the difference between alternative medicine and traditional medicine

Source: National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Traditional medicine is related to the healing practices taught in medical schools, applied in hospitals, and used by doctors. Traditional medicine concentrates on the symptom or condition. It relies heavily on prescription drugs, scientific studies, laboratory tests, surgeries, pharmacology, and high-tech devices. The core of traditional medicine is based on scientific research and development, on clinical trials, and on chemistry and biology.

Alternative medicine is related to any healing practices that are not taught in medical schools, not used in hospitals, and not frequently used by physicians. Alternative medicine is usually distinguished by its holistic methods and based on long-standing successful practices. The practitioner treats the person as a whole and not just the symptom or condition.

The growth of alternative therapies is directly related to the high cost of traditional health care and to the many side effects of prescription drugs. Meanwhile, alternative medicine has received great scrutiny and criticism from traditional health care providers and traditional institutions such as universities. In turn, practitioners of alternative therapies have increased transparency and employed rigorous procedures in order to respond to criticism from traditional health care providers.

Nowadays, various alternative therapies, such as acupuncture, chiropractic, massage therapy, have become widely accepted; and prospective practitioners are required to become certified and licensed specialists in these therapies. In many cases, there has been a mix of traditional and alternative treatments. For example, you may get a prescription for back pain from a traditional doctor and, at the same time, get a massage from a licensed massage therapist.

Examples of alternative medicine:
psychic healing
herbal medicine
Chinese medicine
homeopathic medicine
ayurveda (medicine of India)
massage therapy and therapeutic touch
faith healing (prayer and exercise of faith in God)
mind-body medicine (yoga, meditation, and music therapy)