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Alternative Medicine

Naturopathy, Lifestyle Changes, Relaxation, Chiropractic Medicine, Acupuncture, Homeopathy

National Institutes of Health classifies alternative medicine as an unrelated group of non-orthodox therapeutic practices, often with explanatory systems that do not follow conventional biomedical explanations or more seriously, based on pseudoscience. Others more generally define it as medical interventions not taught at United States medical schools or not available at United States hospitals.

Alternative therapies include, but are not limited to the following disciplines: folk medicine, herbal medicine, diet fads, homeopathy, faith healing, new age healing, chiropractic, acupuncture, naturopathy, massage, and music therapy. Studies suggest these therapies are sought out by individuals who suffer a variety of medical problems. In general, alternative medical practice that fits three criteria: it is not taught in the standard medical school curriculum; there is not sufficient scientific evidence that the treatment is safe and effective against a specific disease; and insurance companies do not reimburse the patient for its cost.

Such a definition could include nearly all unproven but ineffective practices that offer little in benefit but draw billions of health care dollars from desperate patients. The use of laetrile (a derivative of apricot pits) to treat cancer and chelation therapy to remove cholesterol deposits from severely affected arteries are cases in point. Both are highly touted by their practitioners, both have been tested under rigid scientific research standards, and both have been found ineffective and useless. The primary harm of such treatments lies in the fact that patients who utilize them often do not seek more effective, mainstream medical care.

The first known example of alternative medicine in the United States was the introduction and patenting in 1797 of a "mechanical tractor" to pull bad electricity, alleged to be the source of all illnesses, from the body. A chief justice of the Supreme Court, several members of Congress, and the retired president, George Washington, all used this device.

Although some alternative medical practices are clearly ineffective and sometimes dangerous, others have achieved a degree of acceptability in the eyes of organized medicine. Among these are naturopathy, yoga, biofeedback, hypnotism, acupuncture, chiropractic medicine, homeopathy, and relaxation techniques.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Adrenoceptor (adrenoreceptor; adrenergic receptor) to Ambient