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Terminology related to complementary and alternative medicine

Overview

Any practice that seeks to achieve the curative benefits of medicine but lacks biological plausibility and is unproven, untestable, or proved ineffectual is considered alternative medicine. Among the numerous rebrandings that explain how alternative medicine is blended with conventional medicine are complementary medicine (CM), complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), integrated medicine or integrative medicine (IM), and holistic medicine. Alternative treatments all have one thing in common: they exist outside of medical science and rely on pseudoscience. When traditional techniques are employed outside of their intended contexts without sufficient scientific explanation and proof, they become “alternative.” The alternative is sometimes referred to as new-age or pseudo, with little distinction from quackery.

Some alternative methods are founded on notions that contradict scientific understanding of how the human body functions; others rely on the supernatural or superstitious to explain their effectiveness. In other cases, the procedure may be beneficial but has far too many negative effects. Alternative medicine differs from scientific medicine in that it uses the scientific method to examine viable remedies through responsible and ethical clinical studies, yielding evidence of either effect or no impact. Alternative therapy research frequently fails to follow established research methods (such as placebo-controlled trials, blind studies, and prior probability calculation), resulting in incorrect conclusions.

The placebo effect or the treated condition resolving on its account for a huge proportion of the apparent impact of alternative therapy (the natural course of the disease). This is amplified by the inclination to seek alternative remedies when conventional medicine fails, at which moment the ailment will be at its worst and most likely to improve spontaneously. In the absence of this bias, several studies have demonstrated that patients who seek alternative medicines have much poorer results, particularly for conditions that are not anticipated to improve on their own, such as cancer or HIV infection. While some people may be avoiding effective treatment, certain alternative medicines are actively damaging (such as hydrogen peroxide consumption or cyanide poisoning from amygdalin) or actively interfere with curative procedures.

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With a powerful lobby and little regulation around the use and promotion of treatments that have not been proven effective, the alternative sector is a very profitable industry. In contrast to the therapies provided by medical science, its marketing frequently promotes the treatments as being “natural” or “holistic.” With few or no fruitful outcomes, billions of dollars have been spent researching alternative medicine. Certain definitions, such as those that classify all forms of physical activity as “alternative medicine,” only classify certain successful practices as an alternative.

Terminology related to alternative medicine

In most cases, the phrases “alternative medicine,” “complementary medicine,” “integrative medicine,” “holistic medicine,” “natural medicine,” “unorthodox medicine,” “fringe medicine,” and “new age medicine” are used interchangeably and have nearly the same meaning. Over time, the terminology has changed to match practitioners’ preferred branding. For instance, the United States National Institutes of Health’s alternative medicine research division, now known as the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), was initially known as the Office of Alternative Medicine (OAM) before changing its name to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and eventually acquiring its current name. Treatments are frequently described as “natural” or “holistic,” implying tacitly and on purpose that conventional medicine is “artificial” and “limited in scope.”

Although some practitioners of alternative medicine may utilise ambiguous wording to provide the impression of effectiveness, the keyword “alternative” in the phrase “alternative medicine” does not suggest that it is a viable substitute for medical science. Loose terminology can also be used to imply a dichotomy when there isn’t one. For instance, the terms “Western medicine” and “Eastern medicine” can imply that the difference is between the cultures of the Asian east and the European west, rather than between evidence-based medicine and ineffective treatments.

Adverse effects

The term “alternative medicine” refers to a broad class of, procedures, and theories that, in the eyes of their clients, have the therapeutic benefits of medicine but whose efficacy has not been proven through scientific research, whose theory and practice are distinct from biomedicine, or whose theories or procedures are directly at odds with scientific findings or the scientific principles underlying biomedicine. The branch of medical research known as “biomedicine” or “medicine” uses scientific methods to prove the efficacy of clinical practice while applying the concepts of biology, physiology, molecular biology, biophysics, and other natural sciences. In contrast to medicine, an alternative product or practice may be founded on rumour, religion, tradition, superstition, a belief in supernatural forces, pseudoscience, logical fallacies, propaganda, fraud, or other sources that are not based on science.

 

References

1.    https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Convergence-between-Orthodox-and-Alternative-A-and-Bombardieri-Easthope/ec7d09c3dce216d9f2862bdc1717a6949afea99c

2.    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22913721/

Author

 Yash Batra

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