All posts by Harriet Hall

Harriet Hall, MD also known as The SkepDoc, is a retired family physician who writes about pseudoscience and questionable medical practices. She received her BA and MD from the University of Washington, did her internship in the Air Force (the second female ever to do so),  and was the first female graduate of the Air Force family practice residency at Eglin Air Force Base. During a long career as an Air Force physician, she held various positions from flight surgeon to DBMS (Director of Base Medical Services) and did everything from delivering babies to taking the controls of a B-52. She retired with the rank of Colonel.  In 2008 she published her memoirs, Women Aren't Supposed to Fly.

Corydalis. Better than opium?

Corydalis: An Herbal Medicine for Pain, with Some Thoughts on Drug Development

Ever since William Withering published his classic treatise on Foxglove in 1775, science has been testing herbal medicines and trying to establish a scientific basis for the ones that work. As many as half of today’s prescription drugs were derived from plants. A new study published in Current Biology by Zhang et al. has identified a compound in a traditional herbal remedy...

/ November 1, 2016

Chiropractic Gynecologist Offers Dangerous Treatments and Misinformation

Over a year ago I wrote about escharotic treatments for cervical dysplasia. It is offered not by MD gynecologists but by chiropractors and naturopaths, along with inconsistent and unproven diet recommendations and supplements. A corrosive agent similar to “black salve” is applied repeatedly to the cervix; it works by destroying tissue. There are no controlled studies evaluating it for safety and effectiveness....

/ October 25, 2016

Dr. Richard Rawlins Reveals the Real Secrets of Alternative Medicine

Dr. Richard Rawlins, an orthopedic surgeon in the UK who is also a magician and member of the Magic Circle, has written an exhaustive review of alternative medicine, Real Secrets of Alternative Medicine: An Exposé. “A conversation with Mrs. Smith” A conversation with Mrs. Smith bookends the text. She comes to Dr. Rawlins for hip replacement surgery and asks if there is...

/ October 18, 2016

A Credible Placebo Control for Chiropractic Research

The research on chiropractic has been far from rigorous. One of the problems is that studies of spinal manipulation therapy (SMT) can’t be double blinded, and it is very difficult to even do single blinding. So most studies resort to non-manipulation control groups like “usual care” or “wait list” or “pain medication.” Those studies are practically guaranteed to lead to false positive...

/ October 11, 2016

Plavinol and Other Natural Remedies for Diabetes: “Condimentary Medicine”?

We don’t yet have a cure for diabetes, but we have insulin; it controls the disease and allows Type 1 diabetics to lead a relatively normal life instead of suffering and quickly dying as they all did in the pre-insulin era. We know to counsel Type 2 diabetics about weight loss, diet, and exercise; and when those measures are not enough, we...

/ October 4, 2016
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Studying Chiropractic with Imaging: Another Dead Salmon?

Researchers in Japan have done a study evaluating the effects of chiropractic treatment using MRI and PET scans. It was published in the 2009 report of the Cyclotron and Radioisotope Center (CYRIC) of Tokohu University. Their rationale for doing the study Ray Hyman‘s categorical imperative is “Do not try to explain something until you are sure there is something to be explained.”...

/ September 27, 2016

Parkinson’s Disease: A Detective Story

I didn’t intend to review Jon Palfreman’s book Brain Storms: The Race to Unlock the Mysteries of Parkinson’s Disease, but after reading it I decided it was too good not to share. Palfreman is an award-winning science journalist who has Parkinson’s himself. He has done a bang-up job of describing Parkinson’s disease, its impact on patients, and how science is working to...

/ September 20, 2016

“Glyconutrients,” Mannatech, and Ambrotose: Marketing, Not Science

It has been a long time since I first became aware of Mannatech, the multilevel marketing company that sells “glyconutrient” dietary supplements. After its claims were debunked and it lost a court case, it had dropped off my radar; but last month it came roaring back in the form of an email from a reader in South Africa. He said his in-laws...

/ September 13, 2016
We want the veterinarians who care for our animals to continue their education and keep up to date by learning about new developments in science. A new proposal for veterinary continuing education would encourage them to learn to use questionable treatments based on pseudoscience and fantasy.

Alternative Medicine Is Infiltrating Veterinary Continuing Education

My friend Carmen Czachor is a science-based veterinarian practicing in Port Angeles, Washington. She has alerted me to a disturbing development that she fears will “put veterinary medicine back in the dark ages.” The Washington State Department of Health is contemplating a rule change in the regulations requiring continuing education for veterinarians. Current requirements are for 30 hours of continuing education every...

/ September 6, 2016

Efforts to Encourage Breastfeeding Like the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) May Have Unintended Consequences

“Breast is best,” but current efforts to increase the rate of breastfeeding may be misguided. A recent article in JAMA Pediatrics by pediatricians Joel Bass, Tina Gartley, and Ronald Kleinman is titled “Unintended Consequences of Current Breastfeeding Initiatives.” They criticize the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI), saying “there is now emerging evidence that full compliance…may inadvertently be promoting potentially hazardous practices and/or having...

/ August 30, 2016