Saturday, 13 November 2010
ShenLong Chinese Medical Centre
On my way to Milton Keynes Sceptics in the Pub last week, I just had time to pop into a local Chinese Medicine shop.
Shenlong Chinese Medical Centre of Bedford offer a wide range of therapies, almost none of which are of any proven benefit.
The shops' flyer (available here and here) makes some outrageous claims about the efficacy (and, indeed, safety) of acupuncture, ear candles, cupping therapy and allergy tests.
Hoping to leave no stone unturned, Shenlong boast they can "help" with
"...eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis, vitiligo, other skin complaints, acne, herpes, mycosis, hair loss, arthritis, back pain, lumbargo, stiff neck, stroke[s], sciatica, rheumatism, neuralgia, frozen shoulder, hemiplegia, sprains, anxiety, depression, panic attack, stress, insomnia, fatigue, hay fever, sinus infection, earaches, ringing in ears, sore throat, dizziness, migraine, asthma, palpitations, indigestion, constipation, colitis, colds, flu, high blood pressure, ulcers, gastritis, diarrhoea, heartburn, IBS, myalgic encephalomyelitis, irregular periods, the menopause, pre-menstrual syndrome, impotence, infertility, hot flushes, bedwetting, Men's Problem [sic]..."
If you're asking my opinion, anyone who spends money in this den of quackery needs their head examined. ASA complaint follows!
"I write to complain about a leaflet I picked up outside the premises of the "Shenlong Chinese Medical Centre" in Bedford, on 11th November. (The leaflet was in a plastic holder on the outside window of the shop).
The leaflet promotes the Centre's medical services.
I suspect that the leaflet may be in breach of the British Code of Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing (CAP Code). I can provide the original leaflet by post, if necessary.
1. The UK's leading authority on complementary medicine, Professor Edzard Ernst, has recently written about the difficulties of assessing Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) :
"Conclusion: TCM is difficult to evaluate. Some elements may be effective for some conditions, while other elements (e.g. cupping) are unlikely to offer any benefit above placebo. Many aspects of TCM are potentially harmful."
(ii) About reflexology, Ernst writes "The notion that reflexology can be used to diagnose health problems has been disproved and there is no convincing evidence that it is effective for any condition." 
(iii) About ear candles, Ernst writes "Ear candles are based on the absurd idea that this method removes ear wax or toxins from the body; it is not supported by any evidence." 
(iv) The ASA Council have previously upheld a complaint about claims made for ear candling (complaint ref 120878), in which I was the complainant.
(v) The dangers of using unregulated TCM therapies were recently highlighted by the case of Ying "Susan" Wu of Essex, who had "pleaded guilty to selling a banned substance to a woman who went on to develop kidney failure and cancer." 
2. Under Sections 12.1 and 13.1 of the CAP Code, I challenge whether the advertisers can substantiate any of the following claims:
(i) Acupuncture "works by stimulating the body's healing responses or immune systems" along "channels in the body" which are "stimulated by the insertion of thin, fine needles", a fact which has been "systematically refined and verified by modern research methods"
(ii) Ear Candles "[help] to revitalize [sic] the acupuncture points, stimulate the blood circulation and to free clogged pores", and is a "method for resolving problems of ear hygiene safely and naturally"
(iii) Reflexology practitioners can "help clear disease" by "[applying] controlled pressure with thumbs or fingers to specific areas of the feet"
(iv) Cupping Therapy "promotes the free flow of Qi and blood in the channels [of the body]"
(v) The advertisers are able to "test your level of allergy to... 400 items" by examining "a piece of your hair"
(vi) The advertisers' "Beauty Therapy with TCM" is able to "treat effectively Dermatitis, Follieulitis, Chloasma, Rosacea, Acne, Warts, etc" and "regenerat [sic] the skin"
(vii) The advertisers' "new method for weight loss" can "speed up [the] metabolic process, consume fatty tissue and... help lose weight effectively."
(viii) Acupuncture can help to "give up smoking"
(ix) TCM is "safe"
(x) A TCM doctor can find out about "the condition of your internal organs" by "examining your tongue and wrist pulses [sic]"
(xi) By using TCM, people can be "helped with" eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis, vitiligo, "other skin complaints", acne, herpes, mycosis, hair loss, arthritis, back pain, lumbargo, "stiff neck", stroke[s], sciatica, rheumatism, neuralgia, "frozen shoulder", hemiplegia, sprains, anxiety, depression, panic attack, stress, insomnia, fatigue, hay fever, sinus infection, earaches, "ringing in ears", sore throat, dizziness, migraine, asthma, palpitations, indigestion, constipation, colitis, colds, flu, high blood pressure, ulcers, gastritis, diarrhoea, heartburn, IBS, myalgic encephalomyelitis, irregular periods, the menopause, pre-menstrual syndrome, impotence, infertility, hot flushes, bedwetting, "Men's Problem [sic]".
3. I confirm I have no connections with the advertisers. I confirm I am not involved in legal proceedings with the advertisers.
 Simon Singh, Edzard Ernst, "Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial", American edition 2008, p328
 Ibid., p323
 Ibid., p309