Alternative medicine: the new mainstream
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What is Alternative Medicine?
Alternative medicine is one part of a diverse group of medical and healthcare systems, practices, and products known as Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). If you’ve ever wondered what complementary and alternative medicine is, here’s your answer: generally speaking, alternative medicine or therapy refers to treatment that is not a part of conventional Western medicine. Complementary medicine combines both alternative approaches with standard medical practices. Although some studies have confirmed the efficacy of certain alternative medical practices, there are many key questions that have yet to be answered that require conclusive evidence through well-designed research studies. Alternative medicine is further complicated by the fact that it is difficult to define given the diversity of the field. It encompasses practices that modify the diet and prescribe specific exercises, but can also include chiropractic adjustments, acupuncture, and spiritual healing. Additionally, there is no single solution for a given ailment because CAM therapies are almost always based on the individual seeking treatment. This, of course, can be of benefit to a patient seeking a more tailored and personalized treatment. Whether you choose to integrate alternative medicine into your wellness routine or not, we advise that you first consult a physician or trusted medical practitioner to determine whether this treatment is right for you.
Why should one consider alternative medicine?
It’s helpful to consider the reason people turn to alternative medicine before making your decision. A 2018 study suggests that around 50% of people with cancer use some form of alternative therapy during their illness. Although there is no evidence suggesting that alternative medicine can cure cancer, these practices often aid in coping because they typically focus on combating anxiety, stress, and promoting relaxation.
Regardless of the illness, the ability to reduce the mental and emotional strain that illnesses often produce is likely worthwhile to a variety of patients. Alternative medicine has been proven to have positive effects on both mental health as well as pain relief. For instance, CBD oil or Cannabidiol has a significant effect on mental health by improving mood and sense of well-being in patients by reducing their levels of anxiety. If you are considering this option or are looking for CBD oil, resolveCBD offers a full range of highly effective, full spectrum CBD oil. The dosages range from 300mg to 1500mg, making it a sensible option for those who are beginning to navigate the world of CBD and alternative care as well as those with more experience.
Why are more people turning to Alternative Medicine?
Alternative medicine allows patients a degree of control over their treatment. It gives the patient the ability to play a more active role in their chosen form of healing and recovery, in partnership with their therapist or medical practitioner. In addition, many patients are comforted by the fact that alternative medicine seems natural and therefore less invasive than Western, which typically involves prescription medication. Especially as it relates to complementary medicine, alternative medicine can be a highly useful method of stress relief for more severe illnesses in conjunction with Western medicine that specifically targets the illness.
Here are some additional advantages and disadvantages of alternative medicine:
Benefits of alternative medicine
1. Improves quality of life: While standard prescription drugs may help combat and perhaps eliminate symptoms, the effects wear off once the drugs leave the system. Alternative medicine, however, provides a more holistic and long-term treatment plan because it takes a large-scope approach to your health. Sometimes treatments include speaking to a therapist in order to unpack trauma, anxiety, and inner conflicts that may be contributing to or aggravating symptoms. Alternative medicine attempts to heal pain by balancing all aspects of your life including your nutrition, sleep, and stress. Mainstream medicine can be less well-rounded and take a less nuanced, symptomatic approach to treatment.
2. Flexible: As mentioned previously, alternative medical practices are much more flexible in terms of treatment plans. The treatments differ based on the patient and are therefore adaptable to any lifestyle changes, unlike mainstream medicine, which is much more rigid. For instance, Ayurveda (a healing system which originated in India over 5,000 years ago) emphasizes a unique cure based on individual circumstances. Some of its methods include yoga, meditation, massage, diet, and herbs. Alternative medicine allows the patient to select treatments they are comfortable with and work towards a plan with their practitioner. In this way, the patient feels more in charge of their body and what they subject it to.
3. Less invasive: Many alternative medical practices are much less invasive than conventional medicine. Ayurveda is one example. Another is naturopathy, which focuses on entirely non-invasive treatments that assist the body in performing its own healing. This differs greatly from some conventional medical practices, which can include surgery and radiation, for example—both very invasive. It also reduces the risk of dependency that can occur with prescription drugs.
Disadvantages of alternative medicine
1. Less evidence-based: Unlike conventional medicine, which relies solely on methods that are proven to be safe and effective based on carefully designed clinical trials and research, alternative medicine often lacks the solid research necessary to make sound medical recommendations. This means that the potential benefits of many alternative therapies lack conclusive evidence.
2. Risk of using untested treatment: As it relates to the little evidence available regarding the efficacy of alternative medicine, there is little in the way of proof that these practices do not pose some degree of danger. Furthermore, since treatments are typically in the form of consistent regimens rather than single-use solutions, the individual may run a higher risk of being negatively affected simply due to the frequency of usage.
3. Less regulated: Given the difficulty in defining the exact parameters of alternative medicine as a discipline, regulatory powers have less authority when it comes to containing it. This is unfortunate for a couple reasons: not only is there potential that the methods used in alternative medicine may contain harmful elements, but it also doesn’t require much in the way of formal certifications or training in order to practice. This may put patients at risk who are trusting treatments that have no scientific backing, and/or relying on practitioners who are unqualified to administer such treatments.
Now that you have a clearer understanding of what alternative medicine is, why people practice it, and what some of the advantages and disadvantages are, we’ve listed examples of alternative medicine below to give you a better idea of what they entail.
Types of alternative medicine
In many ways, homeopathy operates like a vaccine. That is, it functions on the principle of treating an illness by using that very illness. Proponents of homeopathy hold that a substance that causes adverse reactions in large doses can be used to treat the same symptoms using small amounts of the same substance. This concept, however, isn’t exclusive to alternative medicine (and specifically, homeopathy). In fact, it’s sometimes used in conventional medicine. For instance, ADHD patients are often prescribed Ritalin, which is a stimulant.
One of the more widely-accepted forms of alternative medicine, Acupuncture hails from China and involves penetrating the skin with thin needles, which are administered by a registered practitioner. In some instances, electoral stimulations may replace the needles. There is an abundance of evidence-based research that has confirmed the positive effects of acupuncture. For instance, a study from 2016 cited acupuncture as an effective treatment for tension and chronic headaches.
Naturopathy is a vast field of alternative medicine, and doctors who practice naturopathy are trained in both conventional and alternative medicine. The idea is to attempt to understand the cause of an illness by analyzing all of its manifestations—physical, mental, and spiritual—in order to devise a treatment plan to best remedy the illness in the most holistic way possible. Since alternative medicine means not conforming to a single prescribed treatment, naturopathy involves a plethora of techniques that can include (but aren’t limited to) herbal medicine, nutritional counselling, and behavioral changes by way of meditation or therapy.
Aromatherapy can be traced back 5,000 years. Vital to aromatherapy are essential oils which are extremely concentrated extracts of roots, seeds, leaves, and blossoms of pants. These oils can be inhaled using a diffuser or massaged directly into the skin. Different oils and fragrances treat different ailments. For instance, some oils can help the patient feel less tense and more relaxed, while others can help with infections or inflammation. According to clinical research, aromatherapy has been proven to reduce anxiety, pain relief, nausea, and insomnia. It turns out that there is truth in the claim that inhaling scents can reduce stress.
Since chiropractic medicine is fully accepted as a valid practice, it is typically placed under the complementary medicine umbrella. It is performed by a chiropractor who, through spinal manipulation, applies controlled force to joints that have become hypomobile. Chiropractic “adjustments” can restore mobility and loosen muscles, which allows tissues to heal and pain to be eliminated.
As you’ve probably gathered, alternative medicine is a vast field full of many products, methods, and techniques. Though many of the alternative practices have yet to be incontrovertibly proven, new studies and trials are always emerging so it is worthwhile to remain up-to-date on the latest findings and advancements. Of course, we believe in pursuing whichever method or routine is right for you, whether it’s conventional, alternative, or complementary, so long as you’ve taken the responsible measure of consulting a practitioner you can depend on. And who knows? Maybe you’ll discover the sweet spot of conventional medicine and complementary therapies!
Written by: Rahaf Khalil