What is Alternative Medicine?

Alternative Medicine is a term that has been in popular use for 20 or 30 years.

From what was originally a more grassroots movement back in the 1960’s and 70’s, it has spread exponentially to become a mainstream lifestyle option that has become more the rule than the exception in modern-day healthcare choices.

Alternative Medicine originated as growing consumer demand for options outside of the model of Western Medicine.  Western Medicine would be loosely defined as the medical infrastructure which has held the powers of practice, regulation, licensing, research and education in the Western world for the last 200 years.

Alternative Medicine then, could be defined as “any form of healing, self-help, medicine, treatment modality or practice, that falls outside the jurisdiction of regulated ‘Western Medicine’, and embraces one or more aspects of whole-person, nature-based, energy-based, and non-invasive medical practices.”

Any medical discipline has its strengths and weaknesses. Western Medicine’s strengths lie in its science and evidence based foundation for diagnosing and treating disease. The advent of this field has significantly improved quality and life-span in humans, almost eradicated most contagious and crippling diseases, and has developed a highly successful framework for treating people in medical emergencies.  The systems, protocols and quality standards of Western Medicine are one of the basic foundations of modern civilization.

The weaknesses of the Western Medical system vary according to location and perception. The short-comings perceived by end-users of this system include:

  • the relationship between Western Medicine and the profit-driven Pharmaceutical industry
  • the questionable influence that corporations and business have on research and science
  • the questionable inter-relationship between governmental regulating bodies and medical industry
  • the historical track record of MD’s not being open to alternative or natural medicine options
  • the historical track record of doctors not being trained in nutritional pharmacology – even basic nutrition itself – and downplaying the role of nutritional or herbal supplementation in combating illness.
  • the non-recognition of the importance of “holistic” or “whole-person” assessment and treatment
  • the suppression and persecution of all non-traditional medical practices such as Chiropractic, Osteopathy, Naturopathic Medicine, Homeopathic Medicine – to name but a few – by industry-influenced regulating bodies.
  • the impersonal and desensitizing nature of patient treatment in the medical system. This includes the deterioration of the traditional doctor-patient relationships that were vital to a patient’s sense of well-being and trust in the doctor.
  • the tendency of MD’s to over-prescribe or prescribe medication as a “recipe approach” to treatment without understanding the broader scope of disease, and minimizing the known side-effects of prescription medication.

The liability of Western Medicine: recent headlines in mainstream media and in respected medical information sources world-wide:

The mainstream medical profession in the United States of America is recognized as the 3rd leading cause of death, right behind cancer and heart disease. It is estimated that mainstream medicine, in the USA alone, is responsible for between 230,000 and 284,000 deaths per year.   Sources: CNN, Washington Post, Mercola.com

All opinions and perspectives have two sides to them.  On the other side of the coin, there are many practices of so-called “Alternative Medicine” that are misleading, misrepresented, and poorly documented and practiced.  Any health discipline, any health practice, and any health practitioner need standards, transparency and accountability, otherwise they lose honor, respect, credibility and status.  There all also many, many MD’s and mainstream practitioners who practice with the highest standards and the highest regard for human life.  Countless lives have been saved with their intervention.  Before making blanket statements and championing or condemning any medical practice, one must decide on making informed judgements, rather than believing what is convenient.

A more evolved model of healthcare, encompasses cooperation between mainstream and alternative medical practices.  All disciplines would be open to learning, growing, expanding and enhancing the spectrum of available services offered to mankind.  Truly, if these are helping and healing professions, their attitudes need to be one of service … both to individuals and to mankind as a whole.

This is the only way we are going to move forward as a human race.

Some of the Core Values of Alternative Medicine
  1. Respecting the structure and integrity of the human being.
  2. Understanding, acknowledging and utilizing the “whole person” (holistic) model of health
  3. Understanding the value of balance and integrity in all dimensions of human life.
  4. Understanding the interplay between symptoms and root causes of disease
  5. Understanding the role of “energy” or “energy flow” in maintaining and restoring health
  6. Understanding and utilizing nature-based products and medicines in restoring and maintaining health
  7. Understanding the role of diet, mind, emotions, stress and lifestyle in the restoration and maintenance of health.

These core values are not universal, nor are they shared by all “alternative” healthcare professionals.  But these attitudes and values set “alternative” apart from the Mainstream medical community, many of whom either ignore or downplay the importance of these “whole person” dimensions of human existence.