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Can Kids Be Healed by Alternative Medicine?

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Some of the nation's top hospitals are embracing alternative medicine to supplement traditional healing. Are we onto something?

Danny Hauser made national headlines when he and his mom, Colleen, fled for Mexico to seek an alternative cure for his cancer. Though he was ordered to complete his chemo, the Hauser family attributes the shrinking of his tumor to the use of vitamins and minerals.

boy receiving accupuncture

The Hauser family isn't alone. These days, people are flocking to the Mexican border hoping to find an alternative cure for the sick. But, rather than replacing one treatment for another, one in four American hospitals are now offering a combination of both.

At Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago, children are now getting alternative treatments like massage, acupuncture, and yoga to help them handle pain and anxiety. Elite hospitals including the Mayo Clinic, Duke University Medical Center, and Beth Israel Hospital in New York City are embracing "CAM," or complementary and alternative medicine, to supplement traditional treatment.

CAM may include therapies like acupuncture, homeopathy, massage therapy, chiropractic, and herbal medicine. Fashion designer Donna Karan has partnered with NYC's Beth Israel Medical Center to test the effectiveness of yoga, meditation, and aromatherapy treatments against cancer over the course of a year. Donna Karen's foundation funded the program, and gave $850,000 to the hospital, hoping to find proof that these kinds of treatments alleviate cancer symptoms like pain, nausea, and anxiety. If this proves to be true, the techniques would reduce the length and cost of hospital stays.

next: Travels with Baby
31 comments so far | Post a comment now
Jenny July 3, 2009, 11:32 PM

No we aren’t on to something new but we are finally following a treatments that has thousands of years history. Western medicine has its place but whats wrong with conservative methods at first as long as they are done by someone who is trained. Just because it is natural doesn’t mean it is without consequence if used incorrectly or used in a circumstance (contraindications) where is shouldn’t be.

Anonymous July 4, 2009, 10:37 AM

No, you aren’t onto something other than people endangering their children if they decide to use “alternative medicine” in leiu of actual medical practice. If it worked, it wouldn’t be alternative. I will stick to science-based medicine and avoid quackery like accupunture, chiropractors and aroma therapy, thnak you.

Stephanie July 4, 2009, 3:31 PM

It’s about time. These methods have been used and trusted for thousands of years. I am by no means advocating the complete elimination of traditional, science based medicine nor is the author of this article. Complementary Medicine can have a very positive effect on medical treatment.

I am glad they are finally trying it.

Alan July 4, 2009, 6:16 PM

There are hundreds of therapies that are decades, hundreds, even thousands of years old which can complement Western medicine. Moms have been discovering treatments like Auditory Intervention Training for ADD/ADHD, homeopathy for autism, Rolfing for sports injuries … the list goes on and on. A good introduction is UnBreak Your Health - The Complete Guide to Complementary & Alternative Therapies (Loving Healing Press 2009).

Jenny July 5, 2009, 2:11 PM


If you are saying something that you believe in and stand behind then why not use your real name, goodness it is only a first name, not like we quacks are going to hunt you down and force feed you lemon balm tea….the horror!!


Sceptic July 6, 2009, 5:28 AM


It’s a completely different case, but quack chiropractors have been busy signing up Zeno ( up for credit cards and porn sites. Equally, he did start it by reporting a bunch of them to their regulatory body. Quacks aren’t necessarily nice people no matter how often they use the word ‘holistic’.

I don’t see why you would doubt ‘anonymous’ just because he/she won’t/can’t bothered to give their name. You don’t doubt that there are loads of people out there who honestly hold those views? I do, for one.

My view is that homeopathy, acupuncture, chiropractic… are made up therapies. If individual herbs, or chiropractic ‘adjustments’ etc… do do what the practitioner says, then that has at least as much to do with luck as design.


Jenny July 6, 2009, 8:23 AM


There have been plenty of traditional western medicine doctors who have also taken advantage of their patients. You are stereotyping. These “made up” therapies have been around far longer then western medicine. I’m not saying everything works for everyone or that these things will cure you but why are you so closed minded to believe that they can’t, why is it black and white, why is your way the only way? Western medicine has it’s place, I have a traditional doctor but I also use herbs and essential oils to treat minor things. Doctors use Aloe for burns…that my friend is holistic, alternative medicine yet many medical doctors and medical journals advocate its use. Children’s Hospital is well known and well respected, if the doctors there believe in the benefits of certain alternative/complimentary medicine then maybe there is merit to it. I don’t disbelieve anonymous says because they didn’t put their name, I just wonder why you would be hesitant to put your name when you believe in the things you are saying.

southern_reckoner July 7, 2009, 6:39 AM

The problem with holistic medicine is proof. There is no doubt that there exists herbs/oils that have health benefits. But which ones? Let’s see some experimental, randomized, double-blind studies. If I see proof in a particular modality that stands up to repeated tests, I will be glad to use it. Testimonials is not enough. Making me feel good is not enough. Long history of use is not enough.

The science of western medicine has doubled our life expectancy over the last 110 years. We should use the tools that work and discard the ones that do not. But we should have a high bar of acceptance of what works. Science is a self-correcting system of discovery. It is not perfect, but it has worked wonders of the last hundred or so years.

sceptic July 12, 2009, 6:24 PM

Jenny, I am not steriotyping. I never said that most CAM practitioners take advantage of their patients. You are putting words into my mouth. There are higher rates of fraud amongst chiropractors than MD’s though (I think 4 times higher), for all I know this may be reflected more generally within CAM. It isn’t that western medicine has all the answers, or that all of the CAM answers are wrong, it’s that anything that is shown to work becomes part of western medicine.

Forget western medicine for a moment. Some types of medicine are committed to an evidence based approach, and some aren’t. Western medicine is certainly committed to such an approach, even if all of it’s therepies aren’t yet well supported by evidence. There is some evidence that some herbs work, other herbs there is no evidence beyond a folk tradition, other herbs there is evidence that they don’t work. As you say, herbs that are found to work really well become part of western medicine. Now under circumstances where you are confident that you don’t need western medicine, and you’re making an informed choice, then fine. Many alternative remedies though are pushed in a way that denies and conceals evidence. Just look at the chiropractors from the BCA and their laughable ‘plethora’ of evidence, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been lied to by homeopaths.

What dissappoints me continually is the intellectual dishonesty of much CAM one encounters on the internet and the weakness of the arguments that are used to support it. If there is a tradition outside western medicine that can support itself with a half decent argument, then I’d be most interested. Western Medicine is a bit like the Blob though in the old Steve McQueen movie and, should some bit of CAM turn out to have merit, it would almost certainly attempt to absorbe it. By going for CAM, you are going for the stuff that western medicine doesn’t want. Unless you believe in the conspiracy, it’s because western medicine believes that CAM is either less effective than the equivalent conventional treatment, has no effect, or is harmful.

Gordon July 13, 2009, 4:00 PM

Those condemning all CAM as quackery should be aware that many “standard” Western medical techniques have not been proved effective by clinical trials or other scientific method, perhaps the most well-known being psychotherapy. Moreover, acupuncture has been proved safe and effective by clinical trials for post-chemotherapy nausea and mouth pain caused by dental procedures, among other things.

Looks like there’s plenty of ignorance to go around in these posts.

MerrieWay July 14, 2009, 1:53 AM

MerrieWay would like parents to evaluate the unnatural phamasuedical drugs mainly psycotropic drugs that are being administered to kids, without looking for the underlying causes for depression or hyper-activity.
Many alternatives are just as effective- including amino acids and diet change.

Aloe Vera Distributor - October 1, 2009, 9:15 PM

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Of course, the job is not easy, but in no other case, you really can earn so much much money with so much much fun and good smiling faces around..
So if you want to discuss something about your article, and about my experience with aloe vera products for health, I’ll always be glad to talk.

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steve November 7, 2009, 3:05 PM

i think doctors in america have used alt therapies more than is mentioned and for many years.old time remeides.something my mother used etc but,now that hospitals are trying to make it work “all the time” its a more critical issue.we can look at health records from countries where alt therapies is all they have.poor people.whats thier track record? the greatest cure for disease is vitamins.isnt that why a sunbath can cause a disease to remit? vit d and c are the two vites our immune system must have to even function and few educated physicians ever mention this. flus and cancers etc respond to mega doses of these vites but once were all well what will we eat?? its such a complicated issue.

Jennifer November 23, 2009, 1:35 PM

I agree with Stephanie above. I would never shun traditional medicine, but it has fallen short for my asthma and allergies. I’m now trying BAX 3000 alternative and drug-free therapy by BioVeda ( for my allergies and asthma. Why not? I haven’t stopped taking my traditional medications, I’m just looking for more relief. And before you ask, I eat healthy, exercise five days a week, and am at my optimal weight. I take vitamins and probiotics. I do everything I can to maintain my health.

Issac Maez October 19, 2010, 5:58 AM

The new Zune browser is surprisingly good, but not as good as the iPod’s. It works well, but isn’t as fast as Safari, and has a clunkier interface. If you occasionally plan on using the web browser that’s not an issue, but if you’re planning to browse the web alot from your PMP then the iPod’s larger screen and better browser may be important.

Burton Haynes December 4, 2010, 10:08 AM

The Zune concentrates on being a Portable Media Player. Not a web browser. Not a game machine. Maybe in the future it’ll do even better in those areas, but for now it’s a fantastic way to organize and listen to your music and videos, and is without peer in that regard. The iPod’s strengths are its web browsing and apps. If those sound more compelling, perhaps it is your best choice.

Burton Haynes December 4, 2010, 10:16 AM

Apple now has Rhapsody as an app, which is a great start, but it is currently hampered by the inability to store locally on your iPod, and has a dismal 64kbps bit rate. If this changes, then it will somewhat negate this advantage for the Zune, but the 10 songs per month will still be a big plus in Zune Pass’ favor.

Andrew Pelt December 4, 2010, 10:21 AM

If you’re still on the fence: grab your favorite earphones, head down to a Best Buy and ask to plug them into a Zune then an iPod and see which one sounds better to you, and which interface makes you smile more. Then you’ll know which is right for you.

fette weiber December 30, 2010, 10:42 AM

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reife frauen January 3, 2011, 11:21 AM

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