Several newspapers have reported that, in the Paris region and in the Alpes-Maritimes, France, some 175 police officers were mobilized yesterday to arrest of Gregorian Bivolaru, 71, the Romanian guru and founder of the Movement for Spiritual Integration Towards the Absolute (Misa), which became the ‘Atman Yoga Federation’ when it expanded outside Romania.
Bivolaru had already been convicted in Romania of rape of a minor and is wanted by Interpol for trafficking women. He has also been the subject of a judicial investigation in France since July 2023 for “human trafficking, “organized gang confinement”, “rape” and “organized gang abuse”. He presents himself as the “spiritual leader” of the Atman yoga federation, which has branches in some 30 countries. Under the guise of teaching tantric yoga, this sect conditions its female followers to accept sexual relations eliminating any notion of consent. The victims were encouraged to accept sexual relations with the group’s leader and to engage in pornographic practices for a fee in France and abroad.
Twenty-six women were released during the police operation. Gregorian Bivolaru was arrested in a house in Ivry-sur-Seine where he used to receive his followers for tantric yoga “sexual initiations”. A dozen women were also held for days in the Paris region, to be handed over to the guru.
Gregorian Bivolaru’s career began in 1990 in Romania, where he first founded Misa. Accused of human trafficking and tax evasion in his home country, he moved to Sweden, where he was granted political asylum in 2005, along with a new identity. A conspiracy theorist, he has always maintained that the proceedings against him were political and that the Romanian legal system was against him.
In 2016, Gregorian Bivolaru was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment in Romania for raping a minor and extradited from France. He remained in custody for just one year. New charges were brought against him in Finland after six women, members of the Atman yoga federation, filed a complaint for “human trafficking”. This led Helsinki to issue an international wanted notice by Interpol, in 2017.
Subsequently, the sect continued to exist, still under the control of Gregorian Bivolaru, based in the Paris region. Former followers claimed that the man financed his activities by forcing his victims to submit to various forms of prostitution in strip clubs and massage parlors, or by forcing them to take part in pornographic films in Romania, Hungary and the Czech Republic.
The International Federation of Yoga and Meditation, ATMAN, claims on its website that it is a non-profit organisation and the majority of its members are committed to a non-profit and charitable orientation. ATMAN is providing a basis for communication and cooperation between various traditional yoga schools and genuine spiritual paths worldwide, promoting true spiritual values for the benefit of mankind.
A website for Tara Yoga states that Gregorian Bivolaru, nicknamed ‘Grieg’, “is the author of the yoga course taught in Tara and our sister schools in the ATMAN Federation. Having dedicated his entire life towards helping people awaken to that which is divine, Grieg is recognised by many as having a high level of enlightenment and spiritual power, and as belonging to the highest category of spiritual guides, bodhaka.”
Tara is one of the ten Maha Vidyas or goddesses of the Tantric pantheon. She is the embodiment of knowledge, grace and compassion. Tara is the guiding star of all spiritual seekers, helping aspirants at any moment as they navigate ‘samsara’, the ocean of illusion, on the path to self-knowledge.
Certain aspects of yoga can be used as a non-pharmacological conservative therapeutic approach to the management of chronic low back pain (CLBP). This overview summarized and evaluated data from current systematic reviews (SRs) on the use of yoga for CLBP.
The researchers searched SRs on the use of yoga for CLBP in nine electronic databases from inception to September 2023. The methodological quality was evaluated using the Assessment of Multiple Systematic Review Scale-2 (AMSTAR-2). The reporting quality of the included SRs was evaluated using the Preferred Reporting Item for Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis-2020 (PRISMA-2020), and the quality of data was graded using the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation (GRADE). Two independent researchers performed the screening, data extraction, and quality assessment process of SRs.
A total of 13 SRs were included. The results of the AMSTAR-2 indicated that the methodological quality of the included studies was relatively low. The PRISMA-2020 checklist evaluation results indicated that methodological limitations in reporting, especially regarding data processing and presentation, were the main weaknesses. The GRADE assessment indicated that 30 outcomes were rated moderate, 42 were rated low level, and 20 were rated very low level. Downgrading factors were mainly due to the limitations of the included studies.
The authors concluded that yoga appears to be an effective and safe non-pharmacological therapeutic modality for the Management of CLBP. Currently, it may exhibit better efficacy in improving pain and functional disability associated with CLBP. However, the methodological quality and quality of evidence for SRs/MAs in the included studies were generally low, and these results should be interpreted cautiously.
Sorry, but I beg to differ!
- The safety of a therapy cannot be ascertained on the basis of such small sample sizes.
- The effectiveness of yoga has not been demonstrated by these data.
- All that has been shown with this review is that the quality of the research in this area is too poor for drawing conclusions.
Exercise is often cited as a major factor contributing to improved cognitive functioning. As a result, the relationship between exercise and cognition has received much attention in scholarly literature. Systematic reviews and meta-analyses present varying and sometimes conflicting results about the extent to which exercise can influence cognition. The aim of this umbrella review was to summarize the effects of physical exercise on cognitive functions (global cognition, executive function, memory, attention, or processing speed) in healthy adults ≥ 55 years of age.
This review of systematic reviews with meta-analyses invested the effect of exercise on cognition. Databases (CINAHL, Cochrane Library, MEDLINE, PsycInfo, Scopus, and Web of Science) were searched from inception until June 2023 for reviews of randomized or non-randomised controlled trials. Full-text articles meeting the inclusion criteria were reviewed and methodological quality assessed. Overlap within included reviews was assessed using the corrected covered area method (CCA). A random effects model was used to calculate overall pooled effect size with sub-analyses for specific cognitive domains, exercise type and timing of exercise.
A total of 20 met the inclusion criteria. They were based on 332 original primary studies. Overall quality of the reviews was considered moderate with most meeting 8 or more of the 16 AMSTAR 2 categories. Overall pooled effects indicated that exercise in general has a small positive effect on cognition (d = 0.22; SE = 0.04; p < 0.01). Mind–body exercise had the greatest effect with a pooled effect size of (d = 0.48; SE = 0.06; p < 0.001). Exercise had a moderate positive effect on global cognition (d = 0.43; SE = 0,11; p < 0,001) and a small positive effect on executive function, memory, attention, and processing speed. Chronic exercise was more effective than acute exercise. Variation across studies due to heterogeneity was considered very high.
The authors concluded that mind–body exercise has moderate positive effects on the cognitive function of people aged 55 or older. To promote healthy aging, mind–body exercise should be used over a prolonged period to complement other types of exercise. Results of this review should be used to inform the development of guidelines to promote healthy aging.
It seems to me that the umbrella review hides the crucial fact that many of the primary studies had major flaws, e.g. in terms of:
- lack of randomisation,
- lack of blinding.
Eleven studies investigated the effects of aerobic exercise on cognition. Only three studies investigated the effects of mind body exercise on cognition, two analysed the effects of resistance exercise, and five investigated the effects of mixed exercise interventions. I am therefore mystified how the authors managed to arrive at such a hyped conclusion in favour of the effectiveness of mind body exercises. Even an optimistic interpretation of the data would allow merely a weak indication that a positive effect might exist. To state that mind body exercises should be promoted for ‘healthy aging’ borders on the irresponsible, in my view. Surely even the most naive researcher must see that, for such a far-reaching recommendation, we would need much more solid evidence.
I strongly suspect that a proper review of the primary studies of mind body exercise with a critical evaluation of the quality of the primary studies would lead to dramatically different conclusion.
This study aimed to compare the effectiveness of three distinct interventions – Yoga, Naturopathy, and Conventional medical management – in alleviating pain, reducing disability, enhancing spinal mobility, and improving the quality of life in individuals with low back pain. Ninety participants were recruited and randomly divided into three groups.
- The first group (group 1) received Yoga,
- the second group (group 2) received Naturopathy treatments,
- the third group served as the control and received conventional medications.
Visual Analogue Scale (VAS) scores, Oswestry Disability Index (ODI), Flexion Test-Finger to Floor Test (FTFT) results, and Quality of Life (QOL) were assessed at baseline and after a 10-day intervention period for all groups.
Overall comparisons between the groups, utilizing ANOVA, revealed marked differences in pain severity, disability index, daily functional capacity, and Quality of Life (QoL) improvements following respective interventions. Substantial improvements were also noted within the yoga and naturopathic medicine groups across multiple variables.
The authors concluded that the results of this comparative analysis emphasize the effectiveness of Yoga, Naturopathy, and Conventional Medical Treatment in managing low back pain. All three interventions demonstrated significant improvements in pain intensity, disability, spinal mobility, and quality of life. This study contributes valuable insights into the diverse therapeutic approaches for low back pain management, highlighting the potential of holistic and alternative treatments to enhance patients’ well-being.
This is a remarkably poor study. Its flaws are too numerous to account for them all here. Let me focus on just a three that stand out.
- All we learn about the 3 treatment regimen is this (and it clearly not enough to do an independent replication of this trial):
Participants in the Yoga Group underwent a specifically designed integrated approach of Yoga therapy (IAYT) for back pain, incorporating relaxation techniques, spinal movements, breathing exercises, pranayama, and deep relaxation techniques. The intervention was conducted by qualified yoga instructors at SDM College of Naturopathy and Yogic Sciences.
Participants in the Naturopathy Group received neutral spinal baths and partial massages. The spinal bath was administered at Government Yoga & Nature Cure Out Patient Center, Puttur, and massages were performed by trained naturopathy therapists.
Conventional Medicine Group:
Participants in the Conventional Medicine Group received standard medical treatments for low back pain as recommended by orthopedic physicians from S.D.M Medical College, Dharward
- As an equivalence trial, the sample size of this study is far too small. This means that its findings are most likely caused by coincidence and not by the interventions applied.
- There was no attempt of blinding the patients. Therefore, the results – if they were otherwise trustworthy – would be dominated by expectations and not by the effects of the treatments.
Altogether, this study is, I think, a good example for the fact that
poor research often is worse than no research at all.
Charles has a well-documented weakness for so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) – not just any SCAM but predominantly the type of SCAM that is both implausible and ineffective. Therefore, nobody can be all that surprised to read in THE TIMES that he has decided to use SCAM for helping women who have difficulties getting pregnant.
If one really wanted to employ SCAM for this aim one is spoilt for choice. In fact, there are only few SCAMs that don’t claim to be useful for this purpose.
A recent review, for instance, suggested that some supplements might be helpful. Other authors advocate SCAMs such as acupuncture, moxibustion, Chinese herbal medicine, psychological intervention, biosimilar electrical stimulation, homeopathy, or hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
Yes, I know! The evidence for these treatments is lousy, and I would never issue a recommendation based on such flimsy evidence.
Yet, the SCAM project at Dumfries House, the Scottish stately home Charles restored in 2007, offers acupuncture, reflexology, massage, yoga, and hypnotherapy for infertile women.
Reflexology, also called zone therapy, is a manual treatment where pressure is applied usually to the sole of the patient’s foot and sometimes also to other areas such as the hands or ears. According to its proponents, foot reflexology is more than a simple foot massage that makes no therapeutic claims beyond relaxation. It is based on the idea that the human body is divided into 10 zones each of which is represented on the sole of the foot. Reflexologists employ maps of the sole of the foot where the body’s organs are depicted. By massaging specific zones which are assumed to be connected to specific organs, reflexologists believe to positively influence the function of these organs. While reflexology is mostly used as a therapy, some therapists also claim they can diagnose health problems through feeling tender or gritty areas on the sole of the foot which, they claim, correspond to specific organs.
Reflexology is not merely implausible as a treatment for infertility, it also boasts of some fairly rigorous trial evidence. A clinical trial (perhaps even the most rigorous of all the trials of SCAM for female fertility problems) testing whether foot reflexology might have a positive effect on the induction of ovulation stated that “the results suggest that any effect on ovulation would not be clinically relevant”.
So, as so often before in the realm of SCAM, Charles has demonstrated that his lack of critical thinking leads him to the least promising options.
Well done, Your Majesty!
It has been reported that King Charles refused to pay Prince Andrew’s £ 32,000-a-year bill for his personal healing guru. The Duke of York has allegedly submitted the claim to the Privy Purse as a royal expense having sought the help of a yoga teacher.
However, the claim has reportedly been denied by the King, who is said to have told Andrew the bill will need to be covered using his own money. It comes after sources claimed Andrew has been using the Indian yogi for a number of years for chanting, massages, and holistic therapy in the privacy of his mansion. The healer has reportedly enjoyed month-long stays at a time at the £30 million Royal Lodge in Windsor.
Previously, the Queen seems to have passed the claims. But now Charles is in control. A source said: “While the Queen was always happy to indulge her son over the years, Charles is far less inclined to fund such indulgences, particularly in an era of a cost-of-living crisis. “Families are struggling and would rightly baulk at the idea of tens of thousands paid to an Indian guru to provide holistic treatment to a non-working royal living in his grace and favour mansion. This time the King saw the bill for the healer submitted by Andrew to the Privy Purse and thought his brother was having a laugh.”
How is he going to cope without his guru?
Will he be able to recover from the mysterious condition that prevents him to sweat?
Will his ego take another blow?
How will he be able to afford even the most basic holistic wellness?
How can Charles – who knows only too well about its benefits – be so cruel to his own brother?
Should I start a collection so that Andrew can pay for his most basic needs?
Yes, these are the nagging questions and deep concerns that keep me awake at night!
I have just been asked if, by any chance, the yoga teacher is a 16-year-old female. I have to admit that I cannot answer this question.
Is so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) compatible with Christian beliefs? This is not a question that often robs me of my sleep, yet it seems an interesting issue to explore during the Christmas holiday. So, I did a few searches and – would you believe it? – found a ‘Christian Checklist’ as applied to SCAM Since it is by no means long, let me present it to you in full:
- Taking into consideration the lack of scientific evidence available, can it be recommended with integrity?
- What are its roots? Is there an eastern religious basis (Taoism or Hinduism)? Is it based on life force or vitalism?
- Are there any specific spiritual dangers involved? Does its method of diagnosis or practice include occult practices, all forms of which are strictly forbidden in Scripture.
Now, let me try to answer the questions that the checklist poses:
- No! – particularly not, if the SCAM endangers the health of the person who uses it (which, as we have discussed so often can occur in multiple ways).
- Most SCAMs have their roots in eastern religions, life force, or vitalism. Very few are based on Christian ideas or assumptions.
- If we define ‘occult’ as anything that is hidden or mysterious, we are bound to see that almost all SCAMs are occult.
What surprises me with the ‘Christian Checklist’ is that it makes no mention of ethics. I would have thought that this might be an important issue for Christians. Am I mistaken? I have often pointed out that the practice of SCAM nearly invariably violates fundamental rules of ethics.
In any case, the checklist makes one thing quite clear: by and large, SCAM is nothing that Christians should ever contemplate employing. This article (which I have quoted before) seems to confirm my point:
The Vatican’s top exorcist has spoken out in condemnation of yoga … , branding [it] as “Satanic” acts that lead[s] to “demonic possession”. Father Cesare Truqui has warned that the Catholic Church has seen a recent spike in worldwide reports of people becoming possessed by demons and that the reason for the sudden uptick is the rise in popularity of pastimes such as watching Harry Potter movies and practicing Vinyasa.
Professor Giuseppe Ferrari … says that … activities such as yoga, “summon satanic spirits” … Monsignor Luigi Negri, the archbishop of Ferrara-Comacchio, who also attended the Vatican crisis meeting, claimed that homosexuality is “another sign” that “Satan is in the Vatican”. The Independent reports: Father Cesare says he’s seen many an individual speaking in tongues and exhibiting unearthly strength, two attributes that his religion says indicate the possibility of evil spirits inhabiting a person’s body. “There are those who try to turn people into vampires and make them drink other people’s blood, or encourage them to have special sexual relations to obtain special powers,” stated Professor Ferrari at the meeting. “These groups are attracted by the so-called beautiful young vampires that we’ve seen so much of in recent years.”
You might take such statements not all that seriously – the scorn of the vatican does not concern you?
Yet, the ‘Christian Checklist’ also raises worries much closer to home. King Charles is the head of the Anglican Church. Undeniably, he also is a long-term, enthusiastic supporter of many of those ‘quasi-satanic’ SCAMs. How are we supposed to reconsile these contradictions, tensions, and conflicts?
The American Heart Association has issued a statement outlining research on so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) for heart failure. They found some SCAMs that work, some that don’t work, and some that are harmful.
Alternative therapies that may benefit people with heart failure include:
- Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA, fish oil) have the strongest evidence among complementary and alternative agents for clinical benefit in people with heart failure and may be used safely, in moderation, in consultation with their health care team. Omega-3 PUFA is associated with a lower risk of developing heart failure and, for those who already have heart failure, improvements in the heart’s pumping ability. There appears to be a dose-related increase in atrial fibrillation (an irregular heart rhythm), so doses of 4 grams or more should be avoided.
- Yoga and Tai Chi, in addition to standard treatment, may help improve exercise tolerance and quality of life and decrease blood pressure.
Meanwhile, some therapies were found to have harmful effects, such as interactions with common heart failure medications and changes in heart contraction, blood pressure, electrolytes and fluid levels:
- While low blood levels of vitamin D are associated with worse heart failure outcomes, supplementation hasn’t shown benefit and may be harmful when taken with heart failure medications such as digoxin, calcium channel blockers and diuretics.
- The herbal supplement blue cohosh, from the root of a flowering plant found in hardwood forests, might cause a fast heart rate called tachycardia, high blood pressure, chest pain and may increase blood glucose. It may also decrease the effect of medications taken to treat high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes.
- Lily of the valley, the root, stems and flower of which are used in supplements, has long been used in mild heart failure because it contains active chemicals similar to, but less potent than, the heart failure medicine digoxin. It may be harmful when taken with digoxin by causing very low potassium levels, a condition known as hypokalemia. Lily of the valley also may cause irregular heartbeat, confusion and tiredness.
Other therapies have been shown as ineffective based on current data, or have mixed findings, highlighting the importance of patients having a discussion with a health care professional about any non-prescribed treatments:
- Routine thiamine supplementation isn’t shown to be effective for heart failure treatment unless someone has this specific nutrient deficiency.
- Research on alcohol varies, with some data showing that drinking low-to-moderate amounts (1 to 2 drinks per day) is associated with preventing heart failure, while habitual drinking or intake of higher amounts is toxic to the heart muscle and known to contribute to heart failure.
- There are mixed findings about vitamin E. It may have some benefit in reducing the risk of heart failure with preserved ejection fraction, a type of heart failure in which the left ventricle is unable to properly fill with blood between heartbeats. However, it has also been associated with an increased risk of hospitalization in people with heart failure.
- Co-Q10, or coenzyme Q10, is an antioxidant found in small amounts in organ meats, oily fish and soybean oil, and commonly taken as a dietary supplement. Small studies show it may help improve heart failure class, symptoms and quality of life, however, it may interact with blood pressure lowering and anti-clotting medicines. Larger trials are needed to better understand its effects.
- Hawthorn, a flowering shrub, has been shown in some studies to increase exercise tolerance and improve heart failure symptoms such as fatigue. Yet it also has the potential to worsen heart failure, and there is conflicting research about whether it interacts with digoxin.
“Overall, more quality research and well-powered randomized controlled trials are needed to better understand the risks and benefits of complementary and alternative medicine therapies for people with heart failure,” said Chow. “This scientific statement provides critical information to health care professionals who treat people with heart failure and may be used as a resource for consumers about the potential benefit and harm associated with complementary and alternative medicine products.”
No doubt, this assessment is a laudable attempt to inform patients responsibly. Personally, I am always a bit skeptical about such broad statements. SCAM encompasses some 400 different therapies, and I doubt that these can all be assessed in one single overview.
It is not difficult to find SCAMs that seem to have not been considered. Take this systematic review, for instance. It included 24 RCTs (n = 1314 participants) of 9 different mind-body interventions (MBI) types: Tai Chi (n = 7), yoga (n = 4), relaxation (n = 4), meditation (n = 2), acupuncture (n = 2), biofeedback (n = 2), stress management (n = 1), Pilates (n = 1), and reflexology (n = 1). Most (n = 22, 95.8%) reported small-to-moderate improvements in quality of life (14/14 studies), exercise capacity (8/9 studies), depression (5/5 studies), anxiety and fatigue (4/4 studies), blood pressure (3/5 studies), heart rate (5/6 studies), heart rate variability (7/9 studies), and B-type natriuretic peptide (3/4 studies). Studies ranged from 4 minutes to 26 weeks and group sizes ranged from 8 to 65 patients per study arm.
The authors concluded that, although wide variability exists in the types and delivery, RCTs of MBIs have demonstrated small-to-moderate positive effects on HF patients’ objective and subjective outcomes. Future research should examine the mechanisms by which different MBIs exert their effects.
Or take this systematic review of 38 RCTs of oral TCM remedies. The majority of the included trials were assessed to be of high clinical heterogeneity and poor methodological quality. The main results of the meta-analysis showed improvement in total MLHFQ score when oral Chinese herbal medicine plus conventional medical treatment (CMT) compared with CMT with or without placebo [MD = -5.71 (-7.07, -4.36), p < 0.01].
The authors concluded that there is some encouraging evidence of oral Chinese herbal medicine combined with CMT for the improvement of QoL in CHF patients. However, the evidence remains weak due to the small sample size, high clinical heterogeneity, and poor methodological quality of the included trials. Further, large sample size and well-designed trials are needed.
Don’t get me wrong: I am not saying that TCM remedies are a viable option – in fact, I very much doubt it – but I am saying that attempts to provide comprehensive overviews of all SCAMs are problematic, and that incomplete overviews are just that: incomplete.
Camilla spent ten days at the end of October in a sophisticated meditation and fitness center in southern India. Life has recently been hectic for the Queen Consort: at 75, she has been in a non-stop succession of various ceremonies for the funeral of Elizabeth II, always one step behind her husband, not to mention her new status as sovereign… Enough to block her chakras in no time.
She came to the resort with her bodyguards and a handful of friends and was able to take advantage of the tailor-made treatments concocted for her by the master of the house, Dr Issac Mathai, who created this high-end holistic centre on a dozen hectares of scented gardens near Bangalore. The program includes massages, herbal steam baths, yoga, naturopathy, homeopathy, meditation, and Ayurvedic treatments to “cleanse, de-stress, soothe and revitalize the mind, body and soul”, as the establishment’s website states.
Guests are required to follow an individualized, meat-free diet, with organic food from the resort’s vegetable gardens, based on lots of salads or soups – Camilla is said to be a fan of sweet corn soup with spinach. Cigarettes and mobile phones are not allowed, although it is assumed that Camilla must have some privileges due to her status… and the basic rate for the suites, which starts at $950 a night – the price of the rooms varies between $260 and $760, the rate including a consultation with the doctors.
Charles and Camilla have been fans of the Soukya Centre in India for a decade. The place corresponds in every way to their deep-rooted convictions about health. Like her husband, Camilla is a follower of organic food, she also practices yoga and treats her face with creams made from nettle and bee venom. For his part, Charles has long been an advocate of alternative medicine, homeopathy, acupuncture, aromatherapy, and also hypnosis… He even set up a foundation to support complementary medicine by lobbying the British health service to include it in complementary therapies for certain patients, which caused an uproar among the pundits of traditional medicine.
If you suspected I was (yet again) sarcastic about the royal couple, you are mistaken. The text above is only my (slightly shortened) translation of an article published in the French magazine LE POINT (even the title is theirs). I found the article amusing and interesting; so, I looked up the Indian health center. Here are some of the things I found:
The 1st impression is that they are not shy about promotion calling themselves THE WORLD’S BEST AYURVEDA TREATMENT CENTER. The doctor in charge was once a ‘Consultant Physician’ at the Hale Clinic in London, where he treated a number of high-profile people. As his professional background, he offers this:
M.D. (Homeopathy); Hahnemann Post-Graduate Institute of Homeopathy, London M.R.C.H, London; Chinese Pulse Diagnosis and Acupuncture, WHO Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Nanjing, China; Trained (Mind-Body Medicine Programme) at Harvard Medical School, USA
The approach of the center is described as follows:
The fundamental principle underlying Holistic Treatment is that the natural defense and immune system of an individual when strengthened, has the potential to heal and prevent diseases. In the age of super-specialisation where human beings are often viewed as a conglomeration of organs, it is crucial to understand ourselves as multi-dimensional beings with a body, mind and spirit. These interconnected dimensions need to be in perfect harmony to ensure real well-being.
And about homeopathy, they claim this:
Homeopathy originated in 1796 in Germany, and was discovered by Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, a German scientist. Homeopathy is popular today as a non-intrusive, holistic system of medicine. Instead of different medicines for different parts of the body, one single constitutional remedy is prescribed. As a system of medicine, Homeopathy is highly scientific, safe, logical and an extremely effective method of healing. For over 200 years people have used Homeopathy to maintain their good health, and also to treat and cure a wide range of illnesses like allergies, metabolic disorders, atopic dermatitis, Rheumatoid arthritis, Auto-immune disorders.
At this stage, I felt I had seen enough. Yes, you are right, we did not learn a lot from this little exploration. No, hold on! We did learn that homeopathy is highly scientific, safe, logical, and extremely effective!
The question, however, is should we believe it?
Yesterday, L’EXPRESS published an interview with me. It was introduced with these words (my translation):
Professor emeritus at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, Edzard Ernst is certainly the best connoisseur of unconventional healing practices. For 25 years, he has been sifting through the scientific evaluation of these so-called “alternative” medicines. With a single goal: to provide an objective view, based on solid evidence, of the reality of the benefits and risks of these therapies. While this former homeopathic doctor initially thought he was bringing them a certain legitimacy, he has become one of their most enlightened critics. It is notable as a result of his work that the British health system, the NHS, gave up covering homeopathy. Since then, he has never ceased to alert us to the abuses and lies associated with these practices. For L’Express, he looks back at the challenges of regulating this vast sector and deciphers the main concepts put forward by “wellness” professionals – holism, detox, prevention, strengthening the immune system, etc.
The interview itself is quite extraordinary, in my view. While UK, US, and German journalists usually are at pains to tone down my often outspoken answers, the French journalists (there were two doing the interview with me) did nothing of the sort. This starts with the title of the piece: “Homeopathy is implausible but energy healing takes the biscuit”.
The overall result is one of the most outspoken interviews of my entire career. Let me offer you a few examples (again my translation):
Why are you so critical of celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow who promote these wellness methods?
Sadly, we have gone from evidence-based medicine to celebrity-based medicine. A celebrity without any medical background becomes infatuated with a certain method. They popularize this form of treatment, very often making money from it. The best example of this is Prince Charles, sorry Charles III, who spent forty years of his life promoting very strange things under the guise of defending alternative medicine. He even tried to market a “detox” tincture, based on artichoke and dandelion, which was quickly withdrawn from the market.
How to regulate this sector of wellness and alternative medicines? Today, anyone can present himself as a naturopath or yoga teacher…
Each country has its own regulation, or rather its own lack of regulation. In Germany, for instance, we have the “Heilpraktikter”. Anyone can get this paramedical status, you just have to pass an exam showing that you are not a danger to the public. You can retake this exam as often as you want. Even the dumbest will eventually pass. But these practitioners have an incredible amount of freedom, they even may give infusions and injections. So there is a two-tier health care system, with university-trained doctors and these practitioners.
In France, you have non-medical practitioners who are fighting for recognition. Osteopaths are a good example. They are not officially recognized as a health profession. Many schools have popped up to train them, promising a good income to their students, but today there are too many osteopaths compared to the demand of the patients (knowing that nobody really needs an osteopath to begin with…). Naturopaths are in the same situation.
In Great Britain, osteopaths and chiropractors are regulated by statute. There is even a Royal College dedicated to chiropractic. It’s a bit like having a Royal College for hairdressers! It’s stupid, but we have that. We also have professionals like naturopaths, acupuncturists, or herbalists who have an intermediate status. So it’s a very complex area, depending on the state. It is high time to have more uniform regulations in Europe.
But what would adequate regulation look like?
From my point of view, if you really regulate a profession like homeopaths, it means that these professionals may only practice according to the best scientific evidence available. Which, in practice, means that a homeopath cannot practice homeopathy. This is why these practitioners have a schizophrenic attitude toward regulation. On the one hand, they would like to be recognized to gain credibility. But on the other hand, they know very well that a real regulation would mean that they would have to close shop…
What about the side effects of these practices?
If you ask an alternative practitioner about the risks involved, he or she will take exception. The problem is that there is no system in alternative medicine to monitor side effects and risks. However, there have been cases where chiropractors or acupuncturists have killed people. These cases end up in court, but not in the medical literature. The acupuncturists have no problem saying that a hundred deaths due to acupuncture – a figure that can be found in the scientific literature – is negligible compared to the millions of treatments performed every day in this discipline. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. There are many cases that are not published and therefore not included in the data, because there is no real surveillance system for these disciplines.
Do you see a connection between the wellness sector and conspiracy theories? In the US, we saw that Qanon was thriving in the yoga sector, for example…
Several studies have confirmed these links: people who adhere to conspiracy theories also tend to turn to alternative medicine. If you think about it, alternative medicine is itself a conspiracy theory. It is the idea that conventional medicine, in the name of pharmaceutical interests, in particular, wants to suppress certain treatments, which can therefore only exist in an alternative world. But in reality, the pharmaceutical industry is only too eager to take advantage of this craze for alternative products and well-being. Similarly, universities, hospitals, and other health organizations are all too willing to open their doors to these disciplines, despite the lack of evidence of their effectiveness.