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Trick or Treatment?: Alternative Medicine on Trial [Paperback]

Simon Singh
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Book Description

June 1 2009
How can you know which alternative treatments really heal and which are potentially harmful? Now, thanks to the formidable partnership of Professor Edzard Ernst and Simon Singh, you can find out. Ernst is the world’s first professor of complementary medicine, based at Exeter University, where he has spent over a decade meticulously analyzing the evidence for and against alternative therapies. Simon Singh is the well-known and highly respected science writer of several international bestsellers. Their book is honest, impartial and hard-hitting, providing a thorough examination and judgment of more than thirty of the most popular treatments such as acupuncture, homeopathy, aromatherapy, reflexology, chiropractic, and herbal medicine.

In Trick or Treatment, the verdict on alternative medicine is delivered for the first time with clarity, scientific rigour and absolute authority.

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From Publishers Weekly

Noted science writer Singh and British professor of complementary medicine Ernst offer a reasoned examination of the research on acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic, herbal medicine and other alternative treatments. Singh (Fermat's Last Theorem) and Ernst work hard to be objective, but their conclusion is that these therapies are largely worthless. As they examine the research on various alternative therapies, the authors explore the principles of evidence-based medicine on which their conclusions are based, including clinical trials and the placebo effect; they also explore related ethical issues. The authors report that many patients will improve with any alternative remedy—but no more than those given a placebo. Exceptions exist; some herbal remedies (e.g., St. John's wort, echinacea) can be helpful though not always advisable, and chiropractors can relieve low back pain under certain circumstances. This is a stimulating and informative account that will be indispensable to anyone considering an alternative treatment, though it may not dissuade true believers. 16 illus. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


"Fearless, intelligent and remorselessly rational" The Sunday Times "The authors' combined strengths shine through. The examination of the evidence is comprehensive [and] forensic..." Nature "A definitive - if controversial - guide to what works, and what doesn't. It makes indispensable, if sometimes alarming, reading" Daily Mail

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
By G. Poirier TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
In this fascinating and immensely readable book, the authors focus on what science has to say about various alternative medicines. Starting with a chapter on how science works and on how the ultimate purpose of any therapy is to cure disease and improve the quality of human life, the authors discuss the "evidence-based medicine" approach, i.e., the inclusion, in the medical repertoire, of treatments that have been shown, through careful clinical trials, to work, and the abandonment of those treatments that do not work. The scientific method is very clearly explained as well as how it can be used (and has been used) in examining the claims of alternative medicines. Next, four alternative medicines are examined in great detail (one per chapter): acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic therapy and herbal medicine. In each case, the authors give a history of the specialty, its evolution, the people responsible for developing it, any risks that these therapies may entail and the results of various scientific enquiries to determine whether they actually work. The placebo effect is a very important concept which is fully explained and used throughout the book. In the final chapter, the authors discuss various important related issues as well as possible reasons for the continued popularity of certain alternative medicines that have been proven to be useless (beyond the placebo effect). Finally, an appendix is included in which an additional thirty six alternative techniques are summarized, one per page, including any scientific investigations, their results and any possible risks.

This book is actually very hard to put down. It is written in a style that is clear, authoritative, and quite captivating. It is also devoid of any jargon, thus making it accessible to a broad readership. Not only is this a book that can be enjoyed by anyone, but it should be consulted especially by those considering the services of a practitioner of any alternative medicine.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By kitch0
I took a sociology class on the history of Healthcare in Canada and abroad with a relatively short portion of the class being dedicated to alternative medicine. According to my prof, there were many alternative medicines that were nonsense, but that homeopathy, acupuncture and herbal medicine were all respectable forms of medicine because of the results. At the time I wasn't even slightly familiar with these practices so I bought his explanations. However, after seeing headlines about Homeopaths going after Simon Singh for libel I decided to look into Singh and found this book.

This book is a very thorough dismemberment of the main concepts that form the theoretical and practical logic of homeopathy, acupuncture and chiropractic treatment. Singh is very careful to write in a way that is accessible and clear to a variety of readers. Health is an area that can be immensely confusing because of the wide berth of information available for consumption, especially online.

I highly recommend this book to people who use or have considered using any form of alternative medicine or treatment. This book will hopefully give you the foundational knowledge necessary to make good health decisions for yourself and your family while being able to identify pseudoscientific claims and practices whose efficacy is centered around the placebo effect.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Trick or Treatment Sept. 8 2011
An unemotional review of different alternative medicines currently in vogue, giving evidence of effectivenes or otherwise. All data is backed by evidence not anedote. Well written and easy to read. Should be read by everyone who is considering using alternative therapies as part of their health regime.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic unbiased look at alternative medicine July 13 2009
By Eric
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
For anyone that is either seriously interested or even slightly interested in alternative and complimentary, I highly recommend this book. It starts out with a broad overview of clinical testing, explanation of the placebo effect and how we can tell if something works or not (without bias introduced). The book then proceeds to look in varying degrees of depth many popular and not-so-popular therapies.
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