So-called alternative medicine (SCAM) interventions are growing in popularity and are even advocated as treatments for long COVID symptoms. However, comprehensive analysis of current evidence in this setting is still lacking. This study aims to review existing published studies on the use of SCAM interventions for patients experiencing long COVID through a systematic review of randomized controlled trials (RCTs).
A comprehensive electronic literature search was performed in multiple databases and clinical trial registries from September 2019 to January 2023. RCTs evaluating efficacy and safety of SCAM for long COVID were included. Methodological quality of each included trial
was appraised with the Cochrane ‘risk of bias’ tool. A qualitative analysis was conducted due to heterogeneity of included studies.
A total of 14 RCTs with 1195 participants were included in this review. Study findings demonstrated that SCAM interventions could benefit patients with long COVID, especially those suffering from
- neuropsychiatric disorders,
- olfactory dysfunction,
- cognitive impairment,
- mild-to-moderate lung fibrosis.
The main interventions reported were:
- self-administered transcutaneous auricular vagus nerve stimulation,
- dietary supplements,
- olfactory training,
- inspiratory muscle training,
- concurrent training,
- online breathing programs,
- online well-being programs.
The authors concluded that SCAM interventions may be effective, safe, and acceptable to patients with symptoms of long COVID. However, the findings from this systematic review should be interpreted with caution due to various methodological limitations. More rigorous trials focused on CAM for long COVID are warranted in the future.
Such wishy-washy conclusions seem to be popular in the fantasy land of SCAM. Yet, they are, in my view, most ojectionable because:
- they tell us nothing of value;
- that something “MAY BE EFFECTIVE” has been known before and cannot be the result of but is the reason for a systematic review;
- a review of 14 RCTs of almost as many interventions cannot possibly tell us anything about the SAFETY of these treatments;
- it also does not provide evidence of effectiveness and merely indicates a lack of independent replications;
- if the abstract mentions an assessment of the study rigor, one expects that it also informs us about this important aspect.
Once we do come around looking at the methodological quality of the primary studies we realize that it is mostly miserable. This means that the conclusions of the review are not just irritating but plainly misleading. Responsible researchers should have concluded along the following lines:
The quantity and the quality of the evidence are both low. Therefore, the effectiveness and safety of SCAM interventions for long COVID remains unproven.
This project was financially supported by The HEAD Foundation, Singapore and in part by the grant from the NIH R61 AT01218.
Shame on the authors, journal editors, peer-reviewers, and funders of this dangerous nonsense!
Guest post by Ken McLeod
Readers will recall that Barbara O’Neill is an Australian health crank, completely unqualified in anything, who is subject of a Permanent Prohibition Order issued by the New South Wales Health Care Complaints Commission, (HCCC), preventing her from engaging in any health-related activity, including ‘health education,’ in Australia. The NSW Public Health Act 2010 provides that it is an offence for a person to provide ‘health education’ in contravention of a prohibition order, with a fine of $60,500 AUD ($38,151 USD, 36251 Euros) for an individual or imprisonment for 3 years, or both, or $121,000 AUD for a corporation.
For jurisdictional reasons that Order does not apply outside Australia and for several years she been touring the world giving health education lectures. The latest was a lecture tour of Ireland. Despite the thorough debunking of her fruitloop beliefs by the HCCC, she has maintained them and continues to give the ‘health education’ that was so dangerous that it led to the Prohibition Order in Australia.
Her Irish ‘health education’ lectures were live-streamed to people in Australia who paid the 20 Euro fee, and one was recorded by us.
A transcript was made and is available online. Her statements were analysed and some comments are made as follows. Alas, we didn’t have time to take a deep dive of her lecture to find the best references, but the following shows that an amateur with limited time and resources can prove that she does not know what she is talking about and that her advice is dangerous, even life-threatening.
It is up to the health regulators and immigration authorities in each country to act on her activities there, but so far none outside Australia have done so.
So a quick analysis of her ‘lecture’ in Dublin on 27 September 2023 shows that O’Neill has learned nothing from her experience with the HCCC. Some comments:
1. O’Neill and her husband, after the Prohibition Order was issued, changed the name of their facility from ‘Misty Mountain Health Retreat’ to ‘Misty Mountain Lifestyle Retreat’ to avoid the jurisdiction of the HCCC. However on four occasions in her lecture O’Neill referred to it as a ‘health retreat.’ 00:07:23 , 00:15:48, 01:30:04, 01:40:16.
2. At 00:12:53 O’Neill claims that the Amish don’t get autism. That is false, as explained by AP Factcheck. 
3. At 00:12:54 O’Neill claims that the Amish, ‘They don’t vaccinate their Children. Did you know that they don’t vaccinate their Children and yet they don’t get autism Very rare. Maybe 1%. And often that’s because of chemical exposure. There is always a reason. So why are vaccinations causing autism? Well, it’s neurotoxins, the neurotoxins. ‘
False; Amish do vaccinate their children.  However, studies have documented cases of autism, diabetes and cancer among the Amish, albeit at lower rates in some cases than the broader population and for reasons that are unrelated to their vaccination status. These reasons include the cultural norms and customs that may be playing a role in the reporting style of caregivers.  O’Neill is engaging in cherry-picking on a grand scale here.
4. At 00:13:37 O’Neill claims that ‘there are still two more neurotoxins’ (In vaccines.) Because children are still autistic. There’s formaldehyde, and there is aluminium, both neurotoxins.’
This is scaremongering disinformation. The CDC says ‘Formaldehyde is diluted during the vaccine manufacturing process, but residual quantities of formaldehyde may be found in some current vaccines. The amount of formaldehyde present in some vaccines is so small compared to the concentration that occurs naturally in the body that it does not pose a safety concern.’ As for aluminium, the CDC says ‘Ingredients like aluminum salt help boost the body’s response to the vaccine.’ The CDC says that both are safe. 
5. At 00:15:01 O’Neill claims ‘did you know that the milk in the supermarket if you give that to a newborn baby cow, that cow will die?’
I can find no reference supporting that and I suggest that it is pure fantasy.
6. At 00:18:29 O’Neill claims that ‘parents discover that they put their trust in the princes and vaccinated their child. Now their child has epilepsy. Now their child has autism.’
This is misleading panic-mongering that is a misrepresentation of the science. The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners says ‘Seizures and status epilepticus can occur within 14 days following administration of inactivated and live-attenuated vaccines. These vaccine-proximate seizures can undermine parental confidence in vaccine safety and affect further vaccination decisions. Vaccine-proximate status epilepticus (VP-SE) is uncommon but may be the first manifestation of genetic developmental epileptic encephalopathies, including Dravet syndrome.’ So ‘epilepsy’ may be first encountered  following vaccination but the root cause is genetic.
7. At 00:20:27 O’Neill says that she would like to suggest that no child would be vaccinated, because the fact is, our body was designed to heal itself.
This is pure crazy antivax propaganda, unsupported by the facts.
8. At 00:22:01 O’Neill claims ‘skin cancer has only been around in about the last 80 years, and you know what they’re finding today? That vitamin D deficiency is a big contributing back factor to skin cancer’.
The first claim is false; the science shows that skin cancers have been around ‘since the beginning of time.’ 
As for the second claim, the research published at the US National Library of Medicine shows that O’Neill’s advice is dangerous. ‘It is, therefore, preferable and safer to obtain adequate levels of vitamin D through diet than through sun exposure. In fact, it is currently accepted that dietary and supplemental vitamin D is functionally identical to that produced after UV exposure, being more reliable and quantifiable (the risks of keeping high levels of vitamin D have not been extensively studied) source of this vitamin.’ And ‘Neither natural nor artificial sun exposure should be encouraged as the main source of vitamin D.’ 
9. At 00:23:18 O’Neill disputes claims that ‘cholesterol causes heart disease. Well, it’s been going for 40 years now, and it still hasn’t proven that. But you know what? It has proven that people with high cholesterol levels don’t get Alzheimer’s.’
O’Neill’s first claim points to the conflicting research as revealed by the Cochrane Collaboration.  As for her second claim, the research does not justify her claim that it is ’proven.’ The evidence is conflicting and as the Alzheimer’s Society of the UK say, ‘More research is needed to better understand this relationship and what it can tell us.’  O’Neill’s conviction is not based on evidence.
10. At 00:34:41 O’Neill said that at Dublin airport ‘about 10 days ago,’ she was approached by a man who asked ‘Are you the Australian doctor? And I smiled.’
O’Neill did not correct him and allowed him to be duped into believing she is a real doctor. Despite having no qualifications in anything O’Neill has used the honorific title ‘Dr’ many times in social media, so it is no surprise that he assumed she was a doctor. I can’t help but be confused by her use of the ‘Dr.’ Throughout her lectures she denigrates real doctors, and then tries to boost her credibility by adopting the title.
11. At 00:35:21 she claimed that with ‘epigenetics, you can actually turn your genes on or off.’…. ‘So Michael effectively turned those genes off with castor oil. Castor is very effective for for cataracts. Put it in your eye, one lady said. Is it safe? Does anyone ever ask that of the doctor? Is that drug safe? Then the people have been putting cholesterol in their eyes for centuries. It’s safe.’
Bollocks! As Consumer Lab says ‘Although eye drops containing castor oil may help improve symptoms of dry eye and blepharitis, there is currently no compelling evidence that applying castor oil to the eye can diminish cataracts.’  And there is no evidence that Michael turned the genes off.
12. At 00:40:08 she refers to a woman who recently had a stroke. She says
‘… because she had a stroke, she was put on the protocol she was on put on statins. Cholesterol lowering medication with clear arteries. How much sense does that make? You don’t have. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work this out. Trust in your gut feeling trust in this incredible body that God has given you. Her blood was no longer thick. Her arteries are open now. And so she came to our retreat and I said, Well, I can’t tell you what to do. And I have no authority over your medication. Only you, and go. You and your doctor do. But this is what I would do. I would stop the blood thinning medication immediately because that aspirin causes brain bleeds, eye bleeds and stomach bleeds. Got that? And I would stop the statin drugs because that the side effect of statin drugs is Alzheimer’s dementia, uh, memory loss, muscle wasting. And they’ve just added another one, which is breast cancer, because all our sex hormones are made from cholesterols.’
O’Neill told a woman who had suffered a stroke to stop taking her life-saving medication! These medications are prescribed by highly qualified medical specialists based on the research. As the UK Stroke Association says, ‘Blood-thinning medications reduce your risk of stroke by helping to prevent blood clots from forming. You might be prescribed them after a transient ischaemic attack (TIA) or a stroke caused by a blockage (an ischaemic stroke, or clot).’ It is clear that O’Neill, who has no qualifications in anything, does not know what she is talking about.
As for her claim that the side effects of statins is breast cancer, the research shows the opposite. ‘While statins do not affect the incidence of most cancers, they do exert significant benefits on recurrence and survival in many cancer types, including breast cancer.’ 
13. At 42:48 O’Neill claims ‘If you are on cholesterol lowering medication and many have been deceived….’ As above, it is O’Neill who is doing the deceiving.
14. At 45:09 O’Neill claims that ‘If you stop your cholesterol lowering medication, there will be a side effect. Your memory will return. Your muscles will get stronger. Any little appearances of Alzheimer’s will start to ease.’
As above, the available research does not show that.
15. At 48:57 O’Neill claims ‘Why did they put fluoride in water? The claim was to harden the teeth. Has it hardened the teeth? Not at all. Has it reduced tooth decay? Not at all.’ And ‘But that fluoride is very hard on the kidneys, very hard on the liver.’
The research here is overwhelming; as the CDC says: ‘The CDC named community water fluoridation one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.
‘Many research studies have proven the safety and benefits of fluoridated water. For 75 years people in the United States have been drinking water with added fluoride and enjoying the benefits of better dental health.
‘Drinking fluoridated water keeps teeth strong and reduces cavities (also called tooth decay) by about 25% in children and adults.’
As for O’Neill’s claim that fluoride is very hard on the kidneys, very hard on the liver,’ the research is inconclusive, and in fact the reverse may be true. Research shows ‘Fluoride exposure may contribute to complex changes in kidney and liver related parameters among U.S. adolescents. As the study is cross-sectional, reverse causality cannot be ruled out; therefore, altered kidney and/or liver function may impact bodily fluoride absorption and metabolic processes.’ So the science does not support O’Neill’s certainty.
16. At 48:57 O’Neill claims that ‘all body symptoms and body diseases and shows how dehydrating has a huge factor.’ O’Neill gives no evidence to support that huge claim.
17. At 01:00:20 O’Neill claims that a woman told her ‘I had the vaccine. Now I’ve got clots. Barbara, I had the vaccine. I can’t. I cannot even remember all the diseases that are arising. Have you noticed? And so many people were blackmailed into that vaccine.’ And ‘Is that (COVID19) a crisis? it’s not a crisis at all. And yet we’re seeing so many problems arising.’
O’Neill is dreadfully wrong here. COVID 19 was a crisis. How else would we describe a pandemic that is known to have killed at least 6,961,014 deaths, as reported to the WHO?  And what are the problems that we are seeing arising? Outside her imagination, that is.
18. At 01:00:20 O’Neill claims that ‘one man said, Show me the safety studies. They gave him three pages of blank paper. No safety studies, no safety studies at all.’ (On vaccines). And ‘drugs never cure disease.’ And a few lines later, again, ‘Drugs never cure disease.’
The allegation that ‘They (doctors) gave him three pages of blank paper’, is just so deranged. No doctor would do that because there are thousands of studies of vaccine safety.
O’Neill’s claim that there are no safety studies on vaccines is hopelessly wrong and dishonest. It’s one of the many anti-vax lies circulating on the internet, so beloved by the gullible. As the Australian Dept of Health and Aged Care say, ‘Research and testing is an essential part of developing safe and effective vaccines. In Australia, every vaccine must pass strict safety testing before the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) will register it for use. Before vaccines become available to the public, they are tested on thousands of people who take part in large clinical trials.’  It took me a few seconds on the internet to find an interesting research paper on HPV vaccines, including a section on safety.  O’Neill could do that so the inevitable conclusion is that she set out to deceive. As for ‘drugs never cure disease,’ that is so bizarre, so whacky, so deluded, that it almost not worth challenging. But I will anyway; medical professionals have seen drugs work billions of times, and I can testify that I was saved from a life-threatening illness due to cephalexin.
19. At 01:10:49 O’Neill claims ‘some (medications) can be stopped immediately, like your statin drugs and your blood thinners. Yeah, what do you take instead of statin drugs? Well, there’s no need, because cholesterol is not a problem.’
O’Neill’s advice here is life-threatening rubbish. As the Mayo Clinic says ‘Abruptly stopping an anticoagulant can increase your risk of a stroke.’  As for her advice on cholesterol, see above.
20. At 01:15:39 O’Neill claims that there was ‘No diabetes on the planet til sugar was well established.’ And lack of nose-breathing causes ‘Chronic fatigue syndrome. There’s one cause; it’s lack of oxygen at the cellular level.’
Humans have gathered sugar since we first became homo sapiens and diabetes has always been a problem for us and other animals.
As for her claim that lack of nose-breathing causes ‘Chronic fatigue syndrome;’ the Mayo Clinic says ‘The cause of ME/CFS is unknown, although there are many theories. Experts believe it might be triggered by a combination of factors.’ They go on to list many possible causes but lack of nose-breathing is not one of them.
21. At 01:26:08 O’Neill claims that a researcher ‘…. could turn cancer cells on and off by the amount of animal, pro and animal protein that he was giving’ and liver cancer could be prevented by ‘a simple diet and cancer weights were very low low compared to the city again, with that high meat diet….’ There is some truth in this, but it does not justify O’Neill’s other advice to avoid prescribed medications.
22. At 01:49:26 O’Neill claims ‘if someone has a rash and they put cortisone on it, what happens to the rash? It’s gone, but But it comes back in about another week. Is that right? Twice as bad.’ And ‘No drug can heal cancer. The body and the body alone when it’s given the right conditions can cause cancer to be conquered in the body.’ And ‘A fever is nothing to fear.’
O’Neill’s claim that ‘No drug can heal cancer’ is demonstrably wrong. Life expectancy following cancer treatment has improved vastly over the decades, largely due to better detection and prescribed medications. As the US National Cancer Institute (NCI) estimates, ‘due to improved detection and treatment, deaths have dropped 41 percent from 1989 to 2018, according to the ACS.’ 
As for O’Neill’s claim that ‘a fever is nothing to fear,’ the Victorian Dept of Health says ‘High fever (about 41.5°C or more) is extremely dangerous and could trigger convulsions.’ 
23. At 01:53:47 O’Neill claims that drug therapy is not working.
What does O’Neill mean by that? Does she mean that prescribed medication does not work? If she is repeating her earlier claim that ‘drugs never cure disease?’ I repeat my earlier rebuttal. That is so bizarre, so whacky, so deluded, that it almost not worth challenging. But I will anyway; medical professionals have seen drugs work billions of times, and I can testify that I was saved from a life-threatening illness due to cephalexin.
I’ll finish the analysis here because you have suffered enough.
Readers everywhere now have rock-solid evidence that should be presented to their national health regulators, showing that O’Neill, as the HCCC put it, ‘poses a risk to the health and safety of members of the public’ and therefore ‘should be permanently prohibited from providing any health services, whether in a paid or voluntary capacity.’ And you have rock-solid evidence that should be presented to venue managers who have allowed O’Neill to present life-threatening ‘education’ to the public on their premises, asking them to cancel the booking. It’s not hard; it was done in Ireland by members of the public. That led to cancellation of the booking, and a rush by O’Neill’s supporters to find a new venue.
4 The video is available at https://rumble.com/v3lt611-barbara-oneill-positive-life-event-27th-september.html and a backup is available at https://www.dropbox.com/scl/fi/vqe9plhgjijunvl22kvb6/Barbara-ONeill-Positive-Life-Event-27th-September.mp4?rlkey=1kjyi9jdl8kfdp8kcdf1p4xba&dl=0
Massage is frequently used for recovery and increased performance. This review, aimed to search and systemize current literature findings relating to massages’ effects on sports and exercise performance concerning its effects on motor abilities and neurophysiological and psychological mechanisms.
One hundred and fourteen articles were included. The data revealed that massages, in general, do not affect motor abilities, except flexibility. However, several studies demonstrated that positive muscle force and strength changed 48 h after the massage was given. Concerning neurophysiological parameters, massage did not change blood lactate clearance, muscle blood flow, muscle temperature, or activation. However, many studies indicated a reduction of pain and delayed onset muscle soreness, which are probably correlated with the reduction of the level of creatine kinase enzyme and psychological mechanisms. In addition, massage treatment led to a decrease in depression, stress, anxiety, and the perception of fatigue and an increase in mood, relaxation, and the perception of recovery.
The authors concluded that the direct usage of massages just for gaining results in sport and exercise performance seems questionable. However, it is indirectly connected to performance as an important tool when an athlete should stay focused and relaxed during competition or training and recover after them.
The evidence about the value of massage therapy is limited through the mostly poor quality of the primary studies. Unfortunately, the review authors did not bother to address this issue. Another recent and in my opinion more rigorous review identified 29 eligible studies recruiting 1012 participants, representing the largest examination of the effects of massage. Its authors found no evidence that massage improves measures of strength, jump, sprint, endurance, or fatigue, but massage was associated with small but statistically significant improvements in flexibility and DOMS. Massage therapy has the additional advantage that it is agreeable and nearly free of adverse effects. So, on balance, I think massage therapy might be worth considering for athletes.
I don’t usually find reading medical papers scary. An article in the prestigious journal ‘Nature’ is the exception. Here is its abstract:
Long COVID is the patient-coined term for the disease entity whereby persistent symptoms ensue in a significant proportion of those who have had COVID-19, whether asymptomatic, mild or severe. Estimated numbers vary but the assumption is that, of all those who had COVID-19 globally, at least 10% have long COVID. The disease burden spans from mild symptoms to profound disability, the scale making this a huge, new health-care challenge. Long COVID will likely be stratified into several more or less discrete entities with potentially distinct pathogenic pathways. The evolving symptom list is extensive, multi-organ, multisystem and relapsing–remitting, including fatigue, breathlessness, neurocognitive effects and dysautonomia. A range of radiological abnormalities in the olfactory bulb, brain, heart, lung and other sites have been observed in individuals with long COVID. Some body sites indicate the presence of microclots; these and other blood markers of hypercoagulation implicate a likely role of endothelial activation and clotting abnormalities. Diverse auto-antibody (AAB) specificities have been found, as yet without a clear consensus or correlation with symptom clusters. There is support for a role of persistent SARS-CoV-2 reservoirs and/or an effect of Epstein–Barr virus reactivation, and evidence from immune subset changes for broad immune perturbation. Thus, the current picture is one of convergence towards a map of an immunopathogenic aetiology of long COVID, though as yet with insufficient data for a mechanistic synthesis or to fully inform therapeutic pathways.
The paper ends with this gloomy statement: “The oncoming burden of long COVID faced by patients, health-care providers, governments and economies is so large as to be unfathomable, which is possibly why minimal high-level planning is currently allocated to it. If 10% of acute infections lead to persistent symptoms, it could be predicted that ~400 million individuals globally are in need of support for long COVID. The biggest unknowns remain the joined-up scheme of its pathogenesis and thus the best candidate therapeutics to be trialled in randomized controlled trials, along with a better understanding of the kinetics of recovery and the factors influencing this. Some countries have invested in first-round funding for the pilot investigations. From the above, far more will be needed.”
In the context of this blog, we must, of course, ask: HAS SO-CALLED ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE (SCAM) SOMETHING TO OFFER?
I’m afraid that the short answer to this question is No!
However, one does not need to be a clairvoyant to predict that lots of therapeutic claims followed by plenty of methodologically weak (to put it politely) research will emerge from SCAM. Already some time ago, this homeopath indicated, that SCAM providers should see COVID as an opportunity: For homeopathy, shunned during its 200 years of existence by conventional medicine, this outbreak is a key opportunity to show potentially the contribution it can make in treating COVID-19 patients.
We should not hold our breath to see the emergence of convincing evidence, but we must be prepared to warn the public from getting exploited by charlatans.
“We are hugely concerned about the welfare of doctors and healthcare workers with long COVID”. These are the first words of a comprehensive survey of UK doctors with post-acute COVID health complications. It reveals that these doctors experience symptoms such as:
- muscular pain,
- nerve damage,
- joint pain,
- respiratory problems.
Around 60% of doctors said that post-acute COVID ill health has affected their ability to carry out day-to-day activities on a regular basis. 18% reported that they were now unable to work due to their post-acute COVID ill-health, and only 31% said they were working full-time, compared with more than half before the onset of their illness.
The report demands financial support for doctors and healthcare staff with post-acute COVID, post-acute COVID to be recognized as an occupational disease in healthcare workers, with a definition that covers all of the debilitating disease’s symptoms and for improved access to physical and mental health services to aid comprehensive assessment, appropriate investigations and treatment. The report also calls for greater workplace protection for healthcare staff risking their lives for others and better support for post-acute COVID sufferers to return to work safely if they can, including a flexible approach to the use of workplace adjustments.
In November 2021, an online survey investigating the emotional states of depression, anxiety, stress, compassion satisfaction, and compassion fatigue was administered to 78 Italian healthcare workers (HCWs). Between 5 and 20% of the cohort showed the effects of the adverse psychological impact of the pandemic and more than half of them experienced medium levels of compassion fatigue as well as a medium level of compassion satisfaction. The results also show that those with fewer years of clinical practice might be at greater risk of burnout, anxiety, and stress symptoms and might develop a lower level of compassion satisfaction. Moreover, the factors that potentially contribute to poor mental health, compassion fatigue, and compassion satisfaction seem to differ between residents and specialist physicians.
A cross-sectional study was conducted from September 2021 to April 2022 and targeted all physicians working at King Fahd Hospital of the University, Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia. Patient Health Questionnaire-9 and General Anxiety Disorder-7 were used to elicit self-reported data regarding depression and anxiety, respectively. In addition, sociodemographic and job-related data were collected. A total of 438 physicians responded, of which 200 (45.7%) reported symptoms of depression and 190 (43.4%) of anxiety. Being aged 25-30 years, female, resident, and reporting a reduction in work quality were factors significantly associated with both anxiety and depression. Female gender (AOR = 3.570; 95% CI = 2.283-5.582; P < 0.001), working an average 9-11 hours/day (AOR = 2.130; 95% CI = 1.009-4.495; P < 0.047), and self-perceived reduction in work quality (AOR = 3.139; 95% CI = 2.047-4.813; P < 0.001) were significant independent predictors of anxiety. Female gender (AOR = 2.929; 95% CI = 1.845-4.649; P < 0.001) and self-perceived reduction in work quality (AOR = 3.141; 95% CI = 2.053-4.804; P < 0.001) were significant independent predictors of depression.
An observational, multicenter cross-sectional study was conducted at eight tertiary care centers in India. The consenting participants were HCWs between 12 and 52 weeks post-discharge after COVID-19 infection. The mean age of the 679 eligible participants was 31.49 ± 9.54 years. The overall prevalence of COVID sequelae was 30.34%, with fatigue (11.5%) being the most common followed by insomnia (8.5%), difficulty in breathing during activity (6%), and pain in joints (5%). The odds of having any sequelae were significantly higher among participants who had moderate to severe COVID-19 (OR 6.51; 95% CI 3.46-12.23) and lower among males (OR 0.55; 95% CI 0.39-0.76). Besides these, other predictors for having sequelae were age (≥45 years), presence of any comorbidity (especially hypertension and asthma), category of HCW (non-doctors vs doctors), and hospitalization due to COVID-19.
Such data are scary. Not only will we have a tsunami of long-Covid patients from the general public, and not only do we currently lack effective causal treatments for the condition, but also is the number of HCWs who are supposed to deal with all this drastically reduced.
Most if not all countries are going to be affected by these issues. But the UK public might suffer the most, I fear. The reasons are obvious if you read a previous post of mine: in the UK, we have significantly fewer doctors, nurses, hospital beds, and funding (as well as politicians who care and would be able to do something about the problem) than in other comparable countries. To me, this looks like the emergence of a perfect storm.
Sure, the LP is dangerous nonsense, but this begs the question of whether so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) has anything to offer for patients suffering from ME/CFS. If the LP story tells us anything, then it must be this: we should not trust single trials, particularly if they seem dodgy. In other words, we should look at systematic reviews that synthesize ALL clinical trials and evaluate them critically.
To locate this type of evidence I conducted several Medline searches and found several recent systematic reviews that address the issue:
Context: A variety of interventions have been used in the treatment and management of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Currently, debate exists among health care professionals and patients about appropriate strategies for management.
Objective: To assess the effectiveness of all interventions that have been evaluated for use in the treatment or management of CFS in adults or children.
Data sources: Nineteen specialist databases were searched from inception to either January or July 2000 for published or unpublished studies in any language. The search was updated through October 2000 using PubMed. Other sources included scanning citations, Internet searching, contacting experts, and online requests for articles.
Study selection: Controlled trials (randomized or nonrandomized) that evaluated interventions in patients diagnosed as having CFS according to any criteria were included. Study inclusion was assessed independently by 2 reviewers. Of 350 studies initially identified, 44 met inclusion criteria, including 36 randomized controlled trials and 8 controlled trials.
Data extraction: Data extraction was conducted by 1 reviewer and checked by a second. Validity assessment was carried out by 2 reviewers with disagreements resolved by consensus. A qualitative synthesis was carried out and studies were grouped according to type of intervention and outcomes assessed.
Data synthesis: The number of participants included in each trial ranged from 12 to 326, with a total of 2801 participants included in the 44 trials combined. Across the studies, 38 different outcomes were evaluated using about 130 different scales or types of measurement. Studies were grouped into 6 different categories. In the behavioral category, graded exercise therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy showed positive results and also scored highly on the validity assessment. In the immunological category, both immunoglobulin and hydrocortisone showed some limited effects but, overall, the evidence was inconclusive. There was insufficient evidence about effectiveness in the other 4 categories (pharmacological, supplements, complementary/alternative, and other interventions).
Conclusions: Overall, the interventions demonstrated mixed results in terms of effectiveness. All conclusions about effectiveness should be considered together with the methodological inadequacies of the studies. Interventions which have shown promising results include cognitive behavioral therapy and graded exercise therapy. Further research into these and other treatments is required using standardized outcome measures.
Introduction: Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) affects between 0.006% and 3% of the population depending on the criteria of definition used, with women being at higher risk than men.
Methods and outcomes: We conducted a systematic review and aimed to answer the following clinical question: What are the effects of treatments for chronic fatigue syndrome? We searched: Medline, Embase, The Cochrane Library, and other important databases up to March 2010 (Clinical Evidence reviews are updated periodically; please check our website for the most up-to-date version of this review). We included harms alerts from relevant organisations such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
Results: We found 46 systematic reviews, RCTs, or observational studies that met our inclusion criteria. We performed a GRADE evaluation of the quality of evidence for interventions.
Conclusions: In this systematic review we present information relating to the effectiveness and safety of the following interventions: antidepressants, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), corticosteroids, dietary supplements, evening primrose oil, galantamine, graded exercise therapy, homeopathy, immunotherapy, intramuscular magnesium, oral nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, and prolonged rest.
Background: Throughout the world, patients with chronic diseases/illnesses use complementary and alternative medicines (CAM). The use of CAM is also substantial among patients with diseases/illnesses of unknown aetiology. Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), also termed myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), is no exception. Hence, a systematic review of randomised controlled trials of CAM treatments in patients with CFS/ME was undertaken to summarise the existing evidence from RCTs of CAM treatments in this patient population.
Methods: Seventeen data sources were searched up to 13th August 2011. All randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of any type of CAM therapy used for treating CFS were included, with the exception of acupuncture and complex herbal medicines; studies were included regardless of blinding. Controlled clinical trials, uncontrolled observational studies, and case studies were excluded.
Results: A total of 26 RCTs, which included 3,273 participants, met our inclusion criteria. The CAM therapy from the RCTs included the following: mind-body medicine, distant healing, massage, tuina and tai chi, homeopathy, ginseng, and dietary supplementation. Studies of qigong, massage and tuina were demonstrated to have positive effects, whereas distant healing failed to do so. Compared with placebo, homeopathy also had insufficient evidence of symptom improvement in CFS. Seventeen studies tested supplements for CFS. Most of the supplements failed to show beneficial effects for CFS, with the exception of NADH and magnesium.
Conclusions: The results of our systematic review provide limited evidence for the effectiveness of CAM therapy in relieving symptoms of CFS. However, we are not able to draw firm conclusions concerning CAM therapy for CFS due to the limited number of RCTs for each therapy, the small sample size of each study and the high risk of bias in these trials. Further rigorous RCTs that focus on promising CAM therapies are warranted.
Background: There is no curative treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is widely used in the treatment of CFS in China.
Objective: To evaluate the effectiveness and safety of TCM for CFS.
Methods: The protocol of this review is registered at PROSPERO. We searched six main databases for randomized clinical trials (RCTs) on TCM for CFS from their inception to September 2013. The Cochrane risk of bias tool was used to assess the methodological quality. We used RevMan 5.1 to synthesize the results.
Results: 23 RCTs involving 1776 participants were identified. The risk of bias of the included studies was high. The types of TCM interventions varied, including Chinese herbal medicine, acupuncture, qigong, moxibustion, and acupoint application. The results of meta-analyses and several individual studies showed that TCM alone or in combination with other interventions significantly alleviated fatigue symptoms as measured by Chalder’s fatigue scale, fatigue severity scale, fatigue assessment instrument by Joseph E. Schwartz, Bell’s fatigue scale, and guiding principle of clinical research on new drugs of TCM for fatigue symptom. There was no enough evidence that TCM could improve the quality of life for CFS patients. The included studies did not report serious adverse events.
Conclusions: TCM appears to be effective to alleviate the fatigue symptom for people with CFS. However, due to the high risk of bias of the included studies, larger, well-designed studies are needed to confirm the potential benefit in the future.
Background: As the etiology of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is unclear and the treatment is still a big issue. There exists a wide range of literature about acupuncture and moxibustion (AM) for CFS in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). But there are certain doubts as well in the effectiveness of its treatment due to the lack of a comprehensive and evidence-based medical proof to dispel the misgivings. Current study evaluated systematically the effectiveness of acupuncture and moxibustion treatments on CFS, and clarified the difference among them and Chinese herbal medicine, western medicine and sham-acupuncture.
Methods: We comprehensively reviewed literature including PubMed, EMBASE, Cochrane library, CBM (Chinese Biomedical Literature Database) and CNKI (China National Knowledge Infrastructure) up to May 2016, for RCT clinical research on CFS treated by acupuncture and moxibustion. Traditional direct meta-analysis was adopted to analyze the difference between AM and other treatments. Analysis was performed based on the treatment in experiment and control groups. Network meta-analysis was adopted to make comprehensive comparisons between any two kinds of treatments. The primary outcome was total effective rate, while relative risks (RR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were used as the final pooled statistics.
Results: A total of 31 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) were enrolled in analyses. In traditional direct meta-analysis, we found that in comparison to Chinese herbal medicine, CbAM (combined acupuncture and moxibustion, which meant two or more types of acupuncture and moxibustion were adopted) had a higher total effective rate (RR (95% CI), 1.17 (1.09 ~ 1.25)). Compared with Chinese herbal medicine, western medicine and sham-acupuncture, SAM (single acupuncture or single moxibustion) had a higher total effective rate, with RR (95% CI) of 1.22 (1.14 ~ 1.30), 1.51 (1.31-1.74), 5.90 (3.64-9.56). In addition, compared with SAM, CbAM had a higher total effective rate (RR (95% CI), 1.23 (1.12 ~ 1.36)). In network meta-analyses, similar results were recorded. Subsequently, we ranked all treatments from high to low effective rate and the order was CbAM, SAM, Chinese herbal medicine, western medicine and sham-acupuncture.
Conclusions: In the treatment of CFS, CbAM and SAM may have better effect than other treatments. However, the included trials have relatively poor quality, hence high quality studies are needed to confirm our finding.
Objectives: This meta-analysis aimed to assess the effectiveness and safety of Chinese herbal medicine (CHM) in treating chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Methods: Nine electronic databases were searched from inception to May 2022. Two reviewers screened studies, extracted the data, and assessed the risk of bias independently. The meta-analysis was performed using the Stata 12.0 software. Results: Eighty-four RCTs that explored the efficacy of 69 kinds of Chinese herbal formulas with various dosage forms (decoction, granule, oral liquid, pill, ointment, capsule, and herbal porridge), involving 6,944 participants were identified. This meta-analysis showed that the application of CHM for CFS can decrease Fatigue Scale scores (WMD: -1.77; 95%CI: -1.96 to -1.57; p < 0.001), Fatigue Assessment Instrument scores (WMD: -15.75; 95%CI: -26.89 to -4.61; p < 0.01), Self-Rating Scale of mental state scores (WMD: -9.72; 95%CI:-12.26 to -7.18; p < 0.001), Self-Rating Anxiety Scale scores (WMD: -7.07; 95%CI: -9.96 to -4.19; p < 0.001), Self-Rating Depression Scale scores (WMD: -5.45; 95%CI: -6.82 to -4.08; p < 0.001), and clinical symptom scores (WMD: -5.37; 95%CI: -6.13 to -4.60; p < 0.001) and improve IGA (WMD: 0.30; 95%CI: 0.20-0.41; p < 0.001), IGG (WMD: 1.74; 95%CI: 0.87-2.62; p < 0.001), IGM (WMD: 0.21; 95%CI: 0.14-0.29; p < 0.001), and the effective rate (RR = 1.41; 95%CI: 1.33-1.49; p < 0.001). However, natural killer cell levels did not change significantly. The included studies did not report any serious adverse events. In addition, the methodology quality of the included RCTs was generally not high. Conclusion: Our study showed that CHM seems to be effective and safe in the treatment of CFS. However, given the poor quality of reports from these studies, the results should be interpreted cautiously. More international multi-centered, double-blinded, well-designed, randomized controlled trials are needed in future research.
What does all that tell us?
Disappointingly, it tells me that SCAM has preciously little to offer for ME/CFS patients.
But what about the TCM treatments? Aren’t the above reviews quite positive TCM?
Yes, they are but I nevertheless recommend taking them with a healthy pinch of salt.
Because we have seen many times before that, for a range of reasons, Chinese researchers of TCM draw false positive conclusions. That may sound unfair, harsh, or even racist, but I think it’s true. If you disagree, please show me a couple of systematic reviews of TCM for any human disease by Chinese researchers that have drawn negative conclusions.
And what is my advice to patients suffering from ME/CSF?
I think the best I can offer is this: be very cautious about the many claims made by SCAM enthusiasts; if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
The UK medical doctor, Sarah Myhill, has a website where she tells us:
Everyone should follow the general approach to maintaining and restoring good health, which involves eating a paleo ketogenic diet, taking a basic package of nutritional supplements, ensuring a good night’s sleep on a regular basis and getting the right balance between work, exercise and rest. Because we live in an increasingly polluted world, we should probably all be doing some sort of detox regime.
She also happens to sell dietary supplements of all kinds which must surely be handy for all who want to follow her advice. Dr. Myhill boosted her income even further by putting false claims about Covid-19 treatments online. And that got her banned from practicing for nine months after a medical tribunal.
She posted videos and articles advocating taking vitamins and other substances in high doses, without evidence they worked. The General Medical Council (GMC) found her recommendations “undermined public health” and found some of her recommendations had the potential to cause “serious harm” and “potentially fatal toxicity”. The tribunal was told she uploaded a series of videos and articles between March and May 2020, describing substances as “safe nutritional interventions” which she said meant vaccinations were “rendered irrelevant”. But the substances she promoted were not universally safe and have potentially serious health risks associated with them, the panel was told. The tribunal found Dr. Myhill “does not practice evidence-based medicine and may encourage false reassurance in her patients who may believe that they will not catch Covid-19 or other infections if they follow her advice”.
Dr. Myhill previously had a year-long ban lifted after a General Medical Council investigation into her claims of being a “pioneer” in the treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome. In fact, the hearing was told there had been 30 previous GMC investigations into Dr. Myhill, but none had resulted in findings of misconduct.
Dr. Myhill is also a vocal critic of the PACE trial and biopsychosocial model of ME/CFS. Dr. Myhill’s GMC complaint regarding a number of PACE trial authors was first rejected without investigation by the GMC, after Dr. Myhill appealed the GMC stated they would reconsider. Dr. Myhill’s action against the GMC for failing to provide reasoning for not investigating the PACE trial authors is still continuing and began a number of months before the most recent GMC instigation of her practice started.
The recent tribunal concluded: “Given the circumstances of this case, it is necessary to protect members of the public and in the public interest to make an order suspending Dr. Myhill’s registration with immediate effect, to uphold and maintain professional standards and maintain public confidence in the profession.”
Bioenergy (or energy healing) therapies are among the popular alternative treatment options for many diseases, including cancer. Many studies deal with the advantages and disadvantages of bioenergy therapies as an addition to established treatments such as chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation in the treatment of cancer. However, a systematic overview of this evidence is thus far lacking. For this reason, German authors reviewed and critically examined the evidence to determine what benefits the treatments have for patients.
In June 2022, a systematic search was conducted searching five electronic databases (Embase, Cochrane, PsychInfo, CINAHL and Medline) to find studies concerning the use, effectiveness, and potential harm of bioenergy therapies including the following modalities:
- Therapeutic Touch,
- Healing Touch,
- Polarity Therapy.
From all 2477 search results, 21 publications with a total of 1375 patients were included in this systematic review. The patients treated with bioenergy therapies were mainly diagnosed with breast cancer. The main outcomes measured were:
- quality of life (QoL),
The studies were predominantly of moderate quality and, for the most part, found no effect. In terms of QoL, pain, and nausea, there were some positive short-term effects of the interventions, but no long-term differences were detectable. The risk of side effects from bioenergy therapies appears to be relatively small.
The authors concluded that considering the methodical limitations of the included studies, studies with high study quality could not find any difference between bioenergy therapies and active (placebo, massage, RRT, yoga, meditation, relaxation training, companionship, friendly visit) and passive control groups (usual care, resting, education). Only studies with a low study quality were able to show significant effects.
Energy healing is as popular as it is implausible. What these ‘healers’ call ‘energy’ is not how it is defined in physics. It is an undefined, imagined entity that exists only in the imagination of its proponents. So why should it have an effect on cancer or any other condition?
Energy healing is an umbrella term for a range of paranormal healing practices. Their common denominator is the belief in a mystical ‘energy’ that can be used for therapeutic purposes.
- Forms of energy healing have existed in many ancient cultures. The ‘New Age’ movement has brought about a revival of these ideas, and today energy healing systems are amongst the most popular alternative therapies in the US as well as in many other countries. Popular forms of energy healing include those listed above. Each of these are discussed and referenced in separate chapters of this book.
- Energy healing relies on the esoteric belief in some form of ‘energy’ which is distinct from the concept of energy understood in physics and refers to some life force such as chi in Traditional Chinese Medicine, or prana in Ayurvedic medicine.
- Some proponents employ terminology from quantum physics and other ‘cutting-edge’ science to give their treatments a scientific flair which, upon closer scrutiny, turns out to be but a veneer of pseudo-science.
- The ‘energy’ that energy healers refer to is not measurable and lacks biological plausibility.
- Considering its implausibility, energy healing has attracted a surprisingly high level of research activity. Its findings are discussed in the respective chapters of each of the specific forms of energy healing.
- Generally speaking, the methodologically best trials of energy healing fail to demonstrate that it generates effects beyond placebo.
- Even though energy healing is per se harmless, it can do untold damage, not least because it significantly undermines rational thought in our societies.
As you can see, I do not entirely agree with my German friends on the issue of harm. I think energy healing is potentially dangerous and should be discouraged.
Yes, it is hot! Very hot. Where I live – Cambridge, UK – we expect records to be broken today and tomorrow, and we are predicted to reach as much as 40 degrees Celsius.
But do not despair – there is help!
As so often, homeopathy comes to our rescue.
I found this source giving us advice about “BEST HOMEOPATHY MEDICINE FOR SUMMER HEAT“:
Homeopathic remedies are non-toxic and a safe way to help the body to replenish its store of the cell salts and nutrients it needs in warmer periods and help to relieve cramps, aches, and fatigue. Some of the most common homeopathic medicines to deal with summer heat are:
- Calendula: This is an all-purpose medicine for many kinds of skin damage that many of us face during the summer season. When the skin gets damaged due to wounds, infection, prolonged sun exposure, and even excessive pollution and dirt, one can try using calendula.
- Arnica: All that running around on the beach can easily give you sore muscles, while the heat can sap up your energy and leave you fatigued. In such cases, Arnica is the perfect homeopathic answer to your maladies. This homeopathic remedy can be used for topical application if bought in its cream or gel form.
- Belladonna: Sun strokes, dehydration, and over-exposure to the sun, in general, can give you a host of problems and conditions including heat headaches. In order to treat such conditions, one can use homeopathic medicine Belladonna used for sun-stroke related ailments and symptoms.
- Rhus Toxicodendron: This Homeopathy remedy used for Hot Weather Symptom is also known as Rhus Tox. It is made from poison ivy extracts and is an effective drug when it comes to dealing with itchy rashes. These rashes may be caused because of exposure to oak, sumac, and even poison ivy.
- Ledum: Ledum or Ledum Palustre is one of the best homeopathic drugs when it comes to treating insect bites during summers.
- Euphrasia Officinalis: This homeopathic medicine is most commonly used for eye-related problems that may come about due to sun exposure or excessive sweating in prickly heat and other heat-related factors.
So, now we know. All you need to do is go to a homeopathic pharmacy and buy the remedies (please do not run, this might aggravate your symptoms!).
The author of the advice – Dr. Bela Chaudhry, BHMS, MD – Homeopathy, Homeopathy Doctor, Delhi, India – does not disclose this important information. As some of these ingredients are toxic, I would urge you to buy an ultra-molecular dilution – a C30, for instance – this way, you are sure that not a single molecule of what is printed on the package is contained in the actual remedy.
Alternatively, you could save quite a bit of money by staying where you are, taking a cool drink of water (put a pinch of salt in it, if you think you are getting dehydrated), and considering the evidence. It clearly shows that homeopathic remedies are pure placebos. They do not work against the symptoms of overheating nor against anything else.
I suspect, there will be some who disagree with me. To them, I say: please show me the evidence that any of the above-listed homeopathic remedies are effective against the named conditions. If you do that, I promise that I will change my post accordingly. Thank you.
Two million people in UK are estimated to be currently suffering from long COVID, says the Office for National Statistics. Fatigue continues to be the most common symptom – experienced by 55% of those with self-reported long COVID – followed by 32% with shortness of breath, 23% with a cough, and 23% with muscle ache. The problem is only going to increase in the near future. Thus, many people are frantically looking for an effective therapy. Practitioners of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) are no exception.
This study aimed to evaluate the potential for inhalation of essential oils to improve energy levels among otherwise healthy female survivors of acute COVID-19 who experience a lack of energy more than five months after recovery.
This was a randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled trial to evaluate the potential for inhalation of Longevity™, a proprietary essential oil blend manufactured by Young Living Essential Oils (Lehi, Utah, USA), on energy levels among female survivors of COVID-19 who continue to experience fatigue more than 5 months recovery from the acute infection. Forty women were randomized to two groups: intervention and placebo. The placebo product contained an inert, odorless fractionated coconut oil. Both groups inhaled the assigned product twice daily for fourteen consecutive days. Fatigue scores were measured using the Multidimensional Fatigue Symptom Inventory (MFSI). Secondary outcomes included scores on each of the MFSI’s ten subscales.
Individuals who inhaled the essential oil blend for 2 weeks had significantly lower fatigue scores after controlling for baseline scores, employment status, BMI, olfactory function, and time since diagnosis, with a large effect size (F (1,39) = 6.15, p = .020, partial eta squared = 0.198). Subscale analysis identified subscales of vigor, as well as global, behavioral, general, and mental fatigue as benefiting from the intervention. This study provides evidence that a proprietary aromatherapy blend can significantly improve energy levels among women who are experiencing fatigue after recovering from COVID-19.
The authors concluded that the use of aromatherapy with Longevity™ essential oil blend to boost energy levels in women who have recovered from COVID-19 provides a novel, non-invasive approach to improving quality of life in this population. This intervention is particularly beneficial for global and mental fatigue, as well as vigor. Other subdomains may experience improvements to energy levels with a smaller effect size; future studies should be conducted to explore this potential.
This trial was funded by Young Living Essential Oils. Perhaps, this explains why there is no mention of the elephant in the room: the trial was not blind! Participants in the verum group knew that they received aromatherapy. Likewise, participants in the placebo group knew that they received the placebo.
Could this fact have influenced the outcome? Certainly!
Could the trial have been designed better? Certainly!
All the investigators needed to do is to use a nice-smelling oil that, according to aromatherapists, does not boost energy, as the placebo.
As it stands, we have no idea whether the authors’ assumption that the verum oil caused the effect is true.
Or maybe not?
Perhaps Young Living Essential Oils, the sponsor of the study and producer of the oil never wanted to know the truth. Maybe they are happy to abuse science as a marketing tool?