MD, PhD, MAE, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

The history of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) is rich with ‘discoveries’ that are widely believed to be true events but that, in fact, never happened. Here are 10 examples:

  1. DD Palmer is believed to have cured the deafness of a janitor by manipulating his neck. This, many claim, was the birth of chiropractic. BUT IT NEVER HAPPENED! How can I be so sure? Because the nerve responsible for hearing does not run through the neck.
  2. Samuel Hahnemann swallowed some Cinchona officinalis, a quinine-containing treatment for malaria, and experienced the symptoms of malaria. This was the discovery of the ‘like cures like’ assumption that forms the basis of homeopathy. BUT IT NEVER HAPPENED! How can I be so sure? Because Hahnemann merely had an intolerance to quinine, and like does certainly not cure like.
  3. Edward Bach, for the discovery of each of his flower remedies, suffered from the state of mind for which a particular remedy was required; according to his companion, Nora Weeks, he suffered it “to such an intensified degree that those with him marvelled that it was possible for a human being to suffer so and retain his sanity.” This is how Bach discovered the ‘Bach Flower Remedies‘. BUT IT NEVER HAPPENED! How can I be so sure? His experience was not caused by by the remedy, which contain no active ingredients, but by his imagination.
  4. William Fitzgerald found that pressure on specific areas on the soles of a patient’s feet would positively affect a specific organ of that patient. This was the birth of reflexology. BUT IT NEVER HAPPENED! How can I be so sure? Because there are no nerve connections from the sole of our feet to our inner organs.
  5. Max Gerson observed that his special diet with added liver juice, vitamin B3, coffee enemas, etc. cures cancer. This is how Gerson found the Gerson therapy. BUT IT NEVER HAPPENED! How can I be so sure? Because he never could demonstrate this effect and others never were able to replicate his alleged finfings.
  6. George Goodheart was convinced that the strength of a muscle group provides information about the health of inner organs. This formed the basis for applied kinesiology. BUT IT NEVER HAPPENED! How can I be so sure? Because applied kinesiology has been disclosed as a simple party trick.
  7. Paul Nogier thought that the function of inner organs can be influenced by stimulating points on the outer ear. This was the discovery that became auricular therapy. BUT IT NEVER HAPPENED! How can I be so sure? Because Nogier’s assumptions fly in the face of anatomy and physiology.
  8. Antom Mesmer discovered that by moving a magnet over a patient, he would move her vital fluid and affect her health. This discovery became the basis for Mesmer’s ‘animal magnetism‘. BUT IT NEVER HAPPENED! How can I be so sure? Because there is no vital fluid and neither real nor animal magnetism have specific therapeutic effects.
  9. Reinhold Voll observed that the electric resistance over acupuncture points provides diagnostic information about the function of the corresponding organs. He thus invented his ‘electroacupuncture according to Voll‘ (EAV). BUT IT NEVER HAPPENED! How can I be so sure? Because EAV and the various methods derived from it are not valid and fail to produce reproducible results.
  10. Ignatz von Peczely discovered that discolorations on the iris provide valuable information about the health of inner organs. This was the birth of iridology. BUT IT NEVER HAPPENED! How can I be so sure? Because discolorations develop spontaneously and Peczely’s assumptions about nerval connections between the iris and the organs of the body are pure fantasy.

I hope that you can think of further SCAM discoveries that never happened. If so, please elaborate in the comments section below; you will see, it is good fun!

PS

By sating ‘IT NEVER HAPPENED’, I mean to say that it never happened as reported/imagined by the inventor of the respective SCAM and that the explanations perpetuated by the enthusiasts of the SCAM regarding cause and effect are based on misunderstandings.

31 Responses to 10 monumental ‘discoveries’ in the history of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) that never happened

  • “5 Max Gerson observed that his special diet with added liver juice, vitamin B3, coffee enemas, etc. cures cancer. This is how Gerson found the Gerson therapy. BUT IT NEVER HAPPENED! How can I be so sure? Because he never could demonstrate this effect and others never were able to replicate his alleged findings…”

    But it did happen, (and cancer-cure was a “side-effect” of his diet, discovered by one of his non-patients (he refused to treat her because of the danger, even then, of repercussions, so she treated herself, officially)) and not only once but for decades, first in Germany, then in France and finally in America where he was forced to emigrate to escape Hitler.

    His best defendant is S. J. Haught who wrote The American Experience of Dr Max Gerson: Censured for Curing Cancer (Haught was a newspaper man and writes accordingly).

    My second choice is Gerson’s own book that still sells today on Amazon: A Cancer Therapy: Results of Fifty Cases and the Cure of Advanced Cancer by Diet”.

  • The repeated IT NEVER HAPPENED is a bit problematic. Take the alleged birth of chiropractic – the fact that the nerve controlling hearing doesn’t run through the neck ( and that chiropractic is total BS ) does not prove that the event didn’t happen. Maybe something like it did, maybe not. Maybe the manipulation disturbed some fluid or ear wax and the story got blown up.

    Isn’t the real point that even if it did happen it was not for the reason claimed and does not support the claims of chiropractic ?

  • It is so interesting that you are so blind to seeing your own circular logic as though it isn’t circular logic..and what’s additionally interesting is that your cult following, which seems observant to the various problems with logic and rational thinking, somehow become deaf, dumb, and blind to this circular logic…and beautifully pretend that it doesn’t exist.

    It is so much fun to watch this masterbation. Thanx.

    • thanks for the compliment, Dana – I am always keen to amuse my readers [and you sometimes even help]

    • Dana

      You don’t know what circular logic is, do you?

      Run along, now.

    • Mr Ullman, it is interesting that you are blind to the repeated requests of myself and others for you to justify your branding some readers of this Blog “fools or liars” for thinking it isn’t possible to distinguish homeopathic water from other water.

      This is now my SEVENTY-FIRST request that you name a laboratory that can do so (or withdraw your claim and apologise).

    • @Dana Ullman

      … seeing your own circular logic as though it isn’t circular logic …

      1. Homeopathy is based on the similia principle, which dictates that a substance that causes certain symptoms in a concentrated form will also cure these symptoms in patients in an endlessly diluted form.
      2. We see that many patients recover after administration of such carefully selected endlessly diluted substances.
      3. This means that the similia principle is correct, and that we can safely return to 1).

      That kind of circular logic?

      It is so much fun to watch this masterbation. Thanx.

      Ooh you kinky voyeuristic little rascal!

    • masterbation [noun]: Dana Ullman’s rampant obsession with Miss Pelling.

  • Yes , Mr DUllman’s projections are often entertaining. Funny how often he parrots quips that have recenty been thrown at himaelf.

  • For all names Edzard mentioned, there must be a very old but secret training course. I only found the name: “How to become a Guru”

  • I found this very interesting and checked the “scientific medicine” for some equivalents. Picked up at random:

    10 monumental ‘discoveries’ in the history of “scientific medicine” that never happened and actually resulted in millions of deaths and disabilities.

    1. Lobotomy: It seems incredible today, but lobotomy was once hailed as a miracle cure, portrayed by doctors and the media as “easier than curing a toothache”.
    More than 20,000 lobotomies were performed in the UK alone, between the early 1940s and the late ’70s. They were typically carried out on patients with schizophrenia, severe depression or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – but also, in some cases, on people with learning difficulties or problems controlling aggression.

    You know the REAL outcome?

    2. Thalidomide: was a widely used drug in the late 1950s and early 1960s for the treatment of nausea in pregnant women. It became apparent in the 1960s that thalidomide treatment resulted in severe birth defects in thousands of children.

    What do you believe happened?

    Would you like me to post another 8 or 98 similar “DISCOVERIES?

    • there is a big difference:
      conventional medicine corrects its errors – SCAM does not!

      • “…conventional medicine corrects its errors…”

        Eventually:
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_largest_pharmaceutical_settlements

        • SCAM corrects errors… NEVER!

          • Gerson corrected errors constantly e.g. he rejected the vitamin D supplement of the time (it turned out to be contaminated by the early manufacturing process).
            Then he rejected the calf-liver-juice (because of contamination from “new” farming methods).
            Then he rejected Huggins’ hormone therapy (because it initially worked then suddenly failed).

            And finally died at 78 years old while still working and modifying his methods.

          • Gerson did not correct errors, he modified his errors!

          • There is no such thing as perfection. Science is a constant process of modification according to the evidence.

            In the final analysis, everything we do is an “error” – the trick is to minimise it with constant correction.

          • YES, but this is not a platitude competition!

      • Which branch of science was used as reference in developing and carrying out the LOBOTOMY procedure that continued for 30 years and then was considered a failure?

        Or what tests were carried out before Thalidomide was released in the market?

        “”….conventional medicine corrects its errors – SCAM does not!” Who is this message for?

        ” The devastation of the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic is well known, but a new article suggests a surprising factor in the high death toll: the misuse of aspirin. In 1918, physicians did not fully understand either the dosing or pharmacology of aspirin, yet they were willing to recommend it. Its use was promoted by the drug industry, endorsed by doctors wanting to “do something,” and accepted by families and institutions desperate for hope.”

        Was the response of the doctors any different after 100 years when faced with Covid 19? No different: you have the list of drugs used? Were any of these really required? This after 100 years of scientific development, standardized medical education and training that costs a fortune…………………..

        What learning are you talking about? Learning how to create lifelong patients and new money making ideas?

        “Tonsillectomy, is the one of the most common paediatric surgeries performed worldwide, with more than 530,000 conducted on children under 15 annually in the US alone. The research shows, both tonsillectomies and an adenoidectomies are associated with higher levels of allergic, respiratory and infectious diseases later in life; these are important, the researchers say, to weigh up alongside the already known short-term risks of surgery.”

        “….conventional medicine corrects its errors – SCAM does not!” You should not use such high sounding words that you yourself miss the meaning off.

        Vioxx by Merck. approved in 1999 through 2003, It became one of the leading agents in providing patients with relief from the painful and bothersome symptoms of various forms of arthritis. It was widely prescribed, used by millions worldwide. The drug Vioxx may have led to more than 27,000 heart attacks (in USA alone) and sudden cardiac deaths before it was pulled from the market, after an internal study showed that patients taking the drug were more likely to suffer a cardiac event than those taking a placebo.

        No comment was immediately available from the FDA or Merck.

        It was withdrawn in 2004.

        That adds up to 5 “MONUMENTAL DISCOVERIES” that actually resulted in deaths and disabilities of millions.

        • @Krishna
          Real science-based (regular) medicine has arguably saved hundreds of millions of lives, and relieved the suffering of even far more. And, as Edzard has pointed out several times now, errors and failures of real medicine are identified and addressed as much as possible. Ineffective and/or harmful treatments are abandoned, ineffective and/or harmful medicines are pulled from the market, and doctors who promote said ineffective and/or harmful treatments and medicines are corrected or even lose their license. What’s more: doctors are required by law to keep up to date with developments in their profession.

          Still I think it is fine to criticize real medicine, because there is always room for improvement. But then you should at least also acknowledge the huge blessing it has been for humanity.

          OTOH, belief-based quackery such as homeopathy has not saved even one life in all its 227 years of existence. And even worse: even some 200 years after doctors noticed that homeopathy didn’t actually work and was in fact based on nothing more than a simple mistake from Hahnemann, it is still not abandoned. Lots of rather arrogant and deluded people keep treating patients with useless sugar crumbs and shaken water, and even lie about how their SCAM is ‘scientifically proven’ – which it is most definitely not. The best we can say about homeopathy is that it has shown us long ago that doing nothing is often better than all sorts of bad treatments, and that placebos can make people feel better without making them better.

          So I think that your comments are short-sighted to say the least, being exclusively negative about real medicine, without any such criticism about SCAM.

      • Edzard on Thursday 12 October 2023 at 07:36

        conventional medicine corrects its errors –

        REALLY???

        Let us make a small check:

        “In 1918, physicians did not fully understand either the dosing or pharmacology of aspirin, yet they were willing to recommend it. Its use was promoted by the drug industry, endorsed by doctors wanting to “do something,” and accepted by families and institutions desperate for hope.”

        What was done with Aspirin?

        “From the 1950s to the 1980s, thousands of deaths among children following influenza and other infections (e.g., Reye Syndrome) were unexplained until studies identified aspirin as the major contributor. Reye Syndrome toxicity (vomiting, hyperventilation, delirium and coma, with brain swelling and fat in the liver and proximal renal tubules) develops after approximately four days of salicylate therapy with reported mean daily doses of 25 mg/kg. Adults with salicylate toxicity present mainly with abnormal consciousness and respiratory distress.”

        Weil, et al., from their 2005 British Medical Journal article entitled “Prophylactic aspirin and risk of peptic ulcer bleeding”:

        “We found that no particular dose of aspirin between 75 mg and 300 mg daily currently used in cardiovascular prophylaxis is free of risk of causing bleeding from gastric or duodenal ulcers. Even very low (75 mg) doses of aspirin reportedly caused gastric bleeding in volunteers. … Some 10,000 episodes of ulcer bleeding occur in people aged 60 and over each year in England and Wales. … It [sic] may be deduced that 900 of the 10,000 episodes could be associated with and ascribed to prophylactic aspirin use. A general change to low doses (75 mg) of aspirin would not eliminate the risk. …” [Emphasis added]

        Report 2018.

        For decades, a daily dose of aspirin has been widely considered a way to protect healthy people from cardiovascular disease and even cancer. But a large, international study finds that, even at low doses, long-term use of aspirin may be harmful — without providing benefit — for older people who have not already had a heart attack or stroke.
        “But not only did it not decrease risk of disability or death, it did not decrease the risk of heart attack and stroke, and there was an increase in the rate of death.”

        This was found out after killing how many thousands of elders over how many decades? What was the BRANCH of SCIENCE used to prescribe daily does of Aspirin?

        Now read what the Homeopaths of America wrote about Aspirin in 1921 and its role in the killing of patients of Influenza.

        https://www.ecampnd.com/homeopathy/A_Chorus_of_Fifty_in_Harmony.pdf

  • Edzard on Friday 13 October 2023 at 18:02

    “your cherry-picked data is of no relevance”

    REALLY?

    Cherry picking data?

    I believe the numbers mentioned about deaths of children, adults and elders due to Aspirin would be good enough to require a cemetery large enough to fill up over 10000 cherry orchards. Each with over 1000 trees.

    But the issue is: In place of “the so called scientific medicine” correcting its errors, the mayhem continues even TODAY. So what correction are YOU talking about?

    This is the reality of “scientific medicine”. If this was done by your “SCAM” doctors, how many of them would be behind bars, for life?

    Would you want me to put here the continued use of ASPIRIN and the resulting disabilities?

    Or as “conventional medicine corrects its errors” Tonsillectomy, being performed on millions of children EVERY YEAR, putting them at life long risk of ear, nose and throat infections, be stopped?

    I can answer this for you: NO CHANCE. Too much money at stake.

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