Healing and herbals
Rolling fields, open air, tearful expressions of gratitude and hope. This isn’t a TV drama. It is a testimonial video on the webpage of a certain Natural Medical Center in Tarlac, where patients battling cancer seek treatment either as an alternative or adjunct to conventional therapies like surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. The center describes itself as the “world leader in effective cancer treatment.” At the heart of it all is one Dr. F. The videos paint her as a beacon of hope to those struggling with cancer and even diabetes, cirrhosis, and other ailments.
Around this time last year, there was a faint rumble of approval among doctors when the Food and Drug Administration issued a public health warning against the purchase and consumption of some of the center’s products. The products are called “Boston-C,” “Cyeton” and “Skeleton.” Boston-C, the cornerstone of the Dr. F method, is described as a “scientific blend of herbs and extracts” that works by “detoxifying body tissues” and “strengthening the immune system.” The phrases sound no different from those describing herbal supplements, and yet the stuff is sold under the name of a medical professional, making all the difference in credibility. But the medical community has for the most part remained silent on the issue. A cursory news search turns up a handful of glowing articles (most recently from Metro and the Manila Times) about how
Dr. F cures cancer and other diseases using cheaper, natural methods which are supposedly scientifically proven.
It’s this silence that makes me hesitate. The content on the official material is a mix between the medically sound and the dubious, and there are no clear, direct answers to questions about how it works or where the hard evidence is. I’ve tried to look for the literature myself, since tests have supposedly been run by different institutions using Boston-C, but searching scientific databases has failed to turn up any high-level evidence; still, it doesn’t mean that the evidence doesn’t exist. The testimonials seem genuine enough. Once in a while there are even before-and-after pictures showing tumor regression. A subtle endorsement is even seen in the form of Dr. Eric Tayag of the Department of Health dancing with Dr. F in one photo on the page. This, and the utter lack of negative reviews from patients, is enough to make one ponder.
It all goes against what we’ve been taught in medical school — that systematic, evidence-based medicine is our best hope in treating cancer in a reproducible way. But it’s also a sharp reminder that Western medicine is not the only medicine there is; that in
respected institutions, traditional medical practices, which operate on a framework completely different from Western medicine, are taught alongside it. It’s also a reminder that these attractive alternative therapies flourish when there is limited access to conventional therapy, which can be truly expensive, difficult to sustain, or experimental.
It’s too complex a problem for a single cure, but Dr. F appears confident that she has found the answer. She also seems to embody the traits that any young medical student, pumped up on Patch Adams, could hope to be: compassionate, concerned, holistic, a leader in her community. She also claims that “we will see every person who enters the property 24/7,” and that all consultations are free. When asked why the treatment isn’t more available, she has said that it’s due to the profit-oriented nature of the industry, and the website also cites the cost of getting FDA approval of any drug as a stumbling block.
The pharmaceutical industry and its regulatory bodies may indeed be filled with many who seek profit, but there are still so many of us who have sat across dying patients and wished we could offer more. I’d like to know what’s behind Boston-C, and if there is anything about it that can spur on Western medicine. While that may be a long way away, I’d like for us to be able to offer what Dr. F does in our own practices—maybe no miracle cures, but time, friendship, and a holistic approach, as these cost nothing at all.
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