The Magic Feather Effect: The Science of Alternative Medicine and the Surprising Power of Belief

Melanie Warner. Scribner, $27 (288p) ISBN 978-1-5011-2149-4
Journalist Warner (Pandora’s Lunchbox) delves into the mysteries of alternative medicine in this fascinating study. As an observer, skeptic, and participant, Warner explores various alternative techniques and what the “surprising number of placebo researchers, neuroscientists, and psychologists” studying the field have said about “scientific reasons that seemingly unscientific practices might work.” In addition to energy medicine, she looks at the history and practice of acupuncture, chiropractic practices, and other techniques. Fair-minded, thorough, and focused on verifiable scientific research, not hearsay or cherry-picked anecdotes, Warner interviews practitioners of these methods as well as those who test their efficacy. In one remarkable case, she interviews a man who claims to have recovered from quadriplegia through techniques learned from qigong monks. She concludes that while alternative medicine cannot “eradicate physical disease or directly repair substantial damage to tissues,” it can have measurable physical impacts, by “relaxing our bodies and reducing stress” and thus affecting “symptoms for which brain activity plays a significant role—pain, panic attacks, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea,” among others. This well-written survey of alternative medicine also leaves readers with a sharp critique of mainstream medicine: that it does not currently prioritize creating “empathic connections” with patients, the major strength of alternative medicine. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 12/17/2018
Release date: 01/22/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
Downloadable Audio - 288 pages - 978-1-5082-8144-3
Compact Disc - 978-1-5082-8146-7
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-1-5011-2150-0
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