Consider the differences between “Alternative” and “Traditional” forms of health care. The alternative fields of health include nutrition, chiropractors, acupuncture, supplements, exercise, meditation, homeopathy, naturopathy, and so on. The traditional (allopathic) medical fields are comprised of drugs, radiation, and surgery, all of which are relatively NEW inventions in the fields of health and healing.

Why do we refer to the tried and true approaches to health as alternative
and the new stuff as traditional?

Probably because we are inclined to use traditional in a manner more closely associated with its common synonyms,“customary and established“. There’s little doubt that current trends in drug use, radiation, and surgery are established methods and that over the years they have become customary.

In one true traditional sense, we were all once confident that our bodies could heal themselves, given time, proper conditions, nutrition, air, and water. We stayed home and rested if we caught a cold. Today, we run to a doctor and get an antibiotic; then off to the drugstore for antihistamines and decongestants; and then right back to our daily grind.

From an historic perspective, things began to shift this way as the American Medical Association (founded in 1847 and incorporated in 1897) began its rise in power in the 1920s and 1930s. It was during those years that the AMA editorial functions became more political, based heavily on the Flexner Report (published in 1910). The term, traditional medicine, was associated with what medical doctors did at the time. Other health professionals were marginalized and often forced out of practice. They were identified as “anti-establishment” and as alternatives to the conventional medicine – the AMA and Flexner brand.

It is possible that the terms came into use to describe health as just a matter of course. It is also possible that people intentionally assigned descriptive titles to specific kinds of practice. Truly traditional practices, like chiropractic and osteopathy, were not allowed into the AMA. They spent decades working to reestablish their professional status in health. However, the stain of not being a Medical Doctor seems difficult to remove, and those professions remain for many in the category of alternative. Other disciplines are still unrecognized, being relegated to the arena of alternative practices.

Is it possible that history has intentionally switched the descriptions and titles to confuse the public? Is it a plot to sell more drugs, surgeries, and radiation?

Probably not, but it seems to have worked out that way. Any option that isn’t part of the standard traditional mode of practice is considered somewhat less in credibility. Still, the word, alternative, is associated with making a choice between two or more options, whether they are offered as possibilities or not. Locating alternative practitioners takes more effort than finding a medical doctor.

Regardless of the history or intentions of people in the AMA, we have a crazy quilt of options laid before us today. Sadly, the vast majority of traditional practitioners shun everything alternative – even to the point of “firing” their patients when they want to investigate something other than the standard of drugs, radiation or surgery (the big three).

Personally, I support the idea of using what we know from centuries of practice to be safe and effective methods of health. They may not always be the best choice, but I suggest they are well worth consideration before automatically submitting to the big three.