Alternative medicine is any practice that is put forward as having the healing effects of medicine but is not based on evidence gathered using the scientific method.
It consists of a wide range of health care practices, products and therapies, using alternative medical diagnoses and treatments which typically are not included in the degree courses of medical schools or used in conventional medicine.Examples include homeopathy, naturopathy, chiropractic, energy medicine and acupuncture.
Alternative therapies based on electricity or magnetism use verifiable electromagnetic fields, such as pulsed fields, alternating-current, or direct-current fields in an unconventional manner rather than claiming the existence of imponderable or supernatural energies.
Substance based practices use substances found in nature such as herbs, foods, non-vitamin supplements and megavitamins, and minerals, and includes traditional herbal remedies with herbs specific to regions in which the cultural practices arose. Nonvitamin supplements include fish oil, Omega-3 fatty acid, glucosamine, echinacea, flaxseed oil or pills, and ginseng, when used under a claim to have healing effects.
Mind-body interventions, working under the premise that the mind can affect “bodily functions and symptoms”, include healing claims made in hypnotherapy, and in guided imagery, meditation, progressive relaxation, qi gong, tai chi and yoga. Meditation practices including mantra meditation, mindfulness meditation, yoga, tai chi, and qi gong have many uncertainties. According to an AHRQ review, the available evidence on meditation practices through September 2005 is of poor methodological quality and definite conclusions on the effects of meditation in healthcare cannot be made using existing research.
Naturopathy is based on a belief in vitalism, which posits that a special energy called vital energy or vital force guides bodily processes such as metabolism, reproduction, growth, and adaptation. The term was coined in 1895 by John Scheel and popularized by Benedict Lust, the “father of U.S. naturopathy”. Today, naturopathy is primarily practiced in the United States and Canada. Naturopaths in unregulated jurisdictions may use the Naturopathic Doctor designation or other titles regardless of level of education.
Traditional Chinese medicine is based on a concept of vital energy, or Qi, flowing in the body along specific pathways. These purported pathways consist of 12 primary meridians. TCM has many branches including, acupuncture, massage, feng shui, herbs, as well as Chinese astrology.
TCM diagnosis is primarily based on looking at the tongue, which is claimed to show the condition of the organs, as well as feeling the pulse of the radial artery, which is also claimed to show the condition of the organs.