Alternative Medicine – What Is It?
Alternative medicine is an expression that gets used quite a lot these days but what does it mean?
Alternative medicine has emerged as a colloquialism for medicine or a modality that is not mainstream or conventional.
Most of what we have come to regard as alternative medicine these days has been around for thousands of years and it is only comparatively recently that the current conventional idea of categorizing then treating a disease or symptom, as opposed to the whole person, has emerged.
Conventional medicine assumes that all disease is caused by single biochemical or physical problem. So the way to fix the problem is either with surgery or chemicals (drugs).
With alternative health, (which is something of a misnomer since most modalities have been around for thousands of years), the emphasis is on the whole person and not just upon the symptom. From this comes the concept of ‘wellness’ or a lifestyle and way of being that leads to good health.
I like the idea of the traditional Chinese practice of only paying the doctor when you are well. He or she doesn’t get any payment from patients who are sick. Just imagine what that would do to conventional western medical practices! Not to mention the drug companies!
So, putting it simply, conventional medicine treats the disease whereas alternative health practitioners treat the whole person.
The word ‘allopathic’ is often used to describe conventional medicine.
It was coined by homeopath Samuel Hahnemann to differentiate homeopathic practices from conventional medicine. The term “allopath” comes from Greek roots meaning “opposite” and “disease”.
As used by homeopaths, the term “allopathy” has always referred to the conventional principle of curing disease by administering substances that produce the opposite effect of the disease when given to a healthy human. Hahnemann used this term to distinguish medicine as practiced in his time from his use of infinitesimally small doses of substances to treat the spiritual causes of illness.
Today alternative medicine covers a wide range of disciplines from homeopathy to acupuncture, from chiropractic to vibrational medicine and from Reiki to Bowen massage therapy. There are dozens of different modalities now available
All of these modalities have one thing in common, an emphasis on the whole person, not just the symptom.
Now don’t get me wrong. There is a time and a place for all types of medicine. I owe my life to allopathic medicine. If it were not for the expertise of medically trained people, drugs and surgery I would not be sitting at my computer writing this. I would be dead. I had a very specific problem. My aorta burst. The only solution was surgery.
However, if I had paid more attention to my health and wellbeing from an alternative point of view earlier in my life, I would not have allowed my blood pressure to be sustained at dangerously high levels and the problem would never have occurred.
In essence the best anyone can do for their wellbeing is to take responsibility for their own health and consult with and take advice from those practitioners who are appropriate for their current circumstances, whether they are from the area of alternative medicine or allopathy. If I have back pain I go to a chiropractor. If I have broken a bone I see a doctor.
Become educated about allopathic as well as alternative medicine. The Internet is a great resource.
I have put together some articles and resources at my Alternative Medicine website.