What is alternative medicine? According to a government study, about 36 percent of U.S adults use some form of complementary and alternative medicine. This article examines complementary and alternative medicine, importance, and how it’s becoming mainstream. Also, what are the cons of alternative medicine? Here’s everything you should know.
What is Alternative Medicine?
You’ve probably heard the term ‘alternative medicine’ many times and wonder What is alternative medicine? Alternative medicine refers to the treatment used instead of standard medicine. In standard medicine, the results of scientific research form the basis of treatment. Standard medicine is accepted and used widely.
Alternative medicine may include herbal preparations, special diets, acupuncture, and magnet therapy. For example is the treatment of heart diseases with chelation therapy, instead of a standard method. Alternative medicine is sometimes used, along with complementary medicine. Let’s see the different types of alternative medicine.
Types of Complementary and Alternative Medicine
There are five recognized categories of (CAM):
1. Whole Medical System
Whole medical systems are complete systems with a defined philosophy and explanation of disease, diagnosis, and therapy. They have evolved independently in different cultures. These systems include:
- Traditional Chinese medicine
2. Mind-Body Medicine
Mind-body medicine uses behavioral, social, psychological, and spiritual techniques to promote health or cure diseases. The basis of this practice is that mental and emotional factors regulate physical health. Through a system of interdependent connections, the mind can affect the body. Some of the techniques include:
- Guided imagery
3. Biologically-based Treatments
This system uses naturally-occurring substances. These practices are:
- Diet therapies
- Chelation therapies
- Botanical medicine
4. Manipulative and Body-based Practices
Manipulative and body-based methods focus on the body’s structures and systems. For instance, the bones and joints. Sometimes, acupuncture is categorized here. These practices are:
5. Energy Medicine
Energy medicine involves the manipulation of subtle energy fields that surround and penetrate the human body. Scientific researchers have not proven the existence of these subtle energies yet. Energy medicine involves many energy therapies:
- Magnetic therapy
- Therapeutic touch
- Qi gong
6. Integrative Medicine: Find out what works
After answering the question: What is alternative medicine? And outlining the different types, let’s explain integrative medicine and what works. (CAM) therapies are gaining acceptance in modern medicine. With the increasing number of researches and evidence, doctors are appreciating their role in treating diseases. Hence, the practice of integrative medicine.
Integrative medicine involves the combination of these CAM techniques with standard medicine. Doctors use evidence-based complementary and (AM) practices to take care of patients. Although some of these alternative practices have been studied and found effective, some are not well-researched yet. Before you start an integrative treatment, you need to:
Talk with Your Doctor
This is important if you have any chronic health condition or are taking drugs. Also, lactating mothers and pregnant women should consult a doctor first.
Do Your Research
Several journals publish articles reviewed by experts. You may find some of them online or at a library. Look for high-quality studies and research. Do not base your judgment on one. Sometimes you may not find any studies or evidence for these practices. That doesn’t mean they are not effective or safe.
Furthermore, when doing your research, look for updated versions of the study. An article from, say fifteen years ago, may not include new findings.
Beware of Marketing Strategies
Outrageous claims like “miracle drugs” and “cure-all” medications are red flags. Also, a product can be labeled natural or organic and still be harmful. Before buying supplements or herbal remedies, talk with your doctor. Supplements can interact with some prescription drugs.
Finally, Select the Right Practitioners
Your primary health care provider, doctor, or medical school may help. Ask them to recommend the right integrative health professionals for you.
Why Patients Use Alternative Medicine
Why is alternative medicine a more acceptable approach to some patients? Studies show the prevalent use of alternative healthcare in different countries, including the U.S. These hypotheses were tested in a survey to investigate alternative health care uses in America and abroad. People seek out alternative medicine because:
- Dissatisfied with conventional treatment
- AM offers personal control over health care decisions.
- AM is more compatible with patients’ values and beliefs.
It turned out that more people find AM to be in sync with their values, beliefs, and worldview. Also, these users were more educated and had physiological orientations towards life. Thus, the desire to connect the health of their body, mind, and spirit. Another result shows these users see AM as a form of self-care. For example, the use of dietary supplements and herbal therapies.
There’s also the benefit of alternative medicine reported by users, which include relief of symptoms. Users reported the perceived benefits frequently. These studies can help us understand why many people are embracing AM.
Pros and Cons of Alternative Medicine
When you study the concept “What is Alternative Medicine,” the principle of balance becomes obvious. AM promotes balance in the body, which in turn, restores health. There are many benefits of using alternative medicine, as well as disadvantages. Let’s see some of them.
- Whole-Body Treatment: Alternative medicine practitioners focus on whole-body care. This treatment involves a combination of physical, spiritual, social, mental, and emotional wellness. Many people are becoming interested in this holistic approach to health.
- Prevention First: Unlike traditional doctors, the aim of the alternative medical “doctor” is to fix the cause. Instead of working on symptoms, these practitioners focus on prevention.
- They also encourage self-care.
- Personal Attention: AM practitioners give their patients a lot of personal attention.
- Limited Scientific Research: When compared to conventional medicine, there’s little scientific evidence. This gap in research leaves a lot of people skeptical.
- However, due to the growing number of interest in AM, funding for research is increasing.
- Confusing Marketing and Branding: This is seen mostly with herbal remedies and dietary supplements
- Drug and supplement interaction could have side effects.
The Importance of Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Firstly, complementary and alternative medicine methods are transforming the culture of medicine. It allows for the participation of the patient in their treatment and recovery. People are learning to take care of their health. And not just their physical health, mental, spiritual, and emotional health as well.
Alternative Medicine Finally Becoming More Mainstream
AM is finally becoming more mainstream. We have medical schools adding integrative medicine courses. Many doctors are open and happy with the movement. Acupuncture was the first alternative therapy to be accepted into modern medicine. It has its roots in Traditional Chinese Medicine and is backed by scientific evidence.
There’s also a lifestyle medicine movement. This movement believes that factors like diet and lifestyle changes can treat illnesses. People taking responsibility for their healthcare will be a part of the future of medicine. Furthermore, there is scientific evidence supporting the benefits of mind-body medicine. Because of that, it’s becoming mainstream.
The Bottom Line
Alternative medicine is a holistic approach to health. If you’re interested in an integrative method, be sure to consult your doctor and do some research. Some of the complementary and alternative techniques have been around for years and are effective.