By Mike Cronin
I am of mixed opinion about alternative/eastern medicine. On the one hand, there is an endless parade of charlatans who can weave a compelling web to ensnare the credulous and separate them from their money. On the other, just because a field like reflexology, herbal remedies, or acupuncture developed outside the realm of western scientific rigor does not mean that everything within those practices is fraudulent.
One source of the conflict between eastern healing and western medical premises may be that (I am given to understand) Chinese languages are more metaphorical than English. Thus, when a reflexology practitioner massages a client’s foot in a certain way, or an acupuncturist inserts needles in certain locations, we are right to be skeptical that a particular internal organ is being affected, but we can still allow that the client may feel some real relief or other wellness benefit. We might see this as an example of the “placebo effect.”
As long as a practitioner makes no claims that such treatment can cure a disease or reverse a congenital defect or heal an injury, or offers factual, documented, vetted proof that it can, then there is no real harm being done – but it is up to both groups (practitioners and clients) to be wary. Practitioners ought to never offer misleading claims that their treatment can do more than help you feel better, while potential clients ought to be skeptical of any claims more specific than that.
It would be interesting to see luminaries in the eastern and western schools get together and “cross pollinate.” The western practitioners could subject eastern methods and claims to rigorous “myth busting,” while the eastern gurus could show the westerners some techniques for improving their “care” quotient.