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For the last month or so I have been asked to write about topics that generally fall into the category of alternative medicine. I find it interesting that it seems like alternative medicine has become a catch-all phrase for medicines that used to be considered medicine before the invention of antibiotics in the late 1800’s and early 1900s.
I thought I would look up the definition from three reputable source to see of there was a consistent definition of alternative medicine.
I started with the American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition to define alternative medicine as a variety of therapeutic or preventive health care practices, such as homeopathy, naturopathy, chiropractic, and herbal medicine, that do not follow generally accepted medical methods and may not have a scientific explanation for their effectiveness.
As a naturopathic doctor I didn’t think this definition was accurate enough since many of the naturopathic practices that taught during my four years at an accredited naturopathic medical school do have scientific explanations.
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) has a more complicated but concrete definition of alternative medicine.
The definition from the NCCAM's first comment is that complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is difficult to define because it is very broad and changeable. This is the premise we started this blog with as well.
NCCAM defines alternative medicine as practices and health care systems that are not considered part of conventional medicine or western medicine. It defines conventional medicine, which is sometimes called allopathic medicine, as medicine generally practiced by medical doctors (M.D.) and osteopathic doctors (D.O.).
It also includes registered nurses, physical therapists, psychologist and other allied health professionals under the conventional medicine umbrella as well. NCCAM also defines complementary medicine and alternative medicine differently.
Complementary medicine is any medicine that is practiced along with conventional medicine.