Alternative medicine may sound alluring, but it can be deadly

By Paul A Offit

For the Los Angeles Times

Published: Thursday, July 11 2013 10:32 p.m. MDT

These problems aren't rare. Between 1983 and 2004, poison control centers in the United States received 1.3 million reports of adverse reactions to vitamins, minerals and dietary supplements, of which 175,268 required treatment in hospitals and 139 resulted in death.

In the end, any therapy that has a positive effect can have a negative effect. Alternative remedies are no different, even though words such as comfrey, valerian and chaparral sound disarmingly like something to revive a sleeping princess.

Paul A. Offit, a physician, is chief of the division of infectious diseases at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, a professor of pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of "Do You Believe in Magic?: The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine." He wrote this for the Los Angeles Times.

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