Alternative medicines and the new age

Increasingly the terms complementary, alternative and integrative medicine are being used in the healthcare services and these expressions are bandied about without precision to the meaning.

The three are not to be used interchangeably as they differ in terms of concept:

  • If a non-mainstream practice is used together with conventional medicine, it’s considered “complementary.”
  • If a non-mainstream practice is used in place of conventional medicine, it’s considered “alternative.”
  • There are many definitions of “integrative” healthcare, but all involve bringing conventional and complementary approaches together in a coordinated way.

A survey done recently has it that 30% of adults and about 12% of children in the US use healthcare approaches developed outside of mainstream Western, or conventional, medicine and it could be any one of the three i.e. complementary, alternative, integrative or a combination of the three.

Alternative healthcare and medical practices is a group of diverse medical and healthcare systems, practices, and products that are not presently considered part of conventional medicine by the modern medical world.

Alternative Medicine (AM) refers to therapies (external) and therapeutics (internal) that complement the human body’s natural healing process.

AM is a mode of therapeutics used in place of conventional medicines. The basic philosophy of AM include holistic care, which focuses on treating a human being as a whole person, considering all factors that influence health, wellness and disease, including mind, spirit, body and community as well.

Modern medicine has a limited view of the total organism and the true sources of “disease.”

Many patients feel that AM helps in coping with chronic illnesses for which conventional medicine offers no cure, but only management which often leads to long term collateral damage from excessive and often needless use of powerful drugs.

The World Health Organisation estimates that most people in developing nations receive the bulk of their healthcare from traditional or indigenous health systems. Interest in and use of alternative medicine continues to rise in developed nations also.

Dissatisfaction with aspects of conventional medicine, including unpleasant side effects, ineffective treatment, and aspects of the doctor-patient relationship are common factors driving people to alternative approaches for treatment.

Homeopathy, a branch of AM, as it is, looks beyond the labels of disease to cure their causes rather than merely their symptoms. It does not treat superficially by merely driving away the symptoms but heals the patient from within, by empowering the healing power of the body itself, using medicines naturally procured from the plant, animal and mineral kingdom and processed by the unique method of potentization. More importantly it is used after first being proven only on healthy human beings and then used as remedies given for the sick, based upon the homeopathic principle of Similia Similibus Curentur, meaning – “like cures like.”

Unlike many health models, in AM, the model of homeopathy is one of individualisation. It is an individualised system of medicine, the treatment of which is unique to an individual. Two persons suffering from the same ailment can be treated and prescribed differently.

Homeopathy is non-invasive. There are many studies proving the effectiveness of homeopathy, when used in the correct prescribed and standard method. It is an effective method of healing – in both acute and chronic illnesses. As the founder of Homeopathy Dr Samuel Hahnemann said, “The sole aim of this system of medicine is to give gentle, rapid and permanent cure to the sick.” And it so portrays the crystallised essence of alternative medicine and its purpose to humanity.

In Malaysia there is a growing demand for AM and it is high time the Health Ministry regulates practitioners of AM by bringing them together for more effective supervision and control. Singapore is heading in that direction with hospitals being asked to incorporate AM within their establishments.

Source: Free Malaysia Today