top of page
Cover image.jpg

Table of contents

  1.  Donna's Eden: Under the spell of an energy healer

  2. Lost in Translation: The enduring practice of acupuncture

  3. Telltale Toothpicks: Acupuncture and the randomized, placebo-controlled trial

  4. The Pharmacy Within: What does a placebo effect feel like?

  5. Healing Partners: A case of vanishing back pain

  6. My Back Is Out: The hand therapy of chiropractic

  7. This Feeling in My Body: How acupuncture really works

  8. Brain Pain: The modern neuroscientific view of pain

  9. The Illness of Disease: Energy medicine and a rare disease

  10. The Zen Response: Stress reduction and the immune system

  11. The Emotional Rescue: A miracle at Lourdes

  12. All in My Head: The German psychosomatics

  13. Something to Believe In: Waking up neurons after a spinal cord injury

  14. Believing is Seeing: Searching for signs of healing energy

  15. Why Doctors Need to Be More Like Alternative Healers (and Vice Versa)

The Magic Feather Effect: 

The Science of Alternative Medicine and the Surprising Power of Belief

THE MAGIC FEATHER EFFECT takes an enlightening deep dive into the world of alternative medicine and the surprising science that explains why it may work.

We all know someone who has had a seemingly miraculous cure from an alternative form of medicine: a friend whose chronic back pain vanished after sessions with an acupuncturist or chiropractor; a relative with digestive issues who recovered with herbal remedies; a colleague whose autoimmune disorder went into sudden inexplicable remission thanks to an energy healer or healing retreat.

The tales are far too common to all be fabrications, yet anecdotes have never been amenable to scientific proof. How do we explain them and the growing popularity of alternative medicine more generally? Is there a biological basis for practices like acupuncture, tai chi, chiropractic, and energy healing? Who are the faithful patients and practitioners who tell these stories and speak of such mystical-seeming concepts as qi, chakras, and meridians in the first place?

In The Magic Feather Effect, author and journalist Melanie Warner attempts to answer these questions, taking us on a vivid, fascinating journey through the world of alternative medicine. Crossing continents and sides of the debate, visiting prestigious research clinics and ordinary people’s homes, she investigates the scientific underpinning for the purportedly magical results of these practices and reveals not only the medical power of beliefs and placebo effects, but also the range, limits, and uses of the surprising system of self-healing that resides inside us.

Equal parts helpful, illuminating, and compelling, THE MAGIC FEATHER EFFECT is a brilliant exploration of some of the world’s most popular health treatments, the people who seek them, the scientists who study them, and the reasons they may work.

"In The Magic Feather Effect, Melanie Warner demystifies the physiology of alternative (placebo) medicine, explaining exactly how, in the words of John Milton, ‘the mind can make a heaven of hell and a hell of heaven.’”

Paul A. Offit, MD, author of Do You Believe in Magic?

LUNCHBOX cover.jpg


Pandora's Lunchbox:

How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal

PANDORA’S LUNCHBOX tells the story of what happens to processed foods before they reach our plates (or are handed to us through a car window.) With packaged foods and fast foods so ubiquitous — comprising roughly 70 percent of the calories we consume — it’s easy to overlook the fact that our diets have changed more in the last 100 years than they have in the last 10,000. Much of what we now eat is not so much as cooked, as it is engineered into finely-tuned, nutrient-deficient creations of science.


The book offers a rare look inside the monumentally complex edifice of America’s food manufacturing industry and presents a case for why our high-tech, Byzantine system of food processing is of profound importance to a nation of eaters who are overweight, and half of whom suffer from at least one diet-related chronic disease. We go inside the labs and high-tech facilities that help churn out the cheapest, most abundant, most addictive and most nutritionally devastating food in the world. We learn how some of our most popular foods are produced and meet the people who, today and over the past century, have helped redefine what Americans eat.


From the origins of the FDA to the presence of soybean oil in nearly everything, PANDORA’S LUNCHBOX exposes the industries that create much of what we eat today and that are partly to blame for our nation’s health crisis.

"Melanie Warner’s new book about processed food is so much fun that you might forget how depressing it all is…..There are more Holy Cow! moments here than even someone who thinks he or she knows what’s going on in food production could predict."

Mark Bitttman, The New York Times

"Gripping exposé."

— Wall Street Journal


"A well-researched, nonpreachy, worthwhile read."

— Kirkus Reviews


"Warner’s thought-provoking study does an excellent job presenting the facts without sensationalizing, and offering common sense solutions to those seeking to make better food choices."

— Publishers Weekly


"Much as the 2008 documentary Food, Inc. attacked commercially farmed milk and meat, Pandora’s Lunchbox assaults the rest of the food available in the grocery aisles. Warner’s appetite-suppressing depiction of processed foods is sure to inspire readers to consider how they eat."

— The Onion‘s AV Club


"If you’re concerned about food safety and the perils of the agricultural-gastronomic complex, this book is indispensable."

— Newsday


"Well-researched and well-reviewed, this book avoids the easy polemics of other writers and presents a solid case for ‘cleaning up’ our food supply."

— Utica Observer-Dispatch


"Warner pulls back the curtain to reveal the industry secrets of how our most basic staples are being transformed into processed foodstuffs to boost profits. We get an (un)healthy dose of hexane-extraction, gun puffing and roast chicken type flavor, but like the best investigative journalists, she uses the personal stories of food scientists, innovators and crusaders not to mention her own home experiments, to show why you’ll want to think twice before hitting the drive-thru or reaching for that “health bar.”"

Robert Kenner, director and producer of Food, Inc.


"Melanie Warner is a journalist of keen skill, and in Pandora’s Lunchbox, she pries the lid off well-packaged secrets about how our so-called food is made. The resulting bounty of insights and revelations is almost overwhelming. This is a book of stunning, at times shocking, truths, told in a crisp, compelling. Of profound importance for everyone who eats."

David L. Katz, M.D., Director of Yale University Prevention Research Center and Director of the Integrative Medicine at Griffin Hospital


"Pandora’s Lunchbox is a brilliant and fascinating exploration of how our food gets processed, its powerful effects on our health, and what we can do about it. Highly recommended!"

Dean Ornish, M.D., author of Eat More, Weigh Less and The Spectrum: A Scientifically Proven Program to Feel Better, Live Longer, Lose Weight, and Gain Health


"In Pandora’s Lunchbox, Melanie Warner has produced an engaging account of how today’s ‘food processing industrial complex’ replaced real food with the inventions of food science. Her history of how this happened and who benefits from these inventions should be enough to inspire everyone to get back into the kitchen and start cooking."

Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University and coauthor of Why Calories Count: From Science to Politics


"The best book I’ve read on food in years."

Bill Marler, food safety advocate, manager director Marler Clark

Media about Pandora's Lunchbox

bottom of page