Introduction
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P
eople today face a bewildering choice of medical treatments
supplemental or alternative (some say complementary) to or-
thodox medicine, including osteopathy, chiropractic, Chris-
tian Science and other forms of faith healing, herbal medicine,
over-the-counter pharmacy, and many more. Most people retain a
basic confidence in orthodox medicine, but many are intrigued by
alternative practices and sample or use them regularly, notwithstand-
ing much perplexity about the reliability and safety of alternative
approaches and questions about the honesty and qualifications of the
practitioners. A vast array of advocacy literature dealing with alterna-
tive health care exists, but, unfortunately, few balanced and analyti-
cal approaches are available. The present account aims to describe
and evaluate impartially one alternative practice in an Anglo-Saxon
setting.
Studies of traditional herbal practices have followed many overlap-
ping directions. Prior to the 1930s, accounts for the most part focused
on charms and magical recipes, suggesting analogies to the begin-
nings of Western medicine. Other studies were Baconian in approach,
compiling lists of folk beliefs to preserve information in order to trace
the spread of ideas or to illuminate thought processes. Recent inves-
tigations tend to focus more on the context in which folk medicine
is practiced, its contribution to local health care, and its relation-
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