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Does Alternative Medicine Work?

Jul 1, 2008
The growth of alternative medicine over the past few decades has been rapid and the number of alternative medicine practitioners grows by the day. With thousands of private complementary health practitioners and an increase in GPs offering alternative therapies there is no doubting its popularity and continued movement toward professional healthcare validation. However the question about alternative medicine remains - does it work? Acupuncture, reflexology and therapeutic touch are now non-conventional therapies people will consider having when thinking beyond conventional medical practices.

Certainly if you posed the question of whether alternative medicine works to people in the Far East the answer would be a resounding 'yes'. Many alternative medicine techniques and therapies began in places like China and India centuries ago and are integral to their healthcare systems. With that degree of use and such a rich history there must be a high level of confidence in its effectiveness.

If you speak to many physicians the argument against alternative medicine is that it is not proven to work. This is a somewhat blinkered opinion as it is based on a comparison with traditional pharmaceutical drug testing. Before drugs can be prescribed they must go through rigorous clinical trials using a broad cross-section of society and performed over a period of years under the supervision of trained research teams. The industry goes to great lengths to highlight this clinical process and show that the evidence is scientific fact. But alternative medicine has been put through equally rigorous tests by research teams around the world; it's just not as well documented.

Only now are we beginning to see the outcomes of these tests as demand for alternative medicine increases. And as demand increases, so the clinical trials into complementary and alternative therapies will increase. We should also be careful to dismiss practices that have been used successfully for thousands of years in other countries.

Another argument against alternative medicine is that evidence is anecdotal and based purely on personal experience of a therapy. But then the same argument could be true of conventional drug treatment. It is only because a clinical trial has taken place that the drug is deemed to work for everyone. That's not always the case. How often has someone told you to take a certain drug for an ailment as it worked for them only to find that it didn't work for you? It's true that certain conditions require traditional treatment but that's not to say that alternative medicine cannot be used alongside it. A popular benefit with alternative medicine is that it doesn't have the nasty side-effects or discomfort that pharmaceutical drugs can have.

Alternative medicine is effective and can work for you
Alternative medicine is matter of choice. There are many therapies and techniques to choose from that can fit in with your ideas about health and well-being. Alternative medicine can help with a variety of conditions illnesses and approaches health in a holistic way. Concern for the body as a whole and the use of natural herbal remedies really can target a specific illness. So to answer the question - yes, alternative medicine does work if you find the therapy that works for you.
About the Author
Medical expert Thomas Pretty looks into arguments surrounding the viability of alternative medicine and the testing that is used to prove its worth.
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