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What is Alternative Medicine?

Literally, Alternative Medicine means alternative to “something else”, This “something else” is western medicine or allopathy or orthodox medicine.

This term is loosely used to cover all forms of medicine except allopathy. In 1973, the Medical Faculty of the University of Rome convened the first World Congress of Alternative Medicines, and the provisional program contained no less than 135 different therapies. The experts of W.H.O. have also identified and enlisted more than 100 types of practices and they have termed these as traditional medicine.

These forms of medicine are known as traditional medicine (as most of these are practiced from time immemorial), complementary medicine (as these medicines supplement the Allopathic medicines in, many-a-cases) (as it differs from the orthodox medicine), holistic medicine (most of the alternative medical systems consider the human body as a complete being comprising of physicals mental, social and spiritual dimensions), Ethno medicine (as these traditional health care systems are closely associated with the life and culture of the masses), Natural Medicine (as these methods of treatments are based on the laws of nature and natural substances are used to treat the patients).

There are more than 100 systems of alternative medicines, still in practice all over the world. Every country, region or area has its own traditional system of health and medical care such as for the Chinese it is acupuncture, for the French, magnetic healing; for the Germans, Heilpraxis;for the Sfitish – Herbatism, for India – Ayurveda; for the Muslim countries – Unani; for the southern part of the country – Siddha; for Japan – shiatsu etc.

The most popular forms of alternative medicine are Ayurveda, Homoeopathy, Unani, Siddha, Naturopathy,Yoga therapy, Acupuncture, Acupressure, Magneto therapy, Shiatsu, Medical herbalism, Meditation, Aroma therapy, Bach flower remedies, Gem therapy, Chromolherapy, Hydropathy, Diet Therapy etc.

Alternative Medicines & W. H.O.

The term Alternative Medicine means any form of medicine that is outside the rnain stream of western medicine as practiced by the majority of doctors today. Alternative medicine exists in all cultures to some degree and terms such as traditional medicine, indigenous medicine or folk medicine etc. are used to describe such practices. These medicines date back hundred or even thousand of years depending on the country and culture concerned. Because two thirds of the world’s population (mainly in the developing countries) relies entirely on such traditional medical therapies, the World Health Organization has declared its intention actively to encourage traditional medicine world wide in order that their goal of Health for all by the year2000 can be attained. It is interesting that even where western medical care is available the majority of people in the third wood choose to remain loyal to its indigenous medical systems. The W.H.O. has pledged itself to foster realistic approach to traditional medicine; to explore the merits of traditional medicines in the light of modern science in order to discourage harmful practices and encourage useful ones; and to promote the integration of proven valuable knowledge and skills in traditional and western medicine. And, claims one W.H.O. report, “For far too long traditional system of medicine and modern medicine have gone their separate ways in mutual antipathy. Yet are not their goals identical – to improve the health of mankind and thereby the quality of life? Only the blinkered mind would assure that the each has nothing to learn from the other.”

Dr. Andrew Stanway

Importance Of Alternative Systems Of Medicines

Recently we see there is a boom in various systems of alternative medicine. More and more patients are opting for alternative systems of medicine. We find a number of articles and stories in the leading-news- papers and magazines which is evident of its popularity.

There is a renewed interest in these system of medicine that were long ago. discarded in pursuance of the dynamic science of Allopathy. But after decades of serious obsession with the modern medicine system that came from the west, in India as elsewhere on the globe, people have started looking at their ancient systems again.
The most important reason which disturb and agitate the mind of the people at large and patients in particular, causing interest in alternative medicine has been the increasing side effects’ of allopathic medicine and people are getting afraid of such effects.

The second most important consideration specially in context to the third world or developing countries is the spiraling cost of the allopathic medicine.

The third reason is that when people are frustrated and not getting the desired cures of their ailments from the orthodox medicine they look for some alternative forms of healing that will bring solace and relief. Hence an Interest In alternative medicine is seen.

Besides the above primary reasons there are some subsidiary or secondary reasons of the growing popularity of the alternative medicine such as:

In many societies, especially In rural areas, there are cultural links to the traditional medical systems. Hence it is easier for the rural folk to accept It.
The simplicity of these practices also attract some people.
There are some Individuals that have religious or philosophical aversion to certain western medical practices.

Salient Features Of Alternative Medicines

Although Alternative Medicine includes many systems of healing and every system has its’ own features and merits, there are some common features which differentiate these from modern medicine.

(1) It considers the health of a person as well – being in Its physical, mental, social and spiritual planes whereas modern medicine treats the body as a machine i.e. main emphasis Is laid upon the physical aspects of life. Now-a-days It has been established that there Is a certain link between the various dimensions of life. Mental, social and spiritual arena have its definite role on the physical human body. Hence, to achieve permanent cure and to maintain good health one has to re-adjust the other aspects of human life too. Health is defined as a state of physical well being, mental alertness, socially adjusted, and spiritually developed.

(2) Most of the systems under alternative medicine stress upon the maintenance of health by following healthy life styles i.e. they stress upon proper diet. exercise, human relations, sexuality, positive attitudes, clean environment, moral and spiritual values etc. Thus preventive and promotive aspects of health is given its due importance. The person is made conscious to maintain his total health.

(3) Simplicity of the practices avoiding the intake of potent and hard drugs and undergoing unnecessary diagnostic and surgical interference. Every system in alternative medicine has its own unique philosophy and inexpensive methods of diagnosis and treatment.

(4) less or no side effects.

5) The time tested traditional system of medicine has a reasonable alternative and answer to most of the diseases which have no amenable answer from modern medical treatment such as collagen disorder, degenerative diseases, diseases of the bones and joints, psychosomatic disorders where behavioral, emotional and spiritual factors have a major role.

6) Faith – The sum total of above reasoning have produced a positive faith in alternative medicine among the people. It is a well known fact to all doctors that faith often cures where medicines don’t. More and more persons hence turn to other systems with faith in their hearts and a prayer on their lips and this has a magical power that can move mountains.