WHAT IS “ALTERNATIVE” MEDICINE
In general, alternative medicine is used to describe practices outside the bounds of conventional medicine. It’s also often connoted to include practices that haven’t been shown to be effective. Mainstream scientists often criticize alternative medicine as charlatanism, arguing that anything alternative that’s been proven to work is in fact…mainstream medicine. Advocates of alternative medicine, in contrast, typically point to their personal experiences as proof of the effectiveness of many such “unproven” interventions.
Many people feel more comfortable using natural compounds rather than man-made ones because of a belief that what’s natural is, by definition, healthier and safer—but this is a dangerous assumption. Numerous natural compounds are, in fact, poisonous and natural compounds that have health benefits often have a narrow therapeutic index (meaning the amount that brings benefit is only slightly less than the amount that causes toxicity, making it alarmingly easy for their use to cause harm), like digitalis, a drug derived from the foxglove plant that’s been used to treat heart failure since the late 1700s.