by Editors of Time-Life Books
Time-Life Books, 1996
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Jan 22nd 2002
The Medical Advisor (First
Edition) is a large and heavy book, with 1152 large format pages. It calls itself a complete guide to
alternative and conventional treatments to both physical and mental
problems. Since it is published by
Time-Life Books and has a lengthy list of consultants at prestigious
institutions, one expects it to be well researched, conservative in its
recommendations, and easy to use. By-and-large,
it lives up to these expectations. (Note
that the first edition is out of print; the second
edition has the same number of pages.)
main sections of the book are a small one on emergencies and first aid, then
800 pages on ailments and options, and an index of conventional and natural
medicines. It also contains a
dictionary of conventional medicine and alternative therapies, a set of general
guidelines to health, recommendations on eating, a visual diagnostic guide with
photographs of problems visible on the surface of the body, an atlas of the
body (I wonder why they do not use the word anatomy), and three
I will not
pretend to have read the whole book, but I have owned it for about four years
though, and my wife and I have consulted it on many occasions. It is often a useful starting place when you
are wondering what is wrong with you; it has plenty of pictures and diagrams,
and it is user friendly. Its great
attraction is that it combines both conventional medical views with alternative
one has strange aches or pains, one feels faint, or one has an odd combination
of symptoms. Browsing through a book
like this can be helpful in working out if what the underlying problem might
be, whether it is worth the time and expense to see a physician, and how one
might deal with the problem. But it can
be also be a way to worry oneself needlessly.
A few years ago, my wife suddenly felt very faint and had intense chest
pain. Under fainting, this book lists
seven possible causes: they include low blood pressure, low blood sugar,
stress, stroke, or heart attack. The
cause was probably low blood sugar, stress, or maybe a panic attack, but I
think we entertained the possibility that she had had a minor heart
attack. But this is a problem that
arises when using any medical encyclopedia, and this book does say, Brief,
infrequent fainting with no other symptoms usually is not a cause for concern.
Medical Advisor seems useful for mental health problems. For example, suppose one wants to know if
one is having a panic attack, and if so, what to do about it. Under Panic
Attack, the book lists the symptoms, and says if you have recurrent panic
attacks and persistent fear of panic attacks or change your behavior
significantly because of such attacks, you have panic disorder. It recommends that you should call your
doctor. It also tells you how to tell
the difference between a panic attack and a heart attack. (The idea that most people have a person
they can call my doctor seems rather outdated in the age of managed care:
those people lucky to have health coverage often just see the physician,
physicians assistant or nurse who is available when they go in for an
for Panic Attack goes on to explain that the underlying cause is not clear,
and explains some of the possible candidates.
It mentions that some medical problems and medications, including
antidepressants at high dosages can cause them. For conventional treatments, it lists psychotherapy,
antidepressants, and antianxiety drugs mentioning alprazolam specifically. For alternative choices, it lists
aromatherapy using oil of lavender, body work such as qigong and yoga, herbal
therapies, including skullcap or valerian tea, hypnotherapy, mind/body medicine
such as meditation, and under nutrition and diet, it recommends magnesium as
well as avoiding caffeine, alcohol and sugar.
It also recommends ways to prevent panic attacks: learning to recognize
them, reassuring yourself you can survive them, slow, deep breathing, taking
your time, and going easy on yourself rather than being overly critical.
have got the basic information, you can use the rest of the book to learn more:
- In the
listing of conventional and natural medicines, one finds that alprazolam
has the brand name Xanax. It
explains that it is in the benzodiazepine class of drugs, and says to see Benzodiazepines
for further information on side effects and possible drug
interactions. It cautions not to
confuse Xanax with Zantac I wasnt aware that people ever confused the
two! It also briefly lists some of
the side effects of Xanax.
very little information about qigong in the book, but there is an
illustrated appendix on yoga position.
are two listings for skullcap in the section on medicines, one as Chinese
herb, and the other as a western herb.
It is interesting to compare the two and see the similarities and
differences. Both list target
ailments, preparations, and side effects.
to the section on eating for health, one finds that fish, green leafy
vegetables, milk, nuts, seeds and whole grains are good sources of
magnesium, and information about magnesium supplements.
Although theres a bibliography, the entries themselves
contain little information about the scientific studies that have been done of
different treatments, so one must simply rely on the expertise of the
authors. This book is not as
comprehensive in its coverage of alternative medicine as The PDR Family Guide to
Natural Medicines & Healing Therapies, nor is it as scholarly or
thorough as the Natural
Health Bible in its discussion of herbs, supplements and vitamins. But The Medical Advisor is an
excellent all-round resource to have at home if you want to inform yourself
about your health and how to treat health problems.
See the Second Edition at Amazon.com.
Second edition also listed with table of contents at Barnes & Noble.com:
Medical Advisor: The Complete Guide to Alternative and Conventional Treatments
First edition listed at Barnes & Noble.com:
The Medical Advisor: The Complete Guide to Alternative and Conventional Treatments
© 2002 Christian Perring. First Serial Rights.
Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College,
Long Island. He is editor of Metapsychology Online Review.
His main research is on philosophical issues in psychiatry.
He is especially interested in exploring how philosophers can
play a greater role in public life, and he is keen to help foster
communication between philosophers, mental health professionals,
and the general public.