When people start turning to alternative medicine we want to know the reasons. What is alternative medicine providing them that Big Pharma isn’t?
Alternative medicine, refers to a range of medical practices and therapies not considered part of conventional medicine. These practices often involve natural remedies, and holistic approaches, including Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). A systematic review on factors affecting the rising usage of complementary medicine worldwide, published in 2020, indicated that people were either disappointed in conventional medicine or were looking to be more proactive in caring for their health.
The Rise of Alternative Medicine
According to a survey conducted by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), approximately 38% of adults in the United States use some form of alternative medicine, including acupuncture, TCM, herbal medicine, chiropractic care, naturopathy, and Ayurveda. Several factors account for this. Firstly, individuals are becoming more proactive about their health and are seeking alternative options to complement or replace conventional treatments. Secondly, there is a growing dissatisfaction with the side effects and high costs associated with pharmaceutical drugs. Lastly, alternative medicine focuses on treating the root cause of illness rather than managing the symptoms.
Perceived Limitations of Conventional Medicine
Some people with long standing issues like depression, or high blood pressure, are reluctant to consult a conventional health practitioner, fearing that it will lead to having to take medications for the rest of their lives.
In some situations patients with chronic conditions such as auto-immune diseases, mental health disorders, and chronic pain do not get the relief they need from conventional medicine. For these people, an approach that addresses the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of health can have great benefits.
Alternative medical practitioners will take into account the individual’s lifestyle, diet, emotional well-being, and environmental factors, such as whether the person lives under power lines, or is affected by certain chemicals in an area, such as crop spraying etc. Alternative medicine also empowers individuals to take control rather than waiting until symptoms become unbearable.
The Dangers of Over-Reliance on Big Pharma
The pharmaceutical industry is often criticized for its profit-driven approach and over-reliance on pharmaceutical drugs. Many pharmaceutical drugs come with a range of side effects that can be debilitating and may require additional medications to manage leading to a cycle of dependency on multiple drugs.
Drugs are often expensive and may not be accessible to everyone, especially those without adequate health insurance. Lastly, over-reliance on pharmaceuticals can lead to a lack of focus on preventive measures and lifestyle changes. Instead of addressing the root cause of illness, pharmaceutical drugs often provide temporary relief without addressing the underlying issues.
The Benefits of Natural Remedies and Holistic Approaches
Natural remedies utilizing plants, herbs, and other natural substances have proven their efficacy over thousands of years as they have minimal side effects compared to many pharmaceutical drugs. Herbal medicine utilizes plants and plant extracts to treat various ailments while essential oils are used topically or aromatically. Dietary supplements provide additional nutrients that may be lacking.
Holistic practitioners will spend time with their patients, building a comprehensive medical history and considering all factors contributing to their patient’s health issues. You may be asked questions which you don’t think are related to your symptoms, but a qualified alternative practitioner will use your responses to develop a deeper understanding of your unique needs and develop a tailored treatment plan.
The Role of Traditional Medicine in Alternative Healing
Traditional medicine offers unique perspectives and treatment options, often taking into account an individual’s cultural background, beliefs, and values, all of which can greatly influence their health and well-being. Through the incorporation of traditional medicine into alternative healing practices, individuals can benefit from a more holistic and culturally sensitive approach to healthcare.
TCM is a comprehensive system that includes acupuncture, herbal medicine, dietary therapy, and mind-body practices such as tai chi and qigong. The ancient Indian medical system of Ayurveda focuses on balancing the body, mind, and spirit through diet, lifestyle practices, herbal remedies, and yoga. Native American healing practices often involve the use of herbs, rituals, ceremonies, and spiritual practices to promote healing and well-being. Through drumming the brain waves of the person undergoing healing can be altered, as is the case with Native American and African traditional medicine.
The Importance of Mind-Body Connection
The mind-body connection refers to the relationship between a person’s thoughts, emotions, beliefs, and physical health. Alternative medicine emphasizes the role of mental and emotional well-being because it recognizes that physical symptoms can be influenced by psychological and emotional factors. Stress, for example, can manifest as headaches, digestive issues, or muscle tension.
Mind-body practices such as meditation, yoga, and mindfulness are commonly used in alternative medicine to help individuals cultivate a greater awareness of their thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations, and make positive changes to support their health.
The Science Behind Alternative Medicine: Evidence-Based Practices
Alternative medicine is often criticized for lacking scientific evidence to support its effectiveness. However, many alternative medicine practices are based on scientific principles and have been extensively studied.
Evidence-based alternative medicine practices include acupuncture, yoga, and mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR). Acupuncture has been shown to be effective in treating various conditions including chronic pain, nausea, and migraines. Yoga has been found to improve flexibility, strength, and balance, crucial for maintaining health, especially in older people who may be prone to osteoporosis and balance problems leading to falls with severe consequences. MBSR, a program that combines mindfulness, meditation and yoga, has been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, and chronic pain.
The Accessibility of Alternative Medicine: Affordable and DIY Options
A major advantage of alternative medicine is its accessibility. Qualified practitioners can book patients for a consultation at affordable prices and can suggest a course of treatment, with costs fairly accurately broken down.
Affordable options in alternative medicine include:
- Herbal remedies purchased at a fraction of the cost of pharmaceutical drugs and used to treat a wide range of conditions.
- Dietary changes, such as incorporating more fruits and vegetables into one’s diet or reducing processed foods, impacting overall health.
- Lifestyle modifications, such as regular exercise, stress management techniques, and adequate sleep, to greatly improve well-being.
- Self-care practices such as meditation, journaling, and relaxation techniques practiced at home requiring little to no financial investment.
Integrating Conventional and Alternative Medicine
The future of healthcare lies in the integration of conventional and alternative medicine. While conventional medicine has made significant advancements in treating acute conditions and emergencies, it often falls short when it comes to chronic conditions and preventative care.
Integrative medicine clinics bring together conventional medical treatments with alternative therapies such as acupuncture, chiropractic care, and naturopathy.
Collaborative care is provided by professionals from various fields such as medicine, psychology, nutrition, and physical therapy, to address the multiple dimensions of health.
A collaborative effort between conventional and alternative practitioners can lead to improved patient outcomes, reduced healthcare costs, and increased patient satisfaction. A win-win situation.
One of the key aspects of alternative medicine is patient empowerment, whereby individuals take an active role in their healthcare decisions and become partners in their own healing journey as they make choices that align with their values and beliefs.