When healthy living and incoherent quackery collide
Nov 26, 1999
Pros: May offer a starting point for certain ailments
Cons: Irresponsible and potentially dangerous advice, poorly written and researched
This is a classic in the "get famous by doing something respectable, then go off the deep end and espouse your true crackpot nature to your ready-built audience" genre. James Balch is a co-author of the generally respected best-seller Prescription for Nutritional Healing, which gives him a wide market for this slim, slightly incoherent tome.
Apart from the many other short-comings, my life isn't being saved, let alone even marginally altered, by Balch's advice here. 10 Natural Remedies (no, I don't know why "ten" isn't spelled out in the title) assumes the reader is already suffering, he or she being the product of evil Western society and ergo a consumer of little more than mass quantities of junk food and bad television. Having a healthy diet, a moderate exercise regime, and a genetic pre-disposition to quietly die of very old age quite free of cancer and other ills, there just wasn't anything I could use in the book. I'm even too young to have use for his general aging malaise remedies (the target audience for this book seems to be "boomers and older" -- don't go looking here for an acne remedy!).
So the book is inherently worthless for the healthy individual. Fine. The remedies he offers for the less fortunate are scattershot; the text is more fanatical than serious or practical -- rare is a proper dosage regime, rarer still is a discussion of possible side effects from the "remedies" -- I suspect the book on its own isn't an entirely safe guide. He also branches out into therapies in complete disrepute with the mainstream medical community, furthering the unpleasant kook overtone of the book. The praises of chelation therapy are sung rather loudly; check out www.quackwatch.com for a more coherent discussion of same. DHEA and other questionable hormone treatments are put forth, which is unsettling in the context of so little information: you are simply expected to take Dr Balch, who has never met you, at his word, and go off to the store and buy DHEA (dosage? reputable brand?) and start swallowing. Ultimately, the best of the advice here is in the "can't hurt anything besides your wallet category," and the worst of it is irresponsible and dangerous.
As is probably obvious, there isn't much going on here as far as proper editing goes. Remedies are peppered throughout the book in rather random order, and the index isn't very professional. Even more tellingly, his enthusiasm distracts him to the point of contradiction -- first you learn that computers are an unhealthy thing, designed to keep us immobile and anti-social, etc. Later on in the book, computers are a blessing for the elderly, allowing a previously impossible social connexion blah blah...what? This is bad for me now, but it'll become healthy when I retire?
The back of the book (not to mention the price) alone should scare people off; its claims are ludicrous: saw palmetto is as effective as Viagra! Melatonin (a hormone not available over the counter in most countries) pills are the best gift you can give your body! Depression can be cured with full-spectrum light!
10 Natural Remedies That Can Save Your Life is an embarrassment to the alternative medicine community, and a danger to the consumer. It may be wise to take all of Dr Balch's writings not with a melatonin pill, but with the proverbial grain of salt.
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About the reviewer
K. Mennie (kmennie)
Oct 27, 2010
Nov 23, 2010 02:45 PM UTC
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A respected expert on alternative and homeopathic medicine offers suggestions for taking charge of your own health, discussing such natural remedies and preventatives as barley grass, chelation therapy, natural hormone maintenance, and much more. Reprint.