An Introduction to Complementary Medicine

An Introduction to Complementary Medicine

An Introduction to Complementary Medicine

An Introduction to Complementary Medicine


Providing a sound introduction to the range of treatments and philosophies within the field of complementary and alternative medicine, this book offers a systematic explanation of the philosophies and practices that underpin these medical practices. The rise in popularity of complementary medicine is examined along with challenges of developing a more integrated system of healthcare. Such questions as What is complementary medicine? What evidence is there to support its use? and What can orthodox medicine learn from holistic practice? are answered. Among topics discussed are herbal medicine, massage, aromatherapy, yoga, and ayurveda.


A book such as this covers a considerable breadth of territory. It spans Vedic texts, the work of Hippocrates and the latest scientific and medical journals. It journeys through China, India, Australia, Europe, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Latin America and the USA. Inevitably its expansive wingspan is dictated by its topic.

Complementary medicine is often defined by the modalities that it encompasses. Additionally it may be seen as denoting a group of theories that share certain central philosophical tenets that fall broadly into the category of holism. However it is delineated, complementary medicine is a broad and inclusive church. Indeed, complementary medicine is such a diverse field that even naming it presents challenges.

The phrase ‘complementary and alternative medicine’ and the consequent acronym ‘CAM’ are frequently used to describe the field of medicine covered in this book. Unfortunately, ‘alternative’ has come to connote ‘fringe’. As the reader will discern, however, there is no longer anything marginal about the therapies discussed here. Additionally the ‘alternative’ must have an initial reference point. This implies that it only has an existence in relation to that predetermining reference point. In this instance the implication would be that the therapeutic modalities covered are but an ‘alternative’ to the central pillar of medicine, the orthodox approach that bases itself on biomedical principles. Far from this, the approaches to health and illness outlined in this text stand independently of orthodox medicine. Accordingly, it has been decided not to use the word ‘alternative’ but rather employ the phrase ‘complementary medicine’ as the descriptor for the content of this text. Additionally, as the Conclusion states and as the whole of the book attests, the future of medicine resides in combining the orthodox medical approach with the philosophies and practices detailed here. Hence the modalities dealt with in this book are truly complementary to orthodox medicine.

While matters of terminology are being addressed it is worth pointing out that the chosen convention for dating in this book is BCE and CE rather than BC and AD. BCE denotes Before Common Era and CE indicates Common Era. They refer to the same time periods as BC and AD respectively. The ‘common era’ convention is one that is gaining academic currency and, given the broad cultural base of this book, it seemed eminently appropriate.

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