Alternative medicine is "any practice that is put forward as having the healing effects of medicine, but is not founded on evidence gathered using the scientific method."1 Should questions about this be allowed on Health.SE? How should we deal with answers that are based on alternative medicine?

  • I think the question is too broad, as it seems you're trying to either keep or get rid whole 'alternative medicine' which is broad topic (herbs, therapies, nutritions, etc) and it was initially agreed on commitment phase. If you think the answers it-self should be improved (which should provide more evidence, this example), not making the whole topic off-topic, then rephrase the question. In this case we should down-vote it and flag, so consensus can decide if the answer make sense, or not. But it's a good practise to give the comment first.
    – kenorb
    Apr 4, 2015 at 11:27
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3 Answers 3



What is alternative medicine? There are a wealth of widely adopted 'alternative' practices, from Homeopathy (which continues to be offered on the NHS in the UK), to Crystal Healing, to - well - almost anything.

The problem is that alternative medicine is anything that anyone thinks works, for curing any ailment. Either we have to choose which fields we are prepared to deal with (say, only Homeopathy and Ayurvedic?), or we're going to have a huge problem in:

  • Providing the breadth of expertise required
  • Being taken seriously by those with expertise in evidence-based medicine
  • Forming a community that doesn't tear itself apart from arguing about this stuff

I propose that questions asking about alternative medicine are off-topic. As for answers, I'm not actually so concerned, we have a system in place for dealing with wrong answers: downvotes.

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    "What is alternative medicine?" -> It's medicine that hasn't been proven to work, because when it's proven to work it's called medicine. May 3, 2015 at 11:48

In my opinion, questions about alternative medicine and answers involving alternative medicine should be handled in totally different ways.

My theory is that well-formed questions are always good, no matter the belief system of the asker. So, for instance, questions like, "Does homeopathy really work?", "Should I rely on faith healing?", "Do vaccines cause autism?" - should be totally on-topic because they give someone a chance to give a good answer. "Good" in this case would likely be "no", with plenty of evidence to back it up.

If the site gets flooded with permutations of the above questions ("Which homeopathic remedy should I use for X"), I think we could treat them as duplicates.

Answers are totally different. I personally think that Health.SE should have a strict "citations, please" attitude regarding answers, and answers containing advice from alternative medicine should be discouraged, if not downvoted or removed outright. There are enough places on the web to find that nonsense.

I'm not sure how I currently feel about semi-alternative answers such as recommending yoga or Ayurvedic practice, if it carries a disclaimer that it isn't the same as primary care.

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    I strongly agree with you. We should allow any well-formed questions, but answers are expected to be evidence-based, otherwise it'll be a poll with most popular opinion rising to the top. Stack Exchange is not a site for opinions.
    – Garrett
    Apr 4, 2015 at 5:34
  • I'd like to point out that actually, there is a link between the vaccines, possible the 3 together, and autism. So much so, that my mother (a nurse of 15 years) wanted to take me to france to get them done individually (she couldn't, I had an ear infection).
    – Tim
    Apr 5, 2015 at 21:53
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    @Tim: Do you have studies that verify the vaccine-autism link? Apr 6, 2015 at 1:52
  • I seem to remember the original one did find a link. Okay, it was a small sample size but if there is the possibility, shouldn't we be saying that? The way the media publicised it wasn't the best but that is no fault of the scientists.
    – Tim
    Apr 6, 2015 at 8:12
  • this proposal: I personally think that Health.SE should have a strict "citations, please" attitude regarding answers, is greatly undermined by this statement of fact: ` There are enough places on the web to find that nonsense`. Apr 6, 2015 at 14:27

As already discussed during the commitment phase of the proposal, alternative medicine questions are on-topic. Answers may address alternative, non-evidenced based medicine ONLY if:

(1) the question explicitly asks for an alternative medicine perspective AND

(2) the answer makes it clear that the answer is written is a perspective from alternative medicine.

Otherwise be default, we should assume all questions are asking for an evidenced based medicine perspective and provide evidenced based answers accordingly.

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    I disagree with this. In my mind, questions tagged [crystal-healing] do not belong on this site (and by your stated rules they would be allowed). Either we choose to be a site that handles questions based on evidence-based medical approaches only, or we cater to everything that anyone thinks heals anything.
    – Tom Medley
    Apr 8, 2015 at 10:55
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    @TomMedley, interesting, but I think if someone is interested in what methods a crystal healer might approach a certain problem then it is on topic as established in the area51 proposal. Alternative health practitioners were encouraged to sign up to health, but I guess I will start another area51 site to cater for them.
    – Kenshin
    Apr 13, 2015 at 11:39
  • I wasn't so involved with the definition of the site, but in my mind attempting to mix alternative medicine and, well, real medicine is a recipe for disaster.
    – Tom Medley
    Apr 13, 2015 at 11:44

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