Complementary and alternative medicine: an information resource

I meant to share this post from SkeptVet a while back: a useful compendium of info on CAM and why skepticism matters.

The Harm Complementary and Alternative Medicine Can Do

What’s the Harm

I have written often about ways in which complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) can be harmful. This is not because I believe CAM is necessarily always unsafe, or that I think conventional medicine doesn’t have significant risks as well. Any therapy that is doing anything at all is likely to have potential risks as well as benefits. It simply isn’t possible to tinker with as complex a system as a living organism without affecting elements of the system one does not intend as well as those one is targeting.

However, the advantage to science-based medicine is that the risks and benefits of individual therapies are often well understood. If we have sufficient information about what an intervention does and what the risks and benefits of it are, we can then make rational choices about using it. The problem with CAM is that there is often very little information about risks and benefits and yet strong claims are frequently made that these therapies work and are safe. The lack of real, scientific information, and beliefs about safety which are not founded on reliable evidence can generate harm.

What follows is a large resource-list of the evidence-based research on varying kinds of CAM sometimes recommended for animals (and humans), and a clear discussion of the associated risks.


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