The debate is quite old. Many people hold alternative medicine above mainstream pharmaceuticals, but scientists and doctors are usually adamant in their stance that modern medical treatment is the way to go. We hear testimonials and horror stories on both sides. It is often hard to differentiate the truth from the lies. So here, we will examine some popular statements about alternative medicine and determine whether or not they are facts or myths.
- Alternative medicine is always more effective than mainstream / pharmaceutical medical treatment: MYTH The effectiveness of alternative medicine is often blown out of proportion by those who want to sell their products. On the other hand, pharmaceutical companies often deliberately publish studies and reports in their favor which promote their products and undermine the actual effectiveness of natural and alternative methods. It is a money-making world out there, and vendors of alternative medicine are no less guilty than doctors and pharmaceutical companies of selling snake oil.
- Alternative medicine is always safer than pharmaceuticals: MYTH Again, this depends on the situation: While it may be safer to give a child an effective herbal supplement than to pump him full of Ritalin or Amphetamines, it may not be any safer to combine 10 different herbs than it would be just to simply take a pharmaceutical sleep aid. In some cases, the alternative may actually be more dangerous. For example, many take St. John’s Wort for depression and memory disorders. What they don’t know is that there is a list of everyday foods which may be DEADLY to mix with St. John’s Wort. SSRI antidepressants, though arguably ineffective for many people, have very few potential dangerous interactions to worry about.
- Alternative medicine is more unregulated and less tested than pharmaceuticals: FACT This can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it – but the fact is that pharmaceuticals are tested, tested, and re-tested before they go to the pharmacy to become a prescription. In many cases, however, even after initial tests prove their short-term safety and effectiveness, it is later shown that they lose one or both over time. Then, we see a mass recall, TV commercials, and lawsuits. This may seem like a terrible thing – but when you realize that alternative medicine is not usually recalled in this way, even though it may have some of the same issues, it becomes apparent that there is no clear cut answer to the question of whether more regulation is a good thing. And supplements and herbs are not completely unregulated, contrary to what some people believe.
- Alternative medicine gets a bad rap from pharmaceutical companies because it cuts into their profits: FACT – BUT it goes both ways. Though it is true that pharmaceutical companies sometimes sling mud in the way of the competition, it is also true that alternative providers and vendors do EXACTLY THE SAME THING. While your friendly neighborhood pharmacist is making jabs at people who get acupuncture, the acupuncture specialists are talking about how terrible ALL pharmaceutical medicine is, and how ONLY acupuncture can provide the relief from symptoms you need to live a happy, healthy life. As you have probably heard many times, there are bad apples in every group. This is doubly true in the medical field.
- You should always try an alternative method before you go to the doctor: MYTH Ideally, you should go to the doctor first, then read up on the treatment he gives you, if the issue is serious enough get a second opinion, see what the alternatives are, then make your decision. Sometimes it is even more effective to combine traditional and alternative medicines and treatments for particular ailments. And today, more and more doctors are promoting natural supplements and treatments that have been proven to work – after all, they took their oath to help patients, not to help big pharma make money.
So now that we’ve examined some myths and facts, let’s take a look at some of the most popular treatments and examine their effectiveness:
- Reiki: This popular alternative uses ‘life force energy’ to heal the body, usually through touch. The results are mixed, and the jury is still out on this one – it may be actually effective, or it may be little more than placebo
- Acupuncture: This treatment is said to balance energies in the body by sticking tiny needles into specific points of the anatomy. Again, the results are mixed. Some people find it very effective, and others… not so much. This is clearly not a treatment for everyone, but it is definitely worth a try, and is usually 100% safe when done by an experienced professional.
- Aromatherapy: As the name suggests, this form of therapy uses smells to relieve patients from a variety of illnesses and ailments. We have used menthol for centuries to help clear our sinuses, and aromatherapy is basically the same concept. Science has actually shown in some studies that aromatherapy is effective in relieving depression and anxiety among other things.
- Chiropractic: It is pretty well known that chiropractic is at least somewhat effective. Though it may not be the answer to all your problems, it has been shown to improve posture and spinal health in many patients.
- Reflexology: This is similar to Reiki in that it uses touch and pressure, but it does not use any mystical terms such as ‘life force’ and ‘energy fields.’ It has been shown in some cases to be effective, and not in others. It really depends on the ailment and the patient.
This information should give you an idea of what alternative medicine is and isn’t. We have cleared up some popular myths and stated some facts as well. Regardless of what you choose in terms of medical treatment, you should always try different methods to find one that works for you. Don’t be afraid to go to the doctor, and also don’t be afraid to go to the nearest natural health clinic. Both are there to help you, and both are generally trustworthy. We wish you the best of health, and until next time, stay fit and healthy!