Even after practicing modern scientific medicine and surgery for over 30 years I found a large number of facts about systems of medicine not quite clear to me. Hence I started digging and found a wealth of information as to how modern medicine developed and how recent it is. I am recounting my new knowledge here, which may also be useful to you.
Origin of Allopathy: Traditional medicine practiced in Europe in early 1800s was named Allopathic medicine by a German homeopathic physician , Dr Samuel Hahnemann in 1807 AD. He saw that traditional medicine included practice of bloodletting, leeching, purging, and other similar procedures. Hahnemann was distressed about such practices that was neither doing much good to patients nor had they a lot of basis. Aside from that the principle of traditiona medicine is and was diagonally opposite to his homeopathy. Allopathic means treating symptoms and Hahnemann called it so because his homeopathy system did just the opposite and treated patients by prescribing remedies, which will create in the patient the symptoms of disease by giving him very small ultra diluted ingredient to cause disease itself.
Origin of Conventional Modern Medicine: Many practitioners of Modern system does not like the name “Allopathic” because it does not give true picture of what it represents these days. Hence the allopathic system is now called Conventional, Modern, Scientific or Evidence Based Medicine. It does many more things than just treating symptoms, as it did in Hahnemann’s days two hundred years ago; it has added prevention, vaccination, use of antibiotics and employing surgery. It is the scientific basis of conventional or modern medicine that allows replicating the results in different patients with similar conditions when treated with same medicines.
Are other systems Quackery? Not really: In late 1950s when we were medical students (of today’s conventional medicine, which is still loosely referred to as allopathic medicine), if someone talked about acupuncture, yoga or manipulation of back, some of us will outright ridicule it when others would laugh at such procedures. That was because we were biased with the scientific or conventional medicine and were indoctrinated to think that only the evidence based system is correct and that every other system are quackery. This was despite the fact that until 200 years ago this conventional medicine did not even exist and most of the cultures in different countries had adopted their own systems of medicines and remedies, mostly herbal and empirical.
United Nation’s Guidelines: The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights – article 34 on The right to the highest attainable standard of health E/C.12/2000/4 of 11 August 2000 states that “Furthermore, obligations to respect include a State’s obligation to refrain from prohibiting or impeding traditional preventive care, healing practices and medicines, from marketing unsafe drugs and from applying coercive medical treatments, unless on an exceptional basis for the treatment of mental illness or the prevention and control of communicable diseases.”
What is Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM): In the last century Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) has found a place in the holistic treatment of many patients. In the USA the National Institute of Health, which is the umbrella organization for all health and medical issues, has The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) as its integral entity. The term Complementary and Alternative Medicine is generally used to describe practices used independently. When these are used in conjunction with Conventional or Modern medical system, it is called ‘Integrative’ or ‘Integrated Medicine’. It also includes preventive medicine and patient centered medicine. It may also include practices not normally referred to as medicine, such as using prayer, meditation, socializing, and recreation as therapies.
Classification of CAM: National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) classifies CAM therapies into five major groups:
1. Whole medical systems: These include Traditional Chinese medicine, Naturopathy, Homeopathy, and Ayurveda
2. Mind-body medicine: This is a holistic approach to health that explores the interconnection between the mind, body, and spirit. It works under the premise that the mind can affect bodily functions and symptoms.
3. Biology-based practices: These use substances found in nature such as herbs, foods, vitamins, and other natural substances.
4. Manipulative and body-based practices: These feature manipulation or movement of body parts, such as is done in chiropractic and osteopathic manipulation
5. Energy medicine: This is a domain that deals with verifiable energy fields like
a) Biofield therapies that influence energy fields that surround and penetrate the body.
b) Bioelectromagnetic-based therapies use verifiable electromagnetic fields.
CAM SUPPORTERS: There are many supporters of the CAM within modern medicine practitioners. They think that the Modern medicine has a space for CAM to be integrated in the treatment plan of many conditions. For example:
Cochrane Collaboration is a group of volunteers in many countries who review the effects of health care interventions tests and their biomedical randomized controlled trials.
Dr. Andrew T. Weil is a leading proponent of CAM. He even goes further and says that “integrative medicine” is not synonymous with complementary and alternative medicine. It has a far larger meaning and mission in that it calls for restoration of the focus of medicine on health and healing and emphasizes the centrality of the patient-physician relationship. He also believes that appropriate use of conventional and CAM methods allow patient participation, promotion of health as well as treatment of disease by natural, minimally-invasive methods.
CAM OPPONENTS: Those who oppose CAM, calls it to be fake or quackery. For example;
The United States’ National Science Foundation has defined alternative medicine as “all treatments that have not been proven effective using scientific methods.”
Institute of Medicine (IOM): In a consensus report released in 2005, entitled Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the United States, IOM defined CAM as the non-dominant approach to medicine in a given culture and historical period.
UK Department of Health Has also adopted a similar definition for CAM.
Wallace Sampson, an editor of “Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine” and a Stanford University professor of medicine write that CAM is the “propagation of the absurd” based on the example that alternative and complementary have been substituted for quackery, dubious and implausible and concerns that CAM tolerates contradiction without thorough reason and experiment.
Homeopathy seems to draw most negative comments on CAM. It is because the Homeopathy principles in which the ultra diluted remedy may not contain any active ingredient at all and for such remedies to have pharmacological effect would violate fundamental principles of science.
Integrative, Complementary and Fringe Medicine: Integrative Medicine is the combination of the practices and methods of alternative/complementary medicine with conventional medicine. Its academic proponents sometimes recommend misleading patients by using known placebo treatments in order to achieve a placebo effect. However, a 2010 survey of family physicians found that 56% of respondents said they had used a placebo in clinical practice as well. Eighty-five percent of respondents believed placebos can have both psychological and physical benefits. A number of universities and hospitals have departments of integrative medicine. The opponents of CAM also call the traditional Chinese medicine like acupuncture as pseudoscience. And despite of such views, the Chinese traditional medicine is still flourishing as can be viewed from in this UTube video; Hongchi Xiao Beyond 2012 UTube, Tao Medicine, traditional Chinese medicine.
However, because of such doubts, the modern homeopaths have proposed that water has a memory that allows homeopathic preparations to work without any of the original substance; however, there are neither verified observations nor scientifically plausible physical mechanisms for such a phenomenon.
My take on CAM and my comments:
- I have done a small poll of my own and found that as many as 90% of people in the poll had used CAM by itself or along with modern medicine.
- Recent study in US amongst doctors and nurses shows as much as 66% of them uses CAM.
- No one should underrate the importance and efficacy of evidence based medicine.
- Proponents of CAM are also strong and many positive results are obtained by its use.
- Infections, conditions that may benefit from surgery, for proper diagnosis and getting to the root of the condition scientific medicine must be used.
- Life style conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and life threatening conditions must be seen and diagnosed by scientific medical doctor.
- Patient may eventually choose the form of treatment method for themselves.
- CAM definitely has a place in the treatment of humans; after all many scientific medicines are the result of research of the other systems and then including the same in modern medicine.
- I wonder if water itself has some “magical” attributes, which does something that we need to understand by research to understand the benefit from the homeopathic remedies, since they all contain no active ingredient but only water or alcohol.
- It is apparent that people use CAM in all sorts of diseases from Diabetes, Heart diseases, Depression and even into cancer treatment.