Thursday, January 25, 2007

Mayo Clinic Book of Alternative Medicine

Patrons frequently ask reference librarians about herbal remedies and "alternative" health care, so we're always on the look out for a credible book or internet site on those topics. The Mayo Clinic Book of Alternative Medicine, edited by Brent Bauer, MD (Time, 2007) covers complementary and alternative medicine (CAM.)
Part one is an introduction to "the Best of Both Worlds,' followed by practical advice about healthy habits including exercise and nutritional advice. There are quizzes to assess your knowledge and current health habits.
Part two has chapters devoted to herbs, mind-body medicine, energy therapies and hands-on therapies.
Part three is arranged into "Treating 20 Common Conditions," such as arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, weight management, stress and other chronic conditions.
The book lists the top ten alternative therapies and the top ten supplements which studies show might be effective. Each entry for an herb has a description of it's uses, efficacy and a box titled "Our take" which succinctly tells whether the herb is useful or harmful. There is also a little symbol of a traffic light lit red, yellow or green to indicate whether the product is safe or not. For example, cinnamon as a treatment for diabetes is given a yellow light and the cautionary advice: "Don't set aside proven diabetes medications for cinnamon."
This is a clearly written book, with concise entries, in rather large type-face. There are many illustrations which complement the text and the coverage of CAM is broad, but not deep. It makes a good, cautious, well-balanced introduction to the subject of integrative medicine. Unfortunately, there are no footnotes or bibliography to substantiate the text although there is a list of organizations and their websites at the end of the book and an index. The introduction does refer to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) as a source of information.

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