|Alternative medicine is a rather ambiguous term that refers to a collection of "medical treatments" that are not practiced by mainstream/traditional/conventional doctors. What may or may not be considered alternative is often said to be in a state of flux. If mainstream medicine should adopt an alternative after it has proved itself effective, it then becomes part of conventional medical practice. Some alternatives, however, have been shown to be false in their claims in curing a particular illness or medical condition and many have proved harmful in their effect. Alternatives include a diverse set of practices that all have varying degrees of evidence either against them or in their favor. Acupuncture, chiropractic, crystal healing, prayer, rebirthing therapy and yoga are a few examples of alternative approaches to various ailments and diseases. The alternative medicine community also offers criticism of traditional medicine and its underlying structure, protocol and philosophy. Where conventional medicines have failed or are still "under research," alternative medicine has come in, often without the same level of caution and testing, to fill any gaps left open by the mainstream. It also claims to offer better, faster and less difficult solutions to medical problems. Alternative medicine is a multi-billion dollar industry with at least one in three people trying one or another alternative approach in their lifetime.
Due to the large and diverse set of practices collected under the heading of alternative medicine, there is also a wide variety of skeptical perspectives. Each "medicine" is studied independently. Some are found to be outright fraud and nonsense. Others have been proven harmful. Many are thought to be associated with the placebo effect. Several are still being tested and a few have shown some degree of success. A primary concern with alternative medicine is that it is usually not held up to the same strict controls and testing that conventional medicine undergoes, before being made available to the consumer. Because of our tendency to reach for get-cured-quick schemes and our lack of understanding of the many issues involved, humans are vulnerable to being taken advantage of or making their medical condition worse. The alternative medicine community has also helped to create an unnecessary distrust and hostility towards traditional medicine and considering the success of this establishment and the great advances it has made in improving and prolonging human life, this is unfortunate. When people choose alternative medicine over traditional they are setting themselves up for a potential disaster and should inject critical thought and skepticism to minimize the harm they may cause themselves.