Based on a 2007 Centers for Disease Control survey, Americans are spending around $37 billion per year on alternative medicine. As we grow more and more distrustful of the medical establishment and as many people are unable to afford regular doctor visits, we go further and further into exploring our options on the unconventional side of things. But, what exactly is alternative medicine and is it worth the money we are spending on it?
Although alternative medicine is more widely used than ever before, there still seems to be many misconceptions about what it includes. Look around on the Internet and you will find many–sometimes conflicting–definitions to this term. Basically, complementary and alternative medicines are those medicines and treatments not commonly used in the conventional medical world. You can easily see, with this definition, the many things that can be thrown into the “alternative medicine” category. And therein lies part of the problem.
Many people still think of alternative medicines as being “New Age” or bordering on the occult. With such a broad definition of alternative medicine, it is true that some New Age practices can be put in the category. But, things like home births, herbal supplements, and chiropractic care are also included and are far from anti-Christian treatments. As the authors of “Alternative Medicine: The Christian Handbook” point out, the problem lies in those practices where people using alternative treatments delve into the spiritual world rather than simply sticking with non-medical treatments for physical health.
So, why are we choosing alternative treatments and what are the benefits?
Well, first of all, many alternative medicines focus on prevention rather than treatment. If we can use supplements and preventative health care to stave off serious illness, we can potentially save ourselves a lot of money. In addition, our quality of life is largely dependent on the quality of our health. Preventing illness and pain through things like herbal supplementation and chiropractic care can significantly impact our wellness and even happiness overall.
The important thing to remember when considering any treatment, medical or alternative, is to get plenty of information. Making an informed decision about your health care is crucial in being satisfied with the results. Many alternative therapies have not been researched to the same extent as medical treatments. For this reason, it’s important to get your information from reliable resources like WebMD or the National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health.
Interestingly, but not surprisingly, one of the most popular forms of alternative medicine often used in conjunction with conventional medicine, is prayer. Studies have been done over the years about the effects on intercessory prayer and the results are mixed. However, as Christians we already know that science doesn’t always prove the obvious and that faith is often more convincing. I know, for a fact, prayer is perhaps one of the strongest medicines out there and although I will visit the doctor when necessary, I will always subscribe to this alternative medicine.
As a nation we spend billions on things outside the realm of conventional medicine to keep us healthy. Some people prefer to stay as far away from the medical establishment as possible while others choose to use alternative methods in conjunction with a doctor’s care. What kinds of alternative medicines do you use and what are your thoughts on their effectiveness?