Of all the things that divide us as a human race, one that always seems to take a particularly militant turn is medicine. Particularly the alternative forms of medicine. There are those who point out that alternative treatments have existed for years. The ones that worked, they say, were adopted far and wide and became “medicine”.
But that’s not the whole story. Let’s be clear about this – alternative treatments are not the answer to everything. Sometimes you’ll need to go and see your doctor. But let’s run through some of the good and bad about alternative medicine before throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
Pro: Alternative Treatments Are Low On Side Effects
Let’s take stomach cramps, resultant fatigue and digestive discomfort as an example. You could go to your doctor and get some antacid tablets. They’ll probably work, but they have something of a carpet-bomb effect. Your cramps will be cured, yes. But you may find you feel bloated and sluggish afterwards. By drinking peppermint tea, you can quiet the cramps and smooth your digestion.
Con: It’s Unregulated, So You Don’t Always Know What You’ll Get
In theory, if you take a medication prescribed by a doctor, it has passed any number of trials and been proven to work. If you instead plump for an alternative herbal treatment, you’re taking the manufacturer’s word for it. It might work, it might not. For a minor issue, that’s fine. For anything more serious, maybe not so much.
Pro: You Can Practice Alternative Medicine Yourself
It is hugely unwise to take on conventional medical treatment without first consulting with a doctor. And if you are going to have continuing treatment, it should always be overseen by a professional. But if you’re suffering from stress, some alternative treatments can be administered in the home. Meditation, Shiatsu chairs, and aromatherapy can have beneficial effects for anxiety.
Con: Some Of It Has No Proven Benefit
As noted before, some people would argue that the moment something is proven to work, it stops being “alternative”. This is not quite accurate. For example, herbal treatments are still seen as alternative despite in many cases having proven benefits. However, treatments such as homeopathy have been shown to have no more effect than doing nothing. You’re basically paying a lot of money for glorified water.
Pro: Alternative Treatments Fit Into Your Life Easily
Much of alternative medicine works on the basis that you change something simple. You amend your diet or change the way you relax. You don’t need to go to clinics, just walk down a different aisle in the supermarket. Maybe you do a bit of yoga instead of working out. They’re simple changes.
Con: They Only Work Up To A Point
More and more stories are arising about people who decide to dispense with medical advice when seriously ill. Almost invariably, these stories have tragic endings. Alternative medicine can make it easier to live with treatment for cancer, for example. But it cannot make that cancer go away. Sometimes, you do need to see your doctor. Good medicine is holistic – and that means taking the alternative with the conventional sometimes. It’s not a direct replacement.
On balance, it’s no bad thing to take a different angle sometimes on problems that affect us all. But remember that, like anything else, alternative medicine has limitations. As long as you take a realist’s approach, it can do a lot for you.