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What Is the Connection Between Natural and Alternative Medicine?

The natural medicine found in willow bark was eventually turned into aspirin.
Alternative treatments, such as the ancient practice of cupping, are often considered natural and do not require exposure to chemicals or radiation found in traditional medicine.
Article Details
  • Written By: Lee Johnson
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 30 July 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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Natural and alternative medicine are linked because many alternative medical treatments make use of natural ingredients. Many different herbs and extracts are used as part of alternative medicine, and they are believed to be a better solution to many health problems than conventional Western medicine. One type of alternative medicine which includes natural ingredients is Chinese herbalism, which uses herbs to restore the natural balance within the body. General herbal medicine, homeopathy, and holistic medicine also make use of natural ingredients, and often state that the root causes of illnesses are not solely physical in nature. It is important to note that some natural medicines, such as white willow bark, have been tested by conventional medicine and adopted into treatments such as aspirin.

Many types of alternative medicine use natural ingredients as a full or partial method of treatment. This is the most basic connection between natural and alternative medicine. Alternative medicine can simply be defined as any medicine which is used as a sole treatment, which is not used in conventional medicine. This is important because this definition shows the difference between alternative medicine and complementary medicine, which is designed to work alongside other conventional medicine. Practitioners who practice alternative medicine are generally opposed to the synthetic nature of conventional medicine and prefer to use natural remedies to promote wellness.

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Holistic medicine and herbal medicine are two fields in which natural and alternative medicine are heavily linked. People working in these fields of medicine often suggest natural remedies as alternatives to conventional Western medicine. Holistic healthcare is particularly interested in treatment of more than just the physical symptoms of illnesses, and frequently uses natural remedies. Likewise, herbal medicine focuses on naturally-occurring substances which can be used to treat a variety of conditions. Traditional Chinese medicine is a big inspiration for these two fields, as well as for many people who believe in the power of natural and alternative medicine.

Homeopathy is another type of natural and alternative medicine, which dilutes natural active ingredients in large quantities of water to release their healing power. One example of a natural homeopathic treatment is allium cepa, which is made from red onion. The extracted red onion is diluted in water, usually one part active ingredient to ten parts water. This mixture is then also diluted one part active ingredient to ten parts water. This process can be repeated up to thirty times, and some medicines are even more diluted.

Conventional medical doctors are generally opposed to the use of natural and alternative medicine which hasn’t been tested and found to be successful. Most alternative medicine goes through some unbiased, placebo-controlled scientific study, and if it is found to be effective it is taken up by conventional medicine. One good example of this is white willow bark, which is the natural form of aspirin. After testing showed that it was an effective treatment, conventional medicine took it and made aspirin, a conventional and natural medical treatment. This means that any medicine still classified as alternative has not yet been proven to be effective for the condition it purports to treat, and should be used with caution.

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