Alternative medicine consists of a wide variety of practices, products, and therapies – ranging from those that are biologically plausible but not well tested, to those with known harmful and toxic effects.
Contrary to popular belief, significant expense is paid to test alternative medicine, including over US.5 billion spent by the United States government.
Alternative medicine or fringe medicine consists of practices claimed to have the healing effects of medicine but which are disproven, unproven, impossible to prove, or are excessively harmful in relation to their effect; and where the scientific consensus is that the therapy does not, or cannot, work because the known laws of nature are violated by its basic claims; or where it is considered so much worse than conventional treatment that it would be unethical to offer as treatment.
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Alternative medical diagnoses and treatments are not taught as part of science-based curricula in medical schools, and are not used in any practice where treatment is based on scientific knowledge or proven experience.
Alternative therapies are often based on religion, tradition, superstition, belief in supernatural energies, pseudoscience, errors in reasoning, propaganda, fraud, or lies.
Alternative treatments are not the same as experimental medicine or traditional medicine, although much of the latter is alternative when used today.
Alternative medicine has grown in popularity and is used by a significant percentage of the population in many countries.
Providers of CAM tend to build better therapeutic relationships than mainstream healthcare professionals.
In turn, this implies that much of the popularity of CAM is a poignant criticism of the failure of mainstream healthcare.
We should consider it seriously with a view of improving our service to patients.
Authors have speculated on the socio-cultural and psychological reasons for the appeal of alternative medicines among the minority using them in lieu of conventional medicine.
There are several socio-cultural reasons for the interest in these treatments centered on the low level of scientific literacy among the public at large and a concomitant increase in antiscientific attitudes and new age mysticism.
There is also an increase in conspiracy theories toward conventional medicine and pharmaceutical companies, mistrust of traditional authority figures, such as the physician, and a dislike of the current delivery methods of scientific biomedicine, all of which have led patients to seek out alternative medicine to treat a variety of ailments.
Practitioners of complementary medicine usually discuss and advise patients as to available alternative therapies.