The Long Debate
Natural Health, Holistic Medicine, Traditional Medicine, and the wide range of “Alternative and Complementary” forms of Medicine (CAM), has been under a long debate in the United States since the early 1900s due to the Flexner Report.
The Flexner Report, which was based on the limited scientific tools and understanding of the time, concluded that pills, vaccines, surgery and other allopathic forms of medicine were the best, and only, course of action. Shortly after the report, medical schools that offered training in anything CAM, lost their accreditation and lost underwriting support, as CAM was considered the biggest competition of allopathic medicine. According to many, this single report contributed to the major decrease, and misconceptions of natural forms of medicine for years within the United States, as most schools teaching CAM closed as well as restricting laws were instated. (you can read more in depth about this time in the article linked in the Additional Resources section, “Down the Rabbit Hole: The Rise of Western Medicine”.)
Mostly due to this, many people began viewing CAM as a “last resort” form of therapy after they had tried all the allopathic routes, though, over the last 20-30 years or so, we have been seeing a change in this perception.
Perception and Mindset Changing
While many people still rely solely on allopathic forms of medicine, each day, more and more people are seeking out Natural and Holistic forms of Health, and starting to view it more so as the first step in an attempt to resolve the issues in their everyday lives, or in conjunction with other aspects more accepted by Western Allopathic Medicine.
In many other parts of the world both allopathic and natural medicine have been able to work side-by-side successfully. For example, in a study by the Swiss Government, they found that Homeopathic medicine was highly effective and cost-effective and hence pay for it through their public health insurance program. Also, according to this news report, approximately half of the population in Switzerland utilizes and values the benefits of the wide-ranging forms contained within the Complementary and Alternative Medicine spectrum. We see that this is a very common mindset in most places around the world.
This or That Misconception
During the debate over Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the United States, many people were led to believe that you could only do one or the other, and not both at the same time. While in some cases this is somewhat true, natural and holistic forms of medicine seek to extend and work in conjunction with, not replace, allopathic medicine. It is vital, when utilizing the gifts of both systems, that you talk openly with all your practitioners on what you are doing, and what outcomes you are working towards, especially seeing that many allopathic medications should not be combined with some herbs, remedies, or therapies.
What does Complementary and Alternative Medicine include?
According to the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, most Complementary and Alternative forms of Medicine (CAM), have common characteristics, including the focus on individualizing the treatments or protocol for the specific person, treating the person as a whole, promoting self-care and self-healing, and recognizing the spiritual nature of each individual. Some areas of CAM sometimes overlap with allopathic medicine, such as the focus on good nutrition (which in our modern culture, is always changing) and preventive practices.
For a very long time, Complementary and Alternative Medicine was disregarded due to the lack of understanding and tools within the modern science of the time, though this is changing. Many accepted studies and reports have been coming out over the years showing how beneficial many holistic therapy systems are for the entire overall well-being of the individual, as well as modern science is now gaining the tools that are showing the benefits of CAM therapies that have been known through empirical evidence for thousands of years.
Currently, major universities in the United States are even studying the benefits of the basis of many holistic therapies, including Color, Light, Sound and more! The Industry dubbed as “Big Pharma” also has put considerable resources to develop medications based on herbal remedies and various other natural substances. Some of these include medications were derived from research into things like Red Yeast Rice, Cordyceps as well as many others.
While there is a small amount of evidence, mostly consisting of small clinical trials, this does not mean that CAM therapies are beneficial, nor does it discount that they are not beneficial. Additionally, there is a vast amount of empirical research which helps to show the great benefits of CAM. As always, use your common sense, and listen to your body.
Complementary and Alternative Medicine has a History of 5,000+ years in the making
One of the misconceptions that came over the last hundred years or so was that Complementary and Alternative Medicine therapies (CAM), do not have a long history of success, or are new. While yes, a handful of therapy systems that fall within CAM are technically newer (less than 100 years old), much of Natural and Holistic Medicine stems from over 5,000 years of research and study starting with Ayurveda Medicine (over 5,000 years old), which is still widely practiced to this day all over India, and includes massage, Yoga, Herbal Medicines, Surgery and more. Additionally, Oriental Medicine has been around for about the same time. Most CAM therapies have either roots in, or contain similar information to either Ayurveda or Oriental Medicine or both!
- Montague, Tigger. “Down the Rabbit Hole: The Rise of Western Medicine“. BioStar Whole Food Supplements, 24 Sept. 2016, https://www.biostarus.com/blogs/formulators-corner/down-the-rabbit-hole-the-rise-of-western-medicine-in-the-us .