Natural alternative medicine and complementary medications have long been mistaken as the same thing, but they aren’t. Both terms refer to medicinal treatments that aren’t commonly part of mainstream healthcare. The difference comes into play with how the medicines are used.
Alternative medicines are when you use these uncommon treatments instead of traditional medicine and complementary medicine refers to when you use these treatments alongside traditional medicine.
Using natural alternative medicine is rather uncommon and often advised against among doctors, as it can be fairly risky. However, complementary medicine is gaining more and more popularity as the combination of traditional and non-traditional treatment has proven quite effective over time.
Complementary Versus Natural Alternative Medicine
Most doctors agree that complementary medicine works far better than natural alternative medicine or even alternative medicine and some even argue that complementary and traditional medicine works better than traditional medicine alone.
Many people find acupuncture, yoga, and other complementary therapies to be effective when added to traditional methods in treating pain, blood pressure, depression, anxiety, heart rate, and even help with some of the symptoms of cancer and its treatment.
Complementary medicine is far better and safer than alternative medicine. When used in conjunction with traditional medicine, complementary medicine can help to make your treatment more complete, filling in the gaps traditional medicine often leaves.
Due to the fact that natural alternative medicine frequently involves questionable and unproven methods without any proven methods to help, it’s quite risky and more often than not ineffective.
Are There Risks Involved with Alternative or Complementary Medicine?
As with all types of medicine and treatment, there are some risks involved. Admittedly, there is far more risk involved with alternative medicine than complementary medicine. When used exclusively, alternative medicines can cause potentially life-threatening problems, as you’re likely not getting the proper treatment for your condition.
Complementary medicines don’t have as many risks, but depending on the type of treatment, there could be a mild risk involved.
The following are known problems with certain herbs, supplements, and vitamins:
● Kava Kava – This herb is often used to treat anxiety, but it can cause liver damage
● Dietary Supplements – Certain dietary supplements can interfere with cancer treatments.
● Vitamin C – High doses of vitamin C can affect the effectiveness of radiation and chemotherapy.
● St. John’s Wort – While this herb is often used to treat depression, it can reduce the effectiveness of certain cancer medications, immunosuppressants, and antiretrovirals.
● Herbal Products for Chinese and Ayurvedic Medicine – Some of these may contain heavy metals that are dangerous to the body like arsenic or lead.
● Chiropractic Treatment – There are common side effects to this treatment like mild headaches that don’t last long, but there’s also a slightly greater risk. In the rare cases that chiropractic treatment has been done on the spine, it’s led to a stroke in the patient.
The greatest risk is that people use these treatments instead of going to their regular doctors. Complementary medicine should be in addition to treatment from your doctor. Otherwise, you may miss important treatment that could save your life.
Some natural health products may be safe when you take them on their own. But they may not be safe if you have other medical problems. They could also be dangerous when they are combined with other medicines you may be taking. To be safe, always check with your doctor before you use any natural health products.
Natural health products can vary widely in how strong they are. And they may also contain harmful things not listed on the label. Your doctor or practitioner may be able to recommend a brand you can trust.
Also, complementary medicine isn’t controlled as much as standard medicine. This means you could become a victim of fraud. Sellers or people who practice complementary medicine are more likely to be frauds if they:
- Require large up-front payments.
- Warn you not to trust your doctor.
- Promise quick results or miracle cures.
The difference between complementary and natural alternative medicines is very simple; one is exclusive, the other isn’t. Before deciding whether to take the plunge into complementary medicine or, more drastically, alternative medicine, we recommend consulting with your doctor first.
Keep in mind that while complementary medicine can help make a more complete treatment when added to traditional methods, alternative medicine can be rather risky, potentially even life-threatening in some cases.
A lot of people feel more in control when they are more involved in their own health. And since most complementary medicine looks at the connection between mind and body, many people who use it feel better. They like working toward overall wellness instead of just relief from one problem.
Always do thorough research before just jumping into a medical treatment, and this goes for traditional, complementary, and natural alternative medicine. Your doctors know a lot, but they aren’t perfect. Likewise, you can’t trust everything you read on the internet, on social media, or hear from someone on the street. Do your research through verified and legitimate sources before you try any medical treatment of any kind.