It's a book about alternative medicine. Going in, I had some idea of what I wanted to learn. I figured that some alternative medicines are probably good for curing some things... but probably not good all the things that some frauds say they're good for. But I was curious to know what they were good for, exactly. This book talks about that.
- Acupuncture - good for some aches and pains. Ask the practitioner what things he treats. If he says he cures plagues, don't trust him. If he says aches and pains, you're OK.
- Homeopathy - ineffective nonsense (OK, I knew that much going in). But back when it was invented, the competing treatment was blood-letting. Back then, "ineffective" was less harmful than most medical treatments.
- Chiropractic - stay away I'd assumed that these folks were back specialists who had a few weirdos amongst them. But they're mostly con artists. A good way to find out if they're a con artist is to ask what kinds of things they treat. If they say that they cure things that aren't backs, beware. But even if they only claim to cure backaches, you might not want a chiropractor. They tend to give lots of unnecessary X-rays and to crunch your neck whether or not your pain's in your neck. Likely to do more harm than good. Fun fact: Chiropractors had E-meters long before the Scientologists did.
- Herbal medicine - Echinacea's good for you. Some other stuff is, too. Some other things are good too—but they tend to have side effects, some of them nasty. We find out about lots of good medicines by studying herbal remedies. But to dodge the side effects, you probably want a simpler medicine that contains just the active ingredient from the herbal. It's a big deal. If an herbalist tries to get you to take aristolochia, don't do it, it's bad for your kidneys and has killed a bunch of people
Oh yeah, and I learned that "First, do no harm", while an awesome thing, isn't from the Hippocratic Oath, like I thought it was. I learned that Florence Nightengale was a skilled statistician. And I learned yet another reason that sharks go endangered: for a while, sharks were going extinct because some asshole wrote a book Sharks Don't Get Cancer claiming that sharks didn't get cancer and that a way for humans to avoid cancer was to do strange things with shark cartilage. It didn't work, but meanwhile plenty of sharks were killed for their cartilage. The book's evidence wasn't convincing, but the title sure was memorable. Someone needs to write a book called Sharks Get Cancer, Acne, Arthritis, Impotence, and their Fins are Nasty in Soup, somehow make that title catchy, and then maybe the shark population will recover.