• Conventional medicine is preferred in the treatment of trauma and emergencies while alternative medicine excels in the treatment of chronic disease, although homeopathy can also be very effective as a first-aid.
  • Conventional medicine focuses on the relief of symptoms and rarely places emphasis on prevention or the treatment of the cause of a disorder. All alternative systems, on the other hand, strive to find and treat the cause of a disorder and frown on covering up the symptoms. Alternative therapies are also much more focused on prevention.
  • Conventional medicine is organ specific, hence ophthalmologists, cardiologists, nephrologists, neurologists, etc. Alternative medicine, without exception, considers each person as a unique individual and uses a holistic approach in treatment.
  • Conventional medicine believes in aggressive intervention to treat disease. It revels in terms such as “magic bullet” and “war” (“the war on cancer”), and prefers quick fixes (as do many patients). Alternative medicine believes in gentle, long-term support to enable the body’s own innate powers to do the healing.
  • Conventional medicine’s main “arsenal” consists of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and powerful pharmaceutical drugs. Alternative medicine uses time-tested, natural remedies and gentle, hands-on treatments.
  • Conventional medicine practitioners are guided in their treatment by strict rules set out by the Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons. This often leads to a “one size fits all” approach. Practitioners of alternative medicine, on the other hand, treat each patient as an individual and do what, in their opinion, is best rather than what is specified in a “rule book”.
  • Conventional medicine sees the body as a mechanical system (the heart is a pump and the kidneys are a filter) and believes most disorders can be traced to chemical imbalances and therefore are best treated with powerful chemicals (drugs). Alternative medicine systems, almost without exception, accept that the body is suffused by a network of channels (meridians) that carry a subtle form of life energy. Imbalances or blockages of this energy are what lead to disease and clearing of the blockages and strengthening of the energy is the ultimate goal of alternative medicine.
  • Conventional medicine prefers patients to be passive and accept their treatment without too many questions. Alternative medicine, in contrast, prefers and indeed, in many cases, requires the patient to take a highly active part in both prevention and treatment.
  • Both conventional and alternative medicine ascribe to the principle “Do no harm”. However, while alternative medicine is essentially achieving this goal, conventional medicine seems to have almost totally lost sight of it. Hospitals are now the third largest killer in Australia and over one million people are seriously injured in American hospitals every year. Blood infections acquired in American hospitals cause 62,000 fatalities every year and bypass surgery results in 25,000 strokes a year. Two million patients experience adverse drug reactions in hospitals in the United States every year; of these, over 100,000 die making hospital-induced adverse drug reactions the fourth leading cause of death after heart disease, cancer, and stroke.
  • The practice of conventional medicine is intimately tied in with the whole medico-pharmaceutical-industrial complex whose first priority is to make a profit. Although most conventional physicians have “healing the patient” as their first priority, they find it increasingly difficult to do so while operating within the system with its pharmaceutical salesmen, its rule books, its fear of malpractice suits, its endless paperwork to satisfy bureaucrats and insurance companies, and its time pressures. Most alternative medicine practitioners have no such constraints and pressures and can give the patient their undivided attention.
  • Conventional medicine generally resists the use of natural remedies long after their efficacy has been scientifically proven (Germany is an exception to this). Most alternative medicine practitioners eagerly embrace new remedies and, in many cases, can point to years of safe use. Ginkgo biloba is now the most prescribed drug in Germany and has been found effective in the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Also in Germany the herb saw palmetto is now prescribed in 90 per cent of all cases of enlarged prostate; in the United States 300,000 prostate operations are performed each year to solve this problem. More profitable for sure, but dangerous and unpleasant for the patient.
  • The major source of funds for medical research is pharmaceutical companies who, not surprisingly, are very reluctant to support investigations into lifestyle modifications, vitamins, and other unpatentable products. Nevertheless, a growing number of medical researchers are focusing their attention on natural supplements and remedies and are publishing their work in mainstream journals. The benefits of antioxidants have now been thoroughly documented by researchers at the Harvard Medical School and similar prestigious institutions. Folic acid, a simple B vitamin, has also been extensively studied in university laboratories and has been found to be effective in preventing or ameliorating heart attacks, strokes, angina, intermittent claudication, atherosclerosis, kidney disease, colon cancer, hearing loss, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Although alternative practitioners and a small group of conventional physicians do embrace the use of natural therapies and products the vast majority of “establishment” physicians are still dragging their heels and even denigrating and ridiculing alternative medicine. This fact, perhaps more than anything else, is what is driving the rapid and massive switch from conventional to alternative medicine.