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Whole medical systems involve complete systems of theory and practice that have evolved independently from or parallel

to allopathic (conventional) medicine.

Many are traditional systems of medicine that are practiced by individual cultures throughout the world. Major Eastern whole medical systems include traditional
Chinese medicine (TCM), Kampo medicine (Japanese), and Ayurvedic medicine, one of India's traditional systems of medicine. Major Western whole medical
systems include homeopathy and naturopathy. Other systems have been developed by Native American, African, Middle Eastern, Tibetan, and Central and South
American cultures.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese medicine is a complete system of healing that dates back to 200 B.C. in written form. Korea, Japan, and Vietnam have all developed their
own unique versions of traditional medicine based on practices originating in China. In the TCM view, the body is a delicate balance of two opposing and
inseparable forces: yin and yang. Yin represents the cold, slow, or passive principle, while yang represents the hot, excited, or active principle. Among the major
assumptions in TCM are that health is achieved by maintaining the body in a "balanced state" and that disease is due to an internal imbalance of yin and yang.
This imbalance leads to blockage in the flow of qi (or vital energy) along pathways known as meridians. TCM practitioners typically use herbs, acupuncture,
and massage to help unblock qi in patients in an attempt to bring the body back into harmony and wellness.



Treatments in TCM are typically tailored to the subtle patterns of disharmony in each patient and are based on an individualized diagnosis. The diagnostic tools
differ from those of conventional medicine. There are three main therapeutic modalities:

1. Acupuncture and moxibustion (the burning of an herb above the skin to apply heat to the acupuncture point)

2. Chinese Materia Medica (the catalogue of natural products used in TCM)

3. Massage and manipulation

Although TCM proposes that natural products catalogued in Chinese Materia Medica or acupuncture can be used alone to treat virtually any illness, quite often
they are used together and sometimes in combination with other treatment modalities (such as massage, moxibustion, diet changes, or exercise).

The scientific evidence on selected TCM treatments is discussed below.


Acupuncture is widely practiced for relief or prevention of pain and for various other health conditions,

according to the National Institutes of Health. Acupuncture is now considered to have potential clinical value

for nausea and vomiting, low-back pain, neck pain, osteoarthritis and knee pain, tension

headaches, migraines, and dental pain. Limited evidence also suggests its potential in the treatment of

other chronic pain disorders.

Studies have documented acupuncture's effects, but they have not been able to fully explain how acupuncture

works within the framework of the Western system of medicine.



It is proposed that acupuncture produces its effects by the conduction of electromagnetic signals at a greater-

than-normal rate, thus aiding the activity of pain-killing biochemicals, such as endorphins and immune system

cells at specific sites in the body. In addition, studies have shown that acupuncture may alter brain chemistry
by changing the release of neurotransmitters and neurohormones and affecting the parts of the

central nervous system related to sensation and involuntary body functions, such as immune reactions and

processes whereby a person's blood pressure, blood flow, and body temperatureare regulated.

Chinese Materia Medica

Chinese Materia Medica is a standard reference book of information on medicinal substances that are used in

Chinese herbal medicine.Herbs or botanicals usually contain dozens of bioactive compounds. Many factors--such as geographic location,
harvest season, post-harvest processing, and storage--could have a significant impact on the concentration of bioactive compounds. In many cases,

it is not clear which of these compounds underlie an herb's medical use. Moreover, multiple herbs are usually used in combinations called formulas in

TCM, which makes the standardization of herbal preparations very difficult. Further complicating research on TCM herbs, herbal compositions and the

quantity of individual herbs in a classic formula are usually adjusted in TCM practice according to individualized diagnoses.

In the past decades, major efforts have been made to study the effects and effectiveness of single herbs and

of combinations of herbs used in classic TCM formulas. The following are examples of such work:

 Artemisia annua. Ancient Chinese physicians identified that this herb controls fevers. In the 1970s,

scientists extracted the chemical artemisinin from Artemisia annua. Artemisinin is the starting

material for the semi-synthetic artemisinins that are proven to treat malaria and are widely used.

There is a lower concentration of artemisinin in herbal preparations than in the drug products, and

there is concern that using it alone as a therapy may cause resistance.

 Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F (Chinese Thunder God vine). Thunder God vine has been used in TCM

for the treatment of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. The first small randomized, placebo-

controlled trial of a Thunder God vine extract in the United States showed a significant dose-

dependent response in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.In larger, uncontrolled studies, however, renal, cardiac,
hematopoietic, and reproductive toxicities of Thunder God vine extracts have been observed.

Naturopathy is a system of healing, originating from Europe, that views disease as a manifestation of

alterations in the processes by which the body naturally heals itself. It emphasizes health restoration as well as

disease treatment. The term "naturopathy" literally translates as "nature disease." Today naturopathy, or

naturopathic medicine, is practiced throughout Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United

States. There are six principles that form the basis of naturopathic practice in North America (not all are unique

to naturopathy): Naturopathic medicine emphasizes on prevention, treatment, and optimal health through
the use of therapeutic methods and substances that reestablish the body's inborn capacity to heal itself
without the adverse impacts of conventional drug. It is a specific primary health care system that blends
modern scientific knowledge with traditional and natural forms of medicine. Naturopaths focus on a holistic
approach, completely avoiding the use of surgery and drugs. Naturopaths often prescribe exposure to
naturally occurring substances, such as sunshine, herbs and certain foods and encourage activities they
describe as natural, such as exercise, meditation and relaxation. In addition to diet and lifestyle changes
during treatment, they make use of natural therapies like botanical medicine, clinical nutrition,
hydrotherapy, homeopathy, naturopathic manipulation and Traditional Chinese Medicine or acupuncture.

Medical Definition of Alternative medical system. ... These forms of alternative

medicine are built upon a complete system of ideas and practice and may have evolved in
Western or non-Western cultures. Examples include Ayurveda, Chiropractic, Homeopathy,
Naturopathic medicine, Osteopathy, and Traditional Chinese medicine.
Definition of Alternative

According to the NCCAM formerly unproven remedies may be

incorporated into conventional medicine if they are shown to be safe and

NCCAM classifies complementary and alternative therapies into five

major groups and some overlap.

 Energy medicine is a domain that deals with putative and verifiable

energy fields.

 Biologically based practices use substances found in nature such as

herbs, foods, vitamins, and other natural substances.

 Manipulative and body-based practices feature manipulation or

movement of body parts, such as is done in chiropractic and osteopathic

 Mind-body medicine takes a holistic approach to health that

explores the interconnection between the mind, body, and spirit. It works
under the premise that the mind can affect "bodily functions and

Whole medical systems cut across more than one of the other groups;
examples include Traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda.

 Aromatherapy is when aroma-rich oils are extracted from specific

plants. These oils are mixed with other materials like alcohol, oils, lotions
etc to give the desired effects on the body.

 Ayurveda is a system of traditional medicine native to India, and

practiced in other parts of the world as a form of alternative medicine.
Evolving throughout its history, Ayurveda remains an influential system of
medicine in South Asia.

 Biofeedback is a form of alternative medicine that involves

measuring a subject's quantifiable bodily functions such as skin
temperature, sweat gland activity, blood pressure, heart rate, and muscle
tension, conveying the information to the patient in real-time.

 Detoxification is an alternative medicine approach which proponents

claim rid the body of "toxins", accumulated harmful substances that are
alleged to exert a negative effect on individual health. The idea of a good
detox diet is to eat pure and natural foods that will aid the function of the
lymph, kidneys, and liver.
 Herbalism is a traditional medicinal or folk medicine practice based
on the use of plants and plant extracts. Herbalism is also known as
botanical medicine, medical herbalism, herbal medicine, herbology, and

 Holistic health is a philosophy of medical care that views physical

and mental aspects of life as closely interconnected and equally important
approaches to treatment. While frequently associated with alternative
medicine, it is also increasingly used in mainstream medical practice as
part of a broad view of patient care.

 Homeopathy is a form of alternative medicine based upon principles

first defined by Samuel Hahnemann in 1796. A central thesis of
homeopathy is that an ill person can be treated using a substance that
can produce, in a healthy person, symptoms similar to those of the illness.

 Home remedies are a treatment to cure a disease or ailment that

employs certain spices, vegetables, or other common items. Home
remedies may or may not have medicinal properties that treat or cure the
disease or ailment in question, as they are typically passed along.

 Reiki is a spiritual practice developed in 1922 by Mikao Usui. After

three weeks of fasting and meditating on Mount Kurama, in Japan, Usui
claimed to receive the ability of "healing without energy depletion". A
portion of the practice, tenohira or palm healing, is used as a form of
complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Tenohira is a technique
whereby practitioners believe they are moving "healing energy" (a form of
ki) through the palms.

 Traditional Chinese medicine (also known as TCM) includes a range

of traditional medical practices originating in China. It is considered a
Complementary or Alternative Medical system in much of the western
world while remaining as a form of primary care throughout most of Asia.

Many people utilize mainstream medicine for diagnosis and basic

information, while turning to alternatives for what they believe to be
health-enhancing measures. Studies indicate that alternative
approaches are often used in conjunction with conventional medicine.
This is referred to by NCCAM as integrative (or integrated) medicine
because it "combines treatments from conventional medicine and CAM
for which there is some high-quality evidence of safety and

Alternative medicine has been a source of vigorous debate, even over

the definition of alternative medicine.