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GLOSSARY OF MEDICAL PHILOSOPHY TERMS 

Cure, Healing, Palliation & Suppression

Conventional medicine:
The medicine practiced and fully endorsed by the medical establishment. The terms traditional, Western, scientific and modern are sometimes used interchangeably with conventional but each of these has egocentric implications that make them less than accurate.

Alternative medicine:
Any system of health care or specific treatment that is not currently widely accepted by conventional medicine and/or not taught in its medical schools. It is a term best used for systems or treatments that function to replace a conventional treatment. Examples would include acupuncture, naturopathic medicine, herbs and chelation therapy. The term describes a relationship to conventional medicine. What is considered "alternative" could change as the establishment changes what it finds acceptable. Many years ago radiation therapy was alternative medicine whereas many herbs were conventional medicines found in the official United States Pharmacopoeia.

Complementary health care:
A non-primary care system of health care or specific treatment that is not currently widely accepted by conventional medicine. The treatment is not usually expected to replace a conventional treatment but rather augments or complements it. Examples could include massage and dance therapy. The term describes a relationship to conventional medicine. What is considered "complementary" could change as the establishment changes what it finds acceptable. Complementary treatments are also often used to complement alternative primary care systems.

Integrative medicine:
This is the practice of combining alternative, complementary and conventional therapies to take advantage of the strengths of each system and to offset their weaknesses.

Allopathic:
A term used to describe the dominant medical philosophy of conventional medicine. Dorland's Medical Dictionary defines allopathy as "a system of therapeutics in which diseases are treated by producing a condition incompatible with or antagonistic to the condition to be cured or alleviated." The term can also be used to describe any type of treatment that is used with the intention of treating or controlling symptoms. This is also sometimes call "mechanistic" medicine.

Natural medicine:
A term used to describe the philosophy of the particular alternative systems that emphasize Vis Medicatrix Naturae, "the healing power of nature." The therapeutic emphasis is on supporting or stimulating the organismís self-healing processes, rather than treating the symptoms or the disease. The "healing power" of nature is found in the innate homeostatic and healing systems of the body and mind of the living organism, not in the natural medicinal substance or therapy. This is also sometimes call "vitalistic" medicine.

However, the term natural medicine is not synonymous with alternative medicine. While most natural therapies are alternative, many alternative treatments are not natural medicine (e.g., chelation therapy). Consequently, St. Johns Wort is a natural substance that can be used as an alternative treatment for depression but is used to control a symptom so philosophically its use is just as allopathic as Prozac. Although aspects of each of the following systems can be used allopathically, examples of natural medicine include homeopathy, chiropractic, acupuncture, naturopathy, hydrotherapy, massage therapy, and nutritional/lifestyle interventions. 

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Copyright 2017 R. S. Bradley, N.D. All rights reserved. 

Heartland Naturopathic Clinic
5003 Burt Street
Omaha, NE 68132
(402) 391-6714