Red flags when researching complementary therapies

When gathering health information, watch for the following red flags. The presence of several red flags suggests that the person providing the information is more interested in selling something than in helping you improve your health. You can use this list when investigating both conventional and complementary therapies.

  • The information source discourages you from consulting others, belittles the information you have received from other sources or discourages you from seeking conventional treatment (such as vaccinations).
  • The source claims that the treatment can cure HIV or can be used for a long list of illnesses without any explanation of how results vary depending on the condition or how the conditions are related.
  • The information focuses on the treatment's popularity or financial success, not on how it works.
  • The information relies exclusively or predominantly on testimonials from past users.
  • The information is all about comparisons with similar products.
  • The qualifications of the practitioners or promoters aren't offered. (Although practitioners in some disciplines do not receive formal training, all should be able to explain their qualifications for practising.)
  • Studies of the product referred to in promotional literature haven't been published or are published only by those who have a vested interest in the product.
  • The source's focus is on payment, not information.
  • Opinions and facts are mixed together in the information.
  • The treatment is unjustifiably expensive and no clear explanations are given for the cost.