First of all, let’s get some terminology straight. It can add to the confusion if you don’t know what your practitioner is talking about.
Conventional or traditional Western medicine is what most of us grew up with: if you get sick, feel a lump or have an accident, you go to the doctor. The physician treats that particular problem — usually through prescription drugs or surgery — and you go home.
This has been a remarkably successful system that has rid the world of diseases and infections that were the scourge of our ancestors. Up until recently, however, little attention was paid to prevention. Preventative medicine is now a buzzword with the insurance companies, meaning eat less, exercise more and take an aspirin or other “safe” drug every day.
Scientific advances like the mapping of DNA may change this approach in the future, but for the most part traditional doctors are rigorously trained to address trauma or disease, not the complexities of how the patient got that way.
Alternative, natural, and holistic medicine is widely used terms for a variety of healing therapies, some of them ancient. Generally speaking, its practitioners look at the “whole” person — mind, body and spirit — to identify underlying imbalances that cause disease. They believe in the body’s own vital energy and its natural restorative powers; most alternative therapies are meant to be preventative.
Treatment occurs in the least invasive, most natural way to foster a well-balanced, well-nourished body that will resist disease, fight infection, heal faster, age gracefully and rarely if ever need more radical intervention.
When alternative medicine is used as part of a conventional treatment protocol for a medical condition, the combination is called complementary medicine. Many leading hospitals now offer what they term complementary and alternative medicine. But both camps felt the term implied there was something missing on one side or the other, so it is falling out of favor.