Alternate, Complementary, Traditional, Allopathic, Integrative, Natural or Western by Murray Barton

Just what is meant by the terms traditional, natural, complementary, wholistic, alternate or even integrative medicine?

Put simply, they are just labels for any form of treatment that falls outside the sphere of allopathic or ‘modern’ medicine, and they are usually the forms of medicine sought by people that can’t find relief or answers within the modern view of medicine.

In some cases, it’s probably fair to say that they are the last port of call for people that have been left behind by modern medicine, the people that refuse to accept that they have been given the best that’s on offer and can be given no more. In other cases, they are the treatments sought by people that want to explore other strategies rather than face a lifetime of pain or drug therapy.

Is one form of medicine better than the other?  A modern practitioner will be the first to tell you, very firmly, no.

Where do these forms of medicine sit within modern medicine?

Let’s use acupuncture as an example. Today’s practitioners have a vast wealth of knowledge to utilise that is part of a medical legacy with a long and continuous history and a developmental timeline just as long. Research and updated theory is ongoing and incredibly diverse and modern research aims to understand the biochemical modes of action of acupuncture and it’s associated treatment methods.

A modern practitioner is taught to understand medicine, disease and injury from both a Western and a traditional view, this allows them the unique ability to look at disease and injury from a modern biological view and also to look beyond that viewpoint at any underlying causes and issues. It provides the practitioner with the knowledge to see each individual condition from an individual perspective – for example, no two headaches are the same, there are multiple causes and factors, the treatment should address those individual factors and would rarely be an identical treatment for every single case.

Modern medicine is beginning to embrace some traditional therapies as they become more proven and provide clinically viable and safe options at treating certain conditions.

Some treatment techniques have an alternate westernised version and are practiced by physiotherapists, doctors, chiropractors and other modern therapies, whilst the base theory may appear to differ in terms of ideology or theory, essentially the underlying goal and outcomes are identical.

Similarly with modern drugs, most if not all, have a natural beginning, the science is there to extract the exact chemical compound required to produce a drug in viable quantities. Chinese herbalist Youyou Tu was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2015 for isolating Artemisin, used to treat malaria from sweet wormwood, itself a traditional treatment for fever throughout rural China.

Methyl salicylate, that unique smell in sports liniments which makes them warming and therapeutic is available in natural form in many traditional liniments, and has been for a long time, it is simply a compound in wintergreen oil.

Sometimes the things we need have been around a very long time.

Ultimately the only thing that matters is you, your health is the only concern we have. A modern practitioner will always advise you on your choices, conversely they will admit if another option is a better fit for your condition, that is responsible medicine and that is why all forms of medicine should co-exist.

It’s about you, not us.

Debbie Webber

Debbie Webber is the pioneer of award winning wellness centre, Zen Chi Therapies and each month one of her team members will write about the modality they specialise in at Zen Chi.

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