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Alternative Medicine Merging With Mainstream

Source: By Nancy A. Melville - HealthSCOUT Reporter, Yahoo News

24th July 2000

With more and more people turning to alternative medicine, the name may not apply for long. A new survey shows that two-thirds of Americans have tried at least one form of alternative therapy or treatment. Among the most popular were herbal medicines, chiropractic services and massages. One-third of those surveyed say they have tried all three. The Internet poll of 1,148 adults was conducted recently by InterSurvey, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based marketing firm. Half the respondents reported taking vitamin supplements of some sort during the two weeks before the survey, and 23 percent reported taking herbal supplements. Respondents rated massage, yoga and acupuncture as the most effective treatments. Women were more likely to have tried alternative medicine therapies, except for chiropractic services, which was slightly more popular among men. About 62 percent of those who had tried alternative medicines said they did so on the advice of a friend or relative. Almost 28 percent said they turned to alternative medicines because traditional treatments weren't working. And 23 percent said they were looking to complement their health routine. Twenty-two percent said they tried alternative medicine on the recommendation of a doctor, and 20 percent were influenced by information from a newspaper, magazine or Internet source. Jean Durall, director of marketing for InterSurvey, says the responses reflect the wide range of sources that are giving alternative medicine the thumbs-up. "Chiropractic is fairly well established as a treatment with professional practitioners and is recognized by a lot of health insurance policies, so that's really being accepted and has a great deal of credibility in the marketplace," she says. "The popularity of herbal medicine may be more a function of both promotion and word-of-mouth, especially with a lot of the major pharmaceutical companies getting into that field," she says. "But massage is a little interesting. I would not have expected as many people to have tried that as the survey indicated, but that may reflect the fact that it's become so widely available, with many more spas offering that kind of service and even massage booths popping up at shopping malls," Durall says. Among the third of respondents who said they had not tried any alternative medicine, the most common reason was that conventional medicine worked for them. Others were concerned about safety and the lack of insurance coverage. Dr. Donald Novey, director of the Center for Complementary Medicine at Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill., says there will always be those who don't embrace alternative therapies. "There are tremendous physical differences from person to person, and that is reflected in how they respond to medicine. A classic example of this is antihistamines -- some say, 'I love this one,' and others say, 'Well, I love this other one,' and it's because peoples' bodies react differently," Novey says. The medical establishment is mainly concerned with safety, especially since herbal supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, and there's little research on alternative therapies, Novey says. "My experience with physicians is they want to see positive research. If they see the evidence, they're very open to change, but it's 'show me the safety first.'"

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