To us, cannabis is something of a singular case when it comes to alternative medicine. In a lot of ways, it’s the ultimate alternative medicine. Due to antiquated laws, information, and attitudes about the drug, the DEA continues to classify cannabis as a Schedule 1 controlled substance. For this reason alone, it can’t be considered a mainstream medical treatment. On the other hand, in many states, it’s possible to find a doctor and have an honest conversation based on the latest medical evidence and a personal health evaluation about whether cannabis is a medically appropriate treatment, as well as the potential hazards and benefits associated with its recreational use. It’s culturally accepted in a growing number of contexts and yet outside of the law in many jurisdictions.
Cannabis is also like a lot of alternative medicine in that, even outside of a traditional healthcare provider, it’s widely available to a lot of people who must make a personal choice about whether or not to use it. And, unfortunately, this choice has to be made with limited information and an incomplete understanding of the potential consequences. Of course, this can also be said about a lot of widely accepted medical treatments, too. It’s not like you or your doctor can know for sure how you’ll react to a painkiller, especially if you’ve never taken an opiate before.
One of the things we consistently advocate for at Alternative Medicine Channel is more research. Not just in the number of studies but also in the replication and honest inquiry into the basic questions of health policy and medical practice. In other words, when, how, and at what cost can cannabis be used as an effective medical treatment? Surely, this is another thread that ties cannabis to the larger history and movement of alternative medicine: What would we know and where would be now if we had invested in more research and development of alternative medicine?
We see alternative medicine as different than holistic medicine in that alternative medicine is always outside the mainstream. Holistic medicine, by definition, takes an inclusive approach that includes “western medicine” and health protocols that are widely accepted by the medical community. Alternative medicine, in contrast, focuses on these treatments, practices, and lifestyle choices beyond the mainstream. It’s like a syllogism for subsets: Alternative medicine is holistic, but holistic medicine isn’t necessarily alternative.
Put another way, we have nothing against holistic medicine and mainstream healthcare. If we break a bone, hit our head, or have a sharp abdominal pain, we go to the ER or at least make an appointment with our doctor. But there’s also a long list of preventative steps and experimental treatments that can be utilized outside of acute care services. There are yet undiscovered and underutilized alternative medicines that are destined to become the mainstream.
Moreover, many chronic medical conditions resist first- and second-line treatment protocols. Many medical conditions aren’t cured only managed. And when it comes to not feeling like crap, when you’re experiencing a host of intermittent symptoms of indeterminate cause, it’s tough to know what parts of your diet, exercise, and daily habits are contributing to or mitigating your symptoms. Krohn’s. Asthma. Arthritis. Obesity. Fibromyalgia. Orthopedic pain. Nausea and vomiting. Migraines. The list goes on and on.
Let’s get back to the original question: How is alternative medicine different than holistic medicine? Alternative medicine picks up where mainstream medicine leaves off. It seeks attention, further study, and legitimacy when it’s due. Or at least that’s how the Alternative Medicine Channel sees it. Do you see it a different way? Tell us your views. Send us an email with a note about your organization or personal expertise, and we’ll share it with our audience.