The popularity of alternative medecine
Alternative medicine is seen as an important part of healthy living—but it wasn’t always like this. What made views on natural medicine change and why does it suddenly seem so popular?
Vitamins in pill form have been available for more than 50 years. Herbs have been staples in the sickroom and the kitchen for centuries. Only 20 years ago, most vitamin pills were fairly uniform one-a-day formulas and herbal remedies often had to be concocted at home or purchased in health food stores. But today, we are offered a vast array of vitamins, minerals and herbs and other compounds that come from natural sources. Available without a prescription, supplements are sold in drug stores, health food stores, online and even some grocery stores. Sales from supplements have gone up exponentially over the years and are expected to grow markedly in the future.
The most common reasons people who use supplements do are to prevent illnesses such as colds and flu, relieve pain and treat headaches. The fact that so many people are eager to try supplements—even when, for some cases, it is hard to find any reliable evidence that they work— shows that major changes in health care have brought herbal and nutritional remedies closer to mainstream medicine. Traditionally, the medical community has been skeptical of these remedies and of alternative medicine. That too is changing. Many doctors and scientists, have come to realize that substances such as garlic, echinacea and grape seed extract, along with vitamins and minerals, are as beneficial to health as low-fat foods, exercise and aspirin. Here are the main factors that have contributed most to this change.