Does alternative medicine present a challenge to biomedicine?

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Does alternative medicine present a challenge to biomedicine?

Alternative medicine such as herbal remedies, Reiki, hypnosis, aromatherapy, and acupuncture are all ancient methods of medicine that have been used to heal patients for centuries. These holistic approaches to medicine are becoming increasingly popular as ways to improve the health and well being of individuals in contemporary societies, now commonly described as complementary medicine. This essay will discuss why people seek alternative or complementary medicine in favour of the conventional biomedical methods. I will then consider whether these holistic treatments challenge scientific medicine, or whether the two approaches can work along side each other. To begin with, I will describe what complementary and alternative medicine is.

        Complementary medicine is a group of therapeutic and diagnostic disciplines that focus on the individual as whole which contrasts with the biomedical model that views the body and mind as separate from each other. It exists outside the realms of biomedicine and the institutions that teach and provide healthcare based on the scientific approach. Complementary and alternative medicine has been set into groups but it is hard to define where each should go.

A report by the House of Lords Select Committee for Science and Technology (2000), divides each therapy into groups ranging from those with a recognised research base, those starting to accumulate a research base, to those with no evidence-based research. There has been an increase in the use of complementary medicine in the fields of those grouped into the researched-based category such as acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic, and osteopathy, due to a consistent and coherent epistemology. However, with the best of modern medicine available, why has this increase occurred?

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        One explanation for the increase in popularity is dissatisfaction with conventional medicine. Sharma notes that users of alternative medicine report how scientific drugs do not always work and can cause iatrogenic damage. The biomedical approach focuses on treating and curing the symptoms rather than preventing the cause. This is in contrast to complementary medicine that considers other factors to identify the cause such as lifestyle, environment, diet, and mental health alongside physical symptoms. Emphasis placed on sophisticated technology, pharmaceutical drugs, and surgery often has harmful side effects.

Studies have shown that significant numbers of adults in Britain and other ...

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