Clarifying terms in alternative and complementary medicine

What is Medicine?

Medicine can simply be defined as a practice to treat health conditions using diagnostic and therapeutic treatments (such as synthetic drugs or surgeries) that have gone through evidence based testing and proved its scientific effectiveness.


So then, what is Alternative Medicine?

Any health-related treatment that is not considered ‘conventional medicine’ is labeled as ‘alternative’. It includes a variety of ancient, age-old treatments that have been practiced for centuries, and new innovative therapies created in the last few years.

Generally, alternative practices tend to use more naturalistic ingredients, are less invasive and tend to be more cost-effective than conventional medicine. 

Where does Complementary medicine fit in all this?

Complementary alternative medicine (CAM) is when alternative practices are used in combination with western medicine.

E.g. Using certain herbs while still participating in chemotherapy to alleviate cancer symptoms. 

There is also Integrative medicine?

As defined by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health, integrative medicine “combines mainstream medical therapies and CAM therapies for which there is some high-quality scientific evidence of safety and effectiveness.”

Integrative medicine uses a holistic approach when diagnosing a patient taking into account not just the physical aspect of their disease, but also emotional, psychological and spiritual. 

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