In a letter to the editor in the St. Petersburg Times, a USF staff person wrote that the VA shouldn’t be dabbling in alternative therapies such as Reiki and acupuncture because they are not scientifically proven. “Anecdotal” evidence is not enough, he says. Well..there is a growing body of evidence that meditation and mindfulness do indeed help many medical conditions. And…what’s the harm? No one dies from yoga. I doubt that these alternative therapies are costing the VA system millions of dollars, as prescription pills and invasive procedures do. Isn’t it worth a try? I myself have found that a Reiki session makes me feel wonderful for the rest of the day. Does it cure what ails me? Not necessarily, but I certainly haven’t gotten worse, and who knows…perhaps infrequent treatments may be helping on some level. Because I can’t “prove” that Reiki is working means I should stop going for treatment? That’s silly.
A nurse adding a few minutes of Reiki treatment to her patient visits isn’t costing the VA hospital much. If veterans feel better after Reiki, I’m all for that. Perhaps a few people experience some lessening of pain for a short time, or find some relaxation and perhaps better sleep. Is that harming anyone? Certainly it’s better than giving out sleeping pills.
Besides the outrageous cost of pills, the fact is that many, many people die and suffer serious complications from prescription medications. People die from chemotherapy. People die from surgery. I’ve not found any evidence of someone dying from meditation or improved nutrition. In comparison, thousands have died or had serious side effects from prescription medications. Pharmaceutical companies pay out mass settlements in law suits against them. And we consider these “scientifically superior” to natural therapies? Doctors take an oath to do no harm, but they prescribe pills that may actually make things worse. Shouldn’t they be seeking the gentlest approaches first, and reserving pharmaceuticals for “tougher” cases?
There is a growing body of evidence that the Gerson Institute is having considerable success with nutrition and vitamin supplement therapies. There are many studies in orthomolecular medicine, which show that vitamin and mineral supplements can be extremely effective in treating certain conditions. But the pharmaceutical companies spend a lot of money discrediting these scientists and their publications, so we don’t hear about their promise. To buy into the inherent superiority of pharmaceuticals over “alternative” therapies is myopic.