Snake Oil Science:
The Truth about Complementary
and Alternative Medicine
by R. Barker Bausell

Millions of people worldwide swear by such therapies as acupuncture, herbal cures, and homeopathic remedies. Indeed, complementary and alternative medicine is embraced by a broad spectrum of society, from ordinary people, to scientists and physicians, to celebrities such as Prince Charles and Oprah Winfrey.

In the tradition of Michael Shermer's Why People Believe Weird Things and Robert Parks's Voodoo Science, Barker Bausell provides an engaging look at the scientific evidence for complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and at the logical, psychological, and physiological pitfalls that lead otherwise intelligent people--including researchers, physicians, and therapists--to endorse these cures.

The book's ultimate goal is to reveal not whether these therapies work--as Bausell explains, most do work, although weakly and temporarily--but whether they work for the reasons their proponents believe. Indeed, as Bausell reveals, it is the placebo effect that accounts for most of the positive results.

He explores this remarkable phenomenon--the biological and chemical evidence for the placebo effect, how it works in the body, and why research on any therapy that does not factor in the placebo effect will inevitably produce false results. By contrast, as Bausell shows in an impressive survey of research from high-quality scientific journals and systematic reviews, studies employing credible placebo controls do not indicate positive effects for CAM therapies over and above those attributable to random chance.

Here is not only an entertaining critique of the strangely zealous world of CAM belief and practice, but it also a first-rate introduction to how to correctly interpret scientific research of any sort. Readers will come away with a solid understanding of good vs. bad research practice and a healthy skepticism of claims about the latest miracle cure, be it St. John's Wort for depression or acupuncture for chronic pain.


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  • COMET Biomagnetics -
    radio ads helps to promote bogus magnetic cures

    The following is a complaint made to Health Canada, the Advertising Standards Council, the FTC, the Competition Bureau and others. The essence of the complaint is that the company and its sales representatives make serious unsubstantiated health claims for its products.

    Complaint - Radio advertisement for Comet Biomagnetics
    Radio station: CHYM - 96.7 FM
    Date: 15 February 2001
    Time: After 10:00 a.m. 30 second spot from local Cambridge Comet Biomagnetics store
    Company name: Comet Biomagnetics
    22 George St. N.
    Cambridge, Ontario N1S 2M8
    519-620-3622 fax

    The company's literature make clear medical claims:

    The literature that I obtained was dated March 1998. I think it refers to a device that they call the Comet Tail. The text is their own, I am not responsible for bad grammer, bad punctuation or mistypes. If these people don't have command of the English language, that's their problem.

    Making the most
    of your Comet Tail

    Whenever you have a small area of pain or discomfort, the Comet Tail (M1) can be your greatest ally. The Comet Tail is one of COMET's unique products, designed after research into the best method of providing needed magnetic energy to various parts of the body.

    Moulded to be held easily in the hand, the head of the Comet Tail contains a magnetic assembly that projects a unique magnetic field, shown to be effective in helping the body heal itself. It's size, shape and weight make it easily carried with you so that in any situation, you can apply it to the parts of your body that need magnetic energy the most.

    The Comet Tail provides natural, effective benefits to treatment of:
     - acne and pimples
     - warts
     - small cuts and burns
     - blisters
     - earaches
     - toothache
     - TMJ (Tempo-Mandibular Joint dysfunction)
     - teething babies (held outside the mouth)
     - canker and cold sores
     - insect bites and stings
     - tired eyes
     - cataracts
     - congested sinuses
     - wherever localized, surface energy required

    To use the Comet Tail, cradle the narrow end comfortably in the palm of the hand and hold the head over the affected area for several minutes. Magnets work better with motion, so gently move the Comet Tail over the affected area. Repeat whenever it is convenient to take a few minutes use the Comet Tail.

    The quicker and more often you use magnetic energy after a problem appears, the faster the energy has a chance to assist the body's healing process.

    To follow up the use of your COMET's Tail, a COMET Dot (M20) can be used for small and very localized needs such as insect bites, bee stings, warts, pimples and other skin eruptions.

    Remember to use your Comet Tail!

    These are only some suggestions for using your Comet Tail. Always keep in mind that it can help you to feel better and remember to use it as a tool to improve health.


    Use of these products is not meant to replace existing medical care. Changes in medications should only be made under the advice of your physician.

    More on the company

    The local company run seminars on Wednesday nites at 7-8:30 p.m.

    The local operation is run by Pat or Gail.

    Hours of operation - 9-5 M-F

    Company - Comet Biomagnetics

    Parent company's web site is at:

    Network Solutions Internet Registration
    Comet Enviro Corp. (COMETCORP-DOM)
    370 Steeles Ave. East
    Thornhill, On L3T 1A9

    Domain Name: COMETCORP.COM

    Administrative Contact, Technical Contact, Billing Contact:
    Esterman, Franz (FE215) franz@TLPDESIGN.COM
    370 Steeles Avenue East
    L3T 1A9
    (905)886-1740 (FAX) (905)886-0767

    Record last updated on 18-Oct-2000.
    Record expires on 01-Nov-2002.
    Record created on 31-Oct-1997.
    Database last updated on 15-Feb-2001 02:07:04 EST.

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