Archive for category Herbal Medicine

Cancer researchers respond to Liverpool Echo’s alternative cancer ‘cure’ story


Liverpool Echo letters page, 27th January 2017

On the 26th January, the Merseyside Skeptics Society sent a letter to the editors of the Liverpool ECHO and Mirror, concerning their uncritical promotion of Gerson treatment and other alternative cancer ‘cures’ in their Saturday 21st January editions.

UPDATE: our letter was published in the print edition of the Liverpool ECHO on the 27th January.

Dear Sir/Madam

Promotion of disproven treatments puts vulnerable patients at risk

Saturday’s edition of the Liverpool Echo featured the story of Sean Walsh, a local cancer patient who has elected to ignore the advice of doctors and to refuse treatment for his condition (Man with cancer beats 8 month prognosis – despite shunning hospital treatment, Liverpool Echo, January 21st 2017).

While we sincerely wish Mr Walsh the best of health, we believe the article’s uncritical promotion of his regime of alternative ‘treatments’ is deeply troubling and irresponsible.

Throughout the article Mr Walsh’s choice to dismiss the advice of cancer specialists is praised, with his “different approach” to treatment described as being “gentler on his body”. Also troubling is the positive report that Mr Walsh is “bringing his knowledge back to the UK to help people in Liverpool” – a statement which can only be seen as encouraging other vulnerable cancer patients to follow his example. This is the kind of advice which can lead people to make dangerous and misinformed choices with their healthcare, with potentially lethal consequences.

The Echo may argue that the inclusion of an opinion from Cancer Research UK absolves the newspaper of any culpability for its promotion of these dangerous quack treatments; given that the overwhelming majority of the article is dedicated to the uncritical promotion of disproven therapies, this justification holds little weight.

The treatments promoted in the article have been investigated and studied, by independent researchers and professionals, and for each there is no suggestion that they are worthy of any of the faith some patients and practitioners place in them. There are, however, hundreds of very vulnerable patients who have sadly been convinced by savvy practitioners of regimes like the Gerson regime to waste thousands of pounds – and, worse, critical treatment time – on interventions that have been comprehensively disproven. For many hopeful patients, their last months were spent not in the company of their loved ones, but in a foreign country, undergoing an invasive, deeply uncomfortable and fruitless regime of enemas, vitamin injections, restrictive diets and false hope.

The clinics offering these types of treatment are often based abroad, in jurisdictions where regulations are more lax, allowing them to continue making claims and advertising cures without good evidence of effectiveness. They often promote their successes with case studies and testimonials of ‘cured’ patients – sadly, too often those testimonials are quietly removed from their literature when the patient succumb to their disease. For the clinics, there is little or no repercussion, they merely erase the patient from their literature and carry on; for the patients and their families and friends, there is only heartbreak and tragedy.

The miraculous claims for ‘alternative’ cancer cures make for impressive headlines which are doubtlessly seductive, but as a responsible publication you have a duty to your readers to put truth ahead of sensationalism. By promoting these so-called cures without scrutiny, the Echo lends these dangerous quackeries the legitimacy of the publication’s well-earned reputation, and promotes clear misinformation to some of the most vulnerable of its readers.

We sincerely hope that Mr Walsh’s condition is as positive as he believes it is. However, it is almost certain that any recovery he has made has nothing to do with the ruinously-expensive diet and vitamin regime he has been sold; it is unlikely that the next Echo reader to follow the advice promoted in this article will be so fortunate.

Yours sincerely

Alice Howarth – Research associate, Institute of Translational Medicine, University of Liverpool; and Company Secretary of the Merseyside Skeptics Society

Professor Sarah Coupland – Director of the NWCR-UoL Cancer Research Centre

Professor Andrea Varro – Principle investigator, Institute of Translational Medicine, University of Liverpool

Professor Michael Clague – Principle investigator, Institute of Translational Medicine, University of Liverpool

Doctor Diana Moss – Principle investigator, Institute of Translational Medicine, University of Liverpool

Doctor Ewan MacDonald – Post-doctoral research associate, Institute of Translational Medicine, University of Liverpool

Doctor Fiona Hood – Post-doctoral researcher, Institute of Translational Medicine, University of Liverpool

Doctor Adam Linley – Post-doctoral research associate, Institute of Translational Medicine, University of Liverpool

Vicky Smith – Research technician, Institute of Translational Medicine, University of Liverpool

Aitor Martinez-Zarate – Research associate, Institute of Translational Medicine, University of Liverpool

Zohra Butt – Post-graduate researcher, Institute of Translational Medicine, University of Liverpool

Doug Grimes – Post-graduate researcher, Institute of Translational Medicine, University of Liverpool

Leah Wilson – Post-graduate researcher, Institute of Translational Medicine, University of Liverpool


Exploring TCM: Dr & Herbs, Liverpool

Having a rare weekend free, and having the need to pop into town in order to buy secret things for my girlfriend’s upcoming birthday (July 22nd if you want to wish her a happy birthday, by the way), I chanced into St John’s Shopping Centre and came across the rather charming ‘Dr & Herbs’ Traditional Chinese Medicine outlet. Which I immediately dived into and immersed myself in, obviously.

I’d like to say up front, before I get into any real detail – the two people who seem to run the shop were helpful, kind and friendly. Unfortunately, they were also entirely wrong in a number of ways…

The first thing that struck me about the shop was the crude (and rather awfully-designed) posters in the window, listing various ailments and how TCM can help – the list was reasonably long, and didn’t include any more wild and dangerous ailments to treat, but I was able to grab shots of the claims for Thrush, StressEczema and Asthma.

Thrush: TCM treats this as a problem of damp in the body, usually internal damp caused by an infection or fungus; herbs are a very effective treatment.

While it’s true to say that thrush is caused by a fungus, it’s vague and bewildering to claim it a problem of ‘damp in the body’, and the bald assertion that herbs are a very effective treatment is an outright falsehood, unsupported by evidence.

Stress: According to TCM, Stress is due to too much dampness and heart heat from internal and external pressure. We can treat this by clearing the dampness as well as regulating your Qi (vital energy) through a natural process).

Here the issue is somewhat more fundamental – the notion of ‘stress’ is something favoured by pseudomedical practitioners because of its dual properties of vagueness and ubiquity. Many people believe they have stress; very few of them could quantify what they mean by the term. Fortunately, Dr & Herbs seem to know, and they’re pretty sure it’s to do with dampness – although, in fairness, dampness is their go-to diagnosis. That they can regulate this invented dampness – both internally- and externally-caused –  via the regulation of Qi is neither here nor there, given that Qi adds one more invented element to the pot. All in all, their claims to fighting stress don’t stand up to scrutiny. Read the rest of this entry »

, , , ,


The Daily Express and The Wife-Taming Wonder-Spray!

As a result of a little digging around the papers last week, as-ever on the trawl for nonsense, I stumbled across the following in the Daily Express:


BATTLING couples could have found the cure for their marital bust-ups – a herbal remedy which claims it can tame the nastiest of nags.

A miracle cure you say? To get rid of nagging? With a slight hint of a putting-your-woman-in-place angle? Thanks very much, Diana-mourning, Maddie-sleuthing Daily Express. The article was written by Nathan Rao, who I feel is worth calling out because frankly I suspect he contributed barely a word to it, as you may well come to suspect too I’m sure. The article continues:

The world’s first anti-nagging medicine hit the shelves yesterday.

Two sentences in, and we’re suddenly claiming not only a world’s first, but that this herbal product is classifiable as medicine, and all that that entails. In short, if the Express, Nathan Rao or whoever wrote this piece wants to call this herbal remedy a medicine, that’s fine – so long as it’s a licensed product, licensed by the MHRA. If it’s not, then labelling it a ‘medicine’ is… well, let’s call it naughty. And complaint-worthy. And potentially pretty serious. So, a nice start then! Let’s continue Read the rest of this entry »

, , , , , ,


Bad PR: Women Fake Orgasms!

Fake Orgasm Story? Trot out a Meg Ryan pic

Fake orgasm story? Trot out a Meg Ryan pic

To help me vent my frustration and ongoing obsession with the dodgy PR stories that make the papers on a daily basis, I thought I’d start a bit of a ‘BadPR’ series, taking a look at stories as they appear in the papers, the press release that inspired them (often word-for-word inspiration, no less), and the companies who benefit. Regular readers of the blog will know the score, and irregular readers of the blog will soon pick it up, so without further intro I give you today’s offering:

Ex girls top at fake fun

The fake orgasm capital of Britain is Exeter, claims a new survey. A whopping 57 per cent of women in the Devon town admit to feigning it. Meanwhile, girls in Oxford were happiest in bed with only a third faking their big O. Nationally, one in 10 women admits acting most times. And a fifth said they thought about another man if they wanted satisfaction. – Source: The People

And, alternatively:

Poor show, chaps: Survey reveals nearly one in ten women fake it between the sheets

It is enough to make even the most confident lover a little worried. One in ten women fake an orgasm almost every single time they make love, according to a poll. Researchers found that 48 per cent of British women had faked the height of passion. But an Oscar-worthy 9 per cent admitted it happened every time they have sex. Seven per cent have ended a relationship because they were unsatisfied in bed but just one in ten of those told their partner the real reason for the break-up.   Read the rest of this entry »

, , , , , ,


Take A Deep Breath: Yogic Cancer Therapy In Scotland

Baba Ramdev, left, in orange

Baba Ramdev, left, in orange

This week, the BBC ran a report about the North Ayrshire island of Little Cumbra which is being converted into an international yoga camp after a blessing from India’s most popular lifestyle guru Baba Ramdev.

The island was bought by two devoted Glaswegian followers of the Swami, and will be renamed ‘Peace Island’ for the project which will build the camp – and if the claims Baba Ramdev makes are to be believed, the £2m paid for the island was a bargain. If his claims are to be believed. Which, it turns out, is quite a big ‘if’ – considering the wild claims he’s prone to making.

In fact, the BBC report itself puts some of his wild assertions out uncritically, specifically regarding the healing powers of the Swami’s practice of yoga and pranayama. Pranayama, in case you’ve not heard of it, is a Sanskrit word meaning “restraint of the prana or breath”. In Yoga, it’s used to denote the control of breathing practiced throughout the stretching. But, as the BBC reports, it has other properties too Read the rest of this entry »

, , , ,

1 Comment

And The Pseudo-Medical Vultures Circled…

Patrick Swayze, courtesy of

Last Monday, actor Patrick Swayze lost a long fight with pancreatic cancer and passed away. Having been diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer in late January 2008, Swayze died on September 14th.

The news was met with a sadness from his fans, mostly girls I’ll needlessly add, but certain sections of the pseudomedical community have taken his death with an altogether different message. In an item posted to by editor Mike Adams, the self-proclaimed Health Ranger, Swayze’s death is in fact a chilling warning as to the dangers of Chemotherapy.

Quoting the article:

“Having put his faith in conventional chemotherapy, he largely dismissed ideas that nutrition, superfoods or “alternative medicine” might save him, instead betting his life on the chemotherapy approach which seeks to poison the body into a state of remission instead of nourishing it into a state of health.”

Read the rest of this entry »

, , ,