The Alternative Medicine Handbook

Barrie R. Cassileth, Author
Barrie R. Cassileth, Author W. W. Norton & Company $25 (340p) ISBN 978-0-393-04566-6
Reviewed on: 12/29/1997
Release date: 01/01/1998
This objective assessment of a wide range of alternative and complementary therapies comes from an advisor to the NIH Office of Alternative Medicine. To help consumers distinguish between ""empty promises and solid therapies,"" Cassileth describes over 50 techniques, from acupuncture and apitherapy to yoga and shamanism. Grouping them alphabetically within seven broad approaches, she describes the claims of each one's practitioners and the theories or beliefs on which it is based, discusses available scientific research on the subject, and notes what the therapy can actually accomplish, any relevant licensing regulations and sources of further information. Explanations are concise and warnings are clear. Cassileth is quick to acknowledge that many of these therapies, while not providing cures, can enhance well-being by reducing stress and anxiety. She is critical, however, of those that overstate their claims, or, as she puts it, ""take a grain of fact and bake a loaf of unsupported conclusions."" In the case of potentially harmful therapies, such as chelation therapy for heart and circulatory problems, she directs readers to sources of information on standard treatments. This authoritative guidebook will be worthwhile reading for anyone planning to venture outside mainstream medicine. (Jan.)
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