The 20th century has registered a veritable explosive development of alternative medicine. Defined as any health practice which takes the place of, or is not compatible with conventional medicine, alternative medicine differentiates itself from complementary medicine because it uses only nontraditional methods.
Alternative medicine features a very broad range of practices. While some of the healing therapies come from Ancient Chinese principles, like acupuncture, and the use of herbal compounds, others are based on Ayurvedic or Hindu therapies. The latter include some of the most well-known therapies, such as the practice of yoga, diet changes and cultivating the connection between mind, body, and spirit.
The emphasis on mind, body, and spirit also constitutes the landmark of holistic health, which can be both alternative and complementary. One of the popular figures of this kind of medicine is Dr. Deepak Chopra, who leans toward alternative rather than medical thinking. Despite the fact that he is a graduate of a Western medical university, his teachings are largely contested by the medical community.
Massage, chiropractic techniques and practice, meditation, spiritual healing, aromatherapy and exercise practices such as Tai Chi are some other examples of popular alternative therapies. However, there is an almost inexhaustible list of alternative practices. In fact, many people use different forms of alternative medicine, sometimes even without realizing it, for example when they take herbal supplements or vitamins without seeing the doctor first. As such, using the natural supplement Airborne when having a cold instead of consulting the doctor means that alternative medicine is practiced rather than traditional medicine. Studies have showed that over 70 percent of adults over 50 years of age use some kind of alternative therapy in order to treat illness and disease and to maintain a good health.
Although the Western medical community strongly opposes these practices, the ascension of alternative practices continues. This happens mainly because alternative practitioners often point to millenary traditions, although few clinical trials have proved their efficiency. However, given the advancement of complementary medicine there is now an entire host of medical schools where alternative methods are taught. Moreover, many physicians are now keen on learning about alternative medicine, as it offers more options in dealing with a medical condition.
More and more people now turn to alternative medicine because the traditional medicine can not provide them the means to cure when experiencing a certain condition. In fact, many Western physicians acknowledge the already established practices of alternative medicine and even recommend these therapies for patients whom they cannot help otherwise. Although a large range of physicians still remain skeptical, alternative medicine appears to many as a last resort solution.
Despite its popularity, alternative medicine is generally not covered by health insurance companies. Sometimes chiropractics may be part of a health plan, but otherwise nutritional supplements, acupuncture, yoga classes, or other alternative therapies must all be paid for by the beneficiary. However, alternative methods are increasingly popular because they pay attention not just to the physical body, but also to the spiritual, emotional and mental aspects of one's health.