Alternative Medicine: Friend or Foe?

What is Alternative Medicine?Alternative medicine is the use of certain treatments and techniques in the place of conventional treatments. It should not be confused with complementary medicine, which is the use of alternative treatments along with conventional treatments. To be truly following an alternative medicine regimen, you must completely replace conventional treatment strategies with alternative treatments. Most people, however, do utilize a combination of both alternative and conventional treatment techniques. The balance that you strike largely depends on your own beliefs, as well as the illness you are attempting to recover from.Often, alternative medicine treatments involve a spiritual or even a religious component. This is not necessary, however, as there are several alternative medicine treatments that simply involve taking natural supplements or becoming more in-tune with your body – whether on a spiritual level or not. In addition, practices that are defined as alternative treatments in Western cultures may not be considered “alternative” in other cultures. These include Chinese medicine and Ayurveda, which is a form of medicine utilized in India.Gaining AcceptanceWhile alternative medicine is not the most popular form of medicine in Western cultures, it is quickly gaining supporters. In fact, during the seven year period between 1990 and 1997, the percent of people utilizing alternative medicine strategies in the United States rose from 33.8% to 42.1%. Furthermore, more and more universities are offering coursework and even degrees in alternative medicine practices. Currently, approximately 60% of medical schools that offer MD degrees in the United States offer coursework in alternative medicine. A whopping 85% of nursing schools do as well.The increased number of alternative medicine courses being offered at reputable medical schools as served to further fuel the acceptance of these forms of treatment. In fact, the majority of doctors today have no problem with utilizing alternative health techniques alongside conventional treatment strategies.Alternative Medicine CriticismsDespite the growing acceptance of alternative medicine, there are still a number of critics who denounce the effectiveness of these practices. This is largely because, by definition, alternative medicine has not been proven to be effective through research studies. After all, if it were proven effective, it would no longer be an “alternative” form of treatment. Instead, it would become another form of conventional medical treatment.Unfortunately, the majority of alternative medicine treatments are difficult to test and to prove. Since many alternative medicine techniques are about becoming self-aware and eliciting changes in the body in that way, researchers cannot gauge the level of a person’s awareness or truly know the amount of effort or success a person experiences with alternative medicine. In addition, researchers cannot say definitively whether or not the positive results they have gained were because of the alternative medicine or due to natural healing or the placebo effect.One thing that most can agree upon, however, is that alternative medicine does not cause harm when implemented properly. And, as long as the patient also remains under the care of a conventional medical professional, there are no risks involved with using this form of therapy – which may also very well help you get better at a faster rate as well.

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