The BBC stands for reliable information, at least that’s what I used to believe. After reading a recent article published on the BBC website, I have my doubts, however. See for yourself; here are a few excerpts:

On a holiday to Kerala on India’s south-western Malabar Coast, Shilpa Iyer decided to visit Kotakkal, a town that became famous after the establishment of Arya Vaidya Sala, Kerala’s best-known centre for the practice of Ayurveda, in 1902. Seven days later, she left the historical treatment centre after completeing panchakarma, a cleansing and rejuvenating programme for the body, mind and consciousness.

“There was nothing really wrong, but I was always busy with the demands of modern life and plagued with continual aches and pains. So, I decided to focus on my own health,” Iyer says.

Panchakarma, a holistic Ayurvedic therapy, involves a series of detoxifying procedures. It integrates herbal medicines, cleansing therapies, personalised diet plans and wellness activities to eliminate the root cause of disease, revive and rejuvenate the body, and ensure health and longevity.

Iyer says she left “feeling lighter, healthier and better than ever before”. She isn’t the only one who signed up for an Ayurvedic treatment in Kerala; the holistic system of medicine is a way of life in this coastal paradise.

… Ayurveda translates to “knowledge of life” and originated in India more than 3,000 years ago. It is based on the ideology that health and wellness depend on a delicate balance between the mind, body, spirit and environment, and places great emphasis on preventive strategies rather than curative ones. The ancient system of medicine is centred on the idea of universal interconnectedness between prakriti (the body’s constitution) and doshas (life forces). Varied combinations of the five elements — aakash (sky), jal (water), prithvi (earth), agni (fire) and vayu (air) – create the three doshas.

Kerala Tourism Ayurveda places great emphasis on preventive strategies rather than curative ones (Credit: Kerala Tourism)

Dr Gaurang Paneri, an Ayurveda practitioner, explains every person has the three doshas, vatapitta and kapha, in varying strength and magnitude. “The predominant dosha determines their prakriti. Diseases arise when doshas are affected because of an external or internal stimulus (typically linked to eating habits, lifestyle or physical exercise). Ayurveda works to ensure harmony between the three,” he says…

The small state has more than 100 Ayurvedic government-run hospitals, 800 Ayurvedic pharmaceutical factories and 800 Ayurvedic medicine dispensaries. As many as 120 holiday resorts and private wellness centres offer specialised treatments such as kasti vvasti, an oil-based treatment for back pain and inflammation in the lumbosacral region; elakkizhi, a treatment with heated herbal poultices to tackles aches, pains and muskoskeletal trauma; njavara kizhi, a massage therapy for arthritis or chronic musculoskeletal discomfort; and shirodhara, a restorative therapy to ease stress and anxiety and that involves pouring warm, medicated oil over the forehead.

Most treatment centres offer therapies and treatments for a range of health issues, including immunity, mental health, anxiety, pain management, weight loss, skin and health care, sleep issues, psoriasis, eczema, eye care, arthritis, sciatica, gastric problems and paralysis. The treatments typically include dietary changes, herbal medicines, massage therapies, poultices, meditation and breath exercises…


I find such advertisements disguised as journalism disturbing:

  • No mention that the treatments in question lack conclusive evidence of effectiveness.
  • Not a word about the fact that many can be outright dangerous.
  • No mention of the often exorbitant fees visitors are asked to pay.

Please do better next time you report about health matters, BBC!

17 Responses to Dangerous BS from the BBC

  • If we take this report at face value, India’s population should be one of the healthiest and longest-lived on the planet, with no chronic diseases to speak of.

    In reality, India’s health index ranks somewhere in the bottom half, and the only reason it’s not way lower still is that India has a relatively wealthy upper caste of people who have access to modern, science-based medicine. Before the introduction of said modern medicine, the average life expectation was an absolutely appalling 25 years, in spite of its much-lauded traditional system of lifestyle and medicine.

    • There are no diseases in India; homeopathy prevents them all…

      Joking apart, I recall seeing a documentary years ago which featured a young woman in India with a heart defect that was affecting her health in various ways. It was treatable by surgery, but she opted for Ayurvedic “treatment”. Massages with scented herbal balms must have felt nice, I am sure. But she didn’t continue the ‘treatment’ – I forget exactly why. And tragically, she died a little while later. The Ayurvedic centre said, If only she had completed the course of ‘treatment’….. Well, no. If only she’d had the defect repaired by surgery.

      More than 30 years ago the younger son of friends of mine died in hospital aged 18. He had been born with a very complicated heart defect resulting in, among other things, Eisenmenger Syndrome. It had been deemed too complex and risky to attempt any repair in his childhood or youth. He was always very cyanosed, and sadly the condition overtook him while in hospital. Perhaps today, techniques and materials might have made a surgical repair possible; I don’t know. But I’m certain that no amount of Ayurvedic herbs, oils, massages, poultices etc, could have repaired the cardiac defects.

      • As I told before, a close friend of the family also died from a heart condition that was initially quite curable (a leaking valve). But because he believed the nonsense from a homeopath and did not go to a real doctor (‘they will only cut, burn and poison you’), this simple problem developed into congestive heart failure, which has no cure. And by the time he realized his huge mistake in trusting this homeopath, it was too late.

  • What a disgusting shit. The article is very long and a massive PR for tourism in India. There are urls in that article, directly targeting tourists. The BBC should down that mess immediately.

  • A few days in a health spa, gentile pace of life, no outside stressors, simple diet, no alcohol. Heck, I’d probably come out feeling great too.

    But I can probably do this here in Canada thouch I have long wanted to visit Kerala.

    I think the BBC is not what it used to be.

  • Your outrage at the BBC is so predictable…I suggest that people at this website instead do a Zoloft enema. It is more attune to your condition.

    • outrage?
      which expression, word or phrase signals ‘outrage’ to you?
      You probably mean ‘criticism’?
      And did you not know, that critcism of something wrong is a good thing?

      • Are you actually saying that reporters should never write about their own experiences?

        Is you insist that reporters ONLY reference placebo controlled clinical trials, then ALL stories about surgery should be deemed to be totally inappropriate.

        Further, according to the work of Stanford professor John Ioannidis:
        A group of researchers sought to replicate 53 “landmark” studies in cancer research, and only 6 could be proven of value. If almost 90% of the “best” cancer research is not replicable, please know that MOST research is not “the best,” and if 90% of the best research shows that what we thought worked doesn’t work, modern-day oncology is built on jello, not firm ground…and the costs of modern oncology care is obsene. Next, on average, every man, woman and child in the US is prescribe 13 prescription drugs. And if you didn’t get your 13 (!), someone else got them for you! Do you know what research is conducted to prove the safety and/or efficacy of multiple drugs given concurrent exists? No…no one does, but this research isn’t done. I could go on…

        Oh…it is so interesting that you and your cult do not provide the same standards of research for Big Pharma medicine as you do for CAM. How convenient.

        • “Are you actually saying that reporters should never write about their own experiences?”
          I did not say that; it seems you need to lear how to read without the foam from your mouth obstructing your view.

        • @Dana Ullman
          I must say that your comment is quite impressive – if only for its profound ignorance.

          Sure, real medicine isn’t perfect. When scientists try to replicate research or investigate pharmaceutical products, they quite often find that things don’t pan out, that the research doesn’t show what the original researchers claimed, and that the medicine doesn’t work as well after all, or even has some pretty bad drawbacks.

          However … a huge amount of research IS valid, and a lot of pharmaceuticals DO work as claimed, and oncology HAS made tremendous progress in the past half-century. Less children die than ever before, people grow older than ever before, and in better health than ever – barring of course the toll taken by the COVID pandemic, and even in spite of lifestyle problems such as the obesity epidemic.

          None of this applies to SCAMs like homeopathy or ayurveda. NOT A SINGLE HOMEOPATHIC PREPARATION ACTUALLY WORKS, and there is NO EVIDENCE AT ALL that ayurvedic treatments are any good. And perhaps even worse: completely contrary to real medicine, the SCAM that you are so fond of does not learn from its mistakes – otherwise it would have ceased existing long ago.

          Just take another look at your own comment: those failings that you mention are not a sign that real medicine is useless and should be distrusted(*). Quite the contrary, it’s a clear sign that people are actively working on improving it, signalling errors and weeding out the things that are no good. Otherwise we wouldn’t be hearing from these people, now would we? Also notice that it is real doctors and real scientists who spot the various problems, never homeopaths or other SCAMmers.

          These suspected failings are then examined, and, if found to be true, the medicine or treatment is abandoned. Sure, this may take a while – not only are there quite strong incentives to keep selling stuff that has cost a lot of money to develop, but there’s also something called ‘due diligence’: you can’t go and discard treatments at the drop of a hat (i.e. after just one negative study). You want to be certain that something is indeed no good before you pull it from the market, or tell doctors to abandon it. This of course also depends on the nature of the failing; if a new drug unexpectedly causes clear, serious health problems, it can be pulled from the market within days if necessary. But when the situation is less clear-cut, it may take a while for changes to happen. But they DO happen – in real medicine, that is, not in SCAM.

          And yes, you are right: we don’t apply the same standards of research for SCAM that we do for real medicine – we still take things like homeopathy far too seriously. If homeopathic ‘remedies’ would be held to the same standards as real medicines, they would have been pulled from the market decades ago already, simply because they’re no good at all – there is, after all, not a single homeopathic preparation that shows any consistent, repeatable effect.

          *: And it sure as hell isn’t a sign that we should trust quackery for our health.

        • Mr Ullman, for the 79th time I ask you to name a laboratory that can distinguish homeopathic water from other water, which you say in this Blog ‘only fools or liars’ doubt can be done. And then you told an outrageous lie, saying you had answered “many times” despite not having done so once.

          It is all very well to swan in here by Professor Ernst’s gracious permission and dispense ill-considered epithets. But readers of this Blog will be able to form their own opinions as to who might or might not be a fool, a liar, a mountebank, a poltroon, a varlet, a charlatan, a ne’er-do-well, a snake-oil salesman, a chump.

          You called me a nobody in here a while ago. I’d rather be that than be you.

    • @Dana:

      Are you defending Ayurveda, which is an allopathic system?

    • Seeing what a fan of the BBC you are, Dana, I’m sure you’ll be delighted by the findings they made when 22 years ago they conducted an investigation into homeopathy.

      And 22 years on, absolutely nothing has emerged to alter those conclusions.

  • You should complain to the BBC about lack of journalistic balance.

    • I think that “balance” should not be confused with false equivalency–something we see all too much of in science reporting.

  • Wow! Person has a nice, relaxing holiday and feels better for it! Whoever would have thought it?

    Better yet, they didn’t have to pay for it, then was paid for writing about it.

    I’d certainly feel better for that.

  • That’s an ad for woowoo – big ticket woowoo, at that. I wrote to BBC to request that they label it as the paid advertisement it must be, since it appears to have been written by a marketing staff rather than a journalist. This isn’t any fact-based article. What next? BBC touts tours of Ireland that promote relief from anxiety, where one may feed a unicorn and chat with leprechauns?

    I’m sure they’d love to hear from anyone who cares to write:

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