Complementary ‘Medicine’: A Quick Reference Guide

Anonymous hates quackery and is a (relative) subject matter expert.

Interestingly, the use of complementary and alternative ‘medicine’ (CAM, or ‘witchcraft’) is correlated with tertiary education and higher socioeconomic status.

CAM can be dangerous, not only because it doesn’t work and risks interfering with actual medications, but also because of the mindset its peddlers perpetuate by encouraging distrust of real medicine. Here is a quick guide to some common ones to help you avoid being scammed:


The worst CAM. Diluting something beyond its actual presence somehow makes it stronger. No actual evidence has ever been produced. Just no.


More or less harmless, is actually good for flexibility and for core and joint strength, but is unlikely to enlighten you or give you mind powers (sorry). I’ll allow it.

Chiropractic and Osteopathy:

Despite its popularity, quite dangerous and completely unscientific. These treatments attribute all illnesses to a ‘misalignment’ of the spine, and were made up after some guy hit a deaf janitor. Cochrane reviews show them to be ineffective, and to pose high risk of permanent injury to spine and large blood vessels, and even a risk of death. Mac Uni is phasing out its degree. Don’t.

Alkaline Diet:

Confusingly, somehow slightly alkaline water will get past powerful stomach acid into blood and prevent cancer/cure all diseases. Neither cancer nor blood works this way. Blood is very good at maintaining its own pH, you can’t modify it (or you’d die). Not harmful, but absurd.


Popular and unscientific. Acupuncture ignores germ theory, because all disease is merely blocked energy flow. No germs means those needles don’t need to be sterile: they have likely been in someone else. Qi is not real.

Naturopathy, Herbalism and Traditional Chinese Medicine:

Herbs are outdated and imprecise. We have long since outgrown them and any further reliance on outdated modalities is foolish. They pose a huge risk of interaction with real medicines, which can cause permanent and serious injury. Naturopaths use made up methods and witchcraft to decide what things to sell you for their made up ‘diagnosis’.

Crystal Healing:


A good rule of thumb is that if it’s not something that a real clinician would give you in a real hospital, stay away. If you are on any kind of alt med, it is extremely important to mention it to any doctor, pharmacist, dentist or other clinician who treats you, because it can be not just dumb, but life-threatening as well.