Complementary medicine goes by many names and can be split up into a number of distinct categories, each built upon unique principles and practices.
But, generally speaking, I’d say it’s fair to refer to complementary medicine as any form of treatment that exists beyond the confines of the conventional modern medical system.
Some swear by these supplementary medicines, while others are highly sceptical of their efficacy.
It’s a polarising topic, to say the least, and as both proponents and detractors of complementary medicine make some good points, you may not know how to form your own opinion.
The truth is that there are both advantages and disadvantages (see also: What Are The Advantages And Disadvantages Of Herbalism?)to consider before starting any non-traditional treatment, and to make sure you find the fastest road to recovery, I’ll be discussing them here today.
What Are The Advantages Of Complementary Medicine?
Let’s kick things off with some of the positive aspects of complementary therapies.
Complementary Medicine Is Often Holistic
While the connection between mental and physical health is steadily becoming more and more acknowledged in mainstream medicine, it’s still primarily concerned with physical health issues.
On the other hand, many forms of complementary medicine acknowledge the synergy between body and mind, that they are two connected halves of a whole rather than one being a lesser fraction of illness, wellness, and what makes us human.
Holistic healing encourages harmony of both body and mind. It teaches us that by assessing both aspects of our health, we can identify the underlying issues and treat them rather than simply fighting off symptoms as they present themselves.
By practising this type of complementary medicine, we gain a better understanding of what constitutes healthiness, enabling us to make more responsible lifestyle choices moving forward.
Complementary Medicine Is Affordable
Thankfully, we have the NHS to fall back on in the UK, so for most of us, our essential health care will be free, but private medical care can cost an arm and a leg.
By contrast, complementary therapies are often either completely free or very inexpensive. For example, all yoga requires is a mat, a peaceful space, and a bit of knowledge.
You may also be able to source the medicinal ingredients of other complementary therapies from your garden or failing that, your local food shops.
Giving complementary medicine a try in one form or another is almost never going to cause any type of financial strain, and as it stands to help you return to health, it’s a good idea to give it a shot.
Potential To Ease Pain & Control Illness
It’s easy to understand why some turn their nose up at complementary medicine, but research is showing that it may well be quite effective in some areas.
It’s old news at this point that eating certain herbs and foods might help us to control severe conditions such as diabetes and cancer, and studies have shown yoga has the potential to improve our health in a variety of ways, from improved bone density to lower blood pressure, from reduced depression to greater flexibility.
Feeling In Control
When your illness and doctors seem to dictate the course of your life, you can feel swept away into the gravity of it all, that your agency is quickly dwindling, but complementary medicine puts you in the driver’s seat.
You can and should seek advice on what sort of therapies to pursue, but ultimately, complementary medicine is about you listening to your body and mind and delivering what you feel will be beneficial.
The important thing I want to point out here is that simply regaining some semblance of control can improve your sense of well-being and quality of life, whether the therapies are effective or not.
With a focus on mental and physical calm and contentment, practising complementary therapies can help us to stay calm in the most nightmarish of circumstances.
Through these supplementary treatments, we can cope with the burden of illness, existence, and non-existence that weighs heavily on our minds.
What Are The Disadvantages Of Complementary Medicine?
Complementary medicine is often a great help to practitioners, but it can also be quite problematic, especially if someone is in need of a very particular kind of treatment.
You Have To Put In The Hours
Most forms of complementary medicine are about making very gradual and sustainable changes to your body and your world outlook, which of course takes time.
In some cases, it may be several months before you start to notice the intended effects of your treatment, so if you’re hoping to alleviate an immediate ailment, such as a headache, you’re best off sticking to painkillers or the medicine your doctor has prescribed.
Emergency situations call for a more urgent result, and only conventional medicine will be effective in time-sensitive situations.
Complementary Medicine May Inhibit Conventional Therapies
You know when you head to the doctor and they ask you if you’re currently on any other medication before they prescribe anything else? Well, your complementary therapists should be made aware of the same information.
Herbal remedies may not be considered “medicinal” by the medical establishment, but the molecules we consume do indeed impact our bodies and in some instances will also interact with prescription drugs in our system.
They might inhibit the intended effects of the prescribed substance or indeed alter the effects, so be as transparent as possible with all your healthcare professionals, whether they’re supporters of conventional or alternative treatments.
It Isn’t A Cure
Sure, it can help to prevent illness and keep you on the road to recovery when you do fall ill, but complementary medicine isn’t a miracle cure.
Alternative therapies are often substandard means of treating symptoms, which is why they’re best utilised in tandem with conventional medicine.
The commercialization of alternative medicine has led to a number of issues that highly regulated conventional medicine is not subject to.
For instance, the word “natural” gets thrown around a lot, as it attracts a lot of positive attention, but “natural” isn’t synonymous with “safe”.
The specifics of your condition may mean you need to avoid certain things, so do your due diligence before consuming anything categorised as alternative medicine.
Limited Scientific Research
Compared to conventional medicine, there has been very little scientific research garnering empirical results in the field of complementary medicine.
Even when it comes to popular practices such as yoga, the quality and scale of related studies mean that we can only say that it has the potential to help.
There needs to be a dramatic rise in high quality research if we’re ever to consider a complementary medicine as proven to be effective.
If you’re ill, complementary medicine works best when you treat it as such. Supplementing your conventional treatments with synergistic alternatives could well help you to regain the sense of balance and control in your life integral to your recovery.
However, you should always follow an expertly curated program agreed upon by both conventional and alternative medicine professionals.
If you’re healthy, I’d encourage you to give certain alternative therapies a shot in isolation. Something like yoga might be just the thing you need to get healthy and maintain a calm mind, but be sure to self-monitor stringently.
Should you notice anything concerning during your practice, report it to a doctor immediately.