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Choosing Complementary Medicine

The American Medical Association (AMA) recently reported that in 1997, four in ten Americans used alternative therapies. A key 1998 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) concluded that patients were turning toward complementary therapies because traditional medicine was falling short of their needs. Currently, an estimated 60 million American adults are reported to use herbal products. Alternatives to traditional Western medicine are all around us, and talking about the benefits of homeopathy and echinacea no longer raises eyebrows at the watercooler. But how do you choose the right therapies, and find the right guide?

For most people, the choice will involve one of two options. One approach focuses on selecting a particular technique, conceptual framework or belief system. Or instead, you can find a health practitioner you respect and trust, with their particular approach being of secondary importance. Whichever method works best for you, keep in mind that knowledge is power. It's always wise to learn as much as possible about the therapies that interest you. Read articles, books, and talk with friends who have undergone similar treatments.

Word of mouth and patient referral is always an excellent way to find a new practitioner. Keep in mind that in some parts of the country, certain therapies may not be very common. Some complementary therapies are associated with organizations and training programs. Try contacting these organizations for another source of referral.

Once you find a practitioner, don't hesitate to interview him or her directly. Trust your intuition. Is the office clean? What is his or her bedside manner? Do you feel reassured, or intimidated? Keep in mind, credentials for alternative practitioners vary from state to state. Make sure yours has the appropriate licenses and degrees. Don't be afraid to ask about side effects, when you should expect to see results, and how much money the treatment is likely to cost.

Good health takes time and commitment. With an open mind, and good information, you can access all the tools you need to stay well. Remember, it's always wise to consider a second opinion, even with complementary therapies. Most importantly, keep your primary care physician informed of any decision that affects your health.

Program Description
Ted Kaptchuk, OMD
Tell Me More
Help YourSelf


Body & Soul is currently airing Monday-Friday at 7:00pm and 8:30pm on PBS YOU.

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