Western Medicine, it has dominated America’s culture for many years. Western Medicine has some flaws as a result, many Americans are turning to alternative medicine. “Health food stores, other alternative medicine outlets, and offbeat practitioners are doing a thriving business these days with so-called remedies” (“A Professional . . . ” 4). These so-called remedies have become quite popular with the American public. A 1997 survey showed 42 percent of Americans utilized alternative medicine. That is a large percentage, considering the fact that alternative medicine uses “hands-on treatments that seem more like witchcraft than medicine” (“A Professional . . . ” 4). Witchcraft or not, alternative medicine has a great deal of potential. In fact, alternative medicine is the key to a healthy body.
Despite it’s growing popularity, some people may not know what alternative medicine is. It ought to be defined, in order to eliminate all ambiguity. Alternative medicine is any medical practice that is not used by conventional doctors or taught in mainstream medical institutions (Dillard 10). The category of alternative medicine covers a wide variety of methods. Acupuncture, Yoga, Homeopathy, and Macrobiotics are just a few of the practices that fall under the category of alternative medicine. Basically the only thing that these methods have in common is the fact that mainstream medicine rejects them.
The popularity of alternative medicine leads to one question. Why are people turning to alternative methods? There are a number of reasons. Maybe conventional medicine is not solving a patient’s problem. Some people may feel uncomfortable taking drugs to cure every ache and pain. Friends or family members often refer people to alternative medicine. Prescription drugs are unaffordable for the uninsured, and people don’t want ailments to persist untreated. HMOs and Managed Care are driving people away from conventional medicine. A six minute doctor’s visit is hardly worth the money spent. Some “incurable” diseases or chronic ailments can be treated with alternative medicine (Dillard 3). These reasons are more than enough motivation to send more and more people in search of an alternative choice, thus alternative medicine.
There are hundreds of techniques that fall under the category of alternative medicine. It would take a one-thousand page book to name all of them. Therefore, only a few of the more popular techniques of alternative medicine will be discussed. One of the more popular methods is homeopathy. Homeopathy, a practice founded by Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, was brought to the United States in 1825. Several doctors, who were educated in Europe, brought the practice to America. It became widely used until medicine began to change. Eventually homeopathy became a relic of the past, and entered under the category of alternative medicine (“National Center . . . ” 1)
Homeopathy is a system that attempts to stimulate the body to heal itself. Instead of trying to control the illness or suppress the symptoms, as in conventional medicine, homeopathy aims to cure the ailment. Homeopathy attempts to move the body in the direction that it is already going, and in the process allowing the body to heal itself (8). By diluting the active ingredients by 30X to 200X, the substances ingested are thought to boost the body’s immune system, causing the body to heal itself. What 30X means is 1/10 multiplied by itself 30 times. 200X means 1/100 multiplied by itself 200 times.
These substances are greatly diluted, but homeopathy is thought to trigger the desired response in the body, thus curing the ailment (Mc Graw 51). Symptoms of sickness are the body’s attempts to heal itself. Homeopathic remedies accelerate the symptoms through ingestion of the diluted substance, thus ending in a cure (“National Center . . . ” 8).
Critics argue that Homeopathy is merely a placebo. Studies prove that homeopathy is not a result of a “placebo affect.” A double-blind study was done in 1989. It compared a homeopathic remedy, Toxicodendron to a placebo. The homeopathic remedy was 25% more effective than the placebo (Fisher 365). In 1986, a double-blind study was done on 144 victims of hay fever. The study concluded that the homeopathic remedy was far more effective than the placebo (Reilly 883).
These are only a few of the studies that invalidate the placebo affect. More recent studies have found homeopathic remedies to be more effective than conventional treatments. A study was done on the treatment of pain associated with Osteoarthritis. The double-blind study used 65 subjects. One group was given acetaminophen to treat pain, while the other group was given a homeopathic remedy. Fifty-five percent of the homeopathic group experienced relief, as compared to the 38% who were relieved by acetaminophen (Shealy 89). Another study was done on 199 subjects with various types of vertigo.
Half of the subjects were treated with a European drug, while the other half were treated with a combination of homeopathic remedies. The treatments were equally effective, but the homeopathic treatment was far safer than the conventional drug (Weiser 884)