Every year, Americans spend $22 billion in classes, self-help relaxation guides and herbal supplements, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Nearly $15 billion of that is spent on "natural" over-the-counter medications intended to help people either feel better or prevent illness. Here are four "cures" that have been proven by scientific studies to be baseless yet remain on pharmacy and health foods store shelves.

The root of this North American herb has been used throughout history as a medicine. In recent years, it has been hailed as a both a preventative measure and a treatment for the common cold. Echinacea, both in pill and oil form, can be found at natural foods stores and, increasingly, on pharmacy shelves. Although some studies have suggested over the years that the plant can decrease the severity of a cold or even prevent one, a large peer-reviewed study in 2005 published in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that it had no effect on the common cold virus.

Vitamin D
Vitamin D is another over-the-counter "remedy" for the common cold. The theory is that it boosts the immune system to help the body fight off the virus or prevent the body from contracting it in the first place. People often take megadoses that are many times higher than the recommended daily dose. Scientists in New Zealand have concluded that Vitamin D has no effect on the common cold, however, based on a study of 322 adults over an 18-month period. Doctors still recommend taking daily doses of Vitamin D for general health, but at a much lower dose than most people use to try to prevent colds.

Detox Diets
These fad diets have been around for decades in one form or another. Each works differently, but the main goal is to eat or drink only one thing for a period of days to remove toxins from the body. They are also touted to help one lose weight and are endorsed by several Hollywood celebrities. Most mainstream doctors warn that these detox diets are not only completely ineffective, but they may also be dangerous. Fasting for several days deprives the body of nutrition and caloric intake and can actually prompt it to go into "starvation mode," causing it to store more fat. Yet, the number of commercial detox diets on the market continues to grow and consumers still buy them, hoping for a quick-fix weight loss solution.

Colon Cleansing
The purpose of colon cleansing is to detox the body from the other end. The treatment consists of large amounts of water being pumped into the lower colon to wash out intestinal waste. This supposedly makes people feel healthier and have more energy. The treatments can be done in a practitioner's office or with a do-it-yourself kit. Some kits include pills or fiber capsules to help with the cleanse. Most conventional doctors say that it is useless, as the body is able to eliminate its own waste effectively. On top of that, they say, it can result in damage to the colon, bacterial infection or even liver toxicity. The American Medical Association warned of the dangers as early as 1919, yet colon cleansing is more popular today than ever.

The Bottom Line
As healthcare costs continue to rise, consumers will buy more alternative "cures" to try to avoid illness and feel better. While scientific studies try to put to rest the claims of these miracle treatments, they still fly off the pharmacy shelves, putting money in the pockets of the manufacturers and leaving people without the health benefits they were seeking.

Related Articles
  1. Insurance

    What's The Difference Between Medicare And Medicaid?

    One program is for the poor; the other is for the elderly. Learn which is which.
  2. Economics

    Understanding Donald Trump's Stance on China

    Find out why China bothers Donald Trump so much, and why the 2016 Republican presidential candidate argues for a return to protectionist trade policies.
  3. Economics

    Will Putin Ever Leave Office?

    Find out when, or if, Russian President Vladimir Putin will ever relinquish control over the Russian government, and whether it matters.
  4. Financial Advisors

    Breaking Down Medicare Open Enrollment for Clients

    For financial advisors, open enrollment is an important opportunity to be of service to clients, especially when it comes to reviewing Medicare options.
  5. Taxes

    10 Money-Saving Year-End Tax Tips

    Getting organized well before the deadline will curb your frustration and your tax liability.
  6. Retirement

    Top Signs You Aren’t Ready to Retire Yet

    Think you are prepared to retire? These warning signs may indicate otherwise.
  7. Markets

    Will Paris Attacks Undo the European Union Dream?

    Last Friday's attacks in Paris are transforming the migrant crisis into an EU security threat, which could undermine the European Union dream.
  8. Savings

    Your Flex Spending Dollars: How to Use Them All

    Your flexible spending account is about to expire. Don't throw money away; here's how you can spend every cent (or roll it over).
  9. Budgeting

    How Much Will it Cost to Become President In 2016?

    The 2016 race to the White House will largely be determined by who can spend the most money. Here is a look at how much it will cost to win the presidency.
  10. Investing

    LabCorp's Challenges Ahead

    LabCorp, the second largest clinical lab company, faces many challenges. Regulatory changes, reimbursement cuts, strong competition and the inability to set price all impact profitability.
  1. Is dental insurance tax deductible?

    Dental insurance premiums may be tax deductible. To be deductible as a qualifying medical expense, the dental insurance must ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Are Flexible Spending Account (FSA) contributions tax deductible?

    The contributions you make to your Flexible Spending Account (FSA) are not tax-deductible because the accounts are funded ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Does a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) cover massages?

    Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) cover massages for certain medical treatments. These treatments must be approved and prescribed ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Does a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) cover Lasik?

    Flexible spending accounts (FSA) can be used to pay for qualifying LASIK procedures. LASIK is not the only laser eye surgery ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. Are Flexible Spending Account (FSA) expenses tax deductible?

    Flexible Spending Account (FSA) expenses are not tax deductible. The U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) states you cannot ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. Does a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) cover acupuncture?

    A Flexible Spending Account (FSA) covers acupuncture. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has defined acupuncture as a qualifying ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Hot Definitions
  1. Quick Ratio

    The quick ratio is an indicator of a company’s short-term liquidity. The quick ratio measures a company’s ability to meet ...
  2. Black Tuesday

    October 29, 1929, when the DJIA fell 12% - one of the largest one-day drops in stock market history. More than 16 million ...
  3. Black Monday

    October 19, 1987, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) lost almost 22% in a single day. That event marked the beginning ...
  4. Monetary Policy

    Monetary policy is the actions of a central bank, currency board or other regulatory committee that determine the size and ...
  5. Indemnity

    Indemnity is compensation for damages or loss. Indemnity in the legal sense may also refer to an exemption from liability ...
  6. Discount Bond

    A bond that is issued for less than its par (or face) value, or a bond currently trading for less than its par value in the ...
Trading Center