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Trick or Treatment: The Undeniable Facts about Alternative Medicine

4.06  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,700 Ratings  ·  182 Reviews
Whether you are an ardent believer in alternative medicine, a skeptic, or are simply baffled by the range of services and opinions, this guide lays to rest doubts and contradictions with authority, integrity, and clarity. In this groundbreaking analysis, over thirty of the most popular treatments—acupuncture, homeopathy, aromatherapy, reflexology, chiropractic, and herbal ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published August 17th 2008 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 2008)
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Nov 10, 2011 Alasse rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Alasse by: Rinzewind

This book is perfect. I've been thinking I had to write this book eventually, but now I don't have to because it exists and it's exactly as I imagined it. Now all I have to do is have a child and plant a tree.

It's a fact that otherwise smart people have a tendency to believe weird stuff. It's always there, right under the surface. My own mom just came in to tell me I have to be careful tomorrow (11/11/11), because the number 11 scares her. I don't understand it, but there
Oct 20, 2008 Lena rated it really liked it
This is the third book I've read this year that examines the evidence for and against alternative medicine, so much of the ground it covers was already familiar to me. Despite that fact, I enjoyed this book a great deal and think it is likely to be the most accessible to those who have personal experience with alternative medicine.

The authors take an in-depth look at the four most popular modalities in the alternative medicine world: acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic and herbal medicine. The
Dec 30, 2012 Jennifer rated it did not like it
Super biased in favor of conventional medicine, which shouldn't be a shock since it's written by an MD.
Not well cited at all, very anecdotal in the examples that prove how useless alternative medicine is (other than the super diluted homeopathic drugs).
Mentioned a FEW people have even been harmed with natural cures, but failed to mention the over 100,000 people who die in the US every year from correctly prescribed, properly taken conventional medicine (not including overdoses and illegally us
Sep 09, 2012 Sheri rated it did not like it
Wow. The authors treat their readers as if we are unintelligent. I really thought this book was going to take a more neutral, and scientific based approach to exploring the efficacy of alternative medicines. I am also surprised to see some of the reviewers on here saying things like "this book just confirmed all my beliefs" and " I was already suspicious of alternative medicines". Why even read it if you have already made up your mind? It's always easy to convince you of something you already b ...more
Brian Clegg
Aug 15, 2014 Brian Clegg rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book takes an objective look at alternative medicine. The outcome is electrifying to everyone who thinks and has used or considered using anything like homeopathy or acupuncture. Singh and Ernst don’t set out with any malice – Ernst has worked for many years in alternative medicine – but they show devastatingly how proper trials have shown these alternative treatments to rarely be better than a placebo, and often to have negative or even life-threatening consequences.

It really is striking –
David Dinaburg
Apr 02, 2013 David Dinaburg rated it liked it
I once watched a pigeon, waddling around on the sidewalk, launch into the air and bounce off a pedestrian’s chest. It shattered the illusion that the natural world is some sort of flawless, mystical place—that animals are so in tune with their surroundings that they never make mistakes or have poor judgments. “Yeah, I can totally achieve escape velocity before that giant lumbering treetrunk or whatever crosses my flightpath,” thinks the pigeon. No. You didn’t.

This sort of magical thinking—or per
Oct 27, 2014 Tiffany rated it did not like it
So, Trick or Treatment: The Undeniable Facts About Alternative Medicine was written by Simon Singh, who I used to respect, and Edzard Ernest, MD, who calls himself "the world's first professor of complementary medicine" and immediately relative to this I have heard people who know him clear their throats and add: "Although, I have never heard where he studied any complementary medicine." (See what I just did there? I cast aspersions upon one of the authors by relating an anecdotal and therefore ...more
Mar 13, 2016 stefano rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Mi hanno sempre affascinato le medicine alternative e tra le tante prediligo l'omeopatia. Certo, senza nulla togliere alla cristalloterapia, alla tuocuginopatia, all'osteopatia, alle terapie ayurvediche, alla naturopatia, ai fiori di Bach. Tutte discipline degne di essere derise apprezzate, ma nessuna raggiunge il livello dell'omeopatia. Io amo particolarmente l'omeopatia, gli omeopati e financo gli omeopatici. Sono affascinato dalla diluizione, dalla succussione, dalla dinamizzazione. Adoro la
Jul 11, 2011 Jenny rated it it was amazing
I'd been hoping to find a book like this. It was well done and interesting. The introductory chapter and explanation of the history of clinical trials was well done. Then the meat of the book (brief history of alternative therapy, and review of it's merit and/or risks based on trials and studies to date) was excellent reading. Acupuncture, Homeopathy, Chiropractic, and Herbal Medicine are examined in detail, and there is a nice appendix with summaries on a plethora of other alternative therapies ...more
May 01, 2009 Jennifer rated it it was ok
I only read the section of this book that related to chiropractic care. The authors seem to make the fatal assumption that the double-blind study it the only valid test of a medical treatment. Although the book seemed well researched and accurate in the facts presented, it was written with a clear bias against non-allopathic medicine. Since they claim that they are presenting a scientific and unbiased view, they have clearly failed in their goals. I actually believe that the time I spent on this ...more
Dec 13, 2009 Mike rated it really liked it
So a while back a friend of mine used acupuncture to help with some nausea issues. I teased her about it and said it was just the placebo effect. Then I heard that some studies indicated that acupuncture may truly be useful for certain kinds of pain and nausea. In order to confirm this, I wanted to find a trusted source. I'm rather new to the skeptical community, but I have already heard much about Simon Singh and his battles with British libel laws to tell the truth about chiropractics. So I th ...more
Dec 01, 2009 Eva rated it did not like it
I was really frustrated by this book. So frustrated that I returned it with about 50 pages left to read. I'm not even sure I can tell you exactly why I didn't like it, but I found the attitude of the authors some what holier-than-thou, and not really very helpful or useful. It's particularly ironic that I didn't like the book, since I agree with most of what they said.
Dec 25, 2011 Wrenn1 is currently reading it
The ratings here on this book appear to reflect the opinion of the "choir".

If you believe strongly in something find a book that confirms your belief so you can tell yourself you were right.
Dec 11, 2014 Michelle rated it really liked it
This methodical assessment of the clinical evidence of the effectiveness of alternative medicine treatments is straight-up brutal - but hey, that's science for you. The authors of Trick or Treatment certainly agree that there's no point in mincing words when mountains of evidence show no or minimal clinical effect beyond placebo in treatments such as acupuncture, homeopathy, and energy healing. Their tone throughout the book is unlikely to change the minds of alt-medicine true believers, but the ...more
Aug 16, 2014 Miklos rated it it was amazing
Few things are better understood than alternative medicine modalities and there are less things that are questioned as to its efficacy. Talk to Dr. Oz, Chopra, Andrew Weil, etc. and you'll hear glowing endorsements of acupuncture, homeopathy, and the like. Dig a little into the evidence evaluating its effectiveness however, and everything falls apart. Trick or Treatment is one of the few books I can find that evaluates the four major alt med modalities - Homeopathy, Herbalism, Acupuncture, & ...more
Nov 27, 2015 Qi rated it liked it
Shelves: how-to-books
This book takes an empirical view to evaluate the clinical trial data on various alternative medicine. For each of the "therapies" analyzed in the book, there is a summary of the historical background, major proponents and controversies, whether the basic idea is "biologically plausible", and results of credible clinical trials. In the Appendix section of the book, there are angle-paged summary of popular alternative medicine, the evidence and conclusion. The overwhelming conclusion is negative. ...more
Mar 20, 2012 Yankey rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Tanja Berg
Aug 02, 2011 Tanja Berg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, science
This book aims to explain the most common alternative therapies - acupuncture, chiropractic therapy, homeopathy and herbal medicine - and analyze their usefulness based on the same method as mainstream medicine is rigorously tested. The book details the history of clinical trials based on scientific method and explains simply and thorougly. It is thanks to clinical trials that medicine profession began to emerge from the dark ages 150 years ago and that we can now see our GP's without risking ou ...more
Michael Greenwell
Trick or Treatment didn't have to carry me very far, I was already severely dubious of any from of alternative medicine, and it may in fact have made me reconsider my own point of view on a number of the treatments that apparently have some claim to efficacy, despite the authors' overwhelmingly negative conclusions with regards to the efficacy of alternative treatments.

However, I don't know whether I really appreciated its overall tone, which, while informative, struck me as too impassioned to b
Todd Martin
Mar 31, 2009 Todd Martin rated it it was amazing
Trick or Treatment takes a scientific look at the evidence for and against Alternative Medicine. The authors look at a broad range of clinical trials and use this data to describe:
• The claims as to how the treatments function
• Whether the treatments work
• If so, for what conditions
• The dangers involved

Unfortunately, alternative medicine makes many claims which are not supported by the evidence.

Acupuncture – There is no such thing as Chi or Meridians. Some evidence exists for minor and temporar
Elaine Nelson
Jun 08, 2009 Elaine Nelson rated it really liked it
My tongue-in-cheek instinct is to say that I'm posting spoilers, but not really: acupuncture might work for nausea & pain; homeopathy is BS; chiropractic might work for lower back pain; and herbal remedies are a mixed bag, some quite effective, others not so much.

More seriously, I like the detailed approach to these fairly common "alternative" techniques. The authors start with a history of evidence-based medicine and the application of the scientific method to human health, before going on
Aug 03, 2011 Mike rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Fail Fish
Jul 26, 2014 Fail Fish rated it liked it
This book gives accurate, scientifically tested facts about complementary and alternative medicine and the surrounding community. It includes some very interesting anecdotes and comparisons, as well as some excellent suggestions for the future of medicine.

That being said, the writing style is atrocious.

Don't get me wrong, Simon Singh can undoubtedly write very well. However, he uses a scathing, critical style when discussing alternative medicine, whether he is discussing treatments that work or
Massimiliano Prandini
Mar 15, 2015 Massimiliano Prandini rated it it was amazing
La dicitura "medicina alternativa" è un ombrello sotto il quale si può far rientrare tutto ciò che non è riconosciuto all'interno della medicina ufficiale (o "convenzionale"): pratiche che vanno dall'agopuntura, all'omeopatia, alla fitoterapia e moltissime altre. Questo libro raccoglie le prove dei trail clinici - un metodo, perfezionato in duecento anni di scienza, che consente di valutare affidabilmente l'efficacia di un trattamento su numero di pazienti statisticamente significativo - sulle v ...more
Sep 10, 2014 Paul rated it it was amazing
Outstanding book, probably the best I've read this year. Similar books that I've read are 'Bad science' by Ben Goldacre, and Carl Sagan's 'Demon haunted world'. Both those are excellent, but Ben Goldacre's book doesn't have much sympathy for the ignorant, and Carl Sagan goes into a lot of depth about outdated topics such as UFOs.

Simon Singh (and the other guy)'s book is the one that I would recommend to family and friends who have been misled by the media etc. to take alternative medicine seriou
În secolul nostru curios, cercetător, dar și teribil de credul, când orice buruienuță are potențial latent de panaceu și orice vraci chinez poate lecui, cu o mână la spate, orice beteșug, cartea Adevărul despre medicina alternativă este o lectură recomandabilă oricărui intelectual.

Cei doi autori, amândoi oameni de știință și cercetători, Simon Singh și Edzard Ernst, iau la analizat câteva dintre cele mai populare metode medicale alternative, începând cu originile lor, cu perioada lor de înflorir
I was interested in knowing more about alternative medicine and why so many people seem to find it useful. I recently read "The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets" by Simon Singh, who is the co-author of this book. Although concerning a completely different subject, I wanted to read this book and (hopefully) learn some important things about alternative medicine.

Granted, I don't really know anything about alternative medicine (or conventional medicine for that matter), but I thought that t
While I was very interested in the information this book provided, I felt that the authors presented it in a very harsh and biased manner. The data support the arguments made, but I don't think it needed to be presented in such an "in your face!" kind of way.
Steve Whiting
Feb 23, 2016 Steve Whiting rated it really liked it
Not the most enthralling read ever, but a detailed examination of some of the most prevalent "alternative" therapies (acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic and herbal remedies) and a rapid dash through many more.

Those who have both (a) a belief in alternative therapies and (b) a willingness to listen to critical evaluations of their pet theories, will not find this comforting reading. Those with only (a) will no doubt denounce it as a product of the pharma-industrial complex, despite one of the
May 27, 2015 Scott rated it it was amazing
This book is very thorough and useful. The first chapter does a great job explaining a scientific approach to medicine and arguing for evidence-based medicine. The following chapters discuss in detail a particular alternative practice and walk you through how it originated and what it is, and what evidence there is for it. The authors do not reveal their conclusions until late in each chapter, being sure to be as fair as possible to each alternative practice (Acupuncture, Homeopathy, Chiropracti ...more
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Simon Lehna Singh, MBE (born 1 January 1964) is a British author who has specialised in writing about mathematical and scientific topics in an accessible manner. He is the maiden winner of the Lilavati Award.

His written works include Fermat's Last Theorem (in the United States titled Fermat's Enigma: The Epic Quest to Solve the World's Greatest Mathematical Problem), The Code Book (about cryptogra
More about Simon Singh...

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“Perhaps the greatest danger in the way that alternative therapists behave is simply the promotion of their own treatments when patients should be in the care of a conventional doctor. There are numerous reports of patients with serious conditions (e.g. diabetes, cancer, AIDS) suffering harm after following irresponsible advice form alternative practitioners instead of following the advice of a doctor.” 0 likes
“(Florence) Nightingale's passion for statistics enabled her to persuade the government of the importance of a whole series of health reforms. for example, many people had argued that training nurses was a waste of time, because patients cared for by trained nurses actually had a higher mortality rate than those treated by untrained staff. Nightingale, however, pointed out that this was only because more serious cases were being sent to those wards with trained nurses. If the intention is to compare the results from two groups, then it is essential to assign patients randomly to the two groups. Sure enough, when Nightingale set up trials in which patients were randomly assigned to trained and untrained nurses, it became clear that the cohort of patients treated by trained nurses fared much better than their counterparts in wards with untrained nurses.” 0 likes
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