What is Alternative Medicine?

Many have heard the term, “alternative medicine” before but are unclear as to the exact meaning to be gleaned from it. If you’re interested in the alternative approach to medicine, we have some basic definitions here. Read on as we cover what exactly this topic means today.

What is it?

What really is the alternative approach in medicine? Loosely defined, this approach is any that is alternative, or that is not of traditional use in the world of mainstream medicine and physicians. In other words, if you do anything that you believe will help solve your ailment or promote your health that is not what a mainstream doctor would necessarily profess, you’ve just conducted an alternative form of medicine.

Because of this loose definition and its ability to fluctuate, the world-renowned Mayo Clinic refers to such forms of medicine as a continuous “moving target.” This is because it is not uncommon for an alternative practice to find its way into or out of mainstream, traditional medicine. Some, more extreme forms of alternative practice, however, may never find acceptance in mainstream medicine.

Examples of the Alternative

Now that we’ve covered the basics of what this term means, let’s look to some real-life examples of the alternative in action. Here are just a few examples of the veritably countless forms out there. Some of these you may even recognize.

Ancient Alternative Systems

There are many ancient alternative systems out there that have actually become more popular over recent years. In yoga, health is promoted and ailments are thwarted by way of yogic exercises and meditative activities. In Reiki, energy flow is used by way of the healer to the sick in order to provide healing and comfort. Acupuncture is yet another ancient technique that uses the manipulation of the body’s pressure points in order to promote health and also manage ailments.


In naturopathy, nature is what it’s all about. Someone practicing this alternative approach is likely to treat ailments with healing herbs and other natural methods. They will avoid synthetics and lab-made pharmaceuticals whenever possible so as to foster the body’s natural responses and healing modes.

Religious, Ethereal

Yet another slice of the alternative approach comes to us by way of religious and ethereal practices. Here, the practitioner seeks to elicit the help of God, deities, or other ethereal sources of energy for the purpose of ultimate health and well-being. Basic forms of this occur commonly in churches and religious institutions daily. More involved forms may involve ceremonies, rituals, and other forms of alternative, ethereal approaches to medical treatment.

The Mix

Differing still, some practice what could be considered a sort of hybrid or mix of several alternative approaches in medicine. For example, one might practice yoga daily as a sort of preventive or health maintenance step. However, when that same person does become sick or experiences some sort of injury or ailment, they then might congregate more of their efforts into a more naturopath approach, relying on herbal remedies and natural medicine for improvement.

Alternative medical approaches have existed for as long as there has been a mainstream approach to medicine. This article represents only the basics of what this medical approach is all about. To learn more about alternative medicine, the National Center for Complimentary and Integrative Health provides some great, additional insights into the subject.

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