BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

Alternative Medicine



The term, Alternative medicine is used to describe a wide range of medical systems or processes, diverse therapeutic practices and health care systems that fall outside the boundaries of conventional biomedicine because they lack biological plausibility (proof). Alternative medicine can also be called complementary medicine, pseudo-medicine, unorthodox medicine, unconventional medicine, holistic medicine or new age medicine.

Alternative medicine has been around for hundreds of centuries with its rise in the west attributed to the counterculture movement of the 1960s. By mid-1970, the expression “alternative medicine” had become a household name and was seen as natural, effective treatments or substitutes to science based medicine. Alternative medicine has since gained popularity and some studies and research agree to its efficacy. Today, a lot of practices, products and therapies which are integral to health can be classified as Alternative or Complementary medicine. They are also beneficial to public health, and include: acupuncture, acupressure, naturopathy, homeopathy, reiki, color therapy, shamanism, reflexo-therapy, Chiropathy, music therapy, regular massages, hot yoga etc. Individuals whose primary profession involves one or more complementary or alternative therapy are known as complementary therapists.

Some alternative treatments such as folk medicine and herbal products have been used for millennia to combat a whole range of ailments. Examples include the use of herbs such as cilantro as folk medicine anticonvulsant; Exercise is used as a fundamental treatment and intervention method within psychiatric patients as it helps them manage and reduce their anger, depression and other symptoms. Studies have shown that compounds from elder berries can directly inhibit viral infection in human cells and help strengthen a person’s immune response to viruses, thus can be used in cases of flu. The American heart association once studied the effect of hot yoga on blood pressure and found out that after 3 months, individuals being studied had lower blood pressure. These examples seem to approve the use of alternative medicine as a substitute to conventional medicine; however, caution should be applied as alternative medicine could also cause harm given its important characteristic of lacking scientific validation, compared to conventional medicine. Significant drug interactions caused by alternative therapies may negatively affect functional treatments by making prescription drugs less effective. In addition, it is difficult to test the efficacy of alternative therapies using clinical trials.

Due to the popularity of alternative medicine, its practices and products should be adequately regulated as it is always painted positive given that many patients are willing to choose the friendly colorful images of herbs and herbal treatments over the more threatening presentation of drugs. Another reason for this preference over conventional medicine is the ease of accessibility in the developing countries where one- third of the population lack access to the essentials of medicine and this becomes the only way. About 80 percent of people consider alternative medicine better than conventional medicine because it is perceived to have less risks and side effects associated with drugs and therapies used in managing diseases. A survey of Americans found out that 88 percent of the population thought that “there are good forms of treatments that medical science did not recognize”. As a consequence, agencies like the FDA Should help create more policies to regulate the practices of alternative medicine and educate the general public on their facts, theories and limitations.

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