Magazine article Medical Economics

How to Get Up to Speed on Alternative Medicine

Magazine article Medical Economics

How to Get Up to Speed on Alternative Medicine

Article excerpt

Sifting through the huge volume of information on non-conventional treatments can be intimidating Here's a guide to help manage the task.

No doubt you're starting to field patients' questions about alternative medicine. Do you know enough to answer responsibly? Fortunately, it's getting easier to educate yourself. The number of relevant professional training programs, conferences, publications, Internet sites, and CD-ROMs continues to grow. There are about 350 titles under the "Alternative Medicine" heading in the "1998 Medical and Health Care Books and Serials in Print" directory. There's also an abundance of information on complementary medicine-therapies such as massage and hypnotherapy that can be used to supplement conventional medical care.

How can you weed through all this material? First, zero in on what you really need to know. If all you want are the basics of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), focus on relaxation techniques, herbal medicine, massage therapy, chiropractic care, spiritual healing, and vitamin therapy. Those are the treatments most popular with patients, according to a 1997 national survey by Boston internist David Eisenberg at the Center for Alternative Medicine Research and Education at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Check your specialty society; many are sponsoring lectures on these basic CAM subjects.

On the other hand, if you're looking for information on how to integrate CAM into your practice or introduce it to your hospital or group, you'll want to investigate specialized conferences, newsletters, and the like.

Whatever your interest level, the resources listed below should provide a good starting point.

Learning about Western botanical and nutritional medicine

Here are a number of resources to check out:

Conference: Almost all conferences on CAM cover herbs. One that focuses solely on this topic is Columbia University's annual five-day CME course, Botanical Medicine in Modern Clinical Practice. The program, which costs $1,200, gives attendees a scientific framework for understanding herbs' efficacy, benefits, and risks. It also covers drug-herb and herb-herb interactions, and it provides the opportunity to question top pharmacognosists and physician experts who use herbs in their practices. Attendance is limited to 200. Spaces fill up quickly, so register early.

The conference, co-sponsored by GP Andrew Weil and the Program in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, will be held the week of May 24 in New York City. For information, call 212-781-- 5990 or check Columbia University's Web site (cpmcnet.colum bia.edu/dept/rosenthal). The site is also chock-full of other useful resources, including scientific databases on herbs.

Books: The new edition of Varro E. Tyler's "Tyler's Herbs of Choice: The Therapeutic Use of Phytomedicinals" (Haworth Herbal Press, 1999), is a widely recognized work. Although the book is pitched at consumers, Tyler, professor emeritus of pharmacognosy at Purdue University, takes a scientific approach, and the book includes a chapter on basic principles of botanical medicine.

Also worth looking into: "PDR for Herbal Medicines," which Medical Economics (the publisher of this magazine) issued for the first time last fall. This book covers more than 600 botanical remedies. For information, call 888-- 859-8053 or check www/pdr.net.

For useful reference books on nutritional medicine, consider psychiatrist Melvyn R. Werbach's "Nutritional Influences on Illness" (1993) and "Foundations of Nutritional Medicine" (1997), which organizes and summarizes thousands of studies. For information, call Third Line Press at 818-996-- 0076 (California calls only) or 800-- 916-0076, or visit its Web site: healthy.net/othersites/third line.

Journals: One of the most respected journals on herbs is HerbalGram, a quarterly publication co-sponsored by the American Botanical Council and the Herb Research Foundation. …

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