The phrase “alternative medicine” is becoming less alternative every day, though it is still a very controversial topic. As this concept creeps into the mainstream of American culture, it’s important to be clear about what types of medicine would legitimately fall within this category. The phrase has become a catch-all for any healing practice that is not considered part of traditional or conventional medicine. Skeptics would say that definition leaves people vulnerable to deceptive practices or outright scams. But alternative methods are becoming more popular despite these concerns. Advocates of it argue that there are many effective methods that have been practiced for thousands of years.
Here are five key points that indicate a particular method or practice is worth your time and money.
1. Alternative Medicine is Holistic. The best methods, like acupuncture and herbal remedies, address the body as an interconnected system. No discomfort or disease is isolated within a certain area of the body, so make sure that your particular alternative medicine practitioner acknowledges the idea that what happens in one part of the body affects the whole body.
2. Alternative Medicine is Individualized. In keeping with the notion that the body is a complex group of connected systems, most forms of alternative medicine prescribe remedies that are specific to the patient. Two people may have the very same condition and be treated in entirely different ways. Be weary if a treatment is presented as some sort of miracle cure that works for everyone.
3. Alternative Medicine is Documented. If you’re not sure about a particular method or practice, just do a little research. Most of the well-established forms are rooted in centuries of tradition. Even more modern forms operate in the light of day and should have some sort of information that explains the methods.
4. Alternative Medicine is Natural. A common thread through most every modality is that it involves natural remedies. The philosophy is that through naturally occurring substances, or through the body’s natural ability to heal itself, one can address most any health issue. Anything that strays too far from nature yet claims to be an alternative remedy has most likely been rejected by conventional medicine and thus falls into neither category.
5. Alternative Medicine Works. The easiest way to determine if a practice is fraudulent is to seek testimonials from others. Alternative practices have been in the spotlight long enough to provide compelling evidence in the form of patient feedback. Ask your friends about their experiences. Ask a practitioner for references. If none are available, you could be looking at a questionable method.
Despite the implication that this is a minefield of schemes that don’t really help your well-being, the vast majority of alternative medicine practitioners genuinely care about helping you improve your health. Examine a practice through the five criteria above and use a little common sense and your alternative medicine experience is sure to be great.