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Rise of Complementary & Alternate Medicines


We are living in the second decade of the new millennia. Ever since the 90s, many changes have swept through the human civilization, changing the face of humanity far beyond anything that happened in the past.But with the change in lifestyle and our environment, the health problems faced by human beings are becoming varied and difficult to cope with. With the shifting needs and advancement in the medical science, the complementary and alternate medicines (CAM) have also evolved.

What is CAM?

CAM is the spectrum of all practices in medicine, which are not part of the conventional medical industry. To truly understand CAM one must separate the fact from fiction, the mystic quality of an art from its true effects on one’s body. Hence, it is categorized into mainly four categories:

  1. Whole Medical Systems
    These systems are fully formed and/or were practiced before the conventional medicine of this era. Homeopathy is an example of a whole medical system, which came from the West. Traditional Chinese medicine system and Ayurveda (Indian origin) are both examples of whole medical systems.
  2. Mind-Body Medicine
    This category includespractices, which use mind-body stimulation to achieve the desired effects. Group therapy sessions, initially considered CAM, have now been included into the conventional type. Other types of CAM include meditation, prayer, mental healing, and therapies that use creative outlets such as art, music, or dance.
  3. Biology Based Practices
    Practices that use natural substances such as herbs, foods, or vitamins fall into this category. Dietary supplements, herbal products and other scientifically unproven therapies are included. It is among the most commercially successful branches of alternative medicine, and includes the tablets, powders and elixirs that are sold as nutritional supplements.
  4. Manipulative and Body-Based Practices
    These practices revolve around putting controlled force on a joint, to force the body into effective position and aid in restoring health. Chiropractic massage-medicine and Osteopathic practice fall into this category. It is combined with physical therapy and instruction in proper posture, and massage.
  1. Energy Medicine
    This type of practice is unusual but in some cases effective. In energy medicine, the practitioner manipulatesthe energy field around the body to restore health. Practices such as Reiki manipulate the energy in a body to get rid of the negative energy, which brings in negative effects.

Why is there a rise in CAM over the last two decades?

Many factors come together to finally throw light on the elusive nature of CAM, they have been in function in different forms all throughout the human existence. The following points discuss the opinions of leading representatives in the field of medicine.

  1. Criticism of Mainstream Medicine
    The giants of medicine industry is far from being out of business but it is true that certain cases were brought to public knowledge where the big pharmaceutical companies had tried to suppress better cures in the name of capitalism.
  2. Shift of Consumers to CAM in Western Nations
    Some of the developed nations includingAustralia and the United States of America show a great number of individuals who prefer alternative medicines. With the rise of Internet and lack of efficiency of conventional medicines(according to some sources), people have been led time and again to other methods. In the east, CAM has always been a cheaper and at times efficient healing option for the people.
  1. Certain CAMs are Related to the Principles of Vitalism
    According to some sources,Vitalism says all life is sustained by a vital force that is both different from and superior than physical and chemical forces. With the rise of general curiosity in the post-modernist time, people have turned to natural alternatives/ practices to grow mentally, physically and spiritually. Also, there are theories that many turn to CAM practices simply to be more in touch with nature.
  2. CAMs are the Postmodernist Version of Home or Folk Remedies
    Much of what comes under the spectrum of CAM has been known in bits and parts all throughout the world. These include certain hereditary tricks and tweaks, which make the human existence simpler since a long time. People are turning back to home remedies instead of searching for expensive and at times unreliable conventional sources.
  3. Consumers in Developing Countries Prefer Alternate Cures
    This happens especially in poorer countries, where people cannot afford the high cost of conventional medicines.
  4. AnEnhanced Cure
    Ageing population, emphasis on chronic illness and lifestyle related morbidity have shifted the people to CAM as in these cases CAM appears to have more to offer.
  5. Postmodernist Thesis
    The thesis states that due to the anti-establishment thinking of today, more and more people are turning to alternative methods, which were suppressed initially for capitalist reasons.