History of alternative medicine

History of alternative medicine

History of alternative medicine is a record of historical events that can be related to the many different branches of alternative medicine.

History of alternative medicine in Eastern Culture

Early history of medicine in India

Ayurveda or ayurvedic medicine has more than 2,000 years of history. It is a rational system of medicine based on a humoral interpretation of disease and health. It's prehistory goes back to Vedic and Buddhist cultures. Although the religious hymns of the Atharvaveda and the Ṛgveda mention some herbal medicines, protective amulets, and healing prayers that recur in later ayurvedic treatises, the earliest historical mention of the main structural and theoretical categories of ayurvedic medicine occurs in the Buddhist Pāli Tripiṭaka, or Canon.

Ayurveda can be defined as the system of medicine described in the great medical encyclopedias associated with the names Caraka, Suśruta, and Bheḷa, compiled and re-edited over several centuries from about 200BC to about AD500 and written in Sanskrit. These discursive writings were gathered and systematized in about AD600 by Vāgbhaṭa, to produce the "Aṣṭāṅgahṛdayasaṃhitā" ('Heart of Medicine Compendium') that became the most popular and widely used textbook of ayurvedic medicine in history. Vāgbhaṭa's work was translated into many other languages and became influential throughout Asia.

Ayurvedic medicine has remained a living system of medical interpretation and therapy in South Asia until today, and is formally supported by the ministries of health in India and Sri Lanka. Throughout the twentieth century it has also had adherents in East and South Africa. In recent decades ayurveda has started to become popular in Europe and North America where it has a taken its place in the portfolio of therapies called Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). This modernized form of ayurveda, sometimes called 'New Age Ayurveda' is an adapted and edited form of the tradition. It has been re-imported to India where it is marketed in branded forms to the middle classes in urban centres. Simultaneously, modernized ayurvedic services to the tourist industry, especially in Kerala, have become economically and socially important.

Chinese culture

Traditional Chinese medicine has more than 5,000 years of history as a system of medicine that is based on a philosophical concept of balance ( yin and yang, Qi, Blood, Jing, Bodily fluids, the Five Elements, the emotions, and the spirit) approach to health that is rooted in Taoist philosophy and Chinese culture. As such, the concept of it as an alternative form of therapeutic practise is only found in the Western world.
*History of traditional Chinese medicine

History of alternative medicine in Western culture

Western approaches to alternative medicine have more than 3,000 years of history behind them as systems of medicine based on natural philosophies that are rooted in "all" aspects of Western culture. This is a history of how Western natural philosophies developed over the ages

European History

Throughout Western European history there were two major trends: the professionalism of physicians who belonged to the upper classes and the folk healers who lived among the peasant population. The professionals developed in order to enhance their status in life, while the folk healers developed out of the necessity to survive. Herbalism and the water cure, hydrotherapy, or naturopathy developed slowly over 2,000 years of history. Autocratic traditions developed over time that gave today's European physicians social status and acceptance.

The Greco-Roman Period

In Europe, interest in the hydrotherapy can be traced back to the ancient Roman spas and the hot mineral springs at Bath, England .

The Dark Ages

In Europe, the Catholic church played a central role in encouraging the development of professional physicians.

Healers throughout the medieval period could come in many varieties. "Physicians" who studied the works of the Greek masters at universities, were the elite of the medical profession in the Middle Ages. However few people other than the well-off or the nobility had regular access to these. "Folk healers" passed on their knowledge from master to apprentice, and were more accessible to the peasant or labourer than physicians. Unregulated, but knowledgeable on herbs and folk-remedies, they were gradually excluded from the medical system. "Monastic medicine" monasteries played a big part in the provision of medieval medicine. Virtually every monastery had an infirmary for the monks or nuns, and this led to provision being made for the care of secular patients.

19th century

A medical reform movement was started in Europe as a reaction against heroic medicine.

Germany became the world center of medical research, training, and pharmaceuticals drawing students from all over the world by the end of the 19th century.

Hygiene and public health became the central focus of emerging urbanization.

The 20th century

In the first half of the 20th century a number of factors including internal conflict and the relative success of conventional medicine led to the decline of alternative medicine in the western world.

American History

Western healing practices developed differently in the New World than they did in the Old World.

In Europe, physicians already had a centuries old monopoly over the right to treat patients. But in America, medical practice was literally open to anyone who called themselves a doctor.

The Popular Health Movement (1830-1850)

In America, the Popular Health Movement played a central role in the development of alternative therapy practices. Herbalism, homeopathy, eclecticism and Natural Hygiene developed during the Health Reform Movement.

Only homeopathy, natural hygiene and eclecticism managed to last from the 1830s through the rest of the 19th century.

Progressive era of Health Care Reform (1890-1920)

Osteopathy, chiropractic, and naturopathy developed at the turn of the century.

The 20th century

The high-technology of medicine becomes firmly housed in the hospital. Hospitals are transformed from institutions designed for long-term care of the sick into facilities designed to test, treat and release patients as fast as possible.
*In 1977, George L. Engel (1913-1999) first proposed the biopsychosocial model of health, illness and healing.

A brief history of complementary & alternative medicine (CAM) in the UK

Since before recorded history, what is now the UK has been a destination for invaders, migrants, refugees, scholars and travellers. Part of their legacy is a diversity of medicla la al al ala al and health practices that are today referred to as ‘complementary and alternative medicine’ (CAM). The terms ‘alternative’ and ‘complementary’ tend to be used interchangeably to describe a wide diversity of therapies that attempt to use the self-healing powers of the body by amplifying natural recuperative processes to restore health. In ancient Greece the Hippocratic movement, commonly regarded as the fathers of medicine, actually gave rise to modern naturopathy and indeed much of today’s CAM. [ Inglis, B. (1979). Natural medicine. London, Collins] They placed great emphasis on a good diet and healthy lifestyle to restore equilibrium; drugs were used more to support healing than to cure disease.

Complementary medicines have evolved through history and become formalised from primitive practices; although many were developed during the nineteenth century as alternatives to the sometimes harmful practices of the time, such as blood-lettings and purgation. In the UK, the medical divide between CAM and conventional medicine has been characterised by conflict, intolerance and prejudice on both sides and during the early twentieth century CAM was virtually outlawed in Britain: healers were seen as freaks and hypnotherapists were subject to repeated attempts at legal restriction. [ Fulder, S. (1996). The handbook of alternative and complementary medicine - 3rd edition. London, Vermilion] The alternative health movement is now accepted as part of modern life, having progressed from a grass-roots revival in the 1960s reacting against environmental degradation, unhealthy diets and rampant consumerism. Until the arrival of the Romans in AD43, medical practices were limited to a basic use of plant materials, prayers and incantations. Having assimilated the corpus of Hippocrates, the Romans brought with them a vast reparatory of herbal treatments and introduced the concept of the hospital as a centralised treatment centre. In Britain, hydrotherapy (the use of water either internally or externally to maintain health and prevent disease) can be traced back to Roman spas. [ Internet Health Library (2006). What is hydrotherapy? Available from: http://www.internethealthlibrary.com/Therapies/Hydrotherapy.htm] This was augmented by practices from the Far East and China introduced by traders using the Silk Road.

During the Catholic and Protestant witch-hunts from the fourteenth to the seventeenth centuries, the activities of traditional folk-healers were severely curtailed and knowledge was often lost as it existed only as an oral tradition. The widespread emigration from Europe to North America in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries included both the knowledge of herbalism and some of the plants themselves. This was combined with Native American medicine and then re-imported to the UK where it re-integrated with the surviving herbal traditions to evolve as today’s medical herbalism movement. [ Griggs, B. (1991). Green pharmacy: a history of herbal medicine. Rochester, Healing Arts Press]

The natural law of similia similibus curantur, or ‘like is cured by like’, was recognised by Hippocrates but was only developed as a practical healing system in the early nineteenth century by a German, Dr Samuel Hahnemann. [ Jonas, W., Kaptchuk, T., Linde, K. (2003). A critical overview of homeopathy. Annals of Internal Medicine, 138, pp 393-399] Homeopathy was brought to the UK in the 1830s by a Dr Quinn who introduced it to the British aristocracy, whose patronage continues to this day. Despite arousing controversy in conventional medical circles, homeopathy is available under the National Health Service, and in Scotland approximately 25% of GPs hold qualifications in homeopathy or have undergone some homeopathic training. [ Scottish Parliament (2004). Written answers. Available from: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/business/pqa/wa-04/wa0614.htm]

Immigration from the Indian sub-continent in the 1850s brought practitioners of Ayurveda (‘Science of Life’). [ Complementary Healthcare Information Service UK (2008). Ayurveda. Available from: http://www.chisuk.org.uk/bodymind/whatis/ayurveda.php] A sophisticated medical system dating back over 2,500 years, its adoption outside the Asian communities was limited by its lack of specific exportable skills and English-language reference books until an adapted and modernised form – New Age Ayurveda – came under the umbrella of CAM in the 1970s. In Britain, practitioners are known as hakims. Having its origins in the Ayurveda, Indian Naturopathy incorporates a variety of holistic practices and natural remedies and became increasingly popular after the arrival of the post-Second World War wave of Indian immigrants. Unani medicine uses similar materials but is based on a philosophy which owes as much to Greek and Arab sources as to Ayurveda. Exiles fleeing the war between Yemen and Aden in the 1960s settled nearby the ports of Cardiff and Liverpool and today practitioners of this Middle Eastern medicine are known as vaids.

Deriving from the tradition of ‘bone-setting’, both osteopathy and chiropractic developed in the USA in the late nineteenth century. The British School of Osteopathy was established in 1917 [ Nash, K. & Tyreman, S. (2005). An account of the development of the conceptual basis of osteopathy course at the British School of Osteopathy. International Journal of Osteopathic Medicine, 8, pp 29-37] but it was the 1960s before the first chiropractic college was established in the UK. [ Anglo-European College of Chiropractic (2008). History of chiropractic. Available from: http://www.aecc.ac.uk/career/history/index.asp] While chiropractic theories and methods (which are concerned with subluxations or small displacements of the spine and other joints) do not accord with orthodox medicine’s current knowledge of the biomechanics of the spine, [cite journal |journal= J Pain Symptom Manage |date=2008 |volume=35 |issue=5 |pages=544–62 |title= Chiropractic: a critical evaluation |author= Ernst E |doi=10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2007.07.004 |pmid=18280103] osteopathy has been largely subsumed into conventional medicine in the USA. The passing of the Osteopaths Act (1993) and the Chiropractors Act (1994), however, created for the first time autonomous statutory regulation for two CAM therapies in the UK. [ Stone, J. (2005). Regulation of CAM practitioners: reflecting on the last 10 years. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 11, pp 5-10] The arrival into Britain of thousands of Chinese in the 1970s introduced Traditional Chinese Medicine – a system dating back to the Bronze Age or earlier that used acupuncture, herbs, diet and exercise. [ Robinson, N. (2006). Integrated traditional Chinese medicine. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 12, pp 132-140] Today there are more than 2,000 registered practitioners in the UK. The impact on CAM of mass immigration into the UK is continuing into the twenty-first century. Originating in Japan, cryotherapy has been developed by Polish researchers into a system that claims to produce lasting relief from a variety of conditions such as rheumatism, psoriasis and muscle pain. [ Marek UK Ltd. (2007). Cryotherapy. Available from: http://www.cryogenicchamber.co.uk/cryotherapy.html] Patients spend a few minutes in a chamber cooled to minus 110oC during which skin temperature drops some 12oC.

The use of CAM is widespread and increasing across the developed world. The British are presented with a wide choice of treatments from the traditional to the innovative and technological. Section 60 of the Health Act 1999 allows for new health professions to be created by Order rather than primary legislation. [ UK Parliament (2000). Complementary and alternative medicine – Select Committee on Science and Technology, sixth report. Available from: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld199900/ldselect/ldsctech/123/12301.htm] This raises issues of public health policy which balance regulation, training, research, evidence-base and funding against freedom of choice in a culturally diverse society


See also

* Alternative Medicine
* Dietary supplement
* Health freedom movement
* Megavitamin therapy
* Naturopathic Medicine
* Orthomolecular medicine
* Traditional Chinese Medicine

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