Herbal therapy center at Cleveland Clinic purveys...herbs. This is not medicine.

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snake-oil-bottle-cropped-labelWe here at ACSH were surprised, indeed dismayed, to learn of the recently-established Herbal Treatment Center at the esteemed Cleveland Clinic. Even worse, the article in the Wall Street Journal indicated that that same establishment contains something called The Center for Integrative Medicine (CIM). The practitioners at the herbal center are herbalists and dispense, well, you get the picture which are often combinations of different biological substances with a Chinese label. The example cited, of a woman seeking help for what she deemed to be inflammation, was given such a remedy, and when she asked if it would possibly help her condition, was advised that it absolutely would, as well as pain...digestion...inflammation, all of the above. Miraculous indeed.

The patients attending the herbal center (and possibly the CIM) require referral from a physician and must sign a waiver to the effect that they are aware that herbal supplements are not a substitute for a medical diagnosis. They are charged $100 for a consultation which lasts an hour, $60 for follow-ups (of shorter duration, we d imagine) and another hundred for a one-month supply of herbal formulas. The attendees are generally advised that short-term benefits are unlikely, and that for the best therapeutic potential, three months. It will be slow, tedious work, was the caveat given to the patient described in the article. The herbalist quoted, Ms. Galina Roofener, told the journalist that infertility, menstrual disorders, PMS and menstrual symptoms (Ed.:yes, again) are commonly treated by Chinese herbs and can be very effective.

On a related note: Congress established the Office of Alternative Medicine in 1992 and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) as part of the NIH in 1999. Funding for this center has averaged $120 million annually for at least the last ten years. The goal of its establishment was to find some scientific basis for therapeutic efficacy for such treatments for human health disorders. How have they done? According to Josephine Briggs, NCCAM s director: The evidence base for these approaches using modern rigorous methods...is quite thin. The article notes that they are not currently funding any efficacy studies involving humans.

ACSH s Dr. Gil Ross had this comment: Where to begin? There is simply no such thing as alternative medicine. Medicine, as a profession and a practice, requires as strict adherence to the scientific method as any other discipline, or more so. Any other approach may be called faith, superstition, magic, hokus-pokus, or anything other than medicine. The fact that the austere Cleveland Clinic is selling herbal remedies within its walls gives validity to this field, and renders a disservice to those who are convinced that the herbs or other treatments (such as massage and holistic psychotherapy ) are actually based on science because they are provided there. And the cost $580 approximately for the minimum three months waiting for efficac y period, NOT covered by insurance is quite a load to bear as well. And then there are the usual concerns about such non-FDA approved supplements as far as lack of standardization, possible toxic contaminants, and just plain lack of efficacy, to worry about. The Cleveland Clinic should be ashamed of selling this snake-oil as though it were medical care, distracting patients from possible necessary diagnosis and treatment.