Who says alternative medicine (acupuncture) is for quacks?

Following the decision of the FDA U.S. Food and Drug Administration to regulate the use and practice of alternative medicine, there might just be hope for millions of alternative therapists who have repeatedly been ridiculed by the medical profession. Commonly referred to as “quack doctors”, healers who practice unorthodox treatments may finally get the recognition they have been seeking for centuries.

The practice of alternative medicine has been around long before medical schools and hospitals. “What’s funny is that alternative medicine has often been regarded as baseless and misleading by traditional doctors when it is, in fact, the real traditional medicine,” says Dr. Joe Bankston of the Office of Alternative Medicine.

The National Library of Medicine classifies alternative medicine as “an unrelated group of non-orthodox therapeutic practices, often with explanatory systems that do not follow conventional biomedical explanations.” These include, but are not limited to, the following disciplines: folk medicine, herbal medicine, diet fads, homeopathy, faith healing, new age healing, chiropractic, acupuncture, naturopathy, massage, and music therapy.

Because these methods are unconventional and not thoroughly explained by scientific trials, the U.S. FDA had been hesitant in recognizing the legitimacy of these treatments. As a result, the practice has remained underground for decades, and patients have been resorting to shady deals in order to avail of drugs and services. Also, because alternative medicine has been shunned by the scientific community, the possibility of these therapies being studied further remained remote.

Prior to the FDA legislation, the Complementary Healthcare Consultative Forum started regulating the practice of alternative medicine by accrediting practitioners of alternative medicine, early last year. It also aimed to develop a more effective system of monitoring over the counter supplements

Director of the Office of Complementary Medicine Dr. Fiona Cumming says more surveillance will be placed on the safety of herbal products, and a new advertising code drawn up to regulate claims made by manufacturers.

“We have been looking at ways to streamline the regulations of complementary medicines, delivering absolutely safe quality products for consumers, but allowing more timely access onto the market,” she said.

What regulation can do

“Regulating alternative medicine may only be beneficial to patients and consumers, because this would give patients more options in choosing legitimate health care, not being limited to conventional treatments,” says Oregon Representative Peter DeFazio. Rep. DeFazio pushed for the law which gave the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Alternative Medicine the power to provide funding for independent research into alternative health care methods.

The formation of regulation policies will provide a new approval mechanism for natural medicinal products, in order to make potentially life-saving treatments more widely available to consumers, as opposed to the excessive limits on the availability of alternative medical treatments in the past.

With the growing acceptance of alternative medicine as a legitimate treatment for various conditions, the public can only expect a wider array of such medical products and services in the market. The patient will be able to select which kind of treatment he or she wants, without any fear of rejection or castigation by conventional practitioners. Although this is probably far from happening, it might not be long before you find alternative healers side-by-side with your physicians in the hospital.

acupuncture By Shakira Andrea Sison