Evidence shmevidence

Posted: March 7, 2012 in Uncategorized

Let us explore the difference between evidence and bullshit, shall we?

After banning someone from my Facebook page, who resorted to name calling and personal attacks when asked for evidence in support of herbal remedies, I got treated to her alternate Facebook persona (before a second banning). This alternate linked me to this article: http://www.herbslist.net/goldenseal-benefits-health.html

This article was presented to me as evidence (in support of all herbal remedies I think). Now, it was a fine attempt at showing me that people BELIEVE this herb to be beneficial for health. Goldenseal is a common remedy sold at Whole Foods and stores like that. I’ve taken Goldenseal before at the onset of a cold (which I can’t remember if it did anything or not, but judging by its absence in my medicine cabinet now, it probably did nothing). What this article does NOT show, is links to actual scientific studies (double-blind clinical trials) that show that the following remedy actually does what people claim it does. I’m not saying there isn’t evidence to support the health benefit claims of this herb. I’m saying that I have yet to see any evidence that supports these claims.

This is a quote from the article, “It’s believed to be an effective treatment for conditions such as inflammation, loss of appetite, colitis and ulcers.” Now, pay attention to the language here. “It’s believed,” again, “it’s believed….” Not proven, not fact. Belief. If you ever thought that I believed something without evidence….then you haven’t been paying attention at all.

Another quote: “Even though modern science states that there is no scientific evidence to support all of the health claims made for the plant, people have taken it for hundreds of years and find it beneficial.” Appeal to tradition, a logical fallacy, that according to the Wikipedia definition, “is a common fallacy in which a thesis is deemed correct on the basis that it correlates with some past or present tradition.” Again, this article is not evidence in support of the claims that herbal remedies do anything that random chance or a placebo couldn’t do.

I am not claiming to know all the evidence, or whether or not these remedies truly work. I think I remember seeing an actual study in which St. John’s Wort was actually proven to be effective in improving mood. I have seen evidence in support of the reported benefits of St. John’s Wort and I changed my mind about whether or not it was a useless snake oil remedy (FYI haters, that is the opposite of being close-minded).

So, if you are reading my blog, or participating in discussion on my page, keep this in mind: I will not swallow your load if you don’t have actual evidence to back your claims up. I am trying to promote critical thinking here, and this is why I am so demanding regarding evidence. I will do my best to not spread bullshit, and will not tolerate it from others.

Now let’s review:

Not evidence: http://www.herbslist.net/goldenseal-benefits-health.html

Evidence: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16428031

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19614563

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19090505

Simple, right?

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Comments
  1. Mario Romero says:

    But some people believe that beliefs equal evidente. And that’s bulshit of course.

  2. Rick Schauer says:

    http://criticalthinking.org

    It may help some folks recognize what critical thinking is and what intellectual standards are.

  3. mattincinci says:

    beliefs or claims do not = evidence lol

  4. rini6 says:

    Many people, understandably, condem big pharma. For some reason, these same people often forget that the herbal and supplement industry is huge and not beholden to the FDA in the same way.

    Remember, personal testimonial does not equal efficacy. 30% of people improve on placebo.

  5. southerngirl says:

    Back in the day when i smoked weed i got a job at walmart n had to pass a drug test. I took 3 goldenseal a day, and 2 niacin pills, and drank lots of water and was clean in 6 days. Not sure about all the other claims but it worked for my ailment.

    • Mel says:

      I’ve passed drug tests by just drinking plenty of water. Other times I’ve tried niacin and drinking water. I can’t say that niacin helped any more or less because it worked all those times with water alone. That would be and interesting and helpful study for potheads!

  6. Sophia Grace says:

    but who pays for the scientific studies? often pharmaceutical companies.
    but there’s no purpose in funding a study for an herbal remedy that will not result in profit.

    all that aside, I am a scientist in my own right. I use herbal remedies for 99% of all of my ailments. I have a whole collection of books that are useful – and I really prefer only ones with scientific evidence. The Green Pharmacy is one of my favorite resources. and the herbal supplement contraindication book. I have a PDR that discusses supplements, too. there’s science out there, but you’ll find it a lot less accessible and with far fewer studies…

  7. Sophia Grace says:

    also, the placebo effect is real. and I’ll totally take it. 🙂

    • Mel says:

      There is some really interesting research being done on the placebo effect. It is real, just hard to measure. It changes with expectations, personal experiences, and even culture. I don’t think there is an ethical way to give a placebo in place of real medicine with a measurable effect. It is far too variable. An interesting field of study though!

  8. A: There’s more to life than evidence.
    B: Get in the fookin’ sack!

    dara o’briain vs homeopathy – excellent clip!

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