What is Alternative Medicine? Alternative medicine has been with us for many years, yet many still don’t know what it is or how to distinguish between real and false treatments. Alternative medicine, more properly called complementary medicine, is any medical practice that seeks to attain the same healing effects as traditional, mainstream medicine, but that lacks scientific validity and is generally untested, unproven or unaccepted. For example, homeopathic and naturopathic practitioners often claim that their form of treatment is as good, if not better than modern medicines. But there are some well-established facts about what is alternative medicine that pretty much everyone can agree on.
First, alternative medicine is not all-natural or purely herbal. Many herbalists and herbal supplement manufacturers claim that they offer a totally natural alternative to medicine. And many practitioners use alternative herbal remedies in conjunction with conventional treatment, sometimes treating what is medically problematic along with the symptoms. Often times, this is the only effective way to cure a patient since no single remedy will treat an ailment by itself. A practitioner who is not a licensed physician may also diagnose and treat patients without any specialized training in conventional medicine or alternative medicine.
Second, alternative medicine differs from standard medical practices in a number of ways. Alternative practitioners use techniques such as massage therapy, herbal remedies, meditation, touch therapy, and chiropractic services that are very different from standard medical practices. Because of these differences, it’s not uncommon for an illness to be treated more efficiently and appropriately by alternative or complementary medicine when it would simply be more cost effective or simply be left alone to handle on its own.
Third, conventional medical practice often seeks to treat disease using one form of medication, usually a synthetic drug. However, alternative therapies seek to treat illness using a combination of treatments that are usually natural. In many instances, the drugs used in conventional medicine may cause some side effects and problems. By using complementary therapy methods and techniques, these problems can be avoided. Sometimes, complementary therapies may even eliminate the symptoms, leaving the patient feeling better than they did before. The goal of alternative medicine is to improve the quality of life of patients while treating their illnesses.
Next, complementary medicine therapies differ significantly from traditional Western medical systems. Many are based on Oriental thought and philosophy, while others are based on premodern Western medicinal practices, such as chiropractic or acupuncture. These alternative medical systems often promote self-care and healthy lifestyles, which many people view as a violation of modern society’s emphasis on disease prevention. However, studies show that patients who adopt a healthier lifestyle are more likely to be healthy and live longer than those who continue to unhealthy practices.
Fourth, some alternative medical practices are very different from Western approaches. For instance, traditional Western medicine focuses on preventing illness before it becomes severe. However, many alternative medical practices focus on the complete healing process. They attempt to prevent any underlying problems from arising, and often focus on lifestyle changes and Chiropractic care to correct muscle imbalances and restore function.
Examples of alternative medicine therapies include acupuncture, herbal therapy, reflexology, Reiki, and homeopathy. Acupuncture and reflexology are examples of bodywork therapies, and both have been used for centuries in the East to treat different ailments. Others, such as herbal therapies, Reiki, and homeopathy, have only recently become popular in the West, although they’ve been around much longer in the East.
However you want to interpret the definition of alternative medicine, there is no denying the fact that it is a legitimate form of alternative medical practice. Some critics argue that alternative medical systems are not based on sound scientific principles, but that is debatable. There is no shortage of critics of alternative medical systems, and most of them have little scientific research to back their claims. It is difficult to find major flaws in modern alternative medical practice. Still, many people rely on alternative medicine therapies to treat minor ailments, and their anecdotal stories prove that it can work for some people.