Pros and Cons of Holistic Medicine
If you're attracted to holistic medicine, study the specific branch you're considering to make sure you aren't putting yourself at risk. Don't start an alternative treatment for a lingering or serious condition without consulting your traditional medical doctor, and don't stop taking any prescriptions to pursue holistic treatment.
The Pros: Treatment of the Whole Person
Traditional medicine tends to treat diseases rather than people. This approach allows patients to consider their wellness overall and encourages them to live a healthy lifestyle, which pays off later in a reduced number of ailments. Patients often deeply appreciate treatment that takes into account their emotional, psychological and spiritual health in addition to their body.
The Pros: Stress Reduction
Holistic medicine treatments such as yoga, meditation or massage are proven to reduce stress. While this may seem like an emotional benefit, in fact, stress reduction has an overall positive benefit on the entire body, especially on the blood pressure. Stress reduction also lowers the tendency to abuse alcohol, food or drugs.
The Pros: Personal Attention
Many holistic medicine treatments are designed specifically for the individual patient. For instance, homeopathic practitioners create remedies to treat the particular ailments of a given person rather than handing out medicines on a one-size-fits-all basis. Alternative practitioners also often set aside extra time for each patient rather than rushing on to the next exam room.
The Cons: Lack of Scientific Corroboration
Very little scientific backing exists for most holistic medical treatments. There's usually no way to confirm whether a promising remedy is actually providing more than a placebo effect or whether it's just another version of snake oil. In addition, because most holistic supplements aren't regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, they don't have to meet the rigorous standards required of prescription medication and are therefore typically able to make claims that won't stand up to scientific scrutiny.
The Cons: Lack of Insurance Acceptance
Because many alternative treatments haven't received corroboration of the scientific community, many insurance companies refuse to pay for them. The process of fighting an insurance company to get acupuncture, for instance, paid for can bring a return of all the stress you were trying to get rid of. In many cases, a patient is stuck with a high medical bill with no hope of insurance reimbursement.
The Cons: Unreliability
If you have a serious medical ailment, especially one that requires immediate attention such as an aggressive cancer, delays spent on seeking alternative treatment can allow the disease to become much worse, even to the point of being untreatable by any medicine. Holistic supplements aren't always required to reveal all their ingredients, so you can end up taking something that interacts badly with other medication or that is actually very dangerous in and of itself. Some supplements have been shown to increase the risk of breast or prostate cancer significantly.
While many branches of holistic medicine have support from the medical and scientific communities, some areas of alternative medicine raise serious red flags that should be taken seriously. Many of the pros of holistic medicine have to do with how the field acknowledges the mind-body connection. However, the lack of scientific research in many areas and the marketing bias behind numerous alternative remedies means you should give it a second thought before making a commitment to these kinds of treatment.