Alternative Medicine: Medical Science or Humbug?
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Alternative Medicine: Medical Science or Humbug?

Are alternative medicines mere humbug or is there an empirical basis for any of them. Here is an introductory article about Alternative Medicines.

Labeling Alternative Medicine as humbug is a common practice in Allopathic circles. At the same time, labeling Alternative Medicines as the panacea for all bodily ills is a common practice in many alternative medical circles. Actually neither of them is right, and they are basing their arguments on emotion rather than reason.

Allopathy is the name generally used for Modern Western Medicine, based upon principles of modern empirical sciences. As a result Allopathy or Modern Western Medicine is highly effective. At the same time, it has been so much exploited commercially that at times modern medical practice lacks the human touch and that is why people often switch to Alternative Medicines.

Alternative Medicines is the collective name given to the 400 or more systems of medicines that have reached the modern society mostly from ancient medical practices. The most well known of these systems are Ayurveda (Indian Herbal system), Unani (Greek herbo-mineral system), Homeopathy, Naturopathy Color Therapy, Aroma Therapy, and Touch Therapy. Of these, Homeopathy and Naturopathy have relatively modern but unconventional origin, but the rest are ancient systems of treatment.

Alternative Medicine, as should become obvious by now, is thus a family name used for a large collection of non-western medical systems. Some of these systems today remain exactly as they were when they were invented while others have undergone much refinement, mostly in the light of modern Western Medicine. For example, Homeopathy has remained almost unchanged since the time of its discovery while Ayurveda (Indian Herbal system) has undergone substantial empirical testing, standardization, and refinement. As a result, the reliability, safety, and suitability of some systems in Alternative Medicines are greater than others. So much so that some of them can be placed almost at par with modern medicine while others still remain in the realm of mumbo jumbo.

Thus a blanket endorsement of Alternative Medicines or a blanket condemnation are both wrong practices. There is no way in which close to 400 ancient systems of medicines can be compared with each other. On the contrary, if one is interested in discussing Alternative Medicine, then one should pick one or more of these systems and examine them system by system, not collectively.

When a system-level examination is made, Ayurveda (Indian Herbal system) turns of out to be the most refined and reliable among the Alternative Systems because this system of medicine has received continuous refinement and improvement for almost two millennia. What is more, modern methods of empirical research have been used in the past five to six decades to refine this system further. The Unani (Greek Herbo-mineral) system has also undergone similar refinement and has therefore become a very reliable system.

Systems like Aromatherapy, Music Therapy,  etc. are still in a state of development and there is comparatively little empirical research into these systems. Much work needs to be done before they become systems that are as reliable as the empirically-based Alternative systems of medicine.

[Cover Picture: http://www.flickr.com/photos/58066274@N00/358645015]

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Comments (19)
daMAN

I am a medical student (allopathy). Allopathy has been tested, tried through various clinical trials and metanalysis and has been proven to be effective. Along with that the adverse effects of the treatments are also known. I'm not too sure about the rest of the alternate medicine... anyway good article.

daMAN

I am a medical student (allopathy). Allopathy has been tested, tried through various clinical trials and metanalysis and has been proven to be effective. Along with that the adverse effects of the treatments are also known. I'm not too sure about the rest of the alternate medicine... anyway good article.

I strongly believe there is a place for both Western and Alternative medicine. I also believe that when the two stop competing, and join forces, then real progress can be made. Thanks for sharing your insight.

Dr. Phillip speaks so glowingly of the West at times. I wonder what happened to health before the arrival of the West. And are we at that level of health now that can be considered optiumum for a society, or should we be expecting changes going forward, maybe a return to the past even? Maybe Dr. Phillips should afford us a peek into his soul and write an article about the Western Civillization vs the Rest and settle this charge of bias.

This was an interesting article.  I am thinking I want to read more on Alternative Medicine.  Especially Indian System.

  what is medicine alternative? because I do not is much about medicine. 

This article was very interesting.  Dr. Johnson C Philip is a well educated man in many respects.  I enjoy these informative writings.

I have been in martial arts for many years,  I have experianced and seen many amazing treatments from Chinese Jows, and Tonics made from herbs and other natural products.   It is so sad that Western and Eastern medical practices for the most part cannot work together.

What is important is the availability of medicine to heal the poor masses all over the world not the issue of which medical science works better. Thanks to Dr Philip on this wonderful article.

Very useful and informative article. Gerald Peter Wensveen

This article gave me an introductory information about Alternative Medicines. Very good article!

Alternative medicine can be very effective. Thank you for the information.

Is it true that DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrithloroethane) is the world leading insectcide and anti-malaria drug?

Alternative medicine and their operators are highly welcomed in this era of Ebola out break in Africa and in the United States where some infected people are reported death. In as much as all in the West are all afraid because of this virus since their is no solution from the so called west medicine. What the world want is cure and lasting solution either from alternative medicine or from Western medicine. This a very wonderful article and current to the events in the world today, Thanks to Dr. Johnson C Philip and Trinity college welcome any one to join and learn more on different disciplines with Dr. Johnson C Philip. from Charleston Azonwu Edozie DRE student at Trinity.

Many infections are being cured today by those practicing alternative medicine.
Excellent article on Alternative Medicine! In U.S.A., Chiropractic is considered an Alternative form of healthcare due to use of spinal manipulation. Oddly, Physical Therapy uses some forms of manipulation as does Osteopathic Medicine although they are not considered "alternative."
Good article, and with the growing side effects of Allopathic medicine including potential death I like the exploration to better use of more Alternative medicine.
There is a reason why we test new medications for placebo effects. A lot of the problems lie with our beliefs and disbeliefs. Alternative medicines do have their place in the spectrum of tools to treat a patient.
"Alternative Medicine, as should become obvious by now, is thus a family name used for a large collection of non-western medical systems." -Hence perhaps, their negativity toward it.
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