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Home Treatment Options Treatment Options CAM or Scam? Evaluating Alternative Therapies

CAM or Scam? Evaluating Alternative Therapies

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Have you ever considered investigating alternatives to the standard antiviral treatment for genital herpes? If so, you’re not alone. According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) 36% of adults in the U.S. are using some form of complimentary or alternative medicine (CAM). CAM encompasses any number of health treatments that do not fit into conventional medical practice. This includes a wide spectrum of therapies from dietary supplements, relaxation techniques, herbal medicine and even physical therapies such as chiropractic.

There are a number of reasons that a person may decide to investigate alternatives to the standard therapies prescribed by healthcare providers. Perhaps the cost is daunting for some, or the fear of developing resistance to a particular drug (or simply resistance to taking drugs, for that matter). Some healthcare providers may even recommend complementary therapies as a way to help patients reduce overall stress and better manage outbreaks. But while such CAM therapies as yoga or acupuncture may be safely incorporated into one’s lifestyle to improve overall health, exploring alternative medications to treat genital herpes requires more caution.

The challenges for those seeking safe and effective alternative treatment to manage herpes infection and better control outbreaks can be daunting. A dizzying array of products and therapy options can be found by simply typing “herpes” into an Internet search engine. The prospect of evaluating possible alternatives and assessing the claims (made by both manufacturers and practitioners) can be overwhelming. So where do you begin? Echinacea

A good starting point would be the NCCAM website. The site offers a wealth of information and advice on evaluating CAM, including advice on where to find objective information on any therapy. For example, CAM on PubMed, developed by NCCAM and the National Library of Medicine, provides summaries of studies on CAM published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. You can review the literature on echinacea and clinical studies on bee pollen yourself to be a more informed consumer.

While anecdotal evidence can be powerful (“Worked wonders for me! You have to try this.”), NCCAM suggests you speak with a range of people who have gone through the treatment-preferably both those who were treated recently and those treated in the past. When evaluating manufacturer’s claims, the websites for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) can provide more information about the product and any fraud claims or consumer alerts.

Perhaps the most important suggestion is this: Speak with your healthcare provider before beginning any course of complimentary or alternative therapy. She or he can help your evaluate the safety and effectiveness or the treatment you’re considering, guide you toward information and resources, and ensure that any supplements you are considering won’t interact with other medications you might be taking in a way that could endanger your health.

Approaching any therapy with a critical eye is always wise. While it’s fine to be open-minded about alternative products, pay attention to the red flags that could indicate it’s a product invented to do nothing more than separate you from your money. If a product claims to work by a secret formula or guarantees a quick cure, it’s a product that requires intense scrutiny.

Additional Resources

The Winter 2005 issue of The Helper features the cover story, “A Closer Look at Complimentary and Alternative Therapies,” exploring the scientific research on such treatments as echinacea, l-lysine, zinc, and bee products.

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

CAM on PubMed, for searches of abstracts on CAM in scientific journals, can be accessed through their website.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition website provides information on dietary supplements.

Federal Trade Commission (FTC)


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