Author: Kisling LA1, Stiegmann RA2
1University of Colorado
2University of Colorado, Rocky Vista University College of Osteopathic Medicine
Conference/Journal: StatPearls [Internet]
Date published: 2019 Feb 4
Other: Word Count: 267
Alternative medicine is a broad term encompassing a variety of medical modalities. These are typically supported by tradition and seldom taught in a Western medical setting. Such modalities range from the ancient Eastern practices of acupuncture and Tai chi, to herbal medicine, Reiki, chiropractic manipulation, and more. These services are often used interchangeably with the term "alternative medicine", a designation created in the 1800s that distinguished these modalities as “alternative” to allopathic medicine. Allopathic medicine is also commonly referred to as Western medicine, evidence-based medicine, conventional, or mainstream medicine. In the nineteenth century, allopathic medicine was based on a practice of opposites whereas the alternative branch suggested that “like cured like.” Present day differences remain but tend to revolve around a disease-centric (allopathic) versus a whole-body (alternative) approach. Alternative practices focus on stimulating the body’s ability to heal itself via energy alignment, herbal supplementation, and other balancing techniques. Conversely, allopathic medicine focuses on symptom-specific treatment, typically with pharmacological or invasive methods to remove the offending agent. With ancient records supporting alternative modalities and rigorous clinical trials supporting allopathic modalities, there continues to be disagreement over which method is proven beneficial and safe. Today, many physicians are embracing the beneficial aspects of both types of medicine through the practice of Integrative Medicine in which they combine appropriate alternative and allopathic techniques according to the patient, symptoms, and circumstances. Additionally, large trials attempting to solidify evidence for the anecdotal benefits of alternative medicine are increasing in popularity.
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