Any method that is generally used instead of conventional medical treatments, which aims to achieve the healing effects of medicine, however relying on pseudoscience, is considered to be alternative medicine. These methods focus on cause and prevention, overall health, and non-traditional, often natural treatments. Moreover, alternative medicine includes philosophy and practice that is inclusive of a variety of world cultures.
Complementary medicine is a scope of medical therapies that also fall beyond the scope of conventional medicine but may be used alongside it in the treatment of disease and ill health. It is a more modern approach to diagnosing and treating symptoms.
Even though there is a growing awareness among patients about CAM, effectiveness and sometimes the safety of many CAM therapies are uncertain. The reason behind this is the fact that well-developed clinical trials for many CAM therapies are lacking.
Why are more and more people turning to complementary and alternative therapies?
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health reports that more and more Americans are use CAM for health concerns and general wellness. According to their annual survey, more than 30 percent of adults and about 12 percent of children use health care approaches that are not typically part of conventional medical care. Why are an increasing number of patients turning to CAM therapies?
People use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) practices in pursuit of improving their health, and seeking less invasive, non-drug, low-cost approaches to strengthen their well-being. Some studies show that one of the reasons why patients turn to CAM it is because it aligns with their philosophy and they want to expand their options. Another reason why an increasing number of patients turn to alternative medicine is the fact that it takes a highly individualized approach to their patients, customizing treatments to be useful for the particular person experiencing symptoms (rather than targeting the symptoms alone).
Most popular complementary and alternative medicine therapies
Acupuncture – Acupuncture is one of the most popular types of traditional alternative medicine, a key component of traditional Chinese medicine. This ancient practice started in China approximately 3000 years ago and spread to other cultures, including Japan, Korea, Viet Nam, and other Asian societies. It consists of a vast array of procedures that stimulate specific points on the body. The best-known variety includes the practice in which thin needles are inserted into the body controlled by a practitioner or electrical stimulation. Studies suggest that acupuncture can help in offering relief with specific pain conditions, such as back and neck pain, osteoarthritis/knee pain, and headache.
Other studies find it helpful not only for chronic pain but also for depression. However, the evidence on all counts is mixed. During the past 40 years, acupuncture has increased in popularity, evolving into one of the most utilized forms of complementary, integrative medicine in the United States. According to a study, more than 10 million acupuncture treatments are administered annually in the United States alone. Its popularity, particularly in the West, can be attributed in its effectiveness for pain relief and to the fact that more and more scientific studies have begun to offer proof for its efficacy.
Herbal medicine – Herbal medicine is the use of plants and plant extracts to treat disease. It has its roots in every culture around the world. Modern (primarily Western) herbalism emphasizes the effects of herbs on individual body systems. Herbs are used for their anti-inflammatory, hemostatic, expectorant, antispasmodic, or immunostimulatory properties.
Well-known systems of herbal medicine are Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic Medicine. These practices believe in the central idea that there should be an emphasis on health rather than on disease. Ayurveda is a healing system based on the notion that good health depends on the balance between mind, body, and spirit.
Originating from India, it focuses on restoring balance in the body through a personalized plan that can include massage, specialized diets, herbs, aromatherapy, and exercise. Traditional Chinese Medicine is another type of traditional alternative medicine. It is an ancient medical system that takes a deep understanding of the laws of nature and applies them to the human body. It encompasses many different practices and is rooted in the ancient philosophy of Taoism which dates back more than 5,000 years.
Today it’s becoming more and more common for people to use medical cannabis. It has the potential to provide many healing benefits that address the body and mind as a whole, especially when combined with other forms of alternative therapy, such as yoga and acupuncture. However, cannabis is also widely used independently, as alternative medicine. Cannabidiol (CBD), especially in the form of CBD Oils, are used in treating inflammation, pain, epilepsy, managing sleep disorders, anxiety, depression, acne, and many other conditions.
Products containing the compound are legal in many American states where marijuana is not, and can be bought online or in physical shops. For example, in Alaska CBD oils can be obtain both, online and in stores. The widest product range are sold online, through the manufacturer’s websites or online retailers. In the states where the recreational use of cannabis is legal, CBD oil can be bought also in dispensaries.
Homeopathy – Homeopathy originated in Germany in the 18th century. It is based on the philosophy that both the cure and the ailment come from the same situation. Namely, a disease can be cured by a substance that produces similar symptoms in healthy people and the lower the dose of the medication, the higher its effectiveness. Homeopathy also uses herbs and natural medicines.
This type of CAM is one of the more popular and accepted models of alternative medicine. Over 200 million people use homeopathy regularly and are included in the national health systems of many countries, e.g., Brazil, India, Mexico, Switzerland. However, homeopathic medicines are primarily used by a small segment of the U.S. population, usually for conditions such as cold or back pain.
Osteopathy – Osteopathy is non-invasive manual therapy that aims to improve health across all body systems by manipulating and strengthening the musculoskeletal framework. Osteopaths rely on manual contact with patients for both diagnosis and treatment and employ a wide variety of manual therapeutic techniques within their clinical practice. According to the National Health Interview Survey, 19.4 million U.S. adults used chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation.
It was developed by U.S. physician Andrew Still in the mid-1800s, and it’s recognized by the World Health Organisation as a traditional system of medicine. As a complementary therapy, it is used alongside conventional treatment to improve health. Osteopathic intervention can help treat arthritis, back pain, headaches, tennis elbow, digestive issues, and postural problems.
CAM methods that have been used successfully for centuries in other cultures and countries are often helping patients alongside conventional medical treatments. However, before using alternative medicine, it is wise to do some research to help you make an informed decision.