The future of alternative medicine – how will it evolve over the next decade?

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Health Related Issues

Alternative medicine is part of the mainstream in many countries now. The British public, for example, spend around $4 billion annually on complementary therapies, including herbal remedies and homeopathy. Around half of all GP prescriptions written in France are for ‘alternative’ medicines, including homeopathy and herbal medicine. And around one-third of German doctors now incorporate alternative therapies into their practices. So what does the future hold for alternative medicine as it becomes ever more mainstream?

In China, experts predict that an astronomical $100 billion will be spent on Integrative Medicine by 2020. In India, the popularity of traditional systems of medicine is increasing, with patients spending around $6.5 billion on Ayurvedic treatments alone. And in the USA, the number of people using alternative medicine rose from 33% in 2002 to 42% in 2021.

1. Secularisation

It has been predicted that ‘Western’ forms of alternative medicine will become more widespread. That is, the alternative therapies that have been borrowed from traditional Chinese, Indian and other non-Western systems of medicine. So, for example, yoga is likely to be practiced by even more Westerners in future. However, this may not be entirely positive as it could lead to a process of ‘secularisation’. In other words, certain alternative therapies may actually lose something from their traditional roots as they are adapted to suit a more Western perspective.

2. Personalised medicine

In the West, it is predicted that people will increasingly turn towards non-Western forms of medicine when dealing with chronic illnesses and difficult-to-treat conditions such as cancer. For example, some patients in the USA are turning to traditional Indian Ayurvedic medicine, while others are seeking help from Chinese practitioners of Tai Chi. This drive towards alternative therapies may be partly due to the growing influence of Eastern culture in the West. However it is also driven by an interest in ‘personalised medicine’. Namely, that each individual will receive care based on their own specific needs.

3. Spiritual Care

There is evidence of a growing interest in spirituality within mainstream medicine. For example, doctors are increasingly expected to address the spiritual needs of patients as well as more conventional medical concerns like diagnosis and treatment. This increased focus on spirituality has led to the rise of ‘spiritual care’ in hospitals. For example, chaplains are increasingly being employed by hospitals to provide spiritual care for patients and their families. This trend is likely to continue into the future with more doctors taking an active interest in spirituality and looking for new ways to explore the connection between spirituality and medicine.

4. Still More Research

The end of the cold war in 1989 led to an increased interest in the medical benefits of alternative therapies. These days there are countless universities, institutes and medical schools around the world that are devoting increasing resources towards research into alternative medicine. For example, there is now a global effort to complete what is called ‘the Human Genome Project’. This is a massive scientific undertaking that will help to explain how genes work and why certain genetic mutations cause illness. Researchers have claimed that this information could lead to new forms of medicine in the future.

These are only 4 of the developments inIntegrative Medicine in Madison. It is becoming more and more popular around the globe.

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