Q. I have arthritis that severely limits my ability to do all the things I want to do. I see ads on TV and in magazines for various treatments that are "guaranteed" to help. Is this the same as alternative medicine?
Lucy, La Crescenta
No, they are not the same. "Alternative medicine" is being used today to refer to treatments that have a historical or cultural, rather than a scientific, basis. The American National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine cites examples including naturopathy, chiropractic medicine, herbalism, traditional Chinese medicine, meditation, yoga, biofeedback, hypnosis, homeopathy, acupuncture and nutritional-based therapies.
On the other hand, health fraud is the deceptive marketing of unproven, fraudulent health-related products, treatments or devices. The sellers claim that their products will cure diseases, make us feel better, and look younger. But the only real benefit of these products is to the con artists themselves, who bilk Americans out of $100 billion every year.