Should we Believe in Alternative Medicine?


alternative medicine
It goes by many names, alternative medicine, holistic therapy, homeopathy, etc. and it is becoming increasingly popular all over the world. When people become disenchanted or are let down by conventional medicine, they often find themselves doing such things as yoga, meditation, acupuncture, aroma therapy, or herbal remedies as a different route to becoming healthy. With more and more people being drawn into the holistic world, many wonder whether alternative medicine is effective or even potentially harmful.

On Point with Tom Ashbrook, Boston's NPR news station, reports that over $34 million is spent annually on alternative medicine in USA and that number is rising (source:onpoint.wbur.org). They warn, however, that turning to homeopathy over conventional medicine can be dangerous. If a person is seeking out alternative medicine because modern medicine could not help, On Point also recommends to not grant holistic medicine a free pass because modern medicine could not alleviate an ailment. Conventional medicine may not know a cure for every ailment, however, unlike alternative medicine, it is regulated and scientifically tested. A 2004 Harvard study which tested 181 groups identified that yoga could be used to treat a range of ailments, including asthma, depression, and even cancer. However, it turned out that only 40% of the test groups were random meaning that the results were heavily influenced by bias (source:nytimes.com) .

Acupuncture, aroma therapy, and other such treatments are not regulated and freely administered by anyone who calls themselves an expert (you don't need a medical license to practice homeopathic medicine). Most alternative medicine can't be proven by the scientific method and therefore can't produce valid and reliable results. These are the main reasons why medical practitioners warn people against homeopathy. But if it is such a doubtful industry, why is it so popular?

Although it does not appear to be scientific, alternative medicine does work in a lot of cases. An article written by a doctor on KevinMD, a website intended for physicians to share stories from their work, told of her experience with a female patient who sought out herbal remedies to help with chronic pain.

After examining holistic medicine for herself, the doctor concluded that although homeopathy is backed by little science and can be a mere money-making business, if it helps the patient then why the patient shouldn't use it? The main reason why alternative medicine is effective is because people want it to be. The placebo effect, which says that a medical condition can be improved because a patient has been deceived into believing the placebo is effective, is the way by which homeopathy operates. Acupuncture, a means of sticking needles into a person's skin in order to alleviate pain and aches, is believed to be effective because to the patient, this act seems more active than passively taking pills (source:macleans.ca). On Point acknowledges the potentials of placebos and states that modern medicine also makes use of them. They suggest, however, for people to remember that homeopathy is simply that, a placebo. When people believe that they are anything but that, it can become dangerous.

Alternative medicine can be effective if a person believes it will be. Many people report that such things as yoga alleviated severe fatigue when modern medicine could not. It is important to remember, however, that homeopathy has not been scientifically tested like conventional medicine and should therefore not be the first and/or only source of treatment when it comes to serious diseases or ailments. The Mayo Clinic offers simple advice for people considering alternative medicine. Check the sources to make sure they are recent and scientific. Make sure the person administering the treatment is a health professional. And most importantly, talk to your doctor before turning to alternative medicine. If all of these factors have been taken into consideration, homeopathy can be an effective way to feel healthy.

Written By: Kimeko Neil, United States

Useful external resources

The Economist explains Why homeopathy is nonsense

Useful books on Amazon

Secrets of Korean Alternative Medicine : By following the procedures explained in this book, you can quickly cure most day-to-day illnesses easily, safely, painlessly, and inexpensively, yet there are no side effects.

Available on Amazon : This book provides a comprehensive introduction to the theory and philosophy behind traditional Chinese medicine.

Available on Amazon : A review from a customer: This book has become my health bible. It gives you what you will not get from most doctors a diet and lifestyle based approach to treating/managing/correcting various ailments and illnesses naturally.

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Edited by: Rajesh Bihani ( Find me on Google+ )

Disclaimer: The suggestions in the article(wherever applicable) are for informational purposes only. They are not intended as medical or any other type of advice