Alternative medicine is the collective name for treatments that are united by the fact that they are not studied in medical schools. Most of the different methods and areas of traditional medicine are similar in their treatment of the individual and his or her diseases. While conventional medicine treats illness as a local problem of an organ or organ system, for most alternative medicine, every problem, even the local one, is a problem of the whole person, his body and soul. Alternative medicine views the human body, mind and soul as a whole. Each person’s illness is unique, it is different from another person’s illness, even though they share the same name in traditional medicine.
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) of the U.S. Department of Health classifies alternative medicine into five categories:
- Holistic medical systems – medical specialties that include not only therapeutic methods but also theory and philosophy (for example, Chinese medicine, phytotherapy, and homeopathy).
- Psychophysical medicine (Mind-body medicine) – these methods focus on the importance of a correct relationship between the mind and the body and on strengthening the influence of the mind and emotions on the body (such as meditation, autogenic training and art therapy).
- Biologically based practices – practices that use natural substances, such as supplements, vitamins and herbs.
- Chiropractic and Body-Based Practices – treatments that use touch and hand movement (such as chiropractic, osteopathy and massage).
- Energy therapies – these methods involve a flow of energy through the body. If the flow is stopped or not balanced, the person becomes ill. Different methods call this “energy” differently: “prana”, “chi”, “life force”, etc. (these methods include, for example, qigong, reiki and bioelectromagnetic field therapy).
What is homeopathy?
Homeopathy is a medical technique developed in the late 18th century by the German physician Samuel Christian Hahnemann. The method is based on the so-called “law of similarity,” according to which a drug that can cause disease in a healthy person can, in diluted form, become a cure for a patient suffering from this disease. Strongly diluted homeopathic remedies have no side effects (except for a worsening of well-being in the first days of taking homeopathic remedies, known as “initial deterioration”).
What is Chinese medicine?
Chinese medicine is a therapeutic area that originated in China about 3,000 years ago. It includes a number of sub-fields: acupuncture, phytotherapy, tuina, rational diet and healthy lifestyle. The emphasis is placed on examination and diagnosis using the physician’s senses: listening to the patient, feeling (e.g., heart rate), and examining (e.g., the condition of the tongue).