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Alternative Medicine

Throughout recorded history, people of various cultures have relied on what
Western medical practitioners today call alternative medicine. The term
alternative medicine covers a broad range of healing philosophies,
approaches, and therapies. It generally describes those treatments and
health care practices that are outside mainstream Western health care.
People use these treatments and therapies in a variety of ways. Alternative
therapies used alone are often referred to as alternative; when used in
combination with other alternative therapies, or in addition to conventional
therapies they are referred to as complementary. Some therapies are far
outside the realm of accepted Western medical theory and practice, but some,
like chiropractic treatments, are now established in mainstream medicine.
Worldwide, only an estimated ten to thirty percent of human health care is
delivered by conventional, biomedically oriented practitioners (“Fields of
Practice”). The remaining seventy to ninety percent ranges from self-care
according to folk principles, to care given in an organized health care
system based on alternative therapies (“Fields of Practice”). Many cultures
have folk medicine traditions that include the use of plants and plant
products. In ancient cultures, people methodically collected information on
herbs and developed well-defined herbal pharmacopoeias. Indeed, well into
the twentieth century much of the pharmacology of scientific medicine was
derived from the herbal lore of native peoples. Many drugs commonly used
today are of herbal origin: one-quarter of the prescription drugs dispensed
by community pharmacies in the United States contain at least one active
ingredient derived from plant material (“Fields of Practice”).
Twenty years ago, few physicians would have advised patients to take folic
acid to prevent birth defects, vitamin E to promote a healthy heart, or
vitamin C to …

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