Medicine is the science and practice of diagnosing, treating, and preventing disease.
Contemporary medicine applies biomedical sciences, biomedical research, genetics, and medical technology. It includes pharmaceuticals or surgery, external splints and traction, biologics, and other techniques.
Medicine has been around for thousands of years. During most of that time it was an art connecting to the religious and philosophical beliefs of local culture. For example, a medicine man would apply herbs and say prayers for healing, or one would apply bloodletting according to the now discredited theories of humorism.
Prescientific forms of medicine are now known folk medicine.
Alternative treatments outside the bounds of science are termed quackery.
Alternative medicine versus conventional medicine
There cannot be two kinds of medicine – conventional and alternative. There is only medicine that has been adequately tested and medicine that has not, medicine that works and medicine that may or may not work.
Once a treatment has been tested rigorously, it no longer matters whether it was considered alternative at the outset. If it is found to be reasonably safe and effective, it will be accepted.
– Angell M, Kassirer JP, “Alternative medicine–the risks of untested and unregulated remedies.” N Engl J Med 1998;339:839.
There is no alternative medicine. There is only scientifically proven, evidence-based medicine supported by solid data or unproven medicine, for which scientific evidence is lacking.
Whether a therapeutic practice is ‘Eastern’ or ‘Western,’ is unconventional or mainstream, or involves mind-body techniques or molecular genetics is largely irrelevant except for historical purposes and cultural interest. As believers in science and evidence, we must focus on fundamental issues-namely, the patient, the target disease or condition, the proposed or practiced treatment, and the need for convincing data on safety and therapeutic efficacy.
– Fontanarosa P.B., and Lundberg G.D. “Alternative medicine meets science” JAMA. 1998; 280: 1618-1619.