Alternative Medicine

 The term “alternative therapy” refers to any health treatment not standard in Western medical practice. Beyond that, complementary and alternative therapies are difficult to define, largely because the field is so diverse; it encompasses practices spanning diet and exercise changes, hypnosis, chiropractic adjustment, and poking needles into a person’s skin (aka acupuncture). Technically, “alternative” treatments are used in place of conventional medicine; when used alongside standard medical practices, alternative approaches are referred to as “complementary” medicine.

The field of alternative therapies is diverse: It encompasses practices spanning diet and exercise changes, hypnosis, chiropractic adjustment, and acupuncture.

The benefits (or lack thereof) of alternative therapies are hotly contested. More research is needed to determine the efficacy of nearly all of these practices, but that hasn’t stopped people from engaging in them: In 2008 (the most recent valid data we could find), more than 38 percent of American adults used some form of alternative medicine. Follow along as we sort through the practices that are changing the way Americans approach medical care.