Expert Comments from Dr. Stephen Holt, MD
The history of modern medicine is a history of trial and error, of those with a new idea taking first steps down new roads, often against intense criticism. In the early years of the Renaissance, those who sought to learn human anatomy risked condemnation by the church for dissecting corpses – often robbed from catacombs.
In more modern times, new treatments have often run an uphill fight for recognition, even though the conventional mindset has expanded greatly since the 1400’s. The X-ray machine could have been used to save President McKinley after he was shot in 1901 at the Buffalo Pan-American Exposition – but no one wanted to test it on a President. He died eight days later. New treatments have continued to have a hard time integrating themselves, chiefly because so much is invested in what is already standard – and because people are afraid of what is new. This is true even in alternative medicine, where much of the “new” has actually been with us for centuries.
The modern history of what has been called “alternative medicine” follows much the same path of “controversial” ideas conflicted with established orthodoxy. Though many of the tenets of alternative medicine have been used worldwide for hundreds if not thousands of years, they are only now starting to gain some grudging acceptance by mainstream medicine – and most traditional practitioners still prefer to keep them at arms length. And, although many alternative treatments are evidence-based, there are some which survive only on anecdotal support and the belief of those who practice them, leading many to regard all “natural” treatments with skepticism. Unfortunately, this deprives many patients of what could be viable treatment options. However, the potential benefit from alternative medical remedies and approaches cannot be ignored.