A variety of alternative medicines and therapies have been becoming popular widespread nowadays, however some have also been criticized by the medical community that the methods are deficient in of scientific proofs. Alternative medicine is any healing treatment that falls outside the realm of conventional medicine. According to National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), alternative medicine practices are recognized into five main categories: alternative medical systems, biologically based therapies, mind-body interventions, energy therapies, and manipulative and body-based methods (Rahul, nd: 1of 2).
In discussing whether or not to use alternative medicines, people need to first consider two sides of coin. On one side, alternative medicines point to their emphasis on mind-body care and the use of natural substances. On the other side, some argue that alternative medicines have limited evidences from scientific research about their effectiveness and they may also cause adverse side-effects. Those who are in favour of alternative medicine believe that their mind-body medicine has powerful healing effects.
The mind, body and spirit are involved in its healing method (Elizabeth 2009: 1 of 3). The ability of mind-body synchronization approaches to the interaction among the brain, mind, body and behavior enables them to operate the mind to recover patient’s health (NCCAM nd: 2 of 8). Examples of well-known mind-body practices are meditation, yoga and acupuncture. The distinction of mental benefit of performing regular meditation is the relief of stress, anxiety and depression. It is also known that meditation can help to improve physical condition such as high blood pressure and asthma.
The study case of asthma patients in severe condition practicing in Sahaja Yoga illustrates that this meditation could improve their mind and also slow down the disease process (researchingmeditation nd: 1of1). Yet another positive aspect of therapies based on alternative medicine is that they basically apply non-chemical substances. The so-called biotherapy makes use of natural products such as vitamins, minerals and herbal extracts.
The ability of biotherapies to work on mental, emotional, physical and spiritual levels enables them to enhance the patient’s body system and restore its natural functions in the treatment of diseases without using drugs and invasive therapies (Biotherapy nd: 1 of 2). Dr. Gross, principal scientist at the Sydney Menopause Centre, studied benefits of soy and its protective effect against cancer. As she pointed out, people who have a high nutritional serving of soy are likely to decrease cancer’s rate. She herself also started using soy products after being treated for breast cancer (Hickman 1997: 8). Opponents of alternative medicine suggest that most have not been proven effective by scientific methods.
The claims made by alternative medicine therapists are generally not accepted by the medical community because they lack of evidence based assessment of safety and efficacy (Wikipedia nd: 1 of 22). Most alternative medicine treatments are not patentable. The inability of their treatments to be patentable makes it difficult for them to get adequate scientific research funding from the private sector. Another disincentive for manufacturers to fund research is that alternative treatments can be marketed without any proof of efficacy in most countries (Wikipedia nd: 10 of 22).
As reported in The Medical Journal of Australia, Dr. Bensoussan said that research funding for complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) has been inadequate. That has led to a small number of good quality studies to support CAM (AMA 2004: 1 of 5). A further drawback of alternative medicines is their potential side-effects. While conventional treatments must undergo testing for adverse side-effects, alternative treatments generally are not subjected to such testing. The ability of treatments to be tested for safety prevents patients from having potentially dangerous biological or psychological side-effects.
Since forms of alternative medicine are biologically active, they can exhibit unwankted effects if using together with conventional pharmaceuticals. For example, some herbal therapies can cause unwarranted interactions with chemotherapy drugs, radiation therapy or anesthetics during surgery (Wikipedia nd: 11 of 22). Professor Phelps, former president of the Australian Medical Association, cautions against the lack of government regulation in traditional medicine.
While Australian regulations for importing medicines are among the most stringent countries, raw herbal ingredients are not controlled by the same guidelines. She also pointed out that many practitioners making their own mixtures might not have sufficient education on the possible undesired reactions they might cause (Bryskine 2010, 1 of 1). So, to sum up, we can see that there are valid arguments both for and against alternative medicine. On one side their mind-body therapies and biologically based treatments must be weighed against their lack of proven efficacy and adverse side effects.
On balance, though, alternative medicine offers the benefit of having an awareness of mind-body connection and uses techniques to both prevent and cure diseases. To maximize the benefit of alternative medicine requires a patient’s time commitment and changing habits since they take relatively longer time to demonstrate the positive effects of healing. Alternative therapies can be very effective as a sole or a complementary treatment for patients. However, I recommend that patients should consult their primary health-care practitioner before having alternative treatments and only have treatments from experienced therapists.