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Sample essay topic, essay writing: Alternative Medicine - 1057 words
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Alternative MedicineThroughout recorded history, people of various cultures have relied on whatWestern medical practitioners today call alternative medicine. The termalternative medicine covers a broad range of healing philosophies,approaches, and therapies. It generally describes those treatments andhealth care practices that are outside mainstream Western health care.People use these treatments and therapies in a variety of ways. Alternativetherapies used alone are often referred to as alternative; when used incombination with other alternative therapies, or in addition to conventionaltherapies they are referred to as complementary. Some therapies are faroutside the realm of accepted Western medical theory and practice, but some,like chiropractic treatments, are now established in mainstream medicine.Worldwide, only an estimated ten to thirty percent of human health care isdelivered by conventional, biomedically oriented practitioners ('Fields ofPractice'). The remaining seventy to ninety percent ranges from self-careaccording to folk principles, to care given in an organized health caresystem based on alternative therapies ('Fields of Practice').
Many cultureshave folk medicine traditions that include the use of plants and plantproducts. In ancient cultures, people methodically collected information onherbs and developed well-defined herbal pharmacopoeias. Indeed, well intothe twentieth century much of the pharmacology of scientific medicine wasderived from the herbal lore of native peoples. Many drugs commonly usedtoday are of herbal origin: one-quarter of the prescription drugs dispensedby community pharmacies in the United States contain at least one activeingredient derived from plant material ('Fields of Practice').Twenty years ago, few physicians would have advised patients to take folicacid to prevent birth defects, vitamin E to promote a healthy heart, orvitamin C to bolster their immune systems. Yet today, doctor and patientalike know of the lifesaving benefits of these vitamins. Twenty years ago,acupuncture, guided imagery, and therapeutic touch were considered outrightquackery
Now, however, in clinics and hospitals around the country,non-traditional therapies are gaining wider acceptance as testimonials andstudies report success using them to treat such chronic maladies as backpain and arthritis.The number of people availing themselves of these alternative therapies isstaggering. In 1991 about twenty-one million Americans made four hundred andtwenty-five million visits to practitioners of these types of alternativemedicine; more than the estimated three hundred and eighty-eight millionvisits made to general practitioners that year (Apostolides). The U.S.Department of Education has accredited more than twenty acupuncture schoolsand more than thirty medical schools now offer courses in acupuncture(Lombardo; Smith). As the number of Western medical institutions researchingalternative therapies increases, the legitimacy of at least some alternativetherapies will also increase.Does all this recent medical establishment attention mean that thenon-conventional therapies really work? Critics say a definitive scientificanswer must await well-designed experiments involving many patients. Up tonow, most of the studies have relied on personal observation and anecdotaltestimony from satisfied patients. The official position of the AmericanMedical Association (A.M.A.)--alternative medicine's chief critic--is that apatient's improvement or recovery after alternative treatment might just aswell be incidental to the action taken.
This may be true for scientists andresearchers, but the fact is that the people seeking alternative treatmentsdisagree. The solution is obvious: more research needs to be conducted.Some alternative treatments, such as acupuncture and herbal medicine, haveimpressive histories dating back thousands of years. In America,professional and public interest in the field of alternative care has grownto such an extent that, in 1992, the U.S. government established the Officeof Alternative Medicine (OAM) within the National Institutes of Health(NIH). Its mission is to speed the discovery, development, and validation ofpotential treatments to complement our current healthcare system.
One of theOAM's first tasks was to develop a classification system for the dozens ofvarious therapies and practices. The systems of alternative medical practicethe OAM has classified so far share many common therapeutic techniques.Traditional oriental medicine and naturopathic medicine, for example, bothuse herbal remedies, acupuncture, and mind/body control. However, somealternative systems, such as environmental medicine and homeopathic medicineare distinct and separate. Following are some the more popular alternativetherapies Americans use.AcupunctureAcupuncture is an example of a therapy once considered bizarre which hassome scientific basis. An integral part of Chinese medicine for thousands ofyears, it is based on the belief that energy, which the Chinese call Qi(pronounced 'chee'), circulates along meridians in the body in the same waythat blood flows (Furman). A diagram of the meridian system looks similar tothose of our circulatory and nervous systems (Crute).
When the flow ofenergy becomes blocked, an imbalance is created, resulting in pain ordisease. To restore the proper balance and energy flow, acupuncturistsstimulate specific points of the body along these meridians. Puncturing theskin with a needle is the usual method, but acupuncturists may alsostimulate the acupuncture points with finger-pressure.Although Western physicians and researchers do not truly understand theconcept of Qi, there is evidence that acupuncture can influence the movementor release of many chemicals in the body. Research conducted by Dr. BrucePomeranz, a neurophysiologist at the University of Toronto, established thatacupuncture releases naturally produced, morphine-like substances calledendorphins (Crute).In addition to releasing endorphins, doctors and clinicians know thatacupuncture can provide at least short-term relief for a wide range of painsby inhibiting the transmission of pain impulses through the nerves.Furthermore, recent studies also show acupuncture to be effective inalleviating bronchial asthma, bronchitis, and stroke-induced paralysis(Apostolides). 'I'm a healthy skeptic,' says Johns Hopkins psychiatrist MaryMcCaul (Apostolides).
'But look, we don't have all the answers. Patients whochoose acupuncture feel calmer. Even if it's a placebo effect, placebos arepowerful things.'Mind-Body HealingRelaxation techniques like meditation and biofeedback--which teach patientsto control heart rate, blood pressure, temperature and other involuntaryfunctions through concentration--have also given respectability toalternative medicine and are routinely taught to patients and medicalstudents. The basic premise of mind-body medicine is that the power of themind can be used to help heal the body by improving the person's attitudeand also, as recent research has shown, by direct effects on the immune,endocrine, and nervous systems (Epiro and Walsh). Although many of thebiochemical and physiological mechanisms remain to be identified, anincreasing body of evidence is showing that the healthy mind is indeedcapable of mobilizing the immune system-and that the troubled mind candampen the functioning of the immune system and contribute to physicaldisease.There is little doubt that state of mind and physiological processes areclosely linked.
The connection between stress and immune system response,for example, is well documented (Epiro and Walsh). Some scientists suggestthat the power of prayer and faith healing, like some ...
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