alternative medicine

(redirected from Alternative health)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical.
Related to Alternative health: alternative medicine

alternative medicine

alternative medicine, the treatment and prevention of disease by techniques that are regarded by modern Western medicine as scientifically unproved or unorthodox. The term alternative medicine can encompass a wide range of therapies, including chiropractic, homeopathy, naturopathy, acupuncture, herbal medicine, meditation, biofeedback, massage therapy, and various “new age” therapies such as guided imagery and naturopathy. Although many alternative therapies have long been widely employed in the treatment of disease, the scientifically oriented modern medical establishment has typically been skeptical about, and sometimes strongly opposed to, their use. Despite this, Americans spend billions of dollars on alternative treatments each year. In 1993 the U.S. National Institutes of Health established the Office of Alternative Medicine to examine the merits of such techniques. See also holistic medicine.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

alternative medicine

therapeutic practices based on understandings of the human organism, the disease process and its treatment, which are different to those held by Western scientific medicine. Conceptualizing alternative medicine thus always implies some under standing of the principle features of orthodox 'S cientific’ treatment. These are usually held to be:
  1. a mechanical/materialistic understanding of the body and of disease;
  2. a doctrine of ‘specific etiology’, i.e. that all disease is caused by specific material pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, defective genes, etc;
  3. a vigorous interventionist therapeutic stance using surgery or chemical drugs to correct, oppose or reverse the disease process;
  4. patient passivity and compliance with the regimen dictated by an expert profession.

Proceeding in this way towards a ‘negative’ definition of alternative medicine, however, has its dangers as it suggests a unity within both fields which is in fact absent. If regular medicine is materialistic, therapeutically aggressive, etc. (and it sometimes, but not always, is), then it is too easy to assume that all alternative approaches subscribe to opposite principles: viz: a holistic understanding of the body and disease, involving an indissoluble unity of mind and body; a 'S ympathetic’ therapeutic stance, aimed at enhancing the body's own healing processes; a cooperative relationship between therapist and patient; and an active role for the patient in regaining health. While some systems of alternative medicine do exhibit these features (for example, homeopathy), others (such as chiropractic) do not.

Sociological work on alternative medicine is a recent development, and has tended to focus on four main areas:

  1. rather than accepting therapeutic principles at ‘face value’, interest has been shown in the social processes underlying the negotiation of the legitimacy of therapeutic principles, and of medical knowledge in general (thus the regular/alternative boundary is not fixed only by epistemological criteria, but is also historically fluid, and contingent on issues of professional power);
  2. issues of organization and professionalization;
  3. the resurgence of popular (and regular medical) interest in alternative medicine (involving a complex of reasons, all related in some way to a recognition of the damaging effects of science and technology – it is no accident that interest in green politics and green medicine have emerged more or less together);
  4. the increasing interaction between regular and alternative practitioners, and the incorporation of alternative therapy into regular practice (processes which have led to the use of the term ‘complementary therapy’ rather than ‘alternative therapy’).
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
References in periodicals archive ?
Generation Health was founded 7 years ago as an alternative health website and newsletter to provide natural, organic and alternative options to health conscious consumers.
GPs have named and shamed the 10 alternative health trends used by celebrities that they believe are a waste of money and have no medical value.
We, as alternative health care providers are definitely ahead of the curve in the prevention as well as treatment of most of the maladies that afflict mankind.
AquaArt to showcase health benefits of 'doctor fish' at 'Aquariya Expo 2009' Company to highlight alternative health and beauty treatments using the unique aquatic specie to spas and hotels in the UAEAquaArt, a Qatar-based distributor of top aquarium brands and exotic aquatic fish and plants, has revealed its plans to showcase the health benefits of 'Garra Rufa' - more popularly known as 'doctor fish' - at the upcoming 'Aquariya Expo 2009', the premier ornamental aquatic event and the largest consumer event for the marine aquarium industry in the Middle East.
Essays cover alternative health processes and therapies and provide both history and outlines of treatments, making this an outstanding choice for any new age or health collection.
He was finding it difficult to sleep at night and Jaqui took him to an alternative health professional.
The new service represents the first formalized key account data available for the alternative health channel, and will enable Pharmaca to work more effectively with vendors and business partners, according to SPINS.
Smith has compiled more than 300 entries on more than 135 alternative health subjects, providing both students of alternative medicine and non-specialist general readers with an interest in supplements and alternatives to what traditional medicine has to offer them with respect to basic health concepts.
Alternative health practitioner Prashant Kakoday will be guest for the day and will share his spiritual insight.
He cites astrology, alternative health remedies and other New Age theories as the main culprits in a "pick and mix of knowledge and nonsense".
In print, publishers have long found a ready audience for alternative health publications.

Full browser ?