing. They may have been rural, poor or just thrifty, but they learned to make do with what they could do themselves.

    There’s lots of craziness around the edges of Mormon culture about medical issues. I could go on and on about my Aunt Carma with her crystals and conspiracy theories and tinctures and healings. (Anybody else related to this nutty family?) I think we should be careful not to chalk it up to stupidity, though. I feel like, who am I to say this doesn’t work? Who am I to say people can’t make their own choices about their medical (or non-medical) care?)

    That said, our ward recently lost a faithful member and beloved father to cancer after he decided to use only nontraditional therapies. It was tragic, and the many physicians and dentists in the ward all bit their lips and shook their heads sadly as they watched his condition spiral downward. They’d tried to talk him into a different course. But he made his choice, and now his family proceeds, fatherless.

  3. danithew
    April 26, 2005 at 5:01 pm

    Test … (your comments have been acting funny when i hit submit)

  4. Seth Rogers
    April 26, 2005 at 5:02 pm

    Kaimi, I grew up in Utah and I have never experienced anything remotely similar to what you describe in your post.

    Although I did get to vote on water flouridation.

  5. danithew
    April 26, 2005 at 5:13 pm

    *this comment has been altered slightly to see if I can slide it by the blacklist plugin*

    We had a newly married friend whose husband (and family) took her down to Arizona to meet some kind of h-listic medicine man. They even referred to him (not-so-jokingly) as the “w-tch doctor.” She was quite spooked by the guy and didn’t buy a thing he told her. When the family tried to get her to pay for the “treatment” later, she just gave them her health ins-rance info, knowing her ins-rance would deny this k-ok. They did.

  6. April 26, 2005 at 5:15 pm

    The only real question about flouridation is whether the flour should be sprinkled on, or whether full immersion in the flour is necessary.

    The controversy over fluoridation is somewhat different.

  7. Todd Lundell
    April 26, 2005 at 5:23 pm

    I think a good healthy dose of skepticism toward some modern medical practices is healthy. Don’t get me wrong, if it weren’t for modern medicine I would look about like Humpty Dumpty right after his little incident (darn motorcycles). But my dad’s also a chiropractor, so I wouldn’t let a surgeon operate on my back until I had exhausted ALL other options. And isn’t that sort of the point of alternative medicines? Why pump your body full of potentially addictive drugs that merely cover up existing symptoms or let some surgeon slice you open and fuse together bones that are intended to operate separately before you have at least tried other cures?

    By the way, Kaimi, I have a great herbal medicine to get rid of warts if you ever need it. I didn’t actually believe it worked until I watched it “cure” the warts on four different members of my family (some of which were pretty bad cases that “modern medicine” could not take care of). Might be a small sample size, but you would have a hard time convincing me that the stuff doesn’t work.

    Also, I don’t think this is just a “Utah” phenomenom. I had a member in Japan try to cure my allergies through a sort of “burn” accupuncture. He would make little burns (which turned into big burns after a while) in just the right spot on the back of my hand between my thumb and pointer finger. I still have the scars . . . and the allergies.

    And just ask my wife about her ex-boyfriend’s father who wanted to adjust the bones in her skull, straighten her tongue, and fix her “aura,” which was apparently rotating the wrong direction (or something like that). They were from California. Yep, crazies come from all over.

  8. annegb
    April 26, 2005 at 5:32 pm

    I think there’s truth everywhere. We are currently having NAET treatments, and use a lot of herbs for our illnesses and conditions; for instance, lysine works ten times–no, a hundred times better, than any prescription medicine for cold sores/fever blisters.

    To us it might be alternative medicine, but to others, like the Chinese, it’s totally modern. “Modern” medicine could be an oxymoron. “Modern” medical doctors certainly don’t have any kind of copyright on healing techniques. You have to use wisdom and moderation, but we can find a lot of valid medical treatments in all kinds of places. I’m open to it.

    I don’t think it has anything to do with being a Mormon, but maybe, if there are others out there who think like me, we are just more enlightened. You haven’t really lived or been sick, until you’ve had a good case of acute mono. Changes the way you look at everything. Modern medicine does nothing, except throw panaceas at many illnesses. What may seem modern to us, may be barbaric, 100 years from now, and some of these “alternative” medicine techniques could be just exactly what is healing.

    Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.

  9. danithew
    April 26, 2005 at 5:39 pm

    In Guatemala (where I served the mission) it was hard not to notice how many people believed in the healing properties of freshly squeezed lemon juice. While I was in Esquipulas there was a woman who would come over to pick some lemons from our tree, so that she could put the juice in her eyes. Ouch. So I’m curious … was this just me or did other missionaries who served in Guatemala notice the same thing?

  10. April 26, 2005 at 5:45 pm

    I think Ana hit the nail on the head when she said:

    “Some LDS people also come from backgrounds where you culturally just do not call a doctor for every little thing. They may have been rural, poor or just thrifty, but they learned to make do with what they could do themselves.”

    I know this is definitely the case for my family. I don’t really buy into most of those things, but still some of them work for me. For instance, campho-phenique always worked well for healing wounds and such. I still hesitate going to the doctor, because it costs so much and they usually don’t do any good for small things anyhow.

  11. anon
    April 26, 2005 at 5:48 pm

    This was a slightly sticky point in my marriage. My wife submits to various non-Western treatments. If she suffers from something acute, she will use Western medicine. Chronic or sub-acute problems she will entrust to her Chinese “doctor.”

    As may be clear from my sarcasm quotes around “doctor” above, I’m skeptical. But I’m don’t to try to stop her from getting whatever treatment she wants. I suppose that the placebo effect might be stronger than any possible negative effects.

    Here’s the strange part: I made clear on contracting marriage that I would not permit any non-credentialed “healer” to touch our kids. Distressingly, she conceded without a fight! I mean, if you believe it works, shouldn’t you want it to work for your kids? Nevertheless, I took the concession and shut up.

    We now have kids. They have yet to consult any shaman or juju man. The pediatrician’s nose is bone-free.

  12. HL Rogers
    April 26, 2005 at 5:57 pm

    I wonder if part of this is that there is a perception that no one uses alt medicine, when in fact most people have used it or do use it. I don’t but am surprised at the varied experinces already in this thread. Perhaps society looks down on alt med more than the people comprising the society actually do.

    However, I have heard of a book about Joseph Smith and alt medicine. I think it basically argues that J. Smith used and reccommended alt med and so we should use it too as Mormons. Anyone read it?

  13. Bro. Brandon B.
    April 26, 2005 at 5:59 pm

    I know that I always try to avoid the doctor (and this comes from someone who works in a hospital). It isn’t really a fear thing, but I think that “modern medicine” puts too little value on home remidies and natural approaches. The medical field tries to show themselves as a ‘science’, but I think it is more accurate to call it an art. 1+1 does not always equal 2 in the human body. Furthermore, the bulk of education that doctors get after med school seems to come from pharmacutical reps who obiously will be biased in recommending the miracle drug of the day. Don’t get me wrong, there are some things that should definatly be brought to medical doctors, however minor things can be experimented on sometimes and you can save some pennies while doing it. It is a mystery to me why, but sometimes people experiencing leg cramps when sleeping can be cured by putting a bar of soap under the top sheet. This seems ridiculous but has worked for countless people who could not be medically treated. I think that another reason that so many prefer home treatment is the divide between science and religion. I know alot of doctors that would not have a lot of faith for a blessing for the sick, but I know that those help.

  14. Jordan
    April 26, 2005 at 6:02 pm

    I think you are all being too hard on the alternative medicine types. There are lots of reasons people turn to herbal remedies, and it’s not because they are quacks or distrustful of doctors or anything like that. It’s often because natural substances have less harmful effects on your body.

    We have never used OB/GYNS, for example, during the birth of any of our children. Not that we don’t trust them! In fact, if the baby needed to be surgically removed or other complications arose, we would be grateful to have one around. But we opted for nurse/midwives for each delivery because they treat the delivery as less of a mass production and more of a sacred, special experience.

    It’s the same with other more “natural” treatments. Sure we would rely on the advice of a doctor when if it were necessary, but generally we are of the opinion that doctors often overmedicate.

    People are so quick to turn to quick-fix solutions when it comes to health: tylenol for a headache, etc., rather than thinking about what the underlying causes might be (too much sugar in the diet? too little sleep?) and trying to remedy those instead.

    That is not meant to be a condemnation of the doctors-and-modern-medicine-save-all types, but a defense of herbal remedies and, yes Kaimi, advocates of frequent bowel movements. It’s not so nutty as you all dismiss it to be.

    I’ve actually had the opposite experience in the church than Kaimi- most people in our wards thought Andrea was crazy for having her kids sans epidural, but many outside of the church were very supportive of her decisions. Most people in the church think she is nuts to still nurse our 19 month old baby, but outside they are very supportive.

    When it comes to alternative medicine, the people in the church that I have come across are generally as dismissive and incredulous about relying on alternative medicine as Kaimi and the commenters on this post. I for one would like to meet other Mormons who are interested in “unorthodox” medical practices- because all we ever get when we talk about this subject among church members are strange looks and dismissive remarks. Where are all these people, Kaimi?

  15. April 26, 2005 at 6:39 pm

    Jordan, I loved that after mentioning bowel movements you said “It’s not so nutty as you all dismiss it to be.”

    Got a good laugh at that one.

  16. a random John
    April 26, 2005 at 6:45 pm


    Perhaps Andrea would feel very at home in Boston II, where this is an anti-epidural mafia that swings into gear as soon as they find out you are pregnant. My wife the anesthesiologist didn’t even know about it until she was pregnant and they came after her. She has nothing against people making an informed choice about the matter, but what is spread in our ward is mis-information and rumour about the evils of the epidural.

  17. Ana
    April 26, 2005 at 6:45 pm

    Jordan, you could come and meet the wonderful lady in my ward (California, not Utah) who insists she has the cure for my son’s ADHD. It’s a kind of juice. It costs about $25 per quart and it looks like he’d go through about a quart a week. With our insurance, the medication prescribed by his doctor is cheaper than that, at a $35 copay monthly. This one isn’t based in frugality, obviously! What makes me skeptical? Well, she says the same thing also cures cancer, chronic fatigue and a host of other problems, for one thing.

    Honestly, though, I still struggle and want to stay open and do what’s best for my son. Maybe I should be willing to try something like this for him. Maybe it would work, and maybe it would even would be better for him in the long run. But then I think, why would I quit what is obviously working well and try something that the medical establishment has no facts about?

  18. Derek
    April 26, 2005 at 6:45 pm

    annegb said: “To us it might be alternative medicine, but to others, like the Chinese, it’s totally modern.”

    I hear the Chinese think western medicine is the greatest thing. So to them, if herbal medicine is modern, then western medicine must be futuristic!

    Sometimes alternative remedies go mainstream. But that doesn’t mean you should jump on every alternative therapy you can find. Remember colloidal silver?

    I agree with Jordan that doctors are quick to treat the symptom using whatever nail fits their hammer. I wish you could find mainstream doctors that aren’t afraid to prescribe alternative remedies or refer their patients to dietitians and exercise therapists. (Tylenol for pain in the lower back? Why not try losing 200 pounds and see how that goes?)

  19. Ana
    April 26, 2005 at 6:57 pm

    Losing 200 pounds at a healthy pace should take between 2 and 4 years and will probably involve major emotional work and lifestyle change. Surely you’re not suggesting that there should be no pain relief in the meantime?

    I think in many cases a mixture of traditional and nontraditional medicine can be the best prescription.

  20. HL Rogers
    April 26, 2005 at 7:23 pm

    With a tapeworm you could drop the weight in 2 weeks…wait did you say healthy.

    I know of one practice group in Cambridge, MA that has an alt med practice in the office and regularly refers people. I think it is a good idea–the alt med is also studied in a more controled atmosphere than Aunt Mabel’s root cellar.

  21. danithew
    April 26, 2005 at 7:27 pm

    Ana, you wouldn’t be talking about Noni juice would you?


  22. April 26, 2005 at 7:41 pm

    Does anyone know that story of the boy that got his hip shot almost all the way off at Haun’s Mill? His mother was directed by the Spirit to go and find certain leaves and herbs and ash and she rubbed the mixture on his hip until it completely healed. It’s pretty well documented, I’m just too lazy to look it up.

    Isn’t the goal to heal? It seems that most modern medicine covers up, but doesn’t heal (I sense a Sunday School lesson coming on…)

    Danithew, I think what you’re referring to is the miricle drug limón y sal. Lemon and salt can cure cancer and AIDS (or so we were told).

  23. Salem
    April 26, 2005 at 7:41 pm

    So in Cambodia whenever anyone gets sick they take a coin and rub you skin raw all over your body. It is like 20 stripes down your back and chest and arms. Even little kids have to go through with it. They kick and scream but the grandparents just hold them down. They say they believe it helps,(I do not. I tried it. I felt better when they stopped. . .) I think it is because they cannot afford anything else. Given a choice, I am pretty sure they would go to doctor and take tylenol cold medicine.

  24. Justin H
    April 26, 2005 at 7:50 pm

    Rusty (#22)–Don’t forget the ajo!

  25. Ivan Wolfe
    April 26, 2005 at 7:54 pm

    I’m from Alaska, and in our homeward, Homepathic practicioners (who were members) managed to kill off one of the other members of the ward by convincing her to stop chemotherapy for her cancer and instead undergo a homepathic treatement. She was dead within weeks. But the homepathics still preach that their medicine is not only superior to “modern” medicine, it’s what God wants us to use as well.

    What bugs me is not so much that Mormons use “alternative” medicines – it’s the rabid evangelical fervor that goes with it – so that we had Seminary lessons all about how we should buy (insert herbal product here) because that was what God intended us to do with Section 89.

  26. Pingback: LDS Science Review
  27. anon
    April 26, 2005 at 8:00 pm

    I recommend the site http://www.quackwatch.org

    I particularly enjoyed the following letter from a disgruntled reader: “Have you heard about the decision of the supreme court in 1988 that no more bashing the chiropractic profession was permitted anymore. . . .You sir are definitely looking at a law suit for this. Your web site has been forwarded to two prominent attorneys defending this very law. At the same time your web site has been forwarded to an AOL attorney for the removal of your false articles on chiropractic”

    I have some moderate skill in interpreting Supreme Court decisions and would appreciate a citation to the case this person mentions, if anyone has any idea. I can only imagine that it reads something like this: “This Court hereby bans all bashing of the chiropractic profession. SO ORDERED.”

  28. Elisabeth
    April 26, 2005 at 8:31 pm

    ARJ – I’ve heard of the anti-epidural mafia myself. I think they are one of the main families in the all-knowing, all-seeing pregnancy mafia. I know of a few women who have intentionally not told anyone in the ward about their pregnancies until the very last minute, in order to avoid all kinds of unwanted advice and other annoyances from the mafiosos. I think this could be a good topic for a discussion over at Feminist Mormon Housewives.

    Apart from the pregnancy mafia, I’ve never personally observed the homeopathic craze in Mormon circles. Unless Melaleuca (sp?) counts.

  29. Ivan Wolfe
    April 26, 2005 at 8:44 pm

    Hey – let’s not knock midwives (too much). Some have medical degrees. We had our second kid at home with a midwife, but we made sure we went with one that had a Nursing Degree, a MS in Biology and a Master’s in Midwifery.

    But there are plenty of quack midwives out there – I just don’t like painting the whole profession with one broad brush.

  30. Mark N.
    April 26, 2005 at 8:58 pm

    Well, let’s face it: sometimes the search for an alternative treatment is out of desperation to avoid other, more costly, and more difficult, although more conventional therapies.

    My wife was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, and when you’re told that chemotherapy, followed by surgery, and then followed by more chemo and radiation treatments is in the offing, some questionable “heal your cancer yourself through better nutrition” advocates sounds mighty tempting. If all you have to do is eat raw veggies, and juice a bunch of fruits and veggies with the “promise” of a return to good health in the not too distant future, and it doesn’t involve the loss of body parts and temporary loss of hair, along with who-knows-how-many other side effects to come, you really, really want to believe that you’re not being fed a line of bull.

  31. Jim F
    April 26, 2005 at 9:01 pm

    HL Rogers (#12) I have heard of a book about Joseph Smith and alt medicine. I think it basically argues that J. Smith used and reccommended alt med and so we should use it too as Mormons.

    I don’t know the book you are referring to, but the fact that scientific medicine didn’t begin until after Joseph died (Semmelweis lectured on germ theory in 1850 but was ignored; Lister’s work on antisepsis wasn’t published until 1867, and sterilization didn’t become widespread–thanks to Koch–until 1878), would have made it difficult for him to have used anything but alternative medicine, though then it wasn’t an alternative to anything. It was just what people did, doing the best they could. There was little training of doctors and no licensure–again, just people doing the best they could with little but folk knowledge.

  32. annegb
    April 26, 2005 at 9:05 pm

    You know, you do have to use common sense. My friend’s cousin had a lump on her breast and refused to go to a traditional doctor. She used black salve and of course, it didn’t work. She ended up having a mastectomy, and the cancer spread, she went to Germany for some type of alternative treatment in lieu of chemo, ended up doing whatever she could, but it was too late. She left four little kids.

    I use alternative treatments, but I use my head, too. My regular medical doctor and I work from a place of total respect and trust, he never talks down to me, we are working together. Any doctor who doesn’t treat me like an equal gets fired quick. hmm…maybe that is more equal for me. Oh well.

    I believe there is value and validity in a lot of alternative treatments, but we all need to be careful.

    One thing that has bothered me in people who only use alternative or herbs, is the idea that drugs are not natural. Where did penicillin come from? I think all drugs are ultimately natural and God-inspired and have their uses. The fact that we don’t understand them doesn’t negate their usefulness.

  33. Lorin Hansen
    April 26, 2005 at 9:09 pm

    Jim: “Joseph died (Semmelweis lectured on germ theory in 1850 but was ignored; Lister’s work on antisepsis wasn’t published until 1867, and sterilization didn’t become widespread–thanks to Koch–until 1878), would have made it difficult for him to have used anything but alternative medicine, though then it wasn’t an alternative to anything.”

    It was the alternative to “heroic medicine,” the medicine of the day where the doctors would try to “improve” the balance of humors in the body by purging, bleeding, etc. Herbal medicine was an improvement over that and was the precursor to the pharmaceutical-based medicine of today.

  34. Mark B.
    April 26, 2005 at 9:32 pm

    I remember seeing an ad years ago for Southern Comfort as a cold remedy. Unfortunately, the Word of Wisdom has always stood in the way of my seeing if it really works.

    It’s too bad that there are no physicians on board here to dispute the ad hominem attacks being made on them. The human body is a blasted complicated thing, and seems to hold many secrets. Surely doctors make mistakes, and the complexity of the system gets the better of them. And, in the long run, as Keynes said, we’ll all be dead–so doctors are doomed, ultimately, to failure. But I doubt that all (or even most) physicians are (1) simply looking for a drug to make your symptoms go away, (2) in cahoots with the drug companies to hide the real cures or (3) eager to use the knife to solve all your troubles.

    By the way, it’s none of your damn business how many bowel movements I’ve had today. My dog seems to have had a lot, however, and she seems relatively healthy and happy.

  35. cbegley
    April 26, 2005 at 9:59 pm

    I’m surprised no one has brought up the most widely used non-traditional “medicines” in all of Mormondum, namely MLM products. Tahitian Noni Juice, Xango, Transfer Factor, magnets, free-radical detectors and anti-oxidants, etc. This stuff is rampant. Snake oils galore.

  36. Jim F
    April 26, 2005 at 10:25 pm

    Lorin, excellent point. The herbal doctors of Joseph Smith’s day were a transition from the heroic blood-letters to the scientific doctors of the late nineteenth century.

  37. April 26, 2005 at 10:36 pm

    Wow- you all have had WAY different experiences than me. Whenever we have even had the courage to mention anything about any sort of alternative medicine, no matter what ward we are in, we get weird stares and comments like those running rampant here.

    We are all for a balanced, well-rounded approach to medicine that includes listening to doctors and all sorts of other health advocates.

    Sorry about the “epidural mafia” you discuss ARJ- my wife faced the exact opposite problem: rude people who don’t know how to mind their own business and thought that their opinions about childbirth were the only ones that mattered- for OUR baby. Amazing.

    So would you all have gone ahead and forced chemo on, say, Parker Jensen?

    My only point in all of this is that, based on my exerpiences, I would turn Kaimi’s question on its head- what have mormons got AGAINST alternative medicine? (and for that matter, but as a rhetorical question, against home-schooling or anything that seems “natural” or “granola-like”?)

  38. lyle
    April 26, 2005 at 11:04 pm

    It was said: “Well, let’s face it: sometimes the search for an alternative treatment is out of desperation to avoid other, more costly, and more difficult, although more conventional therapies.”

    Ok…allergies are not cancer. However, my uncle does accupuncture (No, he is not LDS) and is a Chinese Herbal doctor. When I take the pills he gives me, with warm water…no allergies. Cold water…minor allergies. How does it work? I don’t know nor care. “modern” medicine has yet to duplicate this simple act; esp. in such a cost effective way (the pills are fairly cheap).

    Oh…what could be the source of ‘some’ LDS folks trying it? Perhaps the verse in the BoM that talks about cures for fevers (or somesuch) that were made from local plants? Hm…

  39. Steve T
    April 26, 2005 at 11:56 pm

    As a juvenile diabetic, I have been repeatedly hit up by folks with various “cures” ever since I was diagnosed more than 20 years ago.

    Comments like: “If you drink this, you won’t have to take insulin” or “This cures diabetes 80% of the time”.

    I find these suggestions absolutely frightening. A juvenile diabetic produces no insulin at all. Discontinuing shots results in one and only one outcome — death. And, fairly quickly. Yet, I run into medical “experts” all the time recommending what can only be deemed dangerous medical advice, And, I’ve seen the deadly consequences when folks ignore their physician and adopt the latest quack remedy — Noni juice being the most recent.

    My personal belief is that most alternative medicine is an attempt to avoid directly dealing with a diagnosis. In the case of chronic or life-threatening illness, alternative therapies are downright dangerous.

    People really need to think long and hard before recommending these “treatments” to individuals with real illnesses.

  40. John Welch
    April 27, 2005 at 12:40 am

    Well, if nothing else, this thread has demonstrated the premise: Mormons do trust and use alternative medicine fairly freely. They also distrust allopathic (Western) medicine. The question remains only poorly answered, Why?

    So far the ideas offered are that Mormons tend to have cultural roots in rural, poor and independent families. Certainly allopathic medicine quickly becomes expensive, but most of us have insurance and those who don’t should find ways to get it quick! The allopathic doctor-patient relationship is also very dependent. The patient relies on their physician to confirm the patient’s self sick-role assignment. They rely on their physician to make the diagnosis and tell them what is wrong with themselves (as if the individual isn’t the ultimate authority on their own illness and well-being?). And finally, the patient relies on their physician to direct their treatment program.

    I think that the loss of mystery is a greater detractor from allopathic medicine than the cost or dependency to the Mormon patient. We like faith. We like unseen forces. We like anecdotal healings by the laying-on-of-hands. We also like the mystery of the creation. Allopathic medicine lacks all of this. It defines specific illnesses based on biochemical and radiographic criteria. It suggests refined, concentrated chemical therapies tested in double-blind placebo trials. Finally, it calls down the healing powers of a creation mythology that is uncomfortable to many Mormons. All healing paradigms draw on their creation mythology as the ursprung of efficacy. Allopathic medicine is no different. However, its creation mythology draws on the biochemical and physiological nature of the human body, suggesting that pathophysiology should be understood along similar chemical and even evolutionary lines.

    Homeopathic medicine does fill some gaps that are poorly served by allopathic medicine. We poorly treat back pain. No questions. If you can get improvement and get back to work with the help of an alternative medical practitioner, great! We have poor treatments for the common cold. Our therapies for cancer are often barbaric (however, they do prolong life and some even improve the quality of life). Then again, there are some tumors that are exquisitely sensitive to new drugs like glevec. Unfortunately, these are not the common tumors. But obstetrics? The most common cause of death in a child bearing-aged woman before 1900 was child-birth. Having seen healthy mothers with deliveries that went south in a hurry, I’m in no rush to sing the song of home delivery. Epidurals are optional, but not ready access to an OR and a neonatal ICU.

    Let’s not get carried away with homeopathic medicine. Natural does not equal safe. Marijuana, foxglove, Ephedra, Fen-fen and alcohol are all natural. They are not safe. Anecdotal evidence does not suggest efficacy. It took physicians 2,000 years to decided that the anecdotal evidence for bleeding was insufficient to justify its continual use to treat fever (yes, taking off 1-2 pints of blood in a febrile patient does bring down their fever, but it is not good at treating their underlying infection). When evaluating the evidence of an alternative medicine, you must ask, How is this different from the evidence that supported bleeding? Alternative medicine also has much less training and nominal licensing than allopathic medicine. Despite the comments above about post-graduate training for MD’s relying on discussions with pharmaceutical reps, I can assure you that it also involves daily lectures by faculty physicians, daily discussions directed by senior faculty of the most interesting and complex patients recently admitted to the hospital, daily discussions with an attending faculty physician of every patient on the resident’s service, and weekly grand-rounds given by world class physicians and scientists about new developments. We are also expected to read and remember most of what is published in more than a handful of weekly journals.

    To return to the primary question of the thread, Why do Mormons turn to alternative medicine? I’ve listed three reasons: frugality, independence and mystery. Any others?

  41. lyle
    April 27, 2005 at 6:08 am

    Nice try John. Jordan’s question in #37 above isn’t answered by your assertion. So far, seems like we'[ve got plenty of anecdotal experiences, mostly told by folks who have not actually used any non “Western” remedies, regarding what has happened to their friends/families who have. Not to discount such, but I put more stock in those that have tried X over those that tell stories re: X. Of course, if the rebut is “they are now dead,” maybe this simply isn’t possible. Does the blogosphere have a Dead (Wo)Man’s Statute?

    Steve T reinforces the need to differentiate between “real illnesses” (i.e. life threatening) and health problems (non-threatening, but inconvenient).

  42. April 27, 2005 at 7:00 am

    No worries, John- I trust modern medicine and use it often. I would never suggest drinking juice as a sub for insulin, or something like that. Unless you felt that it was something that you, personally, had to do. I have no beef with modern medicine. What I can’t stand is people who deride others for their choice not to use it in every situation.

    The reason I refuse to address Kaimi’s question is because I have not perceived what he has perceived, but have felt very slighted the other way. Why isn’t more research done into “alternative” remedies so that people don’t have to rely on “anecdotal” evidence?

    Maybe the real question is- why are mormons so dang nosey and pushy either way? Why do we feel the need to push our own set of “cures” on everyone around us, both physical and spiritual? Why do those who firmly subscribe to medicine have to ridicule those who don’t (John wasn’t, but Kaimi’s original post did sound somewhat dismissive)? Why do those who cling to alternative remedies feel the need ask others about their bowel movements? Why don’t we just mind our own business?

    To answer Kaimi’s original question (even though I highly doubt that the group of church members who subscribe to such stuff is as high as Kaimi thinks it is): we like to try “alternative” types of cures for certain things simply because they are natural. Of course there have to be limits- John has suggested some of the things that are natural yet dangerous. You can’t just use natural remedies without thinking about it first.

    And we want people to back off and not offer their unsolicited opinions to us about how much our decisions suck whenever they hear about certain homeopathic things we have done. I mean that in the real world, not in the virtual world of the bloggernacle- blogging is for opinions. But in real life it’s rude to tell your homeopathic friends how backward you think they are. And unappreciated.

  43. Jordan
    April 27, 2005 at 8:42 am

    That said, we appreciate and love our doctor friends. And we respect the John Welch’s of the world who really do try to improve life for all of us.

    I also have to make a personal confession- the biggest area of strife in my marriage has been caused by just such questions as those posed by Kaimi as my wife has gone the alternative route and I have too often been critical. The arguments, ridicule, and dismissive attitudes played out here have unfortunately been mirrored in our home many times.

    This deserves its own thread, and I apologize in advance for the threadjack, but what do you all do when, after you have children, you find out that you have widely divergent views with your wife on basic things like healthcare? I would be interested in hearing how you handle such things.

    I kicked against the pricks for a long time, then actually started listening and seeing that her alternative ways do have merit, which is probably why I am sensitive when others seem dismissive.

  44. Nate Oman
    April 27, 2005 at 9:29 am

    I recently had a conversation with a very nice Jewish lawyer who kept gushing about how much he liked Mormons. Turns out, he has done a fair amount of work for the herbal supplement industry both as an attorney and as a lobbyist. He informed me — and I see no reason to doubt that it is true — that he wrote most of the act sponsored by Senator Hatch, which exempted herbal supplements from FDA jurisdiction. He was a huge fan of Hatch, and he informed me that a significant goal of the bill was to carve out exceptions for herbal supplements in order to accomodate LDS religious beliefs regarding herbal supplements, a point that Hatch — he says — had braught home to him. This was the first I had ever heard of my religion’s commitment to modern herbal supplements. Hatch, however, is definitely the go-to guy for herbal issues on the Hill, and he takes in a respectable sized chunk of campaign contributions from herbal sources. Go figure.

  45. annegb
    April 27, 2005 at 9:30 am

    Yeah, but John, any medication can be poisonous if not taken right. My stepson used marijuana during his chemo and pretty much breezed throught the process. I’m a believer. I think it’s all natural.

    I will take my healing where I can get it, if a witch doctor dances around my apple tree and waves a smoking branch over me and I feel better, I’m down with that.

    I’m currently using a treatment called NAET, which I have high hopes for. It’s a mix of acupressure, kinesiology, and chiropractic. Probably also a little voodoo. I haven’t found anything from anybody who’s tried it who were disappointed. A few things from doctors saying it isn’t scientific.

    But I still go to my doctor. Moderation in all things here. I have resolved never to have chemo, no matter what, my husband has agreed not to force me, but if I ever changed my mind, I will be growing that pot in the back yard.

  46. Kristine
    April 27, 2005 at 9:49 am

    Jordan, for what it’s worth, it isn’t just Mormons who are nosy, pushy, and judgmental. My kids go to a somewhat “alternative”-flavored school, and there are many people there who use homeopathic medicines, herbal remedies of all sorts, craniosacral therapy, and probably lots of other things I haven’t even heard about. The non-vaccinating, homeopathic-remedies-only parents talk as though giving a child an antibiotic for an ear infection is tantamount to child abuse, while the conventional allopathic parents whisper about the lunacy of the parents who treat their children with sugar water and bat-dung pills. I’m not sure why it’s so hard to find middle ground and space for respectful discourse on these topics, but, if it’s any comfort, the difficulty seems to be pretty universal.

    Hey, you’ve got a blog, don’t you? Maybe you could describe your experience working through these things in your family…

  47. kris
    April 27, 2005 at 10:08 am

    I think that John Welch has done a good job listing why Mormons would use alternative medicine. I think there is a certain segment of our community which I would refer to as “Alma 32-ites”. They are just simply willing to experiment and see what kind of fruit is borne with alternatives in many aspects of our lives. However, my experience is that most Mormons I know go the allopathic route — perhaps living in a country with universal health care makes this a more viable choice.

  48. Kaimi
    April 27, 2005 at 10:14 am


    I’ve got nothing against some use of herbs, particularly for little things. Putting some aloe on your sunburn works great, and I personally like peppermint tea for a sore throat. And if chiropractic makes you feel better, great.

    My own experience, however, has been that some church members become anti-modern-medicine crusaders, and pressure other people on the use of modern medicine. And they encourage others to make flat-out dumb decisions, like other commenters have referenced — drinking herbal remedies as a substitute for cancer treatment, for example.

    And yes, I’ve been told that the entire medical establishment is a money making conspiracy, doctors in cahoots with drug companies, blah blah blah. (To which I say — “oh, how nice that one of our apostles was part of the conspiracy!”)

    I have no quarrel with folks wanting to try their own thing on their own time. (I may raise my eyebrows if your method seems a little strange). But in my own experience, many alternative medicine practitioners are also alternative medicine evangelists, and that can be annoying.


    Yes. I was told in Guatemala that Limon would cure colds, cancer, blindness, upset stomach, earache — you name it, and limon will do it. It also kills bacteria in water. One elder with a headache was advised to put lemon slices on his forehead.

    When my compgot a bad earache from coming down off the mountain with a cold (i.e., he had pressure in his ear), the woman who cooked meals for us heard about it, and she cut onion slices for him to put in his ear. I think I have a picture around somewhere of Elder Rooks with an onion slice hanging out of his ear.

    (He also let them put some oily concoction in his ear, which by all reports ended up making things quite a bit worse).

  49. Mark Martin
    April 27, 2005 at 10:26 am

    Re #47 “Alma-32-ites”

    Perhaps we should call them Alma 46:40-ites:

    “And there were some who died with fevers, which at some seasons of the year were very frequent in the land—but not so much so with fevers, because of the excellent qualities of the many plants and roots which God had prepared to remove the cause of diseases, to which men were subject by the nature of the climate—”

    If more of our scientific and research studies were aimed at determining which plants and roots effectively “remove the cause of diseases” then we could make great progress toward improving health. I’d like to see that kind of middle ground. I do appreciate doctors, especially the ones that work with me and my individual health situations, giving me recommendations and letting me take part in the decisions.

  50. Jordan
    April 27, 2005 at 10:38 am

    I think a lot of the herbal/alternative stuff is wrongly labelled as “remedy” when really they are probably more preventitive measures. For real “remedies”, I would bet most people in the church use medical professionals no matter what “offbeat” preventitive steps they use.

  51. anon
    April 27, 2005 at 10:54 am

    Kaimi, a fungus got ahold of my ear canal when I was a missionary in South America. My mission president’s wife told me to put consecrated oil in my ear. Instead, I went to a doctor who aspirated the problem away in about 5 minutes.

    To be clear: I believe in the healing power of anointing with consecrated oil by priesthood authority. But I don’t think it’s supposed to be used like Neosporin.

    Jordan, I’m not sure I understand what “natural” means, or why it is supposed to be synonymous with “good” and “safe.” And as to your question of how to handle these difficult questions within a marriage where there are competing views, I concur that it is a tough one. I handled the issue by making sure my wife knows that I would regard subjecting my kids to quackery as akin to abuse, and that I would act accordingly.

    When she was pregnant, I prevailed on her to stop taking unidentified herbs (labeled in Chinese) until her ob-gyn ok’ed them. Of course, the ob-gyn had no idea what the herbs were (nor did my wife) and therefore wouldn’t ok them. The doctor strenously disagreed with the proposition put forth by the Chinese healer that because herbs are “natural” they can do no harm.

    Perhaps not the best for marital harmony, but that’s not the most important thing at issue here. I love my wife and don’t believe for an instant that she would knowingly do something that would endanger our kids. Her feelings have been hurt because of the hard line I’ve taken and I regret that. By I don’t see compromise as an option.

    I suppose it’s now clear why I’m posting as “anon.”

  52. Ana
    April 27, 2005 at 11:00 am

    Danithew, the product being recommended to our family is actually Xango. But I’ve heard about Noni, too.

  53. Jordan
    April 27, 2005 at 11:02 am

    I love my wife and don’t believe for an instant that she would knowingly do something that would endanger our kids. Her feelings have been hurt because of the hard line I’ve taken and I regret that. By I don’t see compromise as an option.

    what makes you think you know better than her what would endanger your kids? Isn’t it a bit patronizing to assume that? Why should she have to bear the burden of proof before she can use something she thinks will help her? (Don’t worry- I’ve done the same thing, but I have backed off because really, I couldn’t prove that my position was right either.)

    And I’m not assuming unquestioningly that natural is better. As I said in that same post, “Of course there have to be limits- John has suggested some of the things that are natural yet dangerous. You can’t just use natural remedies without thinking about it first.”

    So I don’t unflinchingly hold that natural is better. Rather, I was attempting to explain why, as a general matter after we have looked into a certain “natural” option and determined it to be safe, we prefer using that over some treatment offered by “modern” medicine.

  54. danithew
    April 27, 2005 at 11:08 am

    Years ago when my family took a trip to Utah (before we all moved here), we visited some old Mormon settlements in various places. At one place we came across a manual that provided a list of numerous plants used by local American Indians and the ways these plants were used to treat various maladies. What interested me about this was that almost without exception, every listed plant remedy had been used as a treatment for syphilis. My impression of this was that if a person finds a particular treatment doesn’t cure or resolve their problem, desperation might lead them to try everything that is available.

  55. Ali
    April 27, 2005 at 11:18 am

    I can answer this post for you. Utah is the Silicone Valley for natural supplements. There are over 180 companies here. (Nu Skin, Nature’s Sunshine, Nutraceuticals Inc., XanGo, etc.) Many of your fellow ward members are distributors for these companies and believe in all their healing powers. There should be a story coming out soon in the Trib regarding the evolution of this industry here in Utah. It is a billion dollar industry for Utah.

  56. Eric S
    April 27, 2005 at 11:22 am

    People really should be reasonable about all this alternative medicine stuff. If you want to know whether it works or not, you should do the rational thing: consult your astrologer or psychic.

  57. anon
    April 27, 2005 at 11:31 am

    Jordan, you are correct that I don’t know myself that homeopathy is any better or worse than whatever my doctor prescribes. I must rely on authority, preferably people with many letters after their names, lab coats, and Erlenmeyer flasks.

  58. April 27, 2005 at 11:42 am


    The reason I refuse to address Kaimi’s question is because I have not perceived what he has perceived, but have felt very slighted the other way. Why isn’t more research done into “alternative” remedies so that people don’t have to rely on “anecdotal” evidence?

    That one’s simple: There’s no one to foot the bill. A pharmaceutical company can’t patent the “discovery” of the curative powers of dandelions or peanut shells or earthworms, so why would they pay for the study?

  59. Rosalynde Welch
    April 27, 2005 at 11:46 am

    Nobody has mentioned Paul Cox yet, a well known erstwhile-BYU (where is he now? still there? elsewhere?) ethnobotanist who has made his career investigating traditional herbal remedies in the rain forests of the Amazon, searching for the molecular biological mechanisms in those remedies that could be used in Western medicine. There’s an interesting article about him in the current New Yorker, I understand, though I haven’t read it.

  60. Jordan
    April 27, 2005 at 11:50 am

    Works for us, Eric… ;) Want to accompany me on my next visit? Although lately I have been more prone to throw some bones in my yard and see how they land because its easier than leaving the house to consult such professionals.

    anon, as one having lots of letters after my name, albeit not in the medical field, I must confess that I still often just make shots in the dark regarding even things within my field.

    With regards to a particular substance which the doctor is unfamiliar with, a doctor HAS TO discourage its use for pure liability reasons. So if you are relying on his authority, is it his authority having thoroughly researched the substance in issue, or his risk-averse behavior in disclaiming anything that might open him up to liability? It would make a difference in my final assessment.

  61. Mike Wilson
    April 27, 2005 at 12:54 pm

    As a physician who married into a family that has been through all the alternative therapies and back again, I feel I can comment from both sides of the aisles.

    First, conventional medicine is very good at treating and curing those things of which the cause and pathology has been identified (infections, cancer to a degree but with treatments that at times are worse than the disease, trauma, accidents, heart disease). However, in diseases that conventional medicine doesn’t understand well (i.e. auto-immune disorders like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and chronic pain conditions), the treatments are directed at symptoms without being able to treat a cause.

    Now alternative medical treatments attempt to imply causes for things and give specific remedies. I think they fail at times in these regards. Where alternative medical thinking is stronger than conventional medical thinking is in preventative health. Physicians aren’t instructed much at all regarding diet, nutrition, discussing with patients how to change habits, etc. Additionally there is no financial motivation to make people independent of the physician.

    I argue with collegues regarding the amount of influence that the pharmaceutical industry has over the profession of medicine and find it staggering. This issue is one that gives me pause about the chemical foundation of conventional medicine. Michael Moore’s next “opinio-numentary” is regarding the industry and I hope will be very interesting. I think that most physicians recognize the ethical inconsistencies which “big pharma” uses to market its products to consumers and physicians and the lack of accurate information that may be as dense and as intentional as those who attempt to market alternative therapies.

    Ultimately, there is no single source for physical healing. And where ever there is money to be made, all the marketing information (whether from the MLM groups or Big Pharma) must be taken with a grain of salt (and lemon and garlic).

  62. Jordan
    April 27, 2005 at 12:59 pm

    Hey Mike- you forgot to add echinacea in with your grain of salt.

  63. chab
    April 27, 2005 at 1:40 pm

    As a pathologist, I see the end results of the “natural” medicine. It seems to me it makes the cancers all the more advanced, as you would expect if someone has no treatment. Modern medicine is tested and retested. Are there cures in 100% of cases? Of course not. And that one who is not cured might turn to folk medicine and tell everyone around them modern medicine is no good. I was thinking the other day about how people died 100-200 year ago. Appendicitis- you would have a good chance of dying, Strep throat, many would have heart problems later as adults. Infected skin cut, you better hope it does not turn red and infected because it might lead to sepsis. People live longer today in a good part because of modern medicine. Not as many people do die from heart attacks, and things like Hodgkin’s disease are not death sentences.

    I think the reason some mormons are big on alternative medicine is our training in faith. We take many things on faith because our leaders tell us to. It lowers our skepticism for other claims (ponzi schemes etc) including alternative medicine.

  64. Mike Wilson
    April 27, 2005 at 1:40 pm

    I must agree with all those who have said that other members need to worry about themselves and not what others are doing. If we are to do our home/visiting teaching with the fervor with which we stick our nose in others’ business…

    My wife has given birth four times, four different ways. #1 was traditional with an epidural; she progressed from 3 inches to 9 inches while sleeping and pushed for 30 minutes and had a healthy boy (she thought it was the greatest thing). #2 was urgent C-section for slow heart rate: healthy girl. She felt so poorly after the C-section that she decided she didn’t want to do it again. Numbers 3 and 4 were home births with a mid-wife, the last one being in water (both healthy and after this most recent she felt the best she did with any).

    With all these situations people inside and outside the church were very opinionated about what she chose to do. I tried to take off my physician hat and be the supportive husband in a situation that I thought was safe (as many women the world over have healthy babies at home).

    However, I would never advocate that someone else should do something just because I did it. It’s even more inappropriate to label someone as a “bad person” or become militant and fanatical with these issues. Why are these issues and political issues so fiery? Why can’t people just talk to others about their opinions without there being fire, venom, and hatred and offense as a result?

  65. Shawn Bailey
    April 27, 2005 at 1:46 pm

    I have also been evangelized by alternative medicine believers. Those with whom I have dealt implied that I lacked faith—and that I had sold my soul to Godless western scientism—because I do not share their fervent enthusiam for unproved and potentially dangerous remedies. Furthermore, they relied on a great deal of bad information: as far as I could tell, their skepticism of science led them to some doubtful notions about concepts such as “proof” and “fact.” Thus, even though they used the rhetoric of science, they generally only made arguments based on belief, emotions, and statements about what was possible as opposed to what is probable, likely, or established. Perhaps my experience was unusual: I certainly do not intend to make unwarranted generalizations.

    The equation of faith and non-allopathic medicine is interesting. I have faith—faith in both the healing power of God through the Priesthood and the blessing of modern medicine. I know that modern medicine has major holes, has had misteps, is always subject to revision, is somewhat mired in greed, is increasingly troubled by difficult ethical issues, etc., etc. None of these problems seem like a good enough reason to abandon modern medicine. Moreover, it is not clear that alternative medicine does not come out worse on the same issues. For example, as far as greed is concerned, all health care providers appear to be in the same boat. However, the difference is that alternative practitioners and manufactureres haven’t invested nearly as much in training, research, or development as medical doctors and pharaceutal companies.

    I can also understand the willingness to experiment with things that might work, or that appear to have worked for others, or that non-scientists claim (based on sincere belief, cultural traditions, or whatever) will work. I respect the willingness to take a risk and deal with the consequences. I expect that in some cases there is an actual chemicle/biological remedy that medical science has not yet figured out. I expect that in some cases there is a placebo effect. I believe that in some cases God simply intervenes for his own purposes or due to faith and/or Priesthood blessings regardless of what medical avenues (alternative or otherwise) an individual has pursued.

    I am hesitant about non-allopathic medicine based on a rough cost-benefit analysis that I have worked through on occassion. Given the risks and likely benefits, I will stick with God and his power—and modern medicine. Unless the equation changes—likely risks shown to be insubstantial, likely benefits shown to be enormous—I feel good about where I stand. My daughter was born without difficulty. But I felt that I had provided for both my wife and her in the best possible way by having as John (no. 40) put it, “ready access to an OR and a neonatal ICU.” Given the choice, I minimized risk. I would have felt ungrateful for the blessings of modern science and good insurance if I had done otherwise. I doubt I could live with the regret if I had done otherwise, something had gone wrong, and the presence of a medical doctor, OR, or neonatal ICU would have saved a life. While I respect people who see things differently, I cannot say that I understand them.

    Many here seem to assume that research is not or has not been conducted to establish the effectiveness of natural remedies. I doubt this is the case, but someone more familiar with research and development in the pharmaceutical industry could probably tell us for sure. It is my suspicion that scientists have studied the effectiveness and safety of most if not all known herbal/ natural remedies. Afterall, there is a strong incentive to attach to such remedies the credibility of scientific proof—and market them accordingly.

    I feel torn about Senator Hatch’s support for the neutraceutical industry. On one hand, he is clearly looking out for his constituency—it looks like a case of representative democracy in action. But I wonder if his constituents (and Americans in general) would not be much better off in the long run if nuetraceuticals were regulated so that rediculous (and potentially fraudulent) claims had to be substantiated or dropped—and so that both consumers and doctors treating consumers would know what and how much had been taken in a particular instance and what potential drug interractions might occur, etc. To the extent that Senator Hatch has represented to anyone that non-allopathic medicine is a point of Mormon doctrine, I am troubled. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, I will assume he has talked about what many people who happen to be Mormons believe and do (not only for their health but to make a living) aside from their religion.

  66. Jordan
    April 27, 2005 at 1:51 pm


    Juxtapose this (where alternative medicine types accuse you of lack of faith):

    Those with whom I have dealt implied that I lacked faith—and that I had sold my soul to Godless western scientism—because I do not share their fervent enthusiam for unproved and potentially dangerous remedies.

    with this (where you imply that alternative medicine types harbor a lack of gratitude):

    I would have felt ungrateful for the blessings of modern science and good insurance if I had done otherwise.

    So they accuse you of lack of faith, and you imply their lack of gratitude. Touche.

    How about if each of you just say “to each his own” and leave it at that.

  67. Mark Martin
    April 27, 2005 at 1:51 pm

    Mike’s second sentence in #64 gave me a good laugh!

    I think back to a guy I knew from a different ward in my stake, who I usually talked with when I saw him. However, somewhere along the way he discovered *magnets* and the amazing pain-relieving and strengthening powers they possess. After a while I started avoiding him because I knew magnets would come up in the conversation. I was never surprised to see him demonstrating them to someone in the parking lot as I left a stake meeting.

    Thankfully, my experience has not been as bad as what Kaimi describes. I think I encounter more vegetarians than alternative medicine types in my LDS (and non-LDS) community, and the vegetarians around me rarely seem judgmental when I choose to eat chicken or beef.

  68. Shawn Bailey
    April 27, 2005 at 1:59 pm

    Jordan (no. 66):

    I think I did say “to each his own” in a way. I wrote: “While I respect people who see things differently, I cannot say that I understand them.”

    I understand your desire for respectful dialogue on the issue. Is my authentic thought about gratitude for the blessing of modern science somehow beyond the pale? Or does it merely invite someone to tell me how they see it differently? Perhaps in doing so someone could help me understand the issue better.

  69. Jordan
    April 27, 2005 at 2:06 pm

    No- not beyond the pale. I thought it was funny in a ha-ha kind of way.

    But seriously, if you would consider yourself ungrateful of modern medicine, what does that say about how you would consider others?

    Usually, in my experience, when people say “I would consider myself ungrateful/unfaithful/un-anything if …” it is a circuitous way to say that they would consider anyone un-whatever under similar circumstances. So long as that wasn’t what you were doing, then forget the touche. It’s hard to imagine, though, how you would consider yourself ungrateful under those circumstances but not others. Do you hold yourself to a higher standard?

    And if you would consider yourself and others ungrateful for shunning the miracles of modern medicine (an argument I have used many times with my wife before I gave up), then how is that any more respectful than alternative medicine types implying your lack of faith for not seeing it their way?

  70. Mark Martin
    April 27, 2005 at 2:13 pm

    Shawn in #65: “Many here seem to assume that research is not or has not been conducted to establish the effectiveness of natural remedies. I doubt this is the case, but someone more familiar with research and development in the pharmaceutical industry could probably tell us for sure.”

    You can go here to see that scientific R&D is conducted for some Nutraceuticals:

    What’s tricky about being a Nutraceuticals consumer is that manufacturers/distributors are not *required* to conduct such research because the regulations are lax compared to Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices. Therefore, it requires a bit of homework to discern between those products that have a track record of efficacy (effectiveness in doing what it claims) and products from greedy quacks.

    I do not work in Pharma or Nutraceuticals, but in Medical Devices, so I’m not an expert in this area. However, I read a weekly Nutraceutical update and a daily FDA Drug News update, so I am aware of some limited restraints which the FDA has on “natural” supplements. There are FDA staff members who actively review advertisements and websites, and the FDA does send warning letters to manufacturers who claim certain benefits of use. A typical warning letter might say something like “Your advertisement (or website) claims that your product will treat X disease, which classifies it as a drug. As such, you are in violation of regulation Y, since you have not submitted your claim with supporting data to the FDA.” Then they are asked to respond by a certain date, and they must drop the part of their ad/claim that is in violation, or submit their supporting data in the way that a drug manufacturer would. I think that in extreme cases, if the offending company does not comply, their website and possibly sales of their product can be shut down.

    Of course, I would think that only a small percentage of offending Neutraceutical companies actually receive FDA warnings, so I still say do your own homework. I have no doubt that there are some good “natural” preventative medicine products out there, but we are largely on our own to find them.

  71. April 27, 2005 at 2:29 pm

    Lester Bush links the modern attraction to alternative medicine among members to nineteenth-century teachings by LDS leaders that unsuccessful faith healings should be followed by herbal remedies. He thinks vestiges of this tradition persist. Health and Medicine Among the Latter-day Saints (New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1993, pp. 89-91).

    The Fall 1979 issue of Dialogue features some interesting articles on Mormons and medical issues, including use of alternative medicine.

    John Heinerman published a book entitled Joseph Smith and Herbal Medicine in the mid-1970s which is still in print. See here for a rough electronic copy.

    Interestingly, the Church News published several editorials in 1977 on medical care and the use of alternative medicine (excerpts are reproduced in the Fall 1979 Dialogue). One of them stated that “our belief in the divine power of health should in no way preclude seeking competent medical assistance.”

    The second editorial criticized those who were promoting faddish products by tying them to the Word of Wisdom and those who implied church endorsement or sponsorship of “teachers, remedies, foods or fads.” It stated: “To refuse to accept assistance from the highly skilled men and women now available may be to reject the very help that could save a life. Some patients are known to have died from dieases which ‘nature remedies’ could not relieve but which proven medical practices could have cured.”

    The editorial closed by observing that members “may well follow the prophets in matters of health as in other things. …They themselves submit to surgery and other forms of treatment as needed, and their lives have been extended as a result. Is not their example worthy of emulation?”

  72. Jordan
    April 27, 2005 at 2:34 pm

    Isn’t it interesting how both sides of this question use church anecdotes and doctrines to bolster their positions against the other side?

  73. Ivan Wolfe
    April 27, 2005 at 2:35 pm

    Rosalynde –

    That’s not exactly what Paul Cox is duing. He is investigating possible medicines to be made from rainforest plants, but it’s done within a very rigorous “modern” framework with double blind studies and in the interest of producing pharamacuticals.

    Cox’s work is in the service of modern medicine, not alternative medicine.

    I admit to using some herbal products, but nearly always as preventative tonics rather than curative potions. I’ve know too many people die who’ve trusted in their homeopath.

  74. chab
    April 27, 2005 at 2:45 pm

    Many of the meds used in medicine are from natural sources:
    Digitalis Foxglove used for heart failure
    Antibiotics many come from fungi, and are their natural antibacterials
    Quinine from bark for malaria
    Hirudin From a leach, used as an anticoagulant
    Aspirin From willow tree
    Let us not forget pain killers from the poppy
    As much as 25% of modern drugs have their roots in plants. They are, however purified and in exact dosages. Most herbal medicines are in unkown doses, with unknown contamination. There is little regulation. We should look at all possibilites of chemicals for treatment of disease, including those in the herbals that are marketed today as “food supplements”. We might find some great meds.
    My guess is the herbal medicines in their current form would be pulled off the market, like vioxx, if they were subjected to the testing done on other drugs.

  75. Shawn Bailey
    April 27, 2005 at 2:45 pm

    Jordan (no. 69):

    This discussion probably raises philosophical questions that I atleast am not equipped to deal with in any more than a practical way. One way of evaluating an action with moral dimensions is to ask whether it would be a good thing if that action were reduced to a universal law. I believe that that is a Kantian insight (or atleast my hackneyed version of a Kantian insight). Finding this a helpful way of thinking, I do not deny that when I think I have made a good decision, I think others should probably do the same as me. Otherwise, why (unless I was somehow benefitting by imposing harm on others) would I think my decision good?

    But that does not mean that I do not respect those who disagree with me. Certainly that does not mean that I want to coerce people softly to do as I do when it comes up that I disagree with them. I am not some pushy person in your ward trying to change your wife’s mind. Yet you seem to imply that I am roughly the same.

    It is not that I hold myself to a higher standard. It is that “myself,” and to some degree my family, is limit of my power to make such decisions. I am not going to refuse to make such decisions—or be ashamed of having made such decisions—to ensure that people who disagree with me don’t get their feelings hurt. If someone wants to respond to my thought about gratitude for modern medicine on its merits, I would be interested. Rather than simply feel hurt, I have responded to the claim (not here, but to those who made the claim) that non-belief in alternative medicine evinces a lack of faith. Doing so doesn’t seem hard to me. One can have faith in many things. To be meaningful, faith must be faith in something true. Because the truth claims of alternative medicine do not impress me, I have decided not to place faith in it.

  76. Jordan
    April 27, 2005 at 2:50 pm


    What would you do if you and your wife were diametrically opposed on this issue and neither of you were willing to budge from your position? (Major threadjack…)

  77. John Welch
    April 27, 2005 at 3:06 pm

    To address a couple of questions:

    Why do Mormons use alternative medicine?

    I listed faith, independence and mystery above. To that list I’d like to add trust (maybe a part of faith), networking and guilt. We are a trusting people. Not only do we buy a lot of alternative medicinals, but we are also easily suckered into poor investments and outright frauds. We are also a connected people. We have large families and extended ward communities. Many alternative medicine sales programs operate on Tupperware models, where sales and new saleswomen recruits are largely acquired from friends, family and acquaintances. While not quite like our Jewish and Catholic friends, we are also a guilt-laden people. We believe in a corporeal corruption in need of constant repentance. Perhaps, even when well, this emotion spills over into our illness-self to make us feel in need of constant treatment and improvement.

    Why is alternative medicine not being studied?

    Actually, it is. NIH formed an entire division dedicated to the study of alternative systems and therapeutics. Half the game of medicinal chemistry/big pharma is to build the largest library of compounds possible. Chemists extract compounds from every plant, fungus and soil sample they can find. These are then screened against cellular functions and biochemical reactions. Drugs to reach common use from such approaches include the chemotherapeutic classes of Taxols from the Chinese Elm and Vinca alkaloids from the Madagascar Periwinkle. These are both examples where allopathic medicine is extracting the resources of plant biology/alternative medicine and inserting them into the framework of Western medicine.

    There are other profound reasons why alternative medicine systems and medicinals used in the context of those systems have not been studied thoroughly. First, the study of outcomes is a feature unique to Western medicine. In specific, long-term follow up in prospective randomized, double-blind placebo trials as the epistemological gold standard has been championed by no other medical movement. You simply cannot expect good data to emerge from medical systems where the interrogation of therapeutics and outcomes is not valued. Second, there are no standards. Consistency across batches of herbals and between practitioners is not the rule. How do you go about studying the effect of an herbal supplement when the concentrations of potential active ingredients vary from batch to batch and manufacturer to manufacturer? Third, the industry can only loose by studying efficacy and safety of any therapeutic. Nearly all are marketed through a loop-hole in the FDA that allows “nutritional supplements” to be sold without thorough testing or standards of preparations. If you actually studied a therapeutic marketed for X and found it didn’t work, then you’d loose your market share. Alternatively, if it did work and you wanted to market it for a specific illness (say benign prostate hypertrophy as opposed to “for prostate health”) you’d need to market it as a drug and get FDA approval via many involved clinical trials (average cost to get a new drug to market is around $500 million).

    There seems to be somewhat of a consensus building that it is ok to use alternative therapies when you are not sick, but when you develop something really bad (like diabetes, pneumonia, TB etc, etc) you really need a good doctor. The question is, if you’re not sick, why are you taking medicine? Mike Wilson (#61) suggests that alternative medicine is strongest in preventive measures. Prevention is hard. Our best data are for relatively common ailments. Controlling cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes and renal failure all prevent heart attacks. Screening colonoscopies decrease the rate of colon cancer. Annual mammograms decrease the rate of breast cancer. Studying dietary effects on rare diseases requires very large cohorts and long term follow up. Data regarding the effects of alcohol (relatively easily quantified) on heart disease and cancer is still controversial despite a few very large-scale studies. Long-term data on alternative therapies for the prevention of anything is sparse, sketchy and rare.

    As a final note for St. John’s Wort fans, don’t forget, it ramps up the cytochrome P450 system responsible for metabolizing lots of our bodies waste products as well as oral contraceptives. This turns your low-dose estrogen OCP into a no-dose estrogen and before you know it, you’re pregnant. And yes, the patch is also an OCP.

  78. Eric S
    April 27, 2005 at 3:18 pm


    You raise a good point about extending an individual’s choice out to the universal level. To see the effects of choosing “alternative” medicine over scientifically developed medicinal practices, one need only compare societies in which scientific medicine predominates with societies in which alternative medicine is the norm. Take the United States, for example, and compare it to, say, Haiti. Look at the health and life expectancy of people in each place. Or, you could look at the health and life expectancy of people in the United States at the beginning of the 21st century and compare with the U.S. before the advent of modern medicine. That, too would be revealing.

    I am firmly on the side of scientifically developed medicine. To the extent that someone makes a claim for an “herbal” remedy it should be tested scientifically. On using (or misusing) statements from 19th-century Mormon as support for “alternative” remedies, I love Joseph Smith and look to him for guidance on many issues, but he lived before the advent of modern medicine, so OF COURSE he would have used folk remedies–that’s all they had back then! He also travelled by horse and buggy, but I wouldn’t use that fact to infer a condemnation of motorized transportation.

  79. Jordan
    April 27, 2005 at 3:23 pm


    That is wonderful logic. I do agree.

    What would you do if you and your wife were irreconcilably diametrically opposed on the issue? Do you think maybe that you would move back on that position a little, in the interest of marital harmony, and even take to defending the “other side”?

  80. JKS
    April 27, 2005 at 3:28 pm

    “The only real question about flouridation is whether the flour should be sprinkled on, or whether full immersion in the flour is necessary.
    The controversy over fluoridation is somewhat different. ”

    LOL, Eric James STone.

  81. Shawn Bailey
    April 27, 2005 at 3:32 pm

    Jordan (no. 76):

    I am empathetic. My wife and I disagree often. (We both have serious independent streaks, what can we say?) But I count myself lucky that we have not disagreed in a big way on fundamental parenting issues such as health care or education.

    My advice (and I should make major disclaimers about my ability to dispense advice let alone carry it out in my own life):
    (1) try to persuade each other in the spirit of D&C 121:41, i.e., “persuasion, … long-suffering, … gentleness and meekness, … love unfeigned,” etc.;
    (2) if that fails, try to work out some sort of compromise.

    Are both of you insisting that things should be exclusively one way or the other? Doing so can lead to an impasse that may ultimately mean either no relationship or someone establishing dominance at the expense of the other person. Both ugly options.

    When it comes to each spouse, I think autonomy should be respected (i.e., you take care of your personal health the way you see fit; she takes care of hers the way she sees fit). But when it comes to the children, I think both of you should have substantial power over key decisions. In other words, can you work something out where the children enjoy both the blessing of modern medicine and any potential benefits of alternative medicine—while minimizing the risks of alternative medicine?

    For example: would a midwife birth in a hospital with doctors standing by be an option? Would asking a medical doctor about potential risks before using alternative remedies be an option? Such doubling up may be costly, but your relationship and family’s health may be worth it.

  82. Jordan
    April 27, 2005 at 3:43 pm

    can you work something out where the children enjoy both the blessing of modern medicine and any potential benefits of alternative medicine—while minimizing the risks of alternative medicine?

    There, again, is the assumption that alternative medicine is somehow riskier. Is it really fair for me to put the “burden of proof” on those advocating alternative remedies? If so, why? Because it’s not mainstream? What if I bore the burden of proof on “modern” medicine?

    For example, from the other point of view, the question would be “can we work out something where the children enjoy the blessing of natural healing and any potential benefits of “modern” (meaning mainstream) medical care– while minimizing the risks of “modern” (meaning mainstream) medicine?” How do we even decide which question to begin with- the initial question often shifts the burden of proof so that one side has to fight harder than the other to prove the point.

    How do we decide who has to be the one to convince the other that one way is better than the other? Otherwise, both people in such a debate just talk past each other, since each operates from different assumptions. As we can see on this very thread!! :)

  83. JKS
    April 27, 2005 at 3:44 pm

    I believe in modern medicine. However, it is obvious that modern medicine does not cure everything all the time.
    My husband had chemotherapy. He had a 75% chance of survival. Some cancers you only get 10%.
    “Alternative medicine” is not all one product or one science. It is obvious to me that some alternative medicines have some success. Maybe St John’s Wort works for one person for a particular symptom. Maybe magnets help some people with pain management. I believe that.
    I would never go to alternative medicine first, but if modern medicine lets me down, alternative is a possibility.
    Diet obviously makes a difference. Modern science DOES support much of alternative medicine. Acidopholus (found in yogurt but can be bought as a supplement) DOES attack yeast. Yet my doctor didn’t bother mentioning that when nursing baby #2 become impossible because of continual yeast infections back and forth that the medication didn’t cure…..also, eating sugar encourages yeast…..something else I didn’t know. Modern science PROVES all this.
    When my son couldn’t talk, I gave him fish oil (with omega 3,6,9 essential fatty acids) in 2001. I read all about it. And modern science SUPPORTS that essential fatty acids are good for brain development…..in fact, just a year later in 2002/2003 they added EFAs to infant formula because it is SO good for brain development (look…really, go look at the formula now, every brand has one formula with EFAs now). Hmmm. The FDA approved something for BABIES that alternative medicine people who had been popping gelcaps of fishy oil already believed in.

  84. Ana
    April 27, 2005 at 4:05 pm

    Weird … with all this discussion going on, I just got a call from a friend who also has a child with ADHD. She found an article from Dr. Alan Greene, a faculty member at Stanford Med, referencing some studies indicating that ADHD can be assisted through upping iron and zinc. Maybe Xango (or Noni, or whatever) would do that, but I bet I can find a more economical way …

    Dr. Greene also had this interesting blurb about quack therapies: http://www.drgreene.com/21_395.html

  85. Eric S
    April 27, 2005 at 4:06 pm


    I agree with much of what Shawn says in response to this question. Not an easy one to deal with. Most conflicts of opinion that arise between (among for those of an FLDS bent) spouses can oftne be settled with an “agree to disagree” attitude. The problem here is that _some_ alternative remedies may be harmless if ineffective. Others may be downright dangerous. A bottle of who-knows-what with a Chinese label, it seems to me, poses too big a risk to just let it slide. Putting a lemon slice on your forehead, however, seems to have little risk of doing any permanent damage. So, I guess it is a matter of degree. What is the ailment for which treatment is needed? How much is known about the substance that is going to be used? I think the way to handle a disagreement on this subject depends largely on how these questions are answered.

  86. Jordan
    April 27, 2005 at 4:11 pm

    A bottle of who-knows-what with a Chinese label, it seems to me, poses too big a risk to just let it slide.

    Burden of proof issue. Maybe it poses too big a risk NOT to use it, according to the person you are hypothetically discussing this with. Why should they bear the burden of proof to convince you that the chinese bottle is not dangerous? Just because it’s not mainstream? How would you fairly allocate the burden of proof in such a discussion, so as not to just talk past each other?

  87. Eric S
    April 27, 2005 at 4:11 pm

    One more point on the “marital harmony” threadjack:

    Dr. Will Harley, who has written a number of excellent books on marriage and relationships, recommends that couples adopt a Policy of Joint Agreement, in which any important (and, to a large extent, unimportant) decisions are made only with the enthusiastic agreement of both spouses. I see no reason why this policy would not apply to the way we treat our children’s maladies. Surely, there is some common ground to be found. (I know, stop calling you Shirley).

  88. Eric S
    April 27, 2005 at 4:13 pm

    “Why should they bear the burden of proof to convince you that the chinese bottle is not dangerous?”

    Because you don’t know WTF is in it, that’s why! Maybe it’s an asbestos/mercury cocktail, for all you know. At least with a bottle of aspirin, you k now what you are getting (and have a hundred years of science to support you).

  89. Shawn Bailey
    April 27, 2005 at 4:16 pm

    Jordan (no. 82):

    Of course, given my opinion, I think my assumption is unassailably well-founded. In many cases alternative medicine does seem very risky. What actually is in this pill? Has it been tested? Proved effective? Proved safe? What are this person’s qualifications? What techniques will this person use? Have they been tested? Proved effective? Proved safe? Without satisfactory answers to these questions, you are taking a signficant risk. However, I would avoid this tack with your wife. Being right can be very counterproductive. (Imagine happy emoticon here).

    Do not think of it in terms of presumptions. Do away with all presumptions. If you are compromising, who is right is off the table. Both involve their preferred care-givers. If the care-givers give conflicting advice, try again to persuade each other, pray, seek a third opinion, somehow work it out.

    It is notable that there are practical reasons why modern science enjoys some pride of place. Are there non-movable instruments and personell at the mid-wife’s clinic (if she has one)? The fact that they often work in people’s homes seems to indicate otherwise. Are alternative medicine practioner’s trained to comment on the risks of modern medicine? Does the thought of them attempting to do so strike you as silly?

  90. Jordan
    April 27, 2005 at 4:19 pm

    I see your point. That was a far-fetched example anyway, I mean come on- a bottle of Chinese whatever? Yeah right.

    What if it was a bottle of an herbal remedy that you each knew what it was, but you each had completely different opinions about its efficacy/risk (although preliminary research indicated not high levels of risk) and YOU emphatically wanted to use a doctor but your companion emphatically did not? Who would bear the burden of proof on convincing the other one about the one correct course of action for the child, whom you both deeply love and care about and want only the best for? Should you have to bear the burden of convincing partner to see a doctor? Or should the partner have to bear the burden of convincing you to do it her way? Because otherwise you start out with completely different assumptions and talk right past each other- been there, done that.

    How would you allocate the burden of proof, and why?

  91. Jordan
    April 27, 2005 at 4:21 pm


    Have you seen modern nurse/midwives? Their clinics are some of the most modern facilities I have seen, and they all deliver in hospitals. Assumptions…

  92. Shawn Bailey
    April 27, 2005 at 4:29 pm

    Jordan: Do you have an even number of children? Can you guess what I am thinking? You make all decisions for the odd-numbered children, she makes all decisions for the even-numbered children. Comparing the outcome might be interesting! What do you think?

    By the way, I know people who have delievered with midwives in their homes recently, so I still think there is some mobility there. While I may be wrong, it may also be much more expensive to pay an MD to work outside of a hospital.

  93. Eric S
    April 27, 2005 at 4:31 pm


    Again, I think it would depend on the severity of the illness the child is experiencing. If my three-year-old were running a high fever and my wife wanted to treat it with cranberry extract or whatever, I think I would balk–at the very least I would insist that the child also receive Tylenol/Ibuprofen at the same time. If, on the other hand, the child has the sniffles, and my wife wants to give her echynacea and chant a voodoo healing spell, fine, be my guest.

  94. Mark Martin
    April 27, 2005 at 4:39 pm

    Am I missing something in my familial communications? Should I be bringing “burden of proof” into our conversations??? (color me amused)

  95. Jordan
    April 27, 2005 at 4:44 pm

    Eric, what if you absolutely did not want that cranberry extract to cross your child’s lips, and she absolutely felt just as strongly about tylenol/ibuprofen? How in the world can anyone compromise in a situation like that? And how would you even begin persuading the other that your way was right if you couldn’t even agree what assumptions to begin with (ie, who would bear the burden of proof).

    Some alternative medicine subscribers not only want to use alternative medicine, but they absolutely oppose ANYTHING that smacks of tylenol or ibuprofen. (luckily my wife and I are not actually that far apart as far as this goes, but I know some people who are). Without patronizing her, how does the child get treated? Assume also that you love your wife greatly, and just have some really major differences that only surfaced once the kids arrived, this being one of them. What would you do?

    (note- this whole tangent is because Kaimi’s post is entirely premised on the underlying assumption that those advocating “alternative” medicine are the ones out to lunch, instead of the other way around. But enough threadjacking- no more comment here. Though I am interested in responses to the last question on how to deal.)

  96. Jordan
    April 27, 2005 at 4:46 pm

    Mark, whether or not you realize it, one of you always is bearing the burden of proof (the need to convince the other one of something) in every issue where there is a disagreement. Maybe there is an unspoken idea that the one raising the issue has the burden to prove why the issue ought to be considered, but it is a burden of proof borne by one or the other of you nonetheless, whether or not you even realize it.

  97. Elisabeth
    April 27, 2005 at 5:06 pm

    In response to #73 and #59, the Paul Cox article is in the April 11, 2005 issue of The New Yorker. It’s entitled “The Tangle: An ethnobotanist tries to solve the mystery of neurological disease in Guam” and is written by Jonathan Weiner (on page 43).

    While Cox may be working within the limits of modern medicine, he is definitely pushing conventional wisdom with his experiments to prove the custom of eating fruit bats (“heads, wings, hair and all”) causes a debilitating (and ultimately fatal) brain disease. It’s a great article.

  98. claire
    April 27, 2005 at 5:21 pm

    Had to jump in on the homebirth discussion. Keep in mind that the issues surrounding home birth vary greatly with region in the US. In some states, the medical establishment has prevented nurse-midwives from performing home births AND prevented direct-entry midwives from being licsensed, forcing those who desire a home birth (do your research before you judge: it is statisictally just as safe or safer than OB attended births) to go ‘underground.’ How does that help anyone? Childbirth is not a disease. Who considers the risks of delivering in a hospital? I’m a lot less likely to get a staph infection delivering at home, or end up with an unnecessary c-section (the rates are rising rapidly again, in some areas over 30% of births!!!!). My labor will likely be significantly shorter since I won’t be in a strange place surrounded by strangers and attached to a monitor and and an IV. Like someone mentioned, of course if there is an emergency I’d be thrilled to have the benefits of a surgically trained doctor to do my c-section, or have a NICU with perinatologists treat my child. That is what doctors are for. Normal childbirth should be treated like normal childbirth, and emergencies should be treated like emergencies, and I should be trusted to find a midwife I think knows the difference.

  99. Mike Wilson
    April 27, 2005 at 6:21 pm

    Jordan (or Eric or whoever it was),

    If this helps any…

    My wife and I had very serious disagreements and discussions regarding these issues. It didn’t lead to yelling or threats, but feelings were hurt on both sides and both thought the other was either “closed-minded” or inappropriately antagonistic in questioning everything.

    After a couple of years of back and forth, we have come to understand that there are things which are more important than whether to use tylenol or echinechea tea for a cold. And we agreed to listen and attempt to see things from the other’s perspective. We came to the conclusion that (for now) we will use herbal, natural remedies for minor scrapes, scratches, colds, etc., and then as more serious issue arise, we will give conventional medicine its proper place: taking care of life- and limb-threatening health situations. So far we haven’t had to test this (and hopefully never will) but having the avenues of communication open has made a huge difference

  100. Eric S
    April 27, 2005 at 6:27 pm


    What of your spouse thought that aliens had landed their space ship in your backyard and handed over the secret recipe to cure the common cold? And you didn’t think that sounded quite reasonable. Wouldn’t the burden of proof be on your spouse?

    Or what if one spouse believes that putting the kids on a fruit-only diet is a really keen idea and the other thinks a more traditional, balanced diet is better for the kids. Should the burden be on the spouse who has science, medicine, history, and conventional thinking on his/her side or on the spouse who is advocating a departure from same? (See http://www.second-opinions.co.uk/child_abuse.html for an article on some Vegan Seventh-day Adventists who killed their child with just such a diet)

    Just because two people have diametrically opposed positions from which both are equally unwilling to budge does not render the two positions reasonably equivalent. Perhaps the spouse who is advancing the unorthodox, unscientific treatment could read “The Power of Logical Thinking” by Marilyn vos Savant.

  101. Eric S
    April 27, 2005 at 6:30 pm


    Your approach appears sound. I think that is what I was suggesting as a reasonable compromise. I guess Jordan was getting at the deeper question of what to do if one or both spouses are unwilling to compromise and take an all-or-nothing approach. I don’t know a good answer for that (as I said, on some issues the couple can agree to disagree but when it involves the health of the children it is more complicated).

  102. Julie in Austin
    April 27, 2005 at 6:48 pm

    Claire, you wrote, “the rates are rising rapidly again, in some areas over 30% of births!!!!”

    As someone who has had two elective c-sections, I obviously disagree with your assumption that this number constitutes a crisis as opposed to women exercising their choice for the type of birth best suited to their situation. I’m not interested in hashing out here all of the arguments for patient choice c-sections, I simply want to suggest that your assumption that this is a bad thing is not how many women see this issue.

  103. Ivan Wolfe
    April 27, 2005 at 7:18 pm

    While Cox may be working within the limits of modern medicine, he is definitely pushing conventional wisdom with his experiments to prove the custom of eating fruit bats (“heads, wings, hair and all”) causes a debilitating (and ultimately fatal) brain disease. It’s a great article.

    But, wait – aren’t fruit bats “all natural”? I thought “all natural” was all good! ;-)

  104. anon
    April 27, 2005 at 7:55 pm

    Ivan, not only are they all natural, they’re fruit.

  105. Vicki
    April 27, 2005 at 8:03 pm

    I worked for two different dietary supplement mfrs in Utah, one a relatively well-known MLM, and the other a private label manufacturer. There may well be research being conducted on dietary supplements/herbs/alternative medicines but the focus at these two companies was what would sell. At the private label company, I traipsed on down to the HBLL to look up scientific research on various herbs, and then wrote up information sheets to help sell the products, but ideas for new products were just being pulled out of the air. You know Uncle Rico’s second product in Napoleon Dynamite? My boss at this company told me to go find research saying that the ingredients in an herbal bust enhancing product were safe. There wasn’t any such research, not that I could find.

    At the MLM company many products were based on what the uneducated company owner thought would be a good sell. It was not based on research and in fact there were many factual errors and exaggerations regarding what their products could do.

  106. claire
    April 27, 2005 at 8:14 pm

    Julie, because I want people to respect my choice to have a homebirth, I will happily accept your elective c-sections with out much argument (although I don’t believe women are truly giving informed consent because I believe MANY doctors are biased toward them themselves, and therefore unbiased information about the risks is not readily available). However, I work with postpartum women and I’ll be the first to tell you that for the women who are _not_ ‘electing’ to have a c-section, this IS a problem. Especially as more and more hospitals are starting to forbid doctors from performing VBACs.

  107. Vicki
    April 27, 2005 at 8:22 pm

    I agree with Claire. I’ve had a c/section and a VBAC. More and more hospitals in the US are banning VBACs. Even though I’ve had one vaginal birth, if hospitals where I live or potentially move to ban VBACs then I’m left with planning a homebirth (which I don’t know for sure is the best choice for me) or traveling to give birth, or being forced into an elective c/s I don’t want. As I understand it though, this is another thing to blame on the lawyers–well, on lawsuits and also on the fact that most medical practice surrounding birth is not based on scientific fact.

  108. Julie in Austin
    April 27, 2005 at 8:25 pm


    I appreciate your thoughtful response, but the ‘no informed consent’ argument rings pretty hollow when 1/3 of female OBs in England would have an elective c-section if they were pregnant. It’s hard to figure out who would constitute a more informed group than female OBs.

    I am sympathetic to women who have sections ‘forced’ on them (my aunt was sectioned so the doctor could keep a golf date or some such silliness) but I also know women coerced into the natural birth they didn’t want, so perhaps we can agree that the ideal model is an informed woman making her own decision without pressure from either side.

  109. Steve T
    April 27, 2005 at 9:25 pm

    Let’s be blunt — much of this stuff is just pure quackery.

    The latest magic juice is Xango. Today, I had a lady telling me she was trying to persuade her daughter to take her granddaughter off of insulin.

    I told her, bluntly, that she could kill her granddaughter in a matter of days. But, she insisted, she had heard from someone in her group that they had cut their insulin usage in half. I, somewhat rudely, retorted she could get the same health value from a glass of orange juice made from concentrate.

    When this “crap” is used as an alternative to mainstream medicine for those with real health issues, it IS outright dangerous.

    But, in retrospect, I’ve thought back on the conversation. Why would a grandmother even think about putting her grandchild at risk?

    I’ve come to the conclusion that a key reason is that “mlm selling” distorts judgement. Of course you want to make money from this new gold mine — so, of course, it “cures” whatever ails you. That, in turn, leads to evangelical zeal for the product and the warping of judgement so often seen.

    Agreements or disagreements?

  110. Julie in Austin
    April 27, 2005 at 9:30 pm

    Steve T–

    What’s that line? “If all you have is a hammer, every problem starts to look like a nail.” I think you’re spot on.

  111. claire
    April 27, 2005 at 9:35 pm

    Julie, yes I think we could agree. However, ob’s rarely deal with the ‘fallout’ or see the connection to the c-sec because they spend literally minutes with their patients after the birth, then literally minutes with them again 6 weeks later. I think our main disagreement would be about whether even ob’s should handle routine childbirth. Most babies in England are delivered by midwives , who spend a much greater amount of time with their patients finding out what THEY want and what their concerns are and helping resolve them, both before and after the birth. The midwifery model of care does not (in my experience) generally ‘push’ women into ‘natural’ (I assume you mean unmedicated) birth if that is not what they want. OB’s are trained surgeons whose whole focus is to control childbirth and fit it into a textbook timeline. Of course many of them would chose the same as they do for their patients; that is what they do for a living. Cutting someone open is not a big deal to them at all, they do it almost daily.

    I’d be interested to know how many actual female OB’s there ARE in England- do you have the stats on that? Maybe I’ll google around on that…

  112. April 27, 2005 at 9:42 pm

    “Are there non-movable instruments and personell at the mid-wife’s clinic (if she has one)? The fact that they often work in people’s homes seems to indicate otherwise.”

    Shawn, most states have licensing standards for midwives. In Texas, for example, there are licensed midwives who can attend home births or birth centers (most of these are very modern and next to hospitals), and there certified nurse midwives who practice with OBGYNs and deliver in either birth centers or hospitals. I chose to have a CNM deliver all three of my children in hospitals. (More about that here: http://www.beggingtodiffer.com/archives/2003_11.html#000668) It’s helpful to have a good grasp of exactly what sort of practitioner you’re talking about when making generalizations, as “homebirth” and “midwife” can cover a pretty wide range of experiences.

  113. April 27, 2005 at 9:46 pm

    Er, on the link I posted above, scroll down to Nov. 21, “In Praise of the CNM.” The article is not about turkeys.

  114. Blain
    April 28, 2005 at 2:41 am

    As a physician, I wanted to make a couple of additional comments:

    1 — No one has talked here about the “placebo” effect. This is a very real phenomenon, and it clearly has some significant bearing on the subject at hand. If you take any group of people and give them _anything_, telling them that it will have X effect, a consistent percentage of those people will say that they did indeed experience X effect. The research on this is pretty clear. The term gets thrown around, and it is really part of the pop culture lexicon, but the placebo effect is real. I think that this applies to conventional medicine just as much as to alternative medicine.

    2 — One of the country’s more respected experts in herbal medicine is a PharmD on faculty at BYU, and there are a number of companies in Utah Valley that don’t like him very much. Bruce Woolley is his name. He’s also a consultant on the church’s missionary committee (anon #51, your mission president’s wife probably didn’t check for the recommendations from church headquarters). An anecdote: the company that makes Tahitian Noni sent him some samples so that he could test it and give them information on its pharmalogical properties; he says it’s one of the most pharmacologically inert things that he’s tested.

    3 — The issue of elective C-section is a complicated one. Statistically, a woman’s risk of an adverse event (either to her or to the baby) is pretty much the same now for either vag delivery or C/S. If your ultimate goal is to minimize the chance of an adverse outcome (I think of this in terms of my patients’ welfare, and not in terms of legal liability), then the rate of c-sections shouldn’t be cited as a measure of the quality of obstetrical care. Rather, you should look at outcomes data. If a given approach results in fewer problems, then that is probably the one that should be followed. Granted, the recovery time for a C/S is longer, and usually more painful; OTOH, the chance of needing a “bladder lift” surgery in 20 years is reduced (and this is an _extremely_ common surgical procedure among women who have had a vaginal delivery); so a woman ends up being “dryer” and may save herself a different surgery down the road. Like I said, it’s complicated. I can see why such a large percentage of female OB’s in the UK would choose C/S over vag. Incidentally, the latest research shows pretty clearly that the risk of an adverse outcome with a VBAC is _greater_ than the risk of an adverse outcome with a scheduled repeat C/S.

    4 — I don’t think it’s at all fair to generalize (Shawn Bailey #65) that “as far as greed is concerned, all health care providers appear to be in the same boat.” I personally know quite a few health care providers who are anything but greedy; I’m sure that John W. and Mike W. would concur with me on this.

  115. April 28, 2005 at 7:05 am

    My guess is that part of the appeal of alternative medicine practitioners is that you’re probably more likely to find someone who is both willing and able to take the time to listen and talk to you about your problems and concerns. (I’m NOT claiming that most doctors don’t want to take the time to listen to their patients. Rather, the pressures of the marketplace and the way the current system is set up seems to work against lengthy interactions between physicians and patients, especially for uninsured/underinsured patients who often have to go to overcrowded clinics).

  116. annegb
    April 28, 2005 at 9:41 am

    As I understand it, there are two types of midwives, one is the kind who has a degree, is an RN, and has hospital privileges. The other does not have a college degree, is NOT an RN, and does NOT have hospital privileges.

    Since my daughter started dating a guy whose mother is a midwife (who does not have hospital privileges), we have learned quite a bit about this subject. One thing I’ve heard a lot of are horror stories of women whose babies would have died or they would have died if they hadn’t been in the hospital. I haven’t heard any recommending at-home birth, except here. My daughter and her boyfriend are currently negotiating how their babies will be born, she is adamantly in favor of hospitals and doctors and epidurals.

  117. Vicki
    April 28, 2005 at 10:05 am

    #114: “Statistically, a woman’s risk of an adverse event (either to her or to the baby) is pretty much the same now for either vag delivery or C/S.”

    This isn’t true. This site http://ican-online.org/resources/statistics4.php
    compares c/section and VBAC mortality. C/sections are more risky for mothers and babies.

  118. Eric S
    April 28, 2005 at 10:20 am


    I think you have committed some sleight of hand. Blain said the risk of an “adverse event” was pretty much the same. You are quoting a statistic on “mortality.” Mortality is a subset of adverse events, albeit a serious one, so both statements could be true.

  119. Vicki
    April 28, 2005 at 10:32 am

    yeah, ok. Those were the first stats I could find in a quick search. I still believe and research I have seen over the years has shown that the surgical option has more risk (for adverse event, mortality, danger, bad stuff happening) than the nonsurgical one.

  120. anon
    April 28, 2005 at 10:50 am

    Blain: I concur–I have seen other direction from the Church (the current Handbook of Instructions) that consecrated oil is not to be used as a topical unguent, which I what I intuited when I rejected my mission president’s wife’s suggestion that I dump some in my sick ear.

    Incidentally, I did mention the placebo effect in my post #11. I don’t doubt that it is real in both homeopathic and allopathic settings.

  121. Eric S
    April 28, 2005 at 10:52 am


    I am inclined to agree. Of course, I wonder if the studies take into account the difference between women who have emergency C-sections and those who have elective C-sections. It may be that when comparing elective C-sections over vag delivery, they are about equally risky but if you throw in emergency C-sections, that would tip the balance. I am only speculating, but I am skeptical that the risks are equal when considering the whol universe of births. Perhaps Blain could give us a cite for his assertion and then we could look behind the numbers to see what they really say.

  122. Mark Martin
    April 28, 2005 at 11:01 am

    Though the conversation now is focusing more on childbirth than on herbal products, I thought I’d post this little bit that I saw in a newsletter this morning. While the new guidance document is non-binding, at least it is good to know that there is specific labeling guidance available to supplement providers who want to operate at a high level of professional integrity.
    _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

    [from FDAnews.com’s “Nutraceutical Weekly Bulletin”]

    The FDA’s Office of Nutritional Products, Labeling, and Dietary Supplements has posted new industry guidelines on its website, the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) said.

    The eight chapters of “A Dietary Supplement Labeling Guide” cover everything from the size and placement of the words on a dietary supplement label to defining health claims and structure/function claims.

    “This guidance document appears to be a very thorough review of the federal regulations that need to be considered when labeling a dietary supplement product,” said AHPA President Michael McGuffin. “This new guidance should be especially useful to companies that are new to the trade, but will also provide a helpful review for established firms.”

    To view the guidance, go to http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/dslg-toc.html

  123. Mike Wilson
    April 28, 2005 at 11:45 am

    I think that one of the best points that have been made is before significant healthcare decisions are made, one needs to find out for oneself about the options. This doesn’t mean just looking something up on the internet or the product brochure. It doesn’t mean just talking to your homoepath, chiropractor, or allopathic physician. It means exploring different sources. When we limit our sources of information, we limit our information and eliminate possibilities.

    This obviously doesn’t mean that all information has the same value and we have to learn what is more trustworthy. However, if we approach the issues with healthy skepticism and try to flesh out what our sources may have to gain by us believing the information, we can make decisions that are more appropriately informed.

    As for Blain, I agree that there are many conventional practicioners who are not motivated by greed. The industry, however, is. Maybe not greed, but profit, and to those not in the industry that appears to be greed. Not only does profit motivate the industry, but in addition to protecting patients, the industry strives to protect itself.

  124. Doc-Kwadwo
    April 28, 2005 at 1:17 pm

    The head midwife for our recent birth held a master’s degree in nursing and midwifery. A staunch (but sensible) advocate for natural childbirth, she also first-assists on any C-sections which may be required for her charges. Indeed, she probably knows more about normal birth than a good number of OBs — I do not say that lightly, I am in medical school and I know a lot of OBs. In fact, some of the OB residents at our nearby training hospital do an elective rotation with her just to see what natural childbirth is like… they aren’t seeing it at their training hospital (and yes, I know that hospitals vary wildly). I have met some midwives who I would trust implicitly, like ours, and others who I would not trust with a litter of kittens. Our midwife deals with normal, healthy deliveries in the birthing center, and brings everyone else across the street to the hospital. That is responsible medical care. Like anything other profession, you simply can’t paint everyone with the same brush. (Lawyers oughta understand that, huh?)

  125. Julie in Austin
    April 28, 2005 at 3:12 pm

    claire wrote, “However, ob’s rarely deal with the ‘fallout’ or see the connection to the c-sec because they spend literally minutes with their patients after the birth, then literally minutes with them again 6 weeks later.” This is unfair. I’ve had the same OB for years and she knows much about my history; I know many other women for whom things are similar. Clarie, I don’t know how many female OBs there are in England. But I do know that you dismiss those who favor the medical model of childbirth as somehow duped or ignorant. Certainly this is the case for some; definitely not for others, including myself. I’m not demanding that you or anyone else accept the medical model, I am suggesting that you not assume that the medical model is inferior or produces poorer results. In my case, my sections were liberating experiences resulting in significantly less postpartum pain and much quicker resumption of normal activities than my vag. birth was.

    Vicki wrote, “I still believe and research I have seen over the years has shown that the surgical option has more risk (for adverse event, mortality, danger, bad stuff happening) than the nonsurgical one.”

    I know of no research that teases out elective sections from all sections (which, of course, would include true emergencies), so of course any research would show higher risks. (If you know of any research on specifrically elective sections, please let me know.) But as Blain points out, the fact that the risk numbers are in the same ballpark suggests that elective sections may actually be lower risk than vag. births. Further, ‘risk’ is in the eye of the beholder. I consider the ‘risk’ of 18+ hours of intense pain and permanant incontinence too ‘risky’ for me to consider a vag. birth. Of course, our generally anti-feminist society doesn’t consider female pain to be an ‘adverse event.’ (How many men do you see signing up for ‘natural dentistry?’)

  126. Julie in Austin
    April 28, 2005 at 7:57 pm

    Me again. Still ruminating on the unfairness of claire’s comment about obs. I’m thinking: I don’t know many midwives whose current clients include people past their childbearing years, but those women *are* still seeing OBs (who they then call GYNs). So if anyone would be in a position to understand the longterm effects of birthing choices, it would be the OBs.

    I found this awhile back: http://www.newshe.com/articles/csection.shtml

    . . . so it isn’t just the OBs and their medical model who favor sections, but also the urologists, who don’t have a horse in the race, so to speak.

  127. claire
    April 28, 2005 at 8:04 pm

    Julie, thanks for giving more insight into why you feel so strongly about using the medical model for childbirth. Hearing about your difficult vaginal birth sheds a lot of light on your opinion of course. And of course I know that some women are able to create a great relationship with an OB, but again I feel that you are in the (fortunate) minority. Our main disagreement, upon which we won’t agree, is that I don’t see childbirth (unlike dentistry!) as a medical event. But I can also see that if I had had an experience like yours, I could easily be arguing your side. And I hope you could imagine that if things had been different with your (I’m assuming here) medically-managed vaginal birth: not as long, or as traumatic, or as painful – you can see you just might be arguing mine.

    Again, because I hope that people will respect my choice, I do respect yours because I know you have made every effort to educate yourself like I have. My ‘beef’ is with the high ’emergency’ or unplanned c-section rate. Many are emergencies that were created or imagined allopathically (i.e. the mother who is told her baby is too large to be born vaginally without any trial labor, or the heart rate decels that are mainly due to mom being unable to move about during labor or find her own position to push in, etc.). And when we talk “outcomes” and risks, OBs rarely consider the BABY other than whether they came out breathing or not. Like it or not, most babies derive a great benefit from being born vaginally and without drugs in their systems. Ask your friendly neighborhood lactation consultant or feeding specialist OT in the NICU.

    OK, back to your regularly scheduled thread about alternative medicine and I’ll go back to lurking. I’m going to try to quit continuing this threadjack and I hope you won’t take me too personally Julie- this is obviously a hot button for me.

  128. Julie in Austin
    April 28, 2005 at 8:26 pm

    claire, I promise I’m trying to drop this, but I can’t let you make statements like “Like it or not, most babies derive a great benefit from being born vaginally and without drugs in their systems.” or “And when we talk “outcomes” and risks, OBs rarely consider the BABY other than whether they came out breathing or not.” with no data. Can you show me any data that supports these claims? Because my personal experience negates them, strongly. My only child with nursing problems was . . . the one born vag., my two section babies were champion nursers from the get-go.

    I do agree with you about the (fake) emergency c-section being a bad thing. (I have actually thought that if you want medical model, you should go whole hog and have a section and if you want natural, you should do it at home on your organic cotton sheets, and anything in between is probably going to cause more problems than it solves.)

  129. claire
    April 29, 2005 at 6:44 am

    Julie, yes there is lots of data about c-sec babies and epidural babies having trouble nursing; c-sec babies have more vigorous suctioning and can become orally averse, etc. I am on my way to work now AND have a sick kid, but I promise I’ll post it sometime this weekend. BTW, there is -also- data that long second stage labor like you had can cause trouble too. I try to go by stats/studies I’ve read when I make these arguments, but I can also say that my ‘personal experience’ working with pp mothers is that long labors and c-secs are factors in BF troubles. My feeling is that the midwifery model provides more care in labor that helps shorten it (in my OB atttended first birth, the OB didn’t show up until the baby was almost crowning- thankfully the nurse that was helping me was a recently credentialed midwife- that was total luck) and avoid many of those extended second stage labors. Of course not all, I’ve heard of plenty of tough vaginal births that were midwife attended, I’m talking purely statistically here. Statistically, the mothers are happier with the outcomes of their births as well, regardless of what they were.

    LOL about the organic sheets. But it sounds like most of the peopel commenting on this thread who had a midwife attended hospital or birth center birth had a good experience, and I’v heard of some homebirths that were transferred to the hospital where they turned into c-sections, so I still say do your research, educate your self, plan your birth the way you want it, and be happy knowing you did what you thought was best for you and your family even if it doesn’t turn out how you’d like. Too many women just turn them selves over to the ‘authorities’ on this one and complain later- I think we have some responsibilities to examine our feelings and experiences and the options (as you obviously did!)

  130. Mark Martin
    May 3, 2005 at 10:58 am

    Jordan (Re: #94, #96 burden of proof),

    I’m not disagreeing that you could assert that your “burden of proof” construct can be helpful. I just find it amusing (and sometimes bothersome) that many of us tend to project our professional training into our everyday discussions. An economist could assert that every decision-making discussion with your spouse involves a cost-benefit analysis. As a statistician, I could assert that there is an underlying null hypothesis and an underlying alternative hypothesis, and (like burden of proof) frame the issue such that my spouse needs to “prove the alternative hypothesis” in order to disprove the null. Of course, I wouldn’t discuss things that way with my spouse.

    I much prefer discussing, “What’s best for our child? Let’s consider the potential benefits, the risks… could it be counterproductive or harmful… etc. What evidence is available for each of these possibilities?” But, I suppose we actually are in agreement, because perhaps you prefer this kind of discussion as well. It seems that your bringing up the “burden of proof” is appropriately limited to those times when the disagreement is sharp, and the two parties are unlikely to be persuaded to reconsider.

  131. Blain
    May 10, 2005 at 1:02 pm

    Here are some references that I have come up with as well:


    Maternal morbidity associated with cesarean delivery without labor compared with spontaneous onset of labor at term. Obstet Gynecol. 2003 Sep;102(3):477-82.

    Ethical dimensions of elective primary cesarean delivery. Obstet Gynecol. 2004 Feb;103(2):387-92. Review.

    Obstetric events leading to anal sphincter damage. Obstet Gynecol. 1998 Dec;92(6):955-61.

    (Sorry, no URL for these.)

    I think that this is some good evidence; there are also other studies supporting the same conclusion. The risks of immediate and long term complications of cesarean versus vag delivery in the United States, when performed by experienced surgeons and anesthetists, are essentially same.


    The correlational data that you supply for difficulties with regard to breastfeeding after a CS delivery looks pretty good; I wonder, though, what the percentages are. If a baby born by CS is, say, 10% less likely to be successfully breastfed, that represents a statistically significant difference; but what does it mean in real-world terms? The studies on psychosocial well-being in CS babies are thought provoking, but it seems that they are correlational; I don’t have them available to me to see how they arrived at their conclusions, but I’d be interested in knowing more.

    With regard to VBAC, your references cite relatively old data; newer data shows lower maternal and fetal risk with repeat CS. And the risks for CS versus vag birth as stated on the pregnancy-info.net page are either just plain wrong, or they do some pretty heavy qualifying to arrive at those numbers. They sure do make it sound alarming.

    And I really should note, I *am* (for the time being) an advocate of vag birth over CS.

  132. Sara R
    May 10, 2005 at 9:25 pm

    When you look at c/s versus vaginal birth risks, it’s important to look at the big picture, not just the risk at that birth but the risk to future pregnancies. Even if the risks of a primary c/s versus vaginal birth are roughly parallel, it’s a different picture when you look at the risks of subsequent births. Pregnancy after c/s is more risky than a pregnancy after vaginal birth, even if you plan on a repeat c/s. Ruptures sometimes happen before labor begins.

    My history: 3 babies, 3 c/s: first for breech, second after an attempted home VBAC (relucant hospital transport after 1 1/2 days of labor–the baby didn’t fit–no major urgency), third a repeat c/s after that baby was also showing signs of not fitting. I guess my experiences are a good example of natural versus conventional medicine. I was a true believer in what midwife types say about VBACs, especially that CPD (the baby’s head too big to fit) doesn’t ever happen. Well, I was proven wrong and my son and I are still here today because of that c/s. I’m very grateful that the hospital was there for us. Still, the midwife does good work (for other, normally built people), she knew when to insist that we transport to the hospital, and she knew how to handle other emergencies.

    About the rest of alternative medicine–there are a lot of quacks out there (especially MLM related), but conventional medicine doesn’t have all the answers, and it’s hard to know what’s right and wrong. I respect science and appreciate a good study, but I sympathize with someone who looks at alternative treatments for diseases that conventional medicine doesn’t do a good job with. Like someone mentioned above, the best alternative medicine has to offer is in maintaining good health. I look at my great-grandparents who lived into their 80s and 90s without any degenerative conditions and wonder what their descendants are doing wrong.

  133. July 24, 2005 at 5:22 pm

    The Church is the worst breeding ground for MLM schemes as well, particularly those involved with alternative medicine and “wellness” treatments. The noni juice scam, magnets, nu ways, herbal life, goji juice, and perhaps the most vile, American Longevity. Amrican Longevity’s “Tripple Diamonds” are both mormons, and spread the pyramid through the church throughout the world. I’d say its something to do with both the fact that church members are easy to believe things on faith / testimonials…and the fact that everyone knows everyone else, so its easy to look for new “downlines”.

  134. Barb
    March 5, 2006 at 8:24 pm

    I am a noni user. Just read that the American Heart Association is saying the juice puts too much potassium into our bodies which could result in renal failure or liver damage.

  135. Barb
    March 5, 2006 at 8:56 pm

    P.S. correction: That is the American Kidney Foundation….not AHA. http://www.web.md.com/content/article/119/113339.htm

    page 2 Safety Concerns.

  136. Adam Greenwood
    March 5, 2006 at 10:44 pm

    “Why is it that Mormons are often believers in, shall we say, unorthodox medical practices?”

    My shocking revelation when I moved to Indiana is that its not just Mormons who are believers in unorthodox medical practices. Its endemic. Maybe the percentages are higher among Mormons? I don’t have the data, but it could be.

Comments are closed.