The terms alternative medicine and complementary medicine are often wrongly used as synonyms. Actually, the termalternative medicine refers to medicine systems likeAyurveda or Acupuncture that are used in place ofconventional medicine, while complementary medicine refersto those therapies like massage that are used inconjunction with conventional medicine.
However, both end up performing the same role in severalwestern countries. That is why in popular parlancealternative medicine has come to be known as complementarymedicine, giving birth to the term alternative andcomplementary medicine.
Most practitioners recognize acupuncture, osteopathy,chiropractic, Ayurveda, Homeopathy and herbal medicine asthe most important forms of alternative and complementarymedicine.
These may be the major alternative therapies but the listof alternative and complementary medicine does not endhere. The other medicinal systems that can be included inthis grouping are naturopathy, nutritional medicine,aromatherapy, massage, crystal healing and different typesof energy medicine. Barring Homeopathy, most of thealternative and complementary medicine systems evolved inancient times in countries like India, China, Egypt, Tibetand Persia.
An important aspect of alternative and complementarymedicine is that it focuses on the person as a whole. Themedicine is therefore based not only on the patient'sphysical symptoms but also on the individual's lifestyle,environment, diet, mental and emotional health; sometimeseven the spiritual health. That is why alternativemedicine is called holistic medicine.
Interestingly, alternative and complementary medicine isno longer limited to the mystic Orient. But the westernworld to is recognizing these medicinal therapies as animportant component of healing.
Countries like India and China are using their knowledgeof alternative and complementary medicine to promote whathas come to be known as medical tourism. A large number ofwesterners are flying to these Asian countries to look forholistic cures.
In the West too, a large number of women are usingaromatherapy and massage while men are turning toalternative and complementary medicine to recover fromsports injuries or back pain.
The other medical problems for which practitioners areturning to alternative and complementary medicine arechronic ailments like arthritis, cystitis, asthma orchronic fatigue. Even the World Health Organization (WHO)has recognized the value of holistic treatments. Among thediseases that WHO believes can be cured with theseapproaches are asthma, eczema, digestive disorders andheadaches.
This growing acceptance of alternative and complementarymedicine is a healthy sign for the world, because thesynergies that have been so created are helping to tacklemany incurable diseases. In the ultimate analysis, weshould not forget that alternative and complementarymedicine systems originated thousands of years ago, andhave been successful in treating millions of people acrossthe ages.