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Alternative Medicine: Types, Uses & Information

  • Synopsis: Information and examples of various categories of alternative medicine including home remedies holistic health and traditional Chinese medicine.

Definition: Defining the Meaning of Alternative Medicine

Alternative medicine is defined as any practice that is put forward as having the healing effects of medicine, but is not founded on evidence gathered using the scientific method. Standard care is what medical doctors, doctors of osteopathy, and allied health professionals, such as nurses and physical therapists, practice. The field of complementary and alternative medicine is known as CAM. Complementary medicine can be used together with standard medical care. An example is using acupuncture to help with side effects of cancer treatment.

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What is Alternative Medicine

Alternative Medicine is defined as medicine that encompasses any healing practice "that does not fall within the realm of conventional medicine." Commonly cited examples include naturopathy, chiropractic, herbalism, traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, meditation, yoga, biofeedback, hypnosis, homeopathy, acupuncture, and diet-based therapies, in addition to a range of other practices.

Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) is a broad domain of resources that encompasses health systems, modalities, and practices and their accompanying theories and beliefs, other than those intrinsic to the dominant health system of a particular society or culture in a given historical period. However bear in mind that what are considered complementary or alternative practices in one country may be considered conventional medical practices in another.

According to the NCCAM formerly unproven remedies may be incorporated into conventional medicine if they are shown to be safe and effective.

NCCAM classifies complementary and alternative therapies into five major groups and some overlap.

Whole medical systems cut across more than one of the other groups; examples include Traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda.

Many people utilize mainstream medicine for diagnosis and basic information, while turning to alternatives for what they believe to be health-enhancing measures. Studies indicate that alternative approaches are often used in conjunction with conventional medicine. This is referred to by NCCAM as integrative (or integrated) medicine because it "combines treatments from conventional medicine and CAM for which there is some high-quality evidence of safety and effectiveness.

Alternative medicine has been a source of vigorous debate, even over the definition of alternative medicine.

Dietary supplements, their ingredients, safety, and claims, are a continual source of controversy.

In some cases, political issues, mainstream medicine and alternative medicine all collide, such as the case where synthetic drugs are legal but the herbal sources of the same active chemical are banned.

Alternative medicine practices are as diverse in their foundations as in their methodologies. Practices may incorporate or base themselves on traditional medicine, folk knowledge, spiritual beliefs, or newly conceived approaches to healing.

Quick Facts: CAM Therapy

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) classified CAM therapies as:



Latest Alternative Medicine Publications

Full List of Alternative Medicine Documents (26 Items)




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