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Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Practice

What is complementary / alternative medicine and how does it differ from the traditional western approach?

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is a medical approach, which combines varied medical products, and health care systems to alleviate pain (National center for complementary and alternative medicine, 2008, par.2). Authentically, CAM intertwines the physical, social, and behavior of an individual with various natural products like dietary supplements, probiotics, and botanical extracts for therapeutic purposes.

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Commonly applied physical and behavioral practices include yoga, meditation, and acupuncture among others (National center for complementary and alternative medicine, 2008 par.6). Therefore, herbalists and spiritual leaders are some of the people who practice CAM. Unfortunately, most of the people who offer CAM do not hold licenses and therefore their practices may health risk to their users.

On the other hand, the main difference between CAM and the traditional western approach is that the latter must involve qualified medical personnel or physicians. Doctors of osteopathic medicine, medical doctors, registered nurses, physiotherapists, and psychologists are some of the professionals licensed to practice western medicine.

What are your views on the use of complementary/alternative medicine?

Personally, I think the use of CAM has both pros and cons. For instance, most people who use CAM may believe in some health and social factors that bar them from accessing traditional medicine. Due to cultural beliefs about sickness and the subsequent treatment some patients may defy to consult a medical doctor in cases where CAM will not alleviate the problem (Galanti, 1997, p. 20). Secondly, traditional medicine is expensive than CAM therefore, most patients may decide to use the latter and eventually put their lives at risk. Therefore, the ability of CAM to combine cultural, social and health beliefs in their system may pose a risk factor in fighting infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS. On the other hand, the use of natural products together with the consultation with medical personnel will definitely lead to a better health system.

Why is it important to know about these practices?

Health practitioners who work within multicultural communities should know about CAM practices. First, a culturally competent staff motivates patients within their vicinity to not only consult medical care but also accept to combine their cultural, health, and social beliefs with traditional medicine. Secondly, a staff, which understands the behavior of its patients will know, which way to handle them well rather than avoiding or chasing them away. Thirdly, some of the CAM practices like the use of herbals may hinder the appropriate use of western medicine. Therefore, people should familiarize themselves with CAM practices to ensure the patients access better medical care.

How would you approach patients/clients who rely on CAM? Comment specifically on how you would handle the differences in cultural values, beliefs, and practices.

Medical practitioners with patients/clients who rely on CAM should approach them through their elders. For instance, in case the patient is a child the parent should be aware of the methods of treatment available for them to avoid fracas.

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First, an individual has to familiarize him/herself with the culture of the patients then, keenly learn what the culture demands and forbids (Sweet, 2011, p.7). Secondly, the practitioner should coerce the patient to reveal any other form of treatment she/he has taken before. Intuitively, a staff member who is from the same cultural group can handle the patient because this will motivate him/her to reveal his/her cultural belief. Finally, with the cultural values and believes in mind the physician can treat the patients or counsel them where the culture seems to be a hindrance to traditional medicine.


Galanti, G (1997). Caring for Patients from Different Cultures: Case Studies from American Hospitals. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Sweet, G.K (2011). The importance of complementary and alternative medicine in the participatory movement. Journal of Participatory Medicine, 3, 7

What is complementary and alternative medicine? (2008). National center for complementary and alternative medicine. Web.

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