A Gamble Into the Unknown: Orthodox Versus Alternative Medicine
The information you are reading right now is also a quick reference for sources of information on unconventional, alternative, and complementary therapies; their uses and how you could get them. It is an extraordinary compilation of many useful facts written in an easy-to-understand language for the ordinary person. I have attempted to demonstrate the usefulness and efficacy of many naturally occurring and often disregarded substances in maintaining health, treating (or even curing?) a variety of devastating ailments, and prolonging life. Although targeted at the lay public, the article also offers a lot of scientific information on these superb substances of great antiquity.
Alternative medicine is normally classified under the common term of “complementary therapies”. These are, in turn, defined as therapeutic practices currently not considered to be an integral part of conventional allopathic medical practice. They may lack convincing biomedical explanations, alright; but, as they are tested in the laboratory and are better researched and are found to give an actual lease of life to numerous cases where sure death was once a foregone conclusion, they simply become credible. Obviously, therapies become “complementary” when they are being used in addition to conventional treatment, while they become “alternative” when being used in place of conventional medicine. Some older definitions would normally describe alternative medicine as an unconnected lot of non-orthodox therapeutic practices, often with explanatory approaches that do not quite match with conventional biomedical explanations; or as non-orthodox therapeutic tendencies with “not quite convincing” scientific explanations for their efficacy. Others define complementary and alternative medicine as a broad spectrum of healing entities that spans all health systems, modalities, and practices and their accompanying theories, hypotheses, and beliefs other than those intrinsic to the politically dominant health system of a particular society or culture at a given time in history. This definition embraces all such practices and ideas perpetuated by potential users as preventing or treating illnesses or promoting health and general well being of the individual. However, boundaries between these different modes of definition are not always as sharp or fixed.
Alternative and complementary medicine includes, but is not limited to the following disciplines: indigenous medicine, herbs, diet fads, faith healing, acupuncture, and so on. Common practice clearly indicate that these therapies are mostly sought and applied by desperate individuals who have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, cancer, untreatable neurological conditions, back pain, severe arthritis, and other equally devastating medical conditions you might think of. This article is certainly not able to provide information for every ailment or even give sufficient assistance to everyone seeking information on specific therapies or medical conditions. For particular diseases, treatment or therapeutic information one should consult a medical specialist or visit specific websites on the internet. This is simply a general writeup for information on proved and workable therapies, dietary supplements, etc; but, surely, I am not in a position to make any recommendations on their effectiveness for anyone not ready to try. If you are one of those skeptics and doubting Thomases, you are better off by consulting with your family doctor first before you try anything in that direction. This writeup is for your general education and is not meant to convince you to do away with the professional care by your qualified health practitioner if you are not the kind of person who believes easily and can dare; neither is it for advocating or selling any merchandise or products by any company or anyone if you are not convinced.
But, how did I get motivated to write this writeup? It is a long story! I could, perhaps, start by taking you back into my background and personal history. I was born destitute, without knowing who my father or my mother was; although I came to learn later in life that my mother was still alive. I grew up in very mean circumstances, under the care of an aging grandfather and step-grandmother. During those days, as it still is even today, in rural Africa a shilling meant a great deal to the family. I can recall my inaudible little whimpers, begging for school fees, as my grandfather shuffled barefoot through the dust and sand of his little coffee and banana holding where the family had for many years planted and reaped and tended their poultry and livestock. I did not realize it at the time, but his sending me to school and paying forty shillings per year including uniform meant a huge sacrifice – for in those days, in 1957, when we could hardly make both ends meet, a shilling was like a $10 note today in our locality.
We lived in a mud house with a thatched roof. These were trying times; coffee did not fetch a good price at the co-operative market, and crops had been failing due to a long drought. But I was only a little boy of nine and the cares of this world just didn’t bother me. Looking back now, I can quite see where fending for the family was a real nightmare for my grandfather; who could walk long distances on a stave for support, in the boiling heat of the tropics, selling charcoal and firewood from one homestead to another. Yes, we were extremely poor. But then so was everyone else. But I never could realize it at the time. I felt like the richest person on earth; and while on vacation at home during the long end-of-year break from school, I was as happy as a lark.
I was constantly at home, even during school term. My school was just a few kilometers from home; just an old iron-roofed building, with crumbling brick walls, plus an office for the headteacher and two staff houses. It was a day school, where we could walk in the morning and come back in the evening. My grandfather couldn’t afford a boarding school; and there was no public transport, so we were always longing for those long vacations when we could rest and sleep endlessly, and lounge in the sun, and do our own thing in the open country unhindered by anyone.