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Friday August 18, 2017
Alternative Medicine: An Overview
Alternative Medicine

Indeed alternative medicine has been considered quackery by some. But the truth is many people around the world both historically and recently have relied on some form of non-traditional medicine. In fact, for many, they know no other way of treating their people, as alternative medications were the only form of medicine available for thousands of years. Armed with a pestle and mortar, they methodically mixed herbal medicines, steeped potions made from tree bark and leaves, and brewed teas from flowers. Until modern day pills were invented, this was the norm for most cultures.



But alternative medicine does not only refer to medications other than prescription drugs. It encompasses a growing network of professionals whose aim is to treat the mind, body and spirit with less invasive methods, thereby bringing harmony to the person. As traditional medications and treatments become more intrusive, many people are seeking alternative ways to deal with their ailments. Moreover, people are looking for ways to live comfortably in the face of terminal illness, as opposed to suffering radical treatments.

Unquestionably, it is becoming more prevalent in staunch medical circles to embrace and offer alternative medicine. Doctors are realizing the benefits and solace their patients derive by combining modern medical techniques with non-traditional methods. In fact, many doctors today are less likely to eschew alternate methods. For several years, chiropractic care was not considered a component of mainstream medicine. But today many doctors will recommend patients to a chiropractor.

Another example of how serious the medical professional now views alternate medicine is the existence of both legitimate colleges and government organizations.

  • In Canada, the Alternative Medicine College of Canada is accredited by various organizations including the American Alternative Medical Association (AAMA), Human Resources Development Canada, and The Examining Board of Natural Medicine Practitioners-North America. Teaching courses worldwide, the college offers a program for Natural Health Practitioners and includes holistic nutrition, naturopathy, homeopathy, and bioenergetics.
  • In the US, as part of the National Institutes of Health, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) was formed. As a government agency, its main focus is to review complementary and alternative healing practices with scientific studies. By collecting and providing data on the safety of treatments, as well as the efficacy, medical professionals and the general public can better understand alternative medicine. It further recognizes that just because a treatment to date has not necessarily been proved scientifically, it does not follow that it does not have potential merit. In other words, it should, at the very least, be examined.

According to NCCAM, the treatments are separated into three categories:

  • Complementary medicine which is used in combination with traditional medicine. The treatment or healing practice actually complements traditional medical practices.
  • Alternative medicine is used instead of traditional medicine.
  • Integrative medicine, which like complementary medicine combines the two ideologies, but research and studies have shown specific levels of safety and efficacy.

Finally, the area of complementary and alternative medicine can be divided into groups containing:

  • Whole Medical Systems - acupuncture, homeopathy, naturopathy, Chinese medicine
  • Mind-Body Medicine - prayer, meditation, art, music
  • Biologically Based Practices - herbs, natural foods, vitamins
  • Manipulative and Body-Based Practices - massage, osteopathy, chiropractic
  • Energy Medicine - Reiki, touch therapy, magnetic field therapy
Online Resources

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