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We encounter so many ideas and claims on a daily basis, and it can be hard to know what to trust. How do you know what is based on sound evidence, and what has been shown to be incorrect?

To help sort fact from fiction, here are some simple summaries of a number of the most common pseudosciences and bad ideas you might come across.

From here you can find information on Alexander TechniqueAlternative DietsAlternative Diagnostic TechniquesAlternative Exercise TherapiesAlternative GadgetsAnthroposophic MedicineAromatherapyAyurvedic TraditionBach Flower Remedies, Cellular TherapyChelation TherapyColonic IrrigationCraniosacral Therapy (or Cranial Osteopathy)Crystal Therapy, CuppingDetoxificationEar CandlesFeldenkrais Method, Feng ShuiGerson TherapyHomeopathy, Hypnotherapy, Leech TherapyLive Blood Analysis, Magnet Therapy, Massage Therapy, Meditation, Naturopathy, Neural Therapy, Orthomolecular Medicine, Osteopathy, Oxygen Therapy, Reflexology, Reiki, Relaxation Therapies, Shiatsu, Spiritual Healing, Traditional Chinese Medicine and The Cancer Act (1939), with more still to come.

Image sourced from https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c4/Bad_posture.jpg

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Alexander Technique

What is the Alexander Technique? Alexander technique is a therapy based on relearning correct postural balance and coordination of body movements. Fredrick M. Alexander was an Australian actor whose career was threatened by a recurring loss of voice. Doctors were unable to diagnose any problem with his throat, but Alexander noticed that his silence was linked to his …

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Images of Kinsiology

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Alternative Diagnostic Techniques

What are Alternative Diagnostic Techniques? Before administering a treatment, alternative therapists will often assess the patient’s condition using a variety of diagnostic techniques. Some of these are entirely conventional, but others are not. The more unusual diagnostic techniques are often specific to a particular therapy, but the following list includes many diagnostic methods that are used in several disciplines: …

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Jogging legs

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Alternative Exercise Therapies

What are Alternative Exercise Therapies? The health benefits of regular exercise cannot be valued highly enough. Knowledge about exercise developed in all cultures, so unique exercise regimens emerged in different parts of the world and are often embedded in the specific concepts about health and disease of that region. Examples are t’ai chi (China) and yoga (India). Both include meditative …

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Power Balance bracelet on wrist

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Alternative Gadgets

What are Alternative Gadgets? An increasing number of alternative gadgets are being promoted with promises of health benefits for those who buy them. These gadgets have little in common except that the theories behind them conflict with mainstream science. For some entrepreneurs, alternative medicine is a highly profitable business, and there seems to be no limit to their inventiveness. …

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Anthroposophic Medicine

What is Anthroposophic Medicine? Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925) developed a school of medicine based on imagination, inspiration and intuition. Anthroposophic medicine is influenced by mystical, alchemistic and homeopathic concepts and claims to relate to the spiritual nature of man. Rudolf Steiner created, among other things, the Waldorf schools, biodynamic farming and his own philosophy, known as anthroposophy. Applying his philosophical concepts …

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Image of vapouriser

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Aromatherapy

What is Aromatherapy? Plant essences (‘essential oils’) have been used in several ancient cultures for treating or preventing illnesses or enhancing wellbeing, but the birth of aromatherapy proper was not until the publication of a book entitled Aromathérapie by the French chemist René Gattefosse in 1937. Gattefosse had previously burned his hand while working in his laboratory and immediately immersed it in …

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Statue of Charak

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Ayurvedic Tradition

What is Ayurvedic Tradition? ‘Ayurveda’ means knowledge (veda) of life (a¯yus). It is one of the ancient Indian systems of healthcare and involves bringing about balance between body and mind. It includes individualized herbal remedies, diet, exercise (yoga), meditation, massage and other interventions. Health is perceived as a balance of physical, emotional and spiritual energies, and any deviation from health …

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Photo of Bach Flower Remedy bottles

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Bach Flower Remedies

What is Bach Flower Remedies? Edward Bach, who had worked as a microbiologist at the Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital in the early twentieth century, developed the concept of highly diluted plant infusions intended to cure emotional imbalances, which he thought to be the cause of all human illness. Inspired by the principles of homeopathy, Bach identified thirty-eight flower remedies, each …

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Picture of syringe and vial

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Cellular Therapy

What is Cellular Therapy? In conventional medicine, organs or cells are sometimes transplanted from one person to another, e.g. bonemarrow transplantations or blood tranfusions. This is entirely different from cellular therapy as used in alternative medicine, sometimes also called ‘live cell therapy’ or ‘cytotherapy’. In 1931 the Swiss surgeon Paul Niehans had the idea of injecting preparations from animal foetuses into …

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Image of veins

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Chelation Therapy

What is Chelation Therapy? Chelation therapy started as a branch of conventional medicine to remove heavy metals and other toxins from the body by introducing powerful chemical agents, which bind to the toxins and are subsequently excreted. This conventional form of chelation therapy is indisputably effective and often life-saving. In alternative medicine, chelation therapy is used in very …

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Image of colon

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Colonic Irrigation

What is Colonic Irrigation? The notion that we are poisoning ourselves with toxic intestinal waste products from ingested food seems plausible to many lay people and is therefore widespread. It forms the basis for a range of alternative approaches which allegedly free the body of such ‘autointoxication’. One of them is colonic irrigation, or colon therapy as it is …

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Picture of a head massage

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Craniosacral Therapy (or Cranial Osteopathy)

What is Craniosacral Therapy (or Cranial Osteopathy)? William G. Sutherland, who practised as an osteopath in the 1930s, became convinced that our health is governed by minute motions of the bones of the skull and sacrum. These subtle rhythms, he believed, are fundamental to the self-healing processes of our bodies. Craniosacral therapy aims at restoring the rhythmic motions …

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Picture of an amethyst crystal

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Crystal Therapy

What is Crystal Therapy? Crystals such as quartz or other gemstones are sometimes used to enable ‘energy healing’. Crystal therapists claim that crystals can move, absorb, focus and diffuse healing ‘energy’ or “vibrations’ within the body of a patient. This, in turn, is said to enhance the self-healing ability of the patient. Illness allegedly occurs when the individual is misaligned …

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Image showing cupping

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Cupping

What is Cupping? Cupping involves stimulating certain points of the body surface by attaching cups that generate suction. Cupping is an ancient treatment that has been practised in places such as China, Vietnam, the Balkans, Russia, Mexico and Iran. Essentially, the air in a glass cup is heated over a flame and the cup is then swiftly placed on the …

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Image of detox fluid

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Detoxification

What is Detoxification? Detoxification or detox is the elimination of accumulated harmful substances from the body. Conventional detoxification has its established place in medicine, e.g. for eliminating poisons that have been ingested or injected. The term is also used for weaning addicts off drugs or alcohol. In alternative medicine, however, detox has been hijacked and has acquired a slightly different …

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Self-applied ear candling

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Ear Candles

What are Ear Candles? Allegedly, ear candles were used in China, Egypt, Tibet, by the Hopi Indians in America, and even in Atlantis! Ear-candling entails placing a hollow candle into the ear of the patient and lighting the far end of the candle, which then burns slowly over about 15 minutes. This generates mild suction …

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Feldenkrais Method

What is The Feldenkrais Method? Moshe Feldenkrais (1904-1984) was a physicist and electro-engineer who suffered badly from chronic knee pain. No treatment he tried helped and he thus decided to develop his own cure. The Feldenkrais method is based on the belief that body and spirit form a fundamental whole. The founder declared, ‘I believe that …

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Image of Yin Yang

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Feng Shui

What is Feng Shui? Chinese medicine assumes that all health is governed by the flow of energy (Ch’i) and the balance of yin and yang within the body, but these concepts can also be applied to the things that surround us. Feng shui is the Chinese art of placing objects in accordance with the theory of …

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Source: Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multivitamin

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Gerson Therapy

Are you thinking about trying Gerson Therapy? You may have heard about Gerson Therapy recently, particularly if you or a loved one is suffering from cancer. Those who offer Gerson Therapy claim it is a natural treatment that allows the body to heal itself of disease, including the ability to rid oneself of cancer. A …

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Homeopathy

Are you thinking about trying homeopathy? There may be a perception that homeopathy is a natural, safe and traditional alternative or adjunct to mainstream medicine, but the overwhelming majority of doctors and scientists advise against homeopathy. This is because the best available evidence suggests that it is likely to be a waste of hope, money and …

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Photo of pocket watch

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Hypnotherapy

What is Hypnotherapy? Hypnotherapy is the use of hypnosis, a trance-like state, for thera­peutic purposes. It has a long history and can be traced back to ancient Egypt, but its modern development started in the eighteenth century with the work of the charismatic Viennese scientist Franz Mesmer. He was followed in the nineteenth century by the …

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Images of leeches on a hand

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Leech Therapy

What is Leech Therapy? Hirudo medicinalis is a small, black, worm-like animal capable of attaching itself to humans or animals, sucking substantial amounts of blood from the skin. During this process, it increases considerably in size and finally, when it is saturated with blood, it drops off. Leeches were used for medicinal purposes in ancient Babylon, …

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CAD drawing of magnet

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Magnet Therapy

What is Magnet Therapy? Nowadays, rapidly fluctuating magnetic fields are employed in conventional medicine in hi-tech imaging instruments and for promoting the healing of bone fractures. However, alternative medicine tends to focus on the use of static magnets, which give rise to a permanent magnetic field. Such static magnets have always attracted the interest of physicians, …

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Image of hands massaging a back

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Massage Therapy

What is Massage Therapy? Massage is as old as medicine itself. Today many variations exist; for example, classical ‘Swedish’ massage focuses on muscular structures. Other forms of massage treatment include: Bowen therapy: gentle soft-tissue technique influencing the nervous system. Lymphatic drainage: massaging along lymph channels to enhance lymph flow. Marma massage: traditional Indian massage. Myofascial release: …

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Image of pile of stones that you might want to meditate to

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Meditation

What is Meditation? Meditation covers a range of techniques that direct the subject’s attention to a symbol or sound or thought in order to achieve a higher state of consciousness. Most religions have developed techniques that bring about altered states of consciousness. They may include repeating a mantra or listening to one’s own rhythm of breathing. …

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Picture of garlic bulb

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Naturopathy

If you’re interested in studying naturopathy, you may want to read the Naturopathic Diaries blog by Britt Hermes, who studied naturopathy for five years and now writes about her concerns with naturopathic healing. Patients might also find her website of interest, after reading our summary of naturopathy, below. What is Naturopathy? The naturopathy movement began in …

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Image of syringe and needle

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Neural Therapy

What is Neural Therapy? Neural therapy uses injections with local anaesthetics for the identification of health problems, treatment of diseases and alleviation of symptoms. The brothers Ferdinand and Walter Huneke were German doctors who pioneered neural therapy during the first half of the twentieth century. They made observations regarding the local anaesthetic Novocain which convinced them …

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Image of a spoonfull of vitamin pills

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Orthomolecular Medicine

What is Orthomolecular Medicine? ‘Orth’ means correct, and orthomolecular medicine (also known as optimum nutrition) means administering doses of vitamins, minerals and other natural substances at levels that have to be exactly right for the individual patient. Proponents of this approach believe that low levels of these substances cause chronic problems which go beyond straightforward …

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Image showing back manipulation by osteopath

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Osteopathy

What is Osteopathy? Osteopaths offer a manual therapy involving a range of techniques, particularly mobilization of soft tissues, bones and joints. The American Andrew Taylor Still founded osteopathy in 1874 – around the time when chiropractic therapy was created by D. D. Palmer. Osteopathy and chiropractic therapy have much in common, but there are also …

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Image of oxygen gas regulator

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Oxygen Therapy

What is Oxygen Therapy? Oxygen is essential for life and has many uses in conventional medicine. For instance, if the lungs are no longer capable of taking up sufficient amounts of oxygen, the patient may be given oxygen-enriched air to breathe. In the context of alternative medicine, however, oxygen therapy is much more controversial. Alternative oxygen …

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Image of foot being massaged

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Reflexology

What is Reflexology? Manual massages of the feet are usually experienced as relaxing and it is therefore not surprising that they were used in various ancient cultures. But reflexology is different. It is based on assumptions by William Fitzgerald who, in the early twentieth century, postulated that the body is divided into ten vertical zones, each …

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Image showing Reiki being practised

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Reiki

What is Reiki? Reiki is a system of spiritual healing or ‘energy’ medicine which is similar to the laying on of hands. Reiki healers believe in the exist- ence of a universal energy which they can access in order to generate healing effects in humans, animals and plants. This universal energy flows through a reiki …

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Relaxing image of geranium in a pond

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Relaxation Therapies

What are Relaxation Therapies? Patients experience many alternative therapies as relaxing, e.g. meditation, hypnotherapy, autogenic training, massage, reflexology. While these therapies generate relaxation as a welcome side-effect, relaxation therapies are specifically designed to generate what is known as the ‘relaxation response’. This term describes a pattern of reactions of the autonomic nervous system producing relaxation of …

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image of meridians in a body

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Shiatsu

What is Shiatsu? Shiatsu can be seen as the Japanese synthesis of acupuncture and massage. Literally it means finger (shi) pressure (atsu). It was founded by Tokujiro Namikoshi, who established the Japan Shiatsu College in Tokyo in 1940. At the age of seven, Namikoshi discovered the value of shiatsu when he treated his mother who …

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Image of hand holding sun as it sets

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Spiritual Healing

What is Spiritual Healing? Many forms of spiritual healing exist: faith healing, intercessory prayer, reiki, therapeutic touch, psychic healing, Joheri healing, wart charming, etc. The common denominator is that healing ‘energy’ is channelled via the healer into the body of the patient. This ‘energy’ is supposed to enable the patient’s body to heal itself. The …

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Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:WPA_quack_poster.jpg

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The Cancer Act (1939)

Although there are plenty of alternative cancer treatments out there, there is very little evidence that any of them actually work. Such ‘miracle cures’ offer false hope, undermine confidence in effective medicine and can be dangerous and expensive. The Cancer Act (1939) effectively makes it illegal to advertise such products. There have been over twenty …

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Image of pills on a herbal leaf

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Traditional Chinese Medicine

What is Traditional Chinese Medicine? According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), all ill-health is viewed as an energy imbalance, while optimal health is a state of perfect balance, often symbolized by the yin–yang image. The aim of any therapy must be to restore the balance or to prevent any imbalance in the first place. For this …

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Alternative Diets

What are Alternative Diets? In alternative medicine, unsubstantiated health claims are being made for dozens of special diets that are not in line with accepted knowledge. Many of these are ‘flavour of the month’ approaches. To name but a few: Ama-reducing diet (Ayurvedic diet to burn off accumulated ama, which are supposed toxins); anthroposophic diet (lactovegetarian food with sour-milk products); …

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Image credit: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/82/SEM_blood_cells.jpg

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Live Blood Analysis

(also, known as live blood testing, nutritional microscopy, live cell analysis and hemaview) Are you thinking about trying Live Blood Analysis? Practitioners of Live Blood Analysis claim to diagnose health conditions (e.g. vitamin and mineral deficiencies, food intolerances, allergies and digestive issues) by observing blood cells. Some also claim to identify early warning signs of …

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