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Western Views Of Non Traditional Medicines Essay

2567 words - 10 pages

If you walk into any pharmacy, grocery store, or natural foods store, you cannot avoid the shelves and displays of "alternative" remedies and treatments. Promises of fewer aches and pains, clearer skin, slower aging, better digestion, and more "harmonious" body functions are plastered on store walls and across bottle labels with many, often green, pills and liquids. Ginseng, Echinacea, acupuncture, reflexology, antioxidants, Vitamin A, B, C, E... have all become a familiar part of our culture's vocabulary, and for many, a part of their health regime. The allure of treatments that are as simple as a collection of plants or are based on a well-loved substance like garlic are obvious, particularly in an cultural environment where not only medical labels but most food labels seem to be written in a different language, and where people are taught that "science [and medicine] know more about them than they could ever know or understand about themselves"(Beinfield, 24). A full-page advertisement in the New York Times for the Oxford HMO is an insightful illustration of both public demand of alternative treatments and its current misgivings about Western medical care. In the first paragraph, Oxford says it has redesigned its program to take on a more "physician-responsive, patient-centered approach." Another section begins with the heading, "Alternative Medicine. The Choice is Yours." It goes on to state, "A third of the people we serve already use alternative therapies. Now they have access to the first credentialed network of alternative care practitioners. It includes acupuncturists, chiropractors, massage therapists and nutritionists, to name a few... In traditional health care, specialty care has been focused more on isolated treatments versus overall healing... We're building a system that rewards healing, not just treatment." The ad has a picture of an inserted acupuncture needle and a caption reads, "Why doesn't every health plan realize that no two people should be treated the same"(New Yrok Times 4/1/97). All of the above is the language of Eastern medical philosophy. Whether or not this is reflected in the actual care is debatable, but its prominent place in a large-scale advertisement demonstrates that this is what the public is seeking and moving towards.

Yet despite the strengthening public call for unconventional therapies and medicines, much of the Western medical and scientific establishment rejects alternative treatments across the board as "quackery" or invalid because in has not, and possibly cannot, be proven by Western scientific research methods. Some non-Western medical systems have been in place and effective for thousands of years. For example, "[t]he theoretical framework of [traditional] Chinese medicine was established more than two millennia ago" and has been treating the majority of the vast population of China and other parts of Asia since (hanwei.com). Traditional Eastern medical systems provide one of the best...

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