Alternative therapies

Many patients ask about alternative therapies, and my answer often surprises them. I don’t believe in alternative medicine. I believe only in medicine that works. When there are no numbers or studies to guide me, I steer away from potentially harmful treatments (i.e., products whose purity and consistency cannot be confirmed), but when there are controlled studies to support their use, natural remedies can be enthusiastically applied. One of my favorites is elderberry, which has been proven to reduce the duration of flulike illnesses by up to four days (for more information, see Elderberry).20 In comparison, oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza) reduce the duration of symptoms by only one day. Honey, which was recently shown to be as effective as dextromethorphan for treating cough in children,21 is another example (for more information, see Honey found more effective than dextromethorphan in children with nocturnal cough). Others abound, and as long as the treatment is safe and inexpensive, I try to be open-minded to patients’ ideas.

Mr. Zimmerman is in family practice with Esopus Medical, PC, in Rifton, N.Y.

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All electronic documents accessed January 12, 2009.