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What is Alternative Medicine

Although highly accepted and practiced in many countries and cultures, Alternative Medicine has just begun to gain support and practitioners within North America in the past generation.

Alternative Medicine (and it’s extension CAM, complimentary alternative medicine) differs significantly from traditional medicine. The umbrella of practices that fall within the category of alternative medicine include any practice towards health and healing that does not fall within the boundaries of conventional medicine. Until recently, these methods were mostly considered unconventional, unorthodox, unproven, or alternative, complementary, innovative, integrative therapies.

Most commonly known practices would be homeopathy, chiropractic, naturopathy and herbal medicine. Other methods employed can be, but are not limited to, folk medicine, diet fads, faith healing, new age healing, acupuncture, massage, and music therapy.

Due to the growing popularity of AM, CAM, and integrative medicine, many people are opting to deal with illness and disease more aggressively on their own through alternate methods. Good health has also been taken on with a proactive approach concentrating more on prevention before disease or illness appear.

So much of our health is not just about our bodies, but must also include measures that feed our hearts and souls. The alternative field deals with the whole person, with as much emphasis on psychological and spiritual health as it does the physical.

An Overview Of The More Popular Alternative Medicine Options:

Complete systems of theory and practice have evolved independent of and prior to the conventional biomedical approach embodying the philosophy of Alternative Medicine. Most are traditional systems of medicine that have been practiced by individual cultures throughout the world for thousands of years, Differing traditional medical systems have been in use as well by Native American, Aboriginal, African, Middle-Eastern, Tibetan, Central and South American cultures.

Traditional oriental medicine includes acupuncture, herbal medicine, oriental massage and qi gong (a form of energy therapy) and emphasizes the proper balance or disturbances of vital energy in health or disease. The more popular Acupuncture, involves stimulating specific anatomic points in the body for therapeutic purposes, by puncturing the skin with a needle in specific areas believed to relate to the diseased or damaged part of the body.

In India the traditional medicine practiced is called Ayurveda (Eye yer vay duh), meaning the science of life. It is a system of medicine that places equal emphasis on body, mind and soul with the goal of restoring a complete balance and harmony between each. This is achieved through proper breathing, exposure to sun, diet, exercise, massage therapy and herbs.

Homeopathy is an unconventional Western system that is based on the principle that “like cures like, in that the same substance that in large doses produces the symptoms of an illness, in very minute doses will often cure it. Homeopathic physicians believe that the more diluted the substance, the greater its healing and/or preventative capabilities . Homeopaths use small doses of prepared plant extracts and minerals to stimulate the body’s natural defense mechanisms and healing processes to treat the illness.

Naturopathy takes a different approach. Disease is considered a manifestation of alterations in the processes by which the body naturally heals itself and so naturopathy emphasizes health restoration rather than disease treatment. Naturopathic physicians use a number of healing practices, including diet and nutrition, homeopathy, acupuncture, herbal medicine, hydrotherapy (the use of water in a range of temperatures and methods of applications), spinal and soft-tissue manipulation, physical therapies involving electric currents, ultrasound and light therapy, and counseling.

To date, many of the treatment philosophies and practices that fall under the umbrella of Alternative medicine are viewed with skepticism by the mainstream medical community in North America. Although there are countless positive praises for many of these treatments, until more studies are conducted over time, that community will maintain most of that skepticism. As younger Doctors enter the profession and older ones retire, these alternative methods of medicine gain more and more popularity and are more often used in conjunction with traditional North American medical practices.

If looking to integrate some of these practices within your life, do so with caution and education and be sure to keep your primary health care professional notified of any decisions that may alter a medical course of action already implemented.