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The Skeptic's Dictionary
Short and Irreverent E-dition
(so-called Complementary & Alternative Medicine)
acupuncture: sticking little needles into various points on the body to unblock imaginary blockages of imaginary energy in an effort to restore the illusion of wellbeing.
alphabiotics: chiropractic whose practitioners call themselves priests so they can't be regulated.
angel therapy: pretending to get messages from angels to guide patients; good way to avoid liability.
anthroposophy: medicine that mixes one part etheric body, one part ego, two parts astral body, eight parts mistletoe and other abnormal plants, and ten parts superstition tinctured with sympathetic magic; said to be very popular among celebrities.
auricular acupuncture: the well-documented belief that every organ in the human body has a corresponding location on the ear and that one can treat organs by sticking needles in the ear; works as well as iridology and reflexology.
applied kinesiology: using musculoskeletal parlor tricks to fool yourself and others into believing that muscle resistance is the key to testing potency in medicines and jewelry.
aromatherapy: a pleasant form of placebo medicine not likely to harm anyone and often leaving one smelling like a florid garden or piece of peppermint candy.
astrotherapy: the union of Jungian psychology and astrology, resulting in a New Age archetype.
aura therapy: diagnosis and treatment of disease by making up stuff supposedly indicated by an imaginary halo of colors around the body of the patient; said to be holistic and to work well with crystals.
Ayurveda: a collection of ancient Indian superstitions, incantations, amulets, spells, and mantras said to be very good for your health because it originated thousands of years ago before it could be corrupted by scientific medicine.
Bach's flower therapy: a pleasant form of placebo medicine that combines wildflowers with metaphysical gibberish in equal portions.
biorhythms: an empirically testable and falsified belief that wellbeing is controlled by rhythms undetected by science; very popular among innumerate numerologists.
bioharmonics: using sound to strengthen the orchestra in the body so that each organ vibrates at the proper frequency; said to boost the immune system, restore vital energy, enlarge breasts, and eliminate baldness.
blood type diets: mostly benign diets based on false beliefs about the origins of blood types and served up with false beliefs about diets appropriate to blood types.
chelation for autism: a treatment recommended by anti-vaxxers and EDTA (ethylenediamine tetraacetic acid) salesmen who believe the ethyl mercury removed from vaccines causes autism; favored by those who get their medical knowledge from untrained celebrities.
chiropractic: the dangerous practice of forcing joints in the back and neck to go places they shouldn't go.
classical chiropractic: chiropractic whose aim is to release life energy even if it kills the patient.
complementary and alternative medicine: the use of untested or discredited treatments along with scientific medicine; also known as sCAM for either so-called complementary and alternative medicine or for supplements and complementary and alternative medicine.
Consegrity®: a type of faith healing and energy medicine developed by Mary A. Lynch M.D. and Debra Harrison, a massage therapist who died in the summer of 2005 while being treated with Consegrity by Dr. Lynch.
craniosacral therapy: a hands-on manipulation of skull bones and the sacrum to detect a craniosacral rhythm that has no known connection to health or disease.
crystal therapy: using chic crystals to align good vibrations and combat bad vibrations; said to enhance sexual potency if succussed while riding a Clydesdale.
detoxification: ingestion or irrigation at one end or the other of various liquids and solids; said to remove non-existent toxins and waste products not left behind by the liver, kidneys, and other organs that have evolved in our bodies to remove such stuff.
DHEA: a miracle drug that may lead to prostate enlargement in men and facial hair in women.
dolphin-assisted therapy: swimming with animals that may be diseased and may bite in order to enhance one's sense of wellbeing.
ear candling: pouring hot wax into someone's ears while claiming to be sucking ear wax and negative energy out.
electro-crystal therapy: using crystals that have been treated with electromagnetic waves in accord with the ancient law of chakras; equally beneficial to animals and plants.
emotional freedom technique (EFT): tapping points on the body in an effort to unblock imaginary blockages of imaginary energy in an effort to restore the illusion of wellbeing; works as well as acupuncture.
eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR): cognitive behavioral therapy used in conjunction with having the patient follow a moving wand with his eyes (or listening to certain sounds) while concentrating on "the problem"; works just as well without the eye movements or the finger-snapping, but the distraction is a good marketing tool.
facilitated communication: a type of telepathic communication involving a facilitator who takes the hand of a disabled person and moves it from letter to letter on a special board, spelling out messages; even works for people in comas.
faith healing: a kind of circus act involving a preacher slapping sick people and sending them home to die in Jesus' name; also known as faith killing.
family constellations: a type of group therapy for getting in touch with the fates of our ancestors that are entangled in morphic fields and causing quantum disturbances in our souls; works well for suggestible, empathic people but not so well for skeptics.
frontier medicine: sCAM that brags about not having any plausible scientific explanation.
Gerson therapy: carrot juice in one end and coffee in the other; no proof that it causes cancer yet.
healing touch: touching someone and taking credit for healing them if they say it feels good.
holistic medicine: medicine that treats both existing and non-existing patient parts.
homeopathy: sCAM treatment with water that remembers there's a sucker born every minute.
hypnotherapy: using suggestion to suggest behavioral changes; works especially well with suggestible people.
integrative medicine: medicine that mixes sense with non-sense.
intuitive healer: one who uses no diagnostic tools except her imagination, and who's never wrong because when she's wrong it's because the patient didn't believe her.
iridology: the well-documented belief that every organ in the human body has a corresponding location within the iris and that one can determine whether an organ is healthy or diseased by examining the iris rather than the organ itself; works as well as auricular acupuncture and reflexology.
isopathy: sCAM treatment with water that remembers that most people don't understand the placebo effect.
joy touch: a type of therapeutic meditation aimed at tickling the septum pellucidum to activate the hypothalamus; works best while eating chocolate.
Kirlian photography: a way of producing pretty images of colorful halos around objects that allows you to speculate endlessly as long as you have no knowledge of basic physics.
macrobiotic diet: a metaphysical diet, rich in hogwash and leafy green slipslop; not for people who don't like whole grains, vegetables, and beans; only known cure for sanpaku.
magnet therapy: a biologically and physiologically implausible use of weak static magnets to align one's wallet with placebo medicine.
massage therapy: a very pleasant and benign manipulation of soft body tissue; not known to have any long-term health benefits, but who cares?
microacupuncture: sticking little needles into 48 points on the hands and feet to unblock imaginary blockages of imaginary energy in an effort to restore the illusion of wellbeing.
naturopathy: believes that the body cures itself but everyone can benefit from using various herbs and irrigations to help detoxify and stimulate the immune system; for convenience, naturopaths often sell the necessary detox items and immune stimulants directly to patients to help them heal themselves.
neuro-linguistic programming (NLP): not designed as a therapy, but some users claim it changed them from couch potatoes to motivational speakers; seems to work for some people despite the fact that NLP uses models of thinking and perception unsupported by neuroscience and uses other models that can't be verified, from which it develops techniques that have nothing to do with the models.
malicious animal magnetism: using thought to negatively affect the universal fluid to cause illness; also known as the evil eye when the evil eye is involved.
Mozart effect: marketing strategy for a number of devices, including music CDs: claim listening to Mozart's music while in the womb will make your child smarter; recommended by 9 out of 10 politicians ignorant of science and basic human development.
osteopathy: shaking the body, not to scare the devil but to align the spine and other structures so the body can heal itself; works better than bloodletting.
past life regression: hypnotizing people and encouraging them to fantasize about being other people in other times; only works with the fantasy prone and in conjunction with magical thinking.
Phil Parker Lightning Process: an amazing hodgepodge of NLP, Hypnotherapy, Life Coaching, and Osteopathy; creator says it helps with anything bad that you want to turn to good.
placebo effect: the pleasant feeling you get when you think somebody cares about your health.
prayer: the most frequently used sCAM; works for atheists as well as for bishops; the more ineffective it is shown to be, the more popular it becomes, which is truly miraculous.
psychic surgery: a type of non-surgery performed by one untrained in medicine on patients so desperate they are willing to believe in the physically impossible; good theater but not good medicine.
rebirthing therapy: a useless and sometimes fatal treatment for children with psychiatric disorders; insanely involves wrapping the child tightly in a blanket or other material for extended periods in an effort to simulate rebirth and initiate a secure attachment between parent and child.
reflexology: the well-documented belief that every organ in the human body has a corresponding location on the foot and that one can treat organs by rubbing parts of the foot; works as well as auricular acupuncture and iridology.
reiki: unblocking and channeling non-existent energy by manipulation of body parts; patients swear by it.
repressed memory therapy: a type of interview or group therapy in which the therapist tries to convince the patient that all her problems are due to nasty events in childhood that may or may not have happened.
Rolfing: called movement education by practitioners and massage by others; said to balance the body in gravity; not known to be harmful, though some people complain of being roughed up by aggressive rolfers.
Rorschach inkblot test: showing people dirty pictures disguised as splotches of ink.
sanpaku: a condition where the white of the eye can be seen between the pupil and the lower lid if the subject looks forward; said to indicate low sexual vitality and bad humor.
supplement therapy: taking vitamin and mineral supplements to treat AIDS, cancer, and other serious diseases; for convenience, those who advocate the therapy also sell the products to the patients; in some uses sCAM means "supplements and complementary and alternative medicine."
therapeutic touch: a kind of reiki without the touching; just as effective.
thought field therapy: the original emotional freedom technique; tapping points on the body while having the patient think on the problem; said to unblock imaginary blockages of imaginary energy and to restore the illusion of wellbeing.
trepanation: only for those who desire to have a holes in their heads; said to release toxic thoughts and other demons.
urine therapy: drinking one's own pee; use if all of the above fail to cure you of what ails you.