INCREASINGLY, the terms complementary, alternative and integrative medicine are being used in healthcare, and they are being bandied without regard to its meaning.

The three cannot be used interchangeably as they differ in terms of concept:

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

A recent survey found that 30 per cent of adults and 12 per cent of children in the United States use healthcare approaches developed outside mainstream Western, or conventional, medicine and is either complementary, alternative and integrative, or a combination of the three.

Alternative healthcare and medical practices are a group of diverse medical and healthcare systems, practices and products that are not presently considered to be 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.

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

People are attracted to alternative healthcare when their own experiences of modern medicinal protocol is found to be lacking due to a variety of reasons. Also, New Age thoughts on going natural is another reason why AM is gaining momentum.

Many patients feel that alternative medicine 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 to treatment.

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

Unlike many health models, in AM, the model of homoeopathy is one of individualisation. Two persons suffering from the same ailment can be treated and prescribed differently.

Homoeopathy is non-invasive. There are many studies proving the effectiveness of homeopathy when using the correctly prescribed and standard method.

In Malaysia, there is a growing demand for AM, and it is high time the Health Ministry regulates practitioners of AM for more effective supervision and control. Singapore is heading in that direction, with hospitals incorporating AM.

Dr R. Madanmohan, Petaling Jaya, Selangor

Source: New Straits Times Online