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Trick or Treatment: The Undeniable Facts about Alternative Medicine

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  4,319 ratings  ·  304 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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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
Jul 21, 2008 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
Sep 09, 2012 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
Nov 29, 2012 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
Oct 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kat-sachbuch
This book investigates the claims alternative medical treatments make based on a scientifically acknowledged methodology.

The book starts with a description of the scientific methods, studies have to be based on to have any value. They also evaluate some well known studies.

The next chapters look thouroughly on acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic therapy and herbal medicine.

The last chapter, which I found particularly interesting, discusses if the placebo effect of alternative treatments is some
Ross Blocher
Sep 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is essential reading on the topic of alternative medicine, and I'm a little embarrassed to admit that it's been sitting unread on my shelf for over a decade. Trick or Treatment: The Undeniable Facts about Alternative Medicine is a practical, balanced, and evidence-based guide to the legitimately confusing world of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). The authors are well-qualified on the topic: Dr. Edzard Ernst is a now-retired academic physician and the first Professor of Compleme ...more
Sep 12, 2018 rated it it was ok
In my continued exploration of alternative medicine, I turned to Drs. Edzard Ernst and Simon Singh’s Trick or Treatment. While rife with medical history and science, unfortunately it reads somewhat like stereo instructions.

Trick or Treatment is simply too tedious for the casual reader. I’m sure medical professionals will find this text fascinating. Laypeople? Not so much. It’s too academic.

Further, I find it irritating that the doctors denigrate alternative medicine practitioners for relying
Brian Clegg
Aug 15, 2014 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 –
Feb 03, 2013 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 Ernst, 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 s ...more
David Dinaburg
Mar 07, 2013 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
‘Minds are like parachutes. They only function when open.’ – Thomas Dewar

Trick or Treatment examines and evaluates the evidence for four alternative medicines: acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropracty, and herbal medicine. By and large, Singh and Ernst, a journalist and a physician with a background in homeopathy, trash what they see. The research, when present, is weak, overstated, and poorly controlled. Repeatedly, they conclude that there is little evidence that these treatments are little better
Tanja Berg
Aug 02, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, non-fiction
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
Jul 11, 2011 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 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
Oct 31, 2009 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. ...more
Justin Chiu
Jan 30, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Simon Singh is a brilliant science author who makes difficult concepts easy to understand. In this book, he examines the evidence for and against alternative medicine as well as diving into the history of medicine and the randomised control trial. Very easy to read and he's very direct with his analysis, not pulling any punches if he feels a particular therapy lacks evidence. ...more
Dec 13, 2009 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
Angela G. Gentile
Nov 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The Truth Is – Alternative Therapies Provide Nothing More than Placebo Effects

Dr. Simon Singh and Professor Edzard Ernst team up in "Trick or Treatment: Alternative Medicine on Trial" (2008) to bust the myths of the effectiveness of some of the most popular complementary and alternative treatments. Ernst’s impressive occupational and education history make him far more than qualified to be the one to take on this task. He was formerly a clinical doctor and studied homeopathy. Singh has a Ph.D. i
Jul 26, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: popular-medicine
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
Baal Of
Jan 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Extremely thorough, even-handed overview of the current state of alternative medicine from a scientific viewpoint. In depth coverage of acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic, and herbal medicine, with an excellent supplemental section giving single page overviews of a whole laundry list of alternative approaches. The authors fulfill their intent to approach the subjects with an attitude of determining what actually works, what has been shown not to work, and where the research is lacking or unce ...more
Dec 25, 2011 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.
Mar 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
In short: stay far away from acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic therapy, and herbal medicine. The evidence for this was clear and concise 10 years ago when this book was written and more of it has piled up since then.

I was prompted to read this book after several suggestions to buy an EMF protection pendant or a similar product. Dumbfounded and somewhat depressed, I was directed to trawl through a gob of tripe which was supposed to be sufficient to convince me. Unfortunately for them, Popular
Jun 25, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, own-it
This book has everything: being straight forward without being condescending, clear evidence and references, dry British humour, skepticism and love of the scientific method, debunking of homeopathy (it’s that thing of when you take a substance and dilute to the point that there is not a single recognizable molecule of that substance in the final product and you expect it to treat any/all ailments), and bull dogs on skateboards with Zunes strapped to their tails DJing until 4am.

I’m kidding about
Elaine Nelson
Jun 08, 2009 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 to e
Todd Martin
Feb 25, 2009 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
Jun 27, 2013 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
Sep 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, science
This is an excellent book. I went into it expecting it to be a preaching-to-the-choir experience and thus a bit boring (but wanting reinforcement on my thinking), but in fact I found it quite engaging and I learned quite a bit.

The authors present a solid and comprehensive overview of the history of evidence-based medicine, the main techniques involved in clinical trials as well as systematic review and meta-analysis of such trials, the history of the four main alternative therapies considered (a
Dec 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I picked this book up at the library by chance. It is a fascinating exploration of both standard medicine and alternative medicine. It describes the successes and failures of standard medicine, and how the medical profession continually tests treatments to determine which work and which don't.

It then describes in detail acupuncture, chiropractry, homeopathy and herbal medicine, describing their history, their philosophy and their effectiveness. I never fully understood the first three, so this
Feb 20, 2014 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
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Simon Lehna Singh, MBE 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 cryptography and its history),

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The winter holiday season tends to be a busy one in the romance aisle. To assist you in finding your next hot read to warm up a cold night,...
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“(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.” 1 likes
“The core principle of the trial is simple and can be traced back as far as the 13th century, when the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II conducted an experiment to find out the effects of exercise on digestion. Two knights consumed identical meals, and then one went hunting while the other rested in bed. Several hours later, both knights were killed and the contents of their alimentary canals were examined. This revealed that digestion had progressed further in the sleeping knight. It was crucial to have two knights undergoing different levels of exercise, active and at rest, as it allowed the degree of digestion in one to be compared against the other.” 0 likes
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