Complementary or alternative medicine (CAM) is a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products for diagnosis, treatment and/or prevention which are not presently considered to be part of conventional medicine. Complementary means to improve the effect of something and suggests a treatment that complements mainstream, orthodox treatment, whilst alternative means instead of. However, the terms are often used interchangeably.
Yes, alternative medicine is effectiveShow moreShow less
Alternative medicine has proven to be effective and reaches those who may not trust mainstream medicine.
Many alternative treatments seem to work, but this is due to belief that it will work rather than an actual clinical effect. This is called the placebo effect, which is when a patient’s condition seems to improve after receiving a treatment with no actual medicinal benefit. This appears to work due to a combination of how the intervention is administered and the expectations the patient might have of the treatment itself. The beneficial health outcome results from a person’s anticipation that an intervention will help.
When the belief in the value of an alternative therapy is strong, this can account for the success of a treatment even if scientifically it may not be accepted.
How placebos work is still not quite understood, but it involves a complex neurobiological reaction that includes everything from increases in feel-good neurotransmitters, like endorphins and dopamine, to greater activity in certain brain regions linked to moods, emotional reactions, and self-awareness. All of it can have a therapeutic benefit.
It is the alternative therapy that makes the difference - it is not simply a placebo. Additionally, orthodox medicine has been shown to have a placebo effect also.
[P1] The placebo accounts for 50% of the benefit of any treatment.
[P2] Any benefit from alternative medicine is due to the placebo effect.
Rejecting the premises
[Rejecting P1] The placebo effect occurs with orthodox medicine too.
[Rejecting P2] It therefore does not disprove the benefits of CAM.
Jütte, R. (2013) The early history of the placebo. Complementary Therapy Medicine, 21(2):94-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2012.06.002. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23497809