Alternative Medicine: Weighing the Risks

By: Evelyn Lim

Those of you who are considering alternative medicine for treatment, please ensure that you are well aware that there are certain risk areas. These areas of risks sprang from the many criticisms of alternative medicine. They range from mere sceptism that this form of medicine does not work to the more extreme warning that they are highly dangerous and can kill.

Here are 6 main criticisms and risks of alternative medicine:

1. Alternative Medicine is difficult to prove.

Some of the therapies used in alternative medicine are really difficult to prove. For instance, in the case of energy healing for the mind and spirit, proponents of alternative medicine may report increased sense of wellness after a treatment session; but really, how to really prove this result?

2. Results from testing Alternative Medicine are not “conclusive”.

Very often, skeptics say that there is no proof that alternative medicine works. Studies done so far are largely on a smaller scale and therefore, skeptics claim that results are inconclusive. This is compared to the randomized, double-blind studies on a large group basis usually done for new pharmaceutical products and surgery.

3. “Natural” does not equal “safe”.

Not many people realize that herbs are not necessarily non-toxic. They think that just because herbs are natural products, they are safe. However, this misconception is dangerous. Although natural, herbs can have very powerful effects. Take for instance, the Chinese herb Ginseng. While ginseng helps to build up immune system and helps to “warm” the body, it is not advisable to overdose on ginseng. An overdose can cause an imbalance to the body, which can result in illness.

4. Improper diagnosis by unqualified alternative medicine practitioners.

As alternative medicine is not properly regulated, there are many practitioners who are not suitably qualified or experienced enough to treat a patient. Improper diagnosis is dangerous especially if he or she is critically ill and needs the appropriate medical attention straight away.

5. Some patients of alternative medicine do not seek the right treatment until it is too late.

This has partly to do with improper diagnosis. In addition, overzealous patients of alternative medicine may postpone the decision to seek conventional medical treatment until it is too late for recovery.

6. Insufficient regulatory requirements by government bodies.

The case of nutritional supplements, which are not regulated by the US government, is often quoted as an example. As long as manufacturers do not make a claim about the ability to cure or treat a disease, nutritional supplements are considered “food products”. If these supplements are classified as food products, manufacturers do not have to prove that they are effective. What is only required is a basic safety test and a “truth in labeling” qualification – the bottle must contain what it says is in it.

This can have disastrous consequences. A prime example is Ephedra, a nutritional supplement sold as an energy booster and weight loss aid, but resulted in deaths.

Laying out the risks in this article is not meant to have the purpose of stopping you from seeking health and wellness solutions. Rather, because of the risk areas, it is to highlight to you that you have a responsibility to research and find out more about the particular alternative medicine treatment method that you are considering.

You also need to keep your doctor informed. There may be a need to adjust the dosages or timing of other medications based on any other supplements that you’re taking. Also, be aware that there is little or no regulation of the outrageous claims that can be made by practitioners of many alternative therapy methods. So, it is also important to choose a practitioner wisely.

There are benefits to alternative medicine. Although I can’t prove anything, I speak from first hand experience. Highly recommended, therefore, is to know enough of what you intend to do and weigh the risks.

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Evelyn Lim owns a health and wellness article directory site, with niche topics such as alternative medicine, weight loss, disease, fitness and nutrition. Check out Now!

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