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What is Alternative Medicine?

Alternative medicine is many things to many people. Much of what we know comes to us from other culture,s or from ancient healing traditions.  For example, the use of herbs is found all over the world in many cultures.  Acupuncture comes specifically from ancient China, and has been documented as being in use as early as 2697 B.C.  It is because of this rich array of techniques, modalities and medical systems that - for now - it's impossible to come up with a definition that would simply and clearly satisfy everyone.  

For the most part, many of these practices are unfamiliar to the majority of the public. They are, therefore, an "alternative" to what most Americans are using when they need health care.  The one common denominator found in all alternative healing methods is that they are founded on a holistic perspective of health.  In other words, when diagnosing and treating a person, consideration is given to the whole person including the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects of who he or she is... not just isolated parts of the person.  

Alternative medicine is also defined by what it is not. David M. Eisenberg, M.D., of Harvard Medical School, explains it as "medical interventions not taught widely at U.S. medical schools or generally available at U.S. hospitals."  The office of Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health's definition: "Complementary and alternative medicine is defined through a social process as those practices that do not form part of the dominant system for managing health and disease."

Terri Ramacus


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