Alternative vs. Traditional Medicine

HCA image for fertility alternatives Alternative and traditional medicine have a great deal to learn from each other. And we all have a lot to learn in terms of bringing the two closer together.

The Differences

Alternative medicine is referred to in many different ways—alternative medicine, complementary medicine, complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), nontraditional medicine, nonconventional medicine, unorthodox medicine, and a whole host of others. CAM is the term used by the National Institute of Health (NIH) and other mainstream medical establishments.Traditional medicine is also referred to in many different ways—allopathic, traditional, conventional, orthodox, and Western medicine, to name a few. The term traditional, although used quite commonly, seems somewhat inaccurate, given that many alternative medical disciplines have been around for thousands of years, while many conventional practices have been around much less than a century. Most of these terms, actually, are only relevant in the context of Western culture.The NIH defines alternative medicine as a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not generally considered part of conventional medicine.

The Appeal of Alternative Medicine

What is the appeal of alternative medicine? Although the approach and focus of different types of alternative therapies may differ, they all seem to share the following characteristics:
  • Empowerment of the individual to participate in and take responsibility for his or her own health
  • Recognition and emphasis on lifestyle issues, such as proper nutrition, exercise, adequate rest, and emotional and spiritual balance
  • Treatment of the individual as a whole person, as opposed to a series of parts
  • Emphasis on preventing disease and maintaining health

American Medical Association's Role

In 1847, the American Medical Association (AMA) was established to try to regulate medical care. This governing body controls state medical boards and determines whether doctors can receive or maintain hospital privileges, and whether they can keep their medical license. A medical license can be revoked for a reason secondary to incompetence, which is essentially defined as deviating from what is known as the "standard of care."As long as Western medical practices are considered standard of care, it makes it very difficult for alternative medical practices to become recognized, accepted, and respected.

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