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Role of Alternative Medicine in Modern Society

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Typically, alternative medicine differs from traditional medicine in that alternative medicine is older and what we might call unconventional or non-Western medicine. Alternative medicine does not follow the traditional science and research that current medicines go through. Alternative medicine could also be referred to as complementary or traditional medicine, or the therapies that can be incorporated into current medicine. The staff of the United States National Library of Medicine classified alternative medicine under the Complementary Therapies category in their Medical Topics headings section. This happened in 2002. The definition was that alternative medicine therapy practices are not considered an integral part of traditional allopathic medicine. Therapies such as acupuncture, diets, physical therapies such as gymnastics or yoga etc. are referred to as alternative medicine. These therapies are called complementary when used alongside conventional treatments. When performed in place of traditional treatments, they are referred to as alternative treatments.

In April 1995, the Board of the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, worked on Definition & Description, CAM Research Methodology Conference, Office of Alternative Medicine. The panel defined alternative and complementary medicine as sources of healing that encompass all health care systems and practices that differ from the dominant health care system of a particular society or culture. Usually, therapies such as Ayurveda, herbal medicine, folk medicine, homeopathy, acupuncture, naturopathy, diet practices, chiropractic, music therapy, massage, pranic healing, etc. are classified as alternative or complementary medicine. People who do not find a cure, remedy, or success in allopathic medicine generally try alternative medicine. Such people generally suffer from cancer, arthritis, acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), chronic back pain, etc. Therapies that fall under alternative medicine would no longer be included in this category once their efficacy has been proven and they are considered safe and effective. They are then considered part of traditional medicine. An example would be chiropractors. Twenty years ago, insurance companies wouldn’t pay them because they were considered “alternative and ineffective.” Today, chiropractors have helped thousands of people and they are now recognized in the medical community. A similar movement is underway in the dietary supplement and dietary supplement industry.

Over the years, more and more people are turning to alternative medicine because traditional medicine isn’t working for them. The 2004 United States National Center for Complementary & Alternative Medicine survey found that approximately 36% of Americans were using alternative medicine in 2002. When alternative medicine is used in conjunction with traditional allopathic medicine, an integrative doctor is the best option for a person. Some traditional doctors are strongly opposed or simply don’t believe in complementary medicine, although research continues to show the benefits of many compounds. Your doctor should be informed of other approaches you may be using, and if they don’t agree, you can always choose another doctor. This would allow the doctor to anticipate possible complications or a better time to use complementary therapy. The concern about the use of alternative medicine stems from the fact that some alternative medicine practitioners do not have an accredited medical degree and therefore do not have a valid medical license. Recently, however, many educational institutions and universities are offering courses in Homeopathy, Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani, Acupuncture and Naturopathy. Recent growth in this industry is reflected in the fact that many people are demanding different, and in some cases better, care than what they are receiving in ‘modern medicine’. They no longer accept that they have to suffer pain or illness because modern pharmacy has no magic bullet for them.

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Thanks to Darren Dunner

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