Alternative Medicine

3 mins read

Often called ‘‘complementary and alternative medicine,’’ this group of medical practices has also been termed ‘‘unconventional,’’ ‘‘unorthodox,’’ ‘‘unproven,’’ and even ‘‘quackery.’’ Because these terms have significant negative connotations, terms such as ‘‘alternative medicine’’ are preferred. Alternative medicine is not one form of medicine, but rather a diverse group of health practices that are outside of what is considered usual or conventional by the medical establishment.

Alternative medicine spans the range of practices, from home remedies to manufactured products, from patient self-treatment to care by a skilled practitioner, from efficacious to potentially dangerous. Specific definitions of more common alternative medicine practices used in the United States are listed below

Acupuncture: Ancient Chinese technique that uses needles to pierce the skin, taps into a grid of flowing energy (‘‘qi’’) that controls organ function

Aromatherapy: Uses botanical oils and essences to treat both physical and psychological disorders

Ayurveda: ‘‘Life knowledge’’. Ancient Indian practice that uses diet, exercise, yoga, meditation, herbs, and massage to treat imbalances in physical, emotional, and spiritual harmony

Bioelectromagnetics: Study of living organisms and their interaction with electromagnetic fields, belief that magnetic fields penetrate the body and heal damaged tissues

Herbal medicine: Plants that are made into pills or extracts to prevent and cure physical and psychological disorders

Homeopathy: ‘‘Like cures like’’. Belief that very small doses of substances that would at high doses cause adverse effects can be used to cure those effects Preparations may be so dilute that the active ingredient no longer remains

Naturopathy: Relies on diet, fasting, massage, herbs, homeopathy, and other natural treatments

Chiropractic: Practitioners use manipulation to treat disorders of the spine, joints, and muscles


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