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Alternative Medicine
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Complementary and alternative medicine is any practice, approach, medication or treatment that is not considered a part of conventional medicine today. These alternative approaches to medicine are constantly changing, and something that is considered unconventional this year might be considered conventional next year. There are two different types of alternative medicine. Complementary medicine is an unconventional form of medicine used in conjunction with a more traditional or conventional form of medicine or treatment. When unconventional practices are used on their own, or in place of conventional medicine, this is called alternative medicine.

A medication, treatment or procedure is considered conventional when it is fully tested and reviewed in the medical field, taught in medical schools, and has been established for a period of time. Unconventional alternative medicines are not tested by the FDA before they are put on the market, and do not have to be prescribed or administered by a licensed healthcare professional. If you are interested in any type of complementary or alternative medicine, it is really important to research your options and look into any tests or studies that might have been conducted on the particular alternative. You should also notify your provider and any other healthcare providers you see about any alternative medicine you are taking. Your provider needs to know about all medicines you take in order to come up with a comprehensive diagnosis. In fact, your provider will also be able to give you sound advice about alternative medicines that you might be interested in. He or she can tell you if that alternative is right for you. Your provider may also be able to refer you to an alternative medicine practitioner who is respectable and has credentials. Because many alternative medicine practitioners are not required to be licensed, you run the risk of visiting an unqualified person when you seek alternative medicine.

Remember that all medication, including “natural” and alternative medicine and treatments, work differently for different people. That’s why it isn’t a good idea to try a medicine just because a friend or acquaintance says it works for them. Sometimes, alternative medicine is advertised on fancy websites or in magazine ads, and with phrases like “miracle cure,” “secret formula,” or “new discovery.” These terms are usually misleading and can cause you to buy something that is more of a scam than a cure.

There are many types of alternative medicine available to you. If you are confused about what falls under the category of “complementary and alternative medicine,” don’t worry. The options vary from acupuncture to vitamin C pills, and everything in between. Following is a list of the basic forms of complementary and alternative medicine.

  • Homeopathic medicine: A type of medication that aims to stimulate and aid a person’s immune defense system through the use of plants, animal products and minerals.
  • Alternative medical systems: An entire system of theory and practice that defines an overall approach to health and life. Many of these systems are developed in non-Western cultures, such as Ayurveda, of which acupuncture is a critical component among specific diet, exercise and mental health practices.
  • Manipulative body-based methods: Focuses on moving specific parts of the body in order to realign the body and to alleviate pain, examples include chiropractors and masseuses.
  • Mind-body methods: Certain practices are based on the belief that the body’s health is directly affected by the mind. These practices focus on relaxation and meditation and promoting a healthy mind, and examples include hypnosis and yoga. There are also related fields such as music therapy and art therapy.
  • Biologically based therapies: These treatments use natural substances such as herbs, foods and vitamins to treat conditions or to promote a healthy lifestyle, examples include taking a multivitamin or use of Echinacea.
  • Energy therapies: This form of therapy uses energy fields, either biofield (naturally occurring “energy” found in the body) or bioelectromagnetic-based fields (external magnetic, pulsed or current fields) as a form of treatment.