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Throughout recorded history people of various cultures have relied on what Western medical practitioners today call alternative medicine The term alternative medicine covers a broad range of healing philosophies approaches and therapies It generally describes those treatments and health care practices that are outside mainstream Western health care People use these treatments and therapies in a variety of ways Alternative therapies used alone are often referred to as alternative when used in combination with other alternative therapies or in addition to conventional therapies they are referred to as complementary Some therapies are far outside the realm of accepted Western medical theory and practice but some like chiropractic treatments are now established in mainstream medicine Worldwide only an estimated ten to thirty percent of human health care is delivered by conventional biomedically oriented practitioners The remaining seventy to ninety percent ranges from self-care according to folk principles to care given in an organized health care system based on alternative therapies Many cultures have folk medicine traditions that include the use of plants and plant products In ancient cultures people methodically collected information on herbs and developed well-defined herbal pharmacopoeias Indeed well into the twentieth century much of the pharmacology of scientific medicine was derived from the herbal lore of native peoples Many drugs commonly used today are of herbal origin one-quarter of the prescription drugs dispensed by community pharmacies in the United States contain at least one active ingredient derived from plant material Twenty years ago few physicians would have advised patients to take folic acid to prevent birth defects vitamin E to promote a healthy heart or vitamin C to bolster their immune systems Yet today doctor and patient alike know of the lifesaving benefits of these vitamins Twenty years ago acupuncture guided imagery and therapeutic touch were considered outright quackery Now however in clinics and hospitals around the country non-traditional therapies are gaining wider acceptance as testimonials and studies report success using them to
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