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. 2000 Dec;29(12):1125-8.

What Is Complementary Medicine?

  • PMID: 11140215

What Is Complementary Medicine?

M Cohen. Aust Fam Physician. .


Background: Medicine has a central aim of achieving health and wellbeing and many healthcare practices have developed to achieve this. Currently, patient spending on complementary therapies exceeds out of pocket spending on orthodox therapies. The increased use of complementary medicine by the public is paralleled by many doctors either using, or interested in using, a wider range of therapeutic approaches.

Objective: To define complementary medicine and explore what distinguishes it from mainstream medicine.

Discussion: Despite growing interest into complementary therapies by doctors and government, it often seems there are two parallel healthcare systems--'conventional' and 'complementary', or 'orthodox' and 'unorthodox'--operating without much interaction. Descriptions of this division claim to be based on scientific merit or political acceptance. However, it may be more appropriate to consider therapies as existing across a spectrum with multiple, complementary dimensions. Thus, the science of medicine aimed at achieving cures can be seen to complement the art of medicine, which aims to enhance health. Optimal healthcare delivery requires a 'holistic' or 'integrative' approach.

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