Alternative Medicine vs Conventional Medicine: An Overview of Pros & Cons

There are over 100 different practices considered alternative medicine today. You’ve probably heard of some of these like acupuncture, yoga, and aromatherapy. Other forms of alternative medicine may not be so familiar, including havening, Kampo, and visualization.

Alternative medicine is still somewhat obscure. After all, it’s been buried under the huge debate about alternative medicine vs. conventional medicine for years. These days, though, traditional medical practitioners are coming around to alternative medicine. 

As a layman, you may not know the ins and outs of this age-old debate. That’s why we’re here to guide you through it. Once you’re finished with this article, you’ll know the pros and cons of conventional and alternative medicine.

Want to know why health and wellness consumers and practitioners alike are advocating for alternative medicine? Keep reading for the answer to that question and more. 

From “Alternative” to Integrative Medicine

Only a few years ago, anyone who supported the use of alternative medicine was a hippy. Or worse, a crackpot conspiracy theorist.

Non-supporters claimed alternative medicine didn’t work. They cited a total lack of scientific research and real evidence for any purported benefits. 

Yet, today, physicians and scientists alike are warming up to alternative medicine. So much so, in fact, that they’re starting to call alternative medicine by a new name: integrative medicine. 

There’s no better way to see how far integrative medicine has come than when looking at the University of Arizona. As far back as the 1990s, the university offered an integrative medicine degree.

Legitimate, at last, integrative medicine has taken off in the previous few years and given rise to new fields of study. Now, you can find Duke University’s “Wheel of Health” as the ultimate signifier that alternative medicine has made it.

This comprehensive graphic does more than explain the different types of interventions out there. It goes so far as to break down spheres of health into that within the realm of caregivers, self-care, and how mindfulness fits into the picture.

The time for the end to the alternative medicine vs. conventional medicine debate is now. 

Alternative Medicine vs. Conventional Medicine: A Comparison

You came here for a showdown, and we’re giving it to you. If you’re on the fence about alternative medicine vs. conventional medicine, maybe these pros and cons can push you to one side or the other. 

Let’s dive in.  

Alternative Medicine Pros

Why has integrative medicine exploded in the US? More and more people are looking for a more intuitive, natural way to deal with ailments.

Integrative medicine is the answer. Especially with its focus on diet and lifestyle changes, relaxation techniques, and naturally-derived supplements. 

These days, people are also looking for a way to treat more than the body and mind alone. They want to address ailments of the spirit or, according to some, their energy. Integrative medicine is primed to be the solution for these people. 

Finally, alternative medical treatments and procedures tend to have little to no side effects. Procedures are more often non-invasive than not, eliminating worries about infections or accidents.

Integrative medicine encourages holistic treatments, such as natural supplements, changes in diet and exercise, and meditation. The explosion of the cannabidiol (CBD) industry in the US is a perfect example of this. Companies like Mitchell’s Medicinals offer all-natural supplements for alleviating a wealth of complaints. 

Conventional Medicine Pros

On the other hand, conventional medicine has a wealth of research behind its benefits. Procedures are repeated in different conditions, with diverse patients, and by doctors of varying training. Further, there is validated science behind the reasons physicians and surgeons do what they do. 

Conventional medicine is also highly familiar to the majority of people in the US. Most of us are born in a hospital, surrounded by doctors. We visit our local practitioner when we’re sick, and many of us will spend our last day in a hospital. 

Why are hospitals so familiar while alternative medicine isn’t? It’s for one big reason: insurance covers conventional medicine. Meanwhile, integrative medicine is busy fighting against big insurance companies to recognize it as legitimate. 

Alternative Medicine Cons

With all of its plus sides, integrative medicine comes with some downers. One of the big ones is that the field of integrative medical research is still growing. This makes it challenging to base alternative medicine on hard science. 

Worse, we’ve already mentioned how insurance doesn’t always cover integrative medical procedures. However, this is changing. Some insurance companies now cover acupuncture and some mind-body therapies. 

Lastly, alternative medicine might seem unfamiliar and even strange to you. This is a valid worry, especially among Westerners who don’t have much experience with traditional medicine.

As integrative medicine continues to gain credibility, though, this may change. Alternative medicine may soon be “alternative” no longer. Soon, it could be part of the mainstream. 

Conventional Medicine Cons

Conventional medicine is successful because it’s supported by valid science. Yet a basis in science doesn’t change the fact that conventional medicine can be extremely harmful. For example, side effects. 

From long recovery times after surgeries to pain medications that are highly addictive, we know that traditional medicine is often dangerous. In fact, 440,000 people die each year from hospital error, injury, accident, and infection. 

A Final Word on Integrative Medicine

Here’s the thing about the alternative medicine vs. conventional medicine debate: it’s irrelevant. The need for health services is substantial in the US, and integrative is primed to meet that need. As long as we work hard to eliminate the stigma around it, that is. 

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