Alternative Medicine


Alternative Medicine refers to healing/preventative practices that fall outside of the realm of conventional Western medicine. "Some of these practices are a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not generally considered part of western medicine"[1] . This term encompasses therapies with a historical or cultural basis, rather than a scientific one. Practices may incorporate or base themselves on traditional medicine, folk knowledge, spiritual beliefs, or newly conceived approaches to healing, and incorporate culture-based healing traditions. Alternative Medicine, is often used to identify treatments that fall on the scientific side of the natural-supernatural divide. The popularity of alternative medical practices is growing among many people in Western societies. Therefore, it is important to have an "understanding of the potential uses, harms, and benefits of CAM [Complementary and Alternative Medicine] therapies, and also their interactions with conventional [Western] medicine."[2]

Many individuals practice Alternative Medicine to complement Conventional Western Medicine. Alternative Medicine is often seen as a way to enhance health as it is defined by biomedicine. Paired with palliative care techniques, Alternative Medicine claims to serve as a method for decreasing chronic pains in several illnesses including (but not limited to): diabetes, addictions, dementia, impotence, high fever, canker sores, vaginal pain, arthritis, acid reflux, warts, psoriasis, dermatitis, eczema, hives, measles, obesity, edema, high cholesterol, depression, dizziness, and fatigue.
Various herbal supplements.
Various herbal supplements.

History in Western Cultures

There is a wide spread, rich, deep, history of Alternative medicine within modern day Western Culture. The most prevalent style of Alternative medicine is that of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). To read about the history of Traditional Chinese Medicine in the West, please access the following link: History of Modern TCM. Beyond that of TCM, there is the folkloric aspect of traditional medicine that has its roots embedded in European culture. Such Folk healers practiced their medicine within the peasant population, and has its origin dating back to the Old Testament within the Bible. Furthermore, there is documented usage of medical formulas that were handed down via individuals such as Aristotle and Socrates, which later transcended to the Roman Empire.

Examples of Alternative Medicine Practice

Acupuncture, Anthroposophic medicine, Applied Kinesiology, Aromatherapy, Ayurveda, Biofeedback Training, Biological Dentistry, Bodywork, Chelation Therapy, Chiropractic, Cupping, Detoxification, Herbalism, Homeopathy, Meditation, Naturopathy, Neuropathy, Osteopathy, Qi Gong , Hypnosis, Reiki, Therapy and Energy Medicine, Tui Na Massage

Anthropological Perspective

Huan D a.k.a. "The Yellow Emperor:" Known as the father of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Huan D a.k.a. "The Yellow Emperor:" Known as the father of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Within the context of Alternative Medicine, there are many new ideas and a rather profound change in Western Medicine's acceptance of such practices versus that of 50-60 years ago. The term "Preventative Healthcare" is a term that has become more and more widely used amongst society at large as well as the medical community. Alternative Medicine has its place in Preventative Healthcare because of the many "de-stressing" supplements and techniques that are utilized from many different disciplines of Alternative Medicine. Anthropologically, there is an entire new generation being formed that relies on Preventative Healthcare to stop illnesses/disease before they ever spawn or come to maturation. Due to the vast movement within society, and the increasing cost of medical care, many large insurance companies are paying for Preventative Healthcare Treatments (Acupuncture, Chiropractics, Massage Therapy) as they have been shown to reduce the amount of claims that said company would get had the patient not implemented Preventative Healthcare measures. Increased physical activity, proper diet, herbal/vitamin supplements, and certain relaxation techniques all have their place within Alternative Medicine, and have become indoctrinated into mainstream Western medical practice as acceptable means of Preventative Healthcare.

A Visual/Multi-Media Perspective of Alternative Medicine

According to the description of this video posted by the Mayo Clinic, "Herbal supplements, acupuncture, chiropractics and massage...It used to be that alternative therapies like these were ignored by many doctors. But that's changing. Thanks to public demand and an increasing amount of positive research, many doctors are embracing some alternative therapies. So how do you know if the herb you're taking or therapy you're trying is safe?" This video introduces some common forms of alternative medicine and raises questions over how effective these treatments are.

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Online Sources

Works Cited

  1. ^ National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). (2010). What is Complementary and Alternative Medicine? NCCAM PUBLICATION NUMBER: 3347.
  2. ^ Edzard Ernst, Max H Pittler, Barbara Wider, Kate Boddy. (2008). Oxford Handbook of Complementary Medicine. Oxford University Press