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Is alternative medicine effective?
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Alternative medicine has no proven effect

There is no scientific evidence of alternative medicine's effectiveness.
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The Argument

Conventional medicine relies on methods proven to be safe and effective with carefully designed trials and research. Doctors and nurses are bound to report side-effects of treatment which are collated federally or nationally and treatments withdrawn if necessary. The use of alternative medicine appears to be increasing,[1] yet complementary and alternative treatments lack any evidence on which to base sound decisions. Despite millions of dollars spent on research, there is zero evidence of efficacy.[2] In homeopathy, the active ingredient is so diluted in water as to be untraceable, relying on the principle of "memory of water." This is not supported by any scientific theory. Millions of people with cancer seek CAM treatments and this is where a wealth of well evaluated rigorous research into CAM has been done. The efficacy of the CAM treatments have been disproven. This contrasts with claims of CAM practitioners who state the treatments are unproven – which is very different and suggests that perhaps they work but no one has yet worked out how.

Counter arguments

CAM is almost impossible to research. For example, to answer the question 'does yoga work to reduce back pain?' you have to ask what kind of yoga? What kind of back pain? Additionally, what does it mean to "work" — to help someone avoid surgery, hold a job or need less medication? Some things — the body meridians that acupuncturists say they follow, or energy forces that healers say they manipulate — cannot be measured, and many scientists question their existence.[2] CAM is not simply a new array of therapeutic tools that need to be evaluated; it presents other ways to think about disease and therapeutics, and consequently new ideas about how research should be strategically developed. Therefore the structure of CAM research should be different, in subtle but important ways.[3]


Scientific method is the gold standard of evidence.


[P1] There is no concrete evidence to support alternative medicine's efficacy. In fact, some of it has been actively disproven.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P1] It is impossible to disprove alternative medicine.

Further Reading

Tabish, S.A. (2008) Complementary and alternative healthcare: Is it evidence-based? International Journal of Health Science, 2(1), V–IX,


This page was last edited on Wednesday, 15 Apr 2020 at 08:45 UTC

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