Cover image for The magic feather effect : the science of alternative medicine and the surprising power of belief
Title:
The magic feather effect : the science of alternative medicine and the surprising power of belief
ISBN:
9781501121494
Personal Author:
Edition:
First Scribner hardcover edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Scribner, 2019.
Physical Description:
x, 278 pages ; 24 cm
Contents:
Donna's Eden: under the influence of an energy healer -- Lost in translation: the enduring practice of acupuncture -- Telltale toothpicks: acupuncture and the randomized, placebo-controlled trial -- The pharmacy within: what does a placebo effect feel like? -- Healing partners: a case of vanishing back pain -- My back is out: the hand therapy of chiropractic -- This feeling in my body: how acupuncture really works -- Brain pain: the modern neuroscientific view of pain -- The illness of disease: energy medicine and a rare disease -- The Zen response: stress reduction and the immune system -- The emotional rescue: a miracle at Lourdes -- All in my head: the German psychosomatics -- Something to believe in: waking up neurons after a spinal cord injury -- Believing is seeing: searching for signs of healing energy -- Why doctors need to be more like alternative healers (and vice versa).
Summary:
Author and journalist Melanie Warner takes readers on a vivid, fascinating journey through the world of alternative medicine. Crossing continents and sides of the debate, visiting prestigious research clinics and ordinary people's homes, she investigates the scientific underpinning for the purportedly magical results of these practices and reveals not only the medical power of beliefs and placebo effects, but also the range, limits, and uses of the surprising system of self-healing that resides inside us. -- Adapted from book jacket.
Subject Term:
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Book 615.5 Warne
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Book 615.5 Warne
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Summary

Summary

The acclaimed author of Pandora's Lunchbox and former New York Times reporter takes an enlightening, engaging deep dive into the world of alternative medicine and the surprising science that explains why it may work.

We all know someone who has had a seemingly miraculous cure from an alternative form of medicine: a friend whose chronic back pain vanished after sessions with an acupuncturist or chiropractor; a relative with digestive issues who recovered with herbal remedies; a colleague whose autoimmune disorder went into sudden inexplicable remission thanks to an energy healer or healing retreat.

The tales are far too common to be complete fabrications, yet too anecdotal and outside the medical mainstream to be taken seriously scientifically. How do we explain them and the growing popularity of alternative medicine more generally? Is there a biological basis for practices like acupuncture, tai chi, chiropractic, and energy healing? Who are the faithful patients and practitioners who tell these stories and speak of such mystical-seeming concepts as qi, chakras, and meridians in the first place?

In The Magic Feather Effect , author and journalist Melanie Warner attempts to answer these questions, taking us on a vivid, fascinating journey through the world of alternative medicine. Crossing continents and sides of the debate, visiting prestigious research clinics and ordinary people's homes, she investigates the scientific underpinning for the purportedly magical results of these practices and reveals not only the medical power of beliefs and placebo effects, but also the range, limits, and uses of the surprising system of self-healing that resides inside us.

Equal parts helpful, illuminating, and compelling, The Magic Feather Effect is a brilliant exploration of some of the world's most popular health treatments, the people who seek them, the scientists who study them, and the reasons they may work.


Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Journalist Warner (Pandora's Lunchbox) delves into the mysteries of alternative medicine in this fascinating study. As an observer, skeptic, and participant, Warner explores various alternative techniques and what the "surprising number of placebo researchers, neuroscientists, and psychologists" studying the field have said about "scientific reasons that seemingly unscientific practices might work." In addition to energy medicine, she looks at the history and practice of acupuncture, chiropractic practices, and other techniques. Fair-minded, thorough, and focused on verifiable scientific research, not hearsay or cherry-picked anecdotes, Warner interviews practitioners of these methods as well as those who test their efficacy. In one remarkable case, she interviews a man who claims to have recovered from quadriplegia through techniques learned from qigong monks. She concludes that while alternative medicine cannot "eradicate physical disease or directly repair substantial damage to tissues," it can have measurable physical impacts, by "relaxing our bodies and reducing stress" and thus affecting "symptoms for which brain activity plays a significant role-pain, panic attacks, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea," among others. This well-written survey of alternative medicine also leaves readers with a sharp critique of mainstream medicine: that it does not currently prioritize creating "empathic connections" with patients, the major strength of alternative medicine. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Library Journal Review

Former New York Times reporter Warner (Pandora's Lunchbox) leavens skepticism with support to investigate the role of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in contemporary health care. The author first examines the existing science behind CAM therapies, then considers how CAM's successes can be put to use in mainstream medicine. Warner discusses a variety of therapies but neglects to distinguish between evidence-based practices, such as chiropractic medicine and acupuncture taught in accredited schools, and other types of CAM. Some of her claims are incorrect; for example, "alternative" practitioners cannot give any diagnosis or treatment they wish but are instead bound by licensure scope of practice as well as statutes against administering treatment without a license. Warner categorizes CAM therapies plus physical therapy as "placebos," with their sole value based in the ritual of the therapeutic encounter. She encourages mainstream medical practitioners to incorporate these features into their own services in order to reduce patients' desire to see CAM professionals. VERDICT Recommended for readers who may turn to questionable sources for health advice and would appreciate a readable account of CAM exploration. Less useful for those already familiar with evidence-based forms of CAM.-Monica Howell, Northwestern Health Sciences Univ. Lib., Bloomington, MN © Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Table of Contents

1 Donna's Eden: Under the influence of an energy healerp. 1
2 Lost in Translation: The enduring practice of acupuncturep. 15
3 Telltale Toothpicks: Acupuncture and the randomized, placebo-controlled trialp. 30
4 The Pharmacy Within: What does a placebo effect feel like?p. 39
5 Healing Partners: A case of vanishing back painp. 61
6 My Back Is Out: The hand therapy of chiropracticp. 80
7 This Feeling in My Body: How acupuncture really worksp. 93
8 Brain Pain: The modern neuroscientific view of painp. 102
9 The Illness of Disease: Energy medicine and a rare diseasep. 118
10 The Zen Response: Stress reduction and the immune systemp. 138
11 The Emotional Rescue: A miracle at Lourdesp. 153
12 All in My Head: The German psychosomaticsp. 173
13 Something to Believe In: Waking up neurons after a spinal cord injuryp. 188
14 Believing Is Seeing: Searching for signs of healing energyp. 208
15 Why Doctors Need to Be More Like Alternative Healers (and Vice Versa)p. 226
Acknowledgmentsp. 237
Notesp. 239
Indexp. 261