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Quackbuster or critical analyst?

Many CAM enthusiasts are determined to brand me as a quackbuster or something similarly negative. They try hard, but their arguments are not correct and the allegation does not stick.

Many CAM enthusiasts are determined to brand me as a quackbuster or something similarly negative. They try hard, but their arguments are not correct and the allegation does not stick.

Since the very beginning of my work in Exeter, the "official" mission statement of my unit included the following aims:

• to conduct rigorous, inter-disciplinary and international collaborative research into the efficacy, safety and costs of complementary medicine

• to further analytical thinking in this area

• to be neither promotional nor derogatory, but to struggle for objectivity

These are certainly not the aims of a quackbuster who sets out to show that this or that therapy is nonsense.

But some CAM enthusiasts are not convinced and say: "just look at the evidence; this man has never produced a single positive finding – he only rejoices in putting CAM down". Well chaps, here it comes: a list of treatments that my research has determined to be effective or at least promising on the basis of the totality of the available trial data.

Condition Intervention

AIDS/HIV (pallation) Stress management

AIDS/HIV Exercise (symptomatic)

Alzheimer's disease Ginkgo

Anxiety Kava

Anxiety Massage

Anxiety Music Therapy

Anxiety Relaxation

Benign prostatic hyperplasia African plum

Benign prostatic hyperplasia Saw palmetto

Cancer prevention Allium vegetables

Cancer prevention Green tea

Cancer prevention Tomato (lycopene)

Cancer prevention Exercise

Cancer prevention Aromatherapy/massage

Cancer prevention Exercise

Chronic fatigue syndrome Exercise

Chronic heart failure Hawthorn

Chronic venous insufficiency Horse Chestnut

Constipation Psyllium

Depression Exercise

Depression St. John's Wort

Diabetes Guar gum

Diabetes Psyllium

Erectile dysfunction Yohimbine

Hypercholesterolemia Guar gum

Hypercholesterolemia Oat

Hypercholesterolemia Soy

Hypertension Biofeedback

Hypertension Co-enzyme Q10

Insomnia Relaxation

Insomnia Melatonin

Irritable bowel syndrome Fibre

Labor Pain Hypnosis

Labor Pain Water immersion

Menopause Red Clover

Migraine Biofeedback

Nausea and vomiting (induced by chemotherapy) Acupoint stimulation

Nausea and vomiting (induced by chemotherapy) Relaxation

Non-ulcer dyspepsia Peppermint and caraway

Osteoarthritis Acupuncture

Osteoarthritis Phytodolor

Osteoarthritis Chondroitin

Osteoarthritis Glucosamine

Osteoarthritis Sandenosylmethionine

Overweight/obesity Ephedra sinica

Peripheral arterial occlusive disease Ginkgo

Peripheral arterial occlusive disease Padma 28

Rheumatoid arthritis Diet

Rheumatoid arthritis Phytodolor

Smoking cessation Group behaviour therapy

Upper respiratory tract infection Vitamin C (treatment not prevention)

This list is based on a review of the existing evidence from rigorous clinical trials (Ernst E, Pittler MH, Wider B, Boddy K. The desktop guide to complementary and alternative medicine. Edinburgh; 2nd edition. Edinburgh: Mosby/Elsevier. 2006). Only condition/intervention combinations are listed for which the amount, quality and quantity of evidence was sufficient and the direction of the evidence was positive.

Quackbuster? I don't think so.

Conditions table Edzard Ernst

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