Alternative Medicine

Complementary and alternative therapies – The Ukiah Daily Journal

Once when I was about 8 years old, I showed my dad a bump on my feet. “It’s a wart,” he said. “Rub a penny on it, morning and evening, and it’ll be gone.” And so I did religiously, and after a few weeks, the wart was gone. I don’t know if the penny cured the wart, or if it was a force of suggestion, or if it just disappeared on its own, as warts sometimes do. But then I thought, and still do: My dad knows things.

My father grew up in the Ozarks and knows folk remedies for some ailments, including the wart on the foot. Today, rub-a-bene-on-it treatment falls under the umbrella of “complementary and alternative medicine” or “alternative medicine,” which includes any healing method that is not considered standard Western medicine. We’ve all used these: herbal tea, honey, and lemon for sore throats, chicken soup, and a massage. Complementary medicine refers to treatments used along with standard treatments to promote healing or reduce symptoms, such as acupuncture to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy. Integrative medicine is a combination of standard and non-standard approaches to treating disease.

At Mendocino County Cancer Resource Centers, our clients frequently explore complementary and alternative therapies as a way to reduce the physical side effects of cancer treatment or deal with the emotional stress of having cancer. We have an entire shelf in our resource lending libraries dedicated to alternative medicine, with books on topics like yoga and cancer, healthy cooking through cancer, mindfulness and meditation.

We also have a book in our library called “Herbs Against Cancer” by Ralph Moss, with beautiful botanical illustrations on the cover. It’s a fascinating examination of the medical anthropology behind many of the claims about plant-based cancer treatments, including The Grape Cure (Chapter 8) which reviews and exposes some fascinating claims about cancer treatments based on the healing properties of grapes. Dr. Moss’ book contains this silent cautionary statement: “I hope you share my boundless enthusiasm for herbs. However, please do not neglect treatments that are well proven to increase overall survival.”

There are modern opportunists and peddlers who have “cures” for cancer, as they have throughout human history; What is different today is that these people can now reach an audience of millions online. While every adult of sound mind has the right to accept or refuse medical treatment, that right comes with a responsibility to make informed choices based on the best information and research.

Cancer treatment is getting better. The past few years have seen the introduction of precision medicine, targeted therapies, and immunotherapy. According to the American Cancer Society, cancer deaths in the United States have decreased by 27 percent in the past 25 years. Many cancers, caught early, have an excellent prognosis for a cure, but delaying the recommended treatment to see if an alternative treatment will give the cancer time to grow and spread.

There is a rule that applies to life as well as medicine, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” You are loved. Your family and friends want you. Cancer is different from a wart on your foot. Yes, my dad knows things, but there is no Ozark cure for cancer.

This information is provided for educational purposes and is not intended to replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Mendocino County Cancer Resource Centers has been a grassroots organization that has been serving our communities since 1995 by providing free information, advocacy, and support services. The CRC Cancer Prevention and Awareness Series is sponsored by the Mendocino County Health and Human Services Agency.

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