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Alternative Therapy Growing

  • Americans are taking more interest in alternative treatments and, consequently, their own well-being.
By Clayton Potts

The number of visits in the United States to alternative therapists was greater in 1997 than the total visits to all primary care physicians, according to Friends of Health, an advocacy group.

As more and more Americans turn away from invasive allopathic medicine -- based primarily on drugs and surgery -- and embrace alternative therapies, herbal, homeopathic and wholistic therapies are becoming commonplace.

Americans' growing interest in non-traditional forms of medicine has also forced doctors to take an honest look at new and old techniques for healing people through good nutrition and mild, natural therapies.

The newly formed, Washington-based group said out-of-pocket expenses relating to alternative therapies are "conservatively estimated" at $27 billion, citing a Harvard University study.

Friends will "work with HMOs, health care insurers and large corporations to include in their coverage a broader spectrum of wellness programs and other healing systems," said a mission statement released late last year in Washington.

It called for "combining the best of modern medicine with a wide variety of other healing approaches, including, among others: acupuncture, yoga, qigong, ayurveda, healing touch and massage, chiropractic, osteopathy, new botanicals and aromatherapy."

More patients "are benefitting from music, art and color therapy, Tibetan medicine and a variety of deeply personal spiritual practices, including prayer and meditation," the statement said. "Integrative and inclusive medicine is the means for embracing all of these practices in a coherent whole."

Doctors seem receptive to the idea of sharing their traditional schooling with older treatments, as so many of their patients attest to the benefits of natural remedies.

Advocates for alternative medicines also said that the outlook, can only be better for humanity as people take an active role in learning about what is making them sick and conversely what leads to a healthy, long and fulfilling life.