Advances in medical science have doubled life expectancy in the last century. In recent years, however, there has been a growing trend among Americans to distrust the pharmaceutical industry. Some people who refrain from vaccines go so far to argue that the pharmaceutical industry seeks to maximize profit rather than public health. In light of this reasoning, more and more people are reverting to alternative and complementary medicine (ACM) or “holistic” medicine to treat their health conditions.
Holistic medicine uses a wide range of therapies, such as acupuncture and homeopathy, to treat various illnesses. In particular, holistic medicine seeks to treat the “mind, body and soul.” Holistic medicine argues that all illnesses, from cancer to the occasional migraine, are the result of an imbalance between these domains. In an effort to restore this balance, holistic medicine champions meditation over medication.
It is important to mark the distinction between alternative medicines versus complimentary medicines. Complimentary medicine is any therapy that is integrated into a medically prescribed treatment. Alternative medicine abandons medical treatment in substitute of its own remedies.
There are a variety of reasons why many people choose holistic medicine over traditional medicine. As referenced earlier, on the extreme end are those who argue that the pharmaceutical industry seeks to maximize public illness rather than health in order to gain a profit. The problem with this reasoning is that the same reasoning can be applied to holistic medicine. It could be argued that the holistic medicine markets false hopes and feeds on the gullibility of the terminally ill. In order to determine who the charlatan is, we must appeal to the scientific, peer review process.
The problem is that ACMs lack any sort of peer review study. For example, a patient will claim that they took an herbal remedy, got better; therefore, the herbal remedy works. The problem with this reasoning is that it is much more likely that the malady in question would have gotten better anyways, like a bacterial infection or cold. Sometimes the remedy is due to the placebo effect. And occasionally, the product actually does positively contribute to the patient’s health. Nevertheless, it is precisely because of these conflicting possibilities that scientific study, rather than individual hearsay, is most needed. If AMCs worked, then they would simply be dubbed as medicine.
So why are so many people attracted to holistic medicine? A part from conspiracy theorists, holistic medicine is much more patient centered than the medical industry. In particular, the philosophy behind holistic medicine—that all illness can be cured through proper meditation—gives the patient a sense of control. All one need to do is find the proper balance the mind, body and soul. Unfortunately, this reasoning can be dangerous. Many patients gain a false sense of hope and are unable to cope with the reality of their illness.
Natural remedies do have their place in science. A diet consisting of nuts, fruits and vegetables can extend human longevity. In addition, medicine has its own term for finding a balance between the mind, body and soul. Doctors calls this “moderation.” In short: If one really wants to keep the doctor away, one would be best advised to listen to the health advice of an actual doctor.
By Nathan Cranford