Complementary and alternative medicine

Medical marijuana

Peter Grinspoon, MD
Peter Grinspoon, MD, Contributing Editor

Medical marijuana is controversial, in part because many people aren’t aware of how and why it is used. Most commonly it is used to ease pain, and doctors need to be prepared for the questions their patients will have about it.

Fish oil capsules: Net benefits for the heart are limited

Julie Corliss
Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter

At one time there was hope that omega-3 supplements in the form of fish oil capsules might prevent heart disease, but 15 years of research has found this belief to be untrue, and taking fish oil could even be harmful to some people.

Yoga could slow the harmful effects of stress and inflammation

Marlynn Wei, MD, JD
Marlynn Wei, MD, JD, Contributing Editor

Because stress and inflammation are so harmful, researchers have been studying how yoga might help ease them. If you’re looking to de-stress, this breathing exercise is simple and can be done anywhere.

3 things parents should know about complementary and alternative medicine

Claire McCarthy, MD
Claire McCarthy, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Many treatments fall under the term “complementary and alternative medicine,” and many of those treatments are helpful. Yoga, meditation, and acupuncture are a few examples, but parents should be careful and consult their child’s doctor when using these approaches.

Yoga improves treatment-related symptoms in men with prostate cancer

Charlie Schmidt
Charlie Schmidt, Editor, Harvard Medical School Annual Report on Prostate Disease

Men who participated in yoga classes twice a week while being treated for prostate cancer reported less fatigue and better urinary and erectile function, compared to other men in the study who did not do yoga.

Here’s something completely different for low back pain

Robert H. Shmerling, MD
Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

With recently revised guidelines recommending that people with low back pain not take medication, it’s natural to wonder: what should I do, then? There are many options, among them heat, massage, yoga, and acupuncture.

You can do yoga: A simple 15-minute morning routine

Marlynn Wei, MD, JD
Marlynn Wei, MD, JD, Contributing Editor

The benefits of yoga for the body and mind are well documented. If you have been thinking about trying yoga, this simple routine includes breathing techniques, movement, and beginners meditation and will help you start your day.

Acupuncture: A point in the right direction, or a stab in the dark?

Paul G. Mathew, MD, FAAN, FAHS

Though some people surely benefit from acupuncture for the treatment of pain, its drawbacks (cost, length of treatment sessions, short duration of relief) mean that it may be a less effective choice than physical therapy or a medication.

Home remedies that may be worth a try

Beverly Merz
Beverly Merz, Executive Editor, Harvard Women's Health Watch

Sometimes a home remedy (one making use of inexpensive items already on hand or easy to obtain) can be as effective as a medical treatment, and far less costly. Because seemingly benign home remedies can have dangerous side effects you may want to check with your doctor to see if there are any risks involved.

What’s the evidence for evidence-based medicine?

Monique Tello, MD, MPH
Monique Tello, MD, MPH, Contributing Editor

The history of medicine is filled with remedies that were relied upon for hundreds of years until they were eventually proven ineffective or possibly even dangerous, while legitimate practices and treatments were disregarded or ridiculed until evidence outweighed skepticism. The bottom line is that medical interventions — from tests to treatments — should neither be recommended nor condemned without considering and weighing the evidence. A future post will discuss what physicians look for when evaluating “the evidence.”