Alternative Medicine

September 6, 2013 • Volume 23, Issue 31
Are “unconventional” therapies becoming accepted?
By Beth Baker

Introduction

Chiropractor Roxanne Hollander adjusts a patient's back (Getty Images/The Christian Science Monitor/Ann Hermes)
Chiropractor Roxanne Hollander adjusts a patient's back in Pittsboro, N.C. Some proponents of alternative medicine therapies, such as chiropractic, herbal products, acupuncture and meditation, say that integrating such approaches into conventional medicine is the best way to provide patient-centered care. (Getty Images/The Christian Science Monitor/Ann Hermes)

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), ranging from herbal products to chiropractic and acupuncture, continues to grow in popularity. Nearly 40 percent of American adults use alternative therapies, spending some $34 billion annually. Nevertheless, critics cite thousands of studies that question the effectiveness of many of these treatments. In addition, they argue that the safety and quality of herbal products and other supplements can be ensured only if they are subjected to the same rigorous regulation as prescription drugs. But proponents counter that many studies have shown promising practices, especially meditation and other mind-body interventions that reduce stress. Integrating such approaches into conventional medicine, they say, is the best way to provide patient-centered care. Proponents also say the rise of alternative medicine in medical school curricula, hospitals and health care systems suggests that what was once called “unconventional” is here to stay.

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