Recently in The Atlantic Monthly David Freeman had a very thoughtful article on the value of alternative medicine. Having lived in our Colonia for five years, I have come to respect the fact that things besides modern medicine make people better. I don´t think the "things" are alternative fluids and tablets so much as a complex of attention and culture and probably some herbs that do work. I won't even say "I think" about this: homeopathic medicines are pure and simple water, though the guy who started homeopathy was trying to create a gentler treatment than the leaches and cupping and bleeding that characterized the standard medicine of his time. But even with homeopathy, the extensive attention to the patient seems to have a curative effect.
Anyway, Freeman's article raised some good points and stirred some opposition. There is a fine response on the blog Neuroanthropology: Understanding the Encultured Brain and Body which is one of the most interesting blogs around. The response presents a good summary of Freeman's points and of opposition to them. The best part, however, is at the end where Daniel Lende addresses the complexity of human experience and the effect of that complexity on our health. It is worth reading.