Talk:History of alternative medicine

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Initial comments[edit]

I disagree with this article's assertion that the term modern only encompasses the last 30 years. ᚣᚷᚷᛞᚱᚫᛋᛁᛚ 20:58, 1 May 2004 (UTC)

The history of alternative medicine in the West reads as if there was a conspiracy to suppress it, perpetrated by the Catholic Church and professional physicians. I very much doubt that this is the case. Although I am not terribly familiar medical history, I would think that alternative medicine declined in the face of professional medicine, because professional medicine tended to move in sync with scientific advancement. Alternative medicine was simply labelled superstitious (with good reason), the more science learned about the human body. -- 01:48, 7 March 2007 (UTC)

I am afraid the above is far from true. The folk healers were the psychics and witches, and they healed with the magical and psychic properties of the herbs; the efforts of the catholic church to stamp them out are well documented. Science also rejects a priori the perceptions of the healers and shamans. Aniksker (talk) 20:19, 10 August 2009 (UTC)

Sourcing and POV problems[edit]

1. Except for the last section, this article has NO references! That needs fixing. It is unsourced assertion and all but the last section could be deleted, but let's see if anyone will source it.

2. The article is written in an unencyclopedic style with many fluff words.

3. The last section reads like a copyvio, but I'm not sure about its history here, and I can't find a copy. If it's a copyvio, maybe someone else can find it. If this was written by one or more editors here, kudos for providing sources. If that's the case, then it's not a copyvio and apologies to the author(s).

The article needs tags. I'll add some, and if someone finds more suitable ones, then just use them. -- Brangifer (talk) 04:53, 29 May 2009 (UTC)

This article needs an enema FiachraByrne (talk) 22:48, 2 January 2013 (UTC)

"enema"? Maybe, but could be better said of Alternative medicine, if not something more drastic per "Regain focus"[1]]. I have revised History article to make a link to List of branches of alternative medicine instead, but please would any previous editor revert if not acceptable. Editors will know that the List links to Glossary of alternative medicine which in turn links to Alternative medicine.Qexigator (talk) 14:12, 18 January 2013 (UTC)
No this article was then far worse than the Alternative Medicine article is currently [2]. FiachraByrne (talk) 15:05, 18 January 2013 (UTC)
Yes, and now all the better for the further edits after 22:48, 2 January 2013 (UTC), but the Ayurvedic medicine section is still labelled problematic. Could that not be hived off to another article, as for Chinese culture, where it need not vex those who seem to be so anxious to protect the USA population and professional bodies and healthcare program from all that? Qexigator (talk) 15:31, 18 January 2013 (UTC)
No. Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine are relevant to the History of alternative medicine. The current content is unsourced and inadequate but I'd like to keep it there as a placeholder until I get the opportunity to fix it. It's tagged for neutrality and lack of sources which is fine by me. Same with the material about CAM in the UK (although this is sourced). I've another article to finish before then so it might be a few weeks before I get the opportunity to get down to it and there are quite a few other sections in the article- currently hidden - that I'd like to do first (medical botany, hydropathy, etc). As regards those sections vexing any editors – or even why that should be a concern in the absence of sources and arguments – there's no evidence of that here at the moment so it appears to be a non-issue. FiachraByrne (talk) 17:20, 18 January 2013 (UTC)

Quote from 1784 Commission[edit]


Here is the current lede - [3]

The term alternative medicine refers to systems of medical thought and practice which function as alternatives to or subsist outside of conventional, mainstream medicine. Alternative medicine cannot exist absent an established, authoritative and stable medical orthodoxy to which it can function as an alternative. Such orthodoxy was only established in the West during the nineteenth century through processes of regulation, association, institution building and systematised medical education.[1]

Lede over-reliance on single source[edit]

The lead relies on a single source. This is overreliance on a single source. FloraWilde (talk)

Lede POV and vague description of medical science as "orthodoxy", without any mention of the word "science"[edit]

The lead describes science-based medicine as "orthodoxy ... established in the West", without ever mentioning the word "science". It is highly POV to describe science as "orthodoxy". It is overly vague to refer science-based medicine in this way. The description is so POV and so vague that a reader cannot possibly know that science-based medicine is what is being talked about. FloraWilde (talk)

Offtopic lede content[edit]

The lead says nothing about the history of alternative medicine as a catch-all for non-science based medical practice that grew beginning in the 70's or so, and nothing about the histories of the individual practices. The lead is off-topic and does not summarize the history of alternative medicine. FloraWilde (talk) 21:08, 11 August 2014 (UTC)

On-topic content and three sources added to lead[edit]

I this on-topic content to the lead -

The history of alternative medicine (or the history of complimentary and alternative medicine) refers to the histories of a number of different medical practices with different individual histories, which share the common feature of a claim to heal that is not based on the scientific method.[1] It can also refer to the history of the social phenomenon of collecting these non-science-based medical practices under the general expression, "alternative medicine", or to the history of the movement in which popularity of the collection grew, beginning in about the last quarter of the 20th Century.

I added three sources supporting the second sentence -

  • "The Rise and Rise of Complementary and Alternative Medicine: a Sociological Perspective, Ian D Coulter and Evan M Willis, Medical Journal of Australia, 2004; 180 (11): 587-589"[4] This source specifically uses the expression "social phenomenon", which has a history, referring not to the individual histories of various alt med practices, but to collecting them under a single umbrella with a name, "alternative medicine". This source says,

"The increasing use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) within industrialised, 'advanced' Western nations presents itself as something of an enigma. As a social phenomenon, it is not well understood or indeed much researched. In this article we offer some observations and tentative explanations, some of a speculative nature. It is curious that this growth is occurring in countries where Western science and scientific method generally are accepted as the major foundations for healthcare, and “evidence-based” practice is the dominant paradigm. As medicine experiences an explosion in its knowledge base and genomic medicine opens a whole new approach to medical care, we are witnessing the rapid expansion of a branch of healthcare whose claim to be 'scientific', so far at least, has been widely debated."

I also added these two sources which have content on the history of the rise of the social phenomenon, or "movement", that support the second lead sentence I just added -

  • Sampson, W. (1995). "Antiscience Trends in the Rise of the "Alternative Medicine'Movement". Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 775: 188–197. doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.1996.tb23138.x. PMID 8678416.
  • Ignore Growing Patient Interest in Alternative Medicine at Your Peril - MDs Warned, Heather Kent, Canadian Medical Association Journal, November 15, 1997 vol. 157 no. 10

Section - "Cross-cultural medical exchange"[edit]

Why does this section have this title? FloraWilde (talk) 20:55, 11 August 2014 (UTC)

I retitled the section. FloraWilde (talk) 17:23, 12 August 2014 (UTC)

Use of WP:Fringe word "orthodoxy" to refer to medicine based on the scientific method[edit]

This article repeatedly uses the WP:FRINGE and POV word "orthodoxy" to refer to medicine based on science, or to the attitude that medicine should be based on science. This is done without ever saying that what is meant by orthodoxy is medicine based on science. This perspective is WP:Fringe and is highly POV. However, the content has a place at Wikipedia (although not necessarily in a history of alt med article). Per WP:Fring, the content should be moved to a section at the end of the article. FloraWilde (talk) 17:22, 12 August 2014 (UTC)

"based on..."[edit]

Noting this edit 22:26, 8 September,[5] is there any exception to the proposition that none of the AM named are based on the scientific method? Those that are traditional, before the age of science based medicine, say later 19c. onwards, are not, and others such as naturopathy, as well as homeopathy, claim to be based on something else. Qexigator (talk) 22:40, 8 September 2014 (UTC)

Chiropractic (for the purpose of realigning muscles and bones, not curing stuff), physiotherapy, for two examples that have/are labelled as pseudoscience, yet recognized for legitimate medical purposes. Pseudoscience and alternative medicine are not synonymous, and it is a rather bold statement to attribute to one source that puts it: "One group considers..." and "As used here, alternative medicine refers to all treatments that have not been proven effective using scientific methods." (emphasis mine) - Floydian τ ¢ 22:53, 8 September 2014 (UTC)
User:Floydian, your mention of various wordings which are not the subject in this thread only creates straw men and confusion. We are not talking about the subject of pseudoscience, nor about the "One group..." (which also refers to pseudoscientific subjects). We're talking about that one NSF source and the best wording to use. The National Science Foundation (NSF) is using their own definition of alternative medicine: "As used here, alternative medicine refers to all treatments that have not been proven effective using scientific methods." We have formulated a statement focusing on the "scientific method" terminology. Maybe we could use a better formulation, but it's accurate and is an apt description of alternative medicine, regardless of whether some of them may later achieve acceptance and proof. They did not start that way. BTW, Physical Therapy is not, and never has been, alternative medicine, and when chiropractors use physical therapy methods for legitimate purposes, they are not practicing pseudoscience. It is their reliance on "adjustments" to cure fictive "vertebral subluxations" which is pseudoscientific. That is also part of the "history of alternative medicine". -- Brangifer (talk) 05:48, 9 September 2014 (UTC)
Still, chiropractice in general is labelled alternative medicine. Check our own article. I can also find sources that label physiotherapy as alternative medicine when I return from work this evening. Fact is, you're still using one source that verbatim declares that the definition given is its own to justify a bold claim that this subject refers to just hoaxes, as opposed to any practice that is not considered part of mainstream western medical literature. - Floydian τ ¢ 09:48, 9 September 2014 (UTC)
Reply to Floydian ( 09:48, 9 September): ...this subject refers to just hoaxes, as opposed to any practice that is not considered part of mainstream western medical literature. That may be fair comment on certain portions or presentational emphasis of the lead or images in the present version of the AM article, but read more carefully the opening paragraph of this section, and exemplify for us, if you can, something which is named in that article as AM which is, according to its own precepts and principles, based on the scientific method. That would be more helpful and to the point than your comment on the source. Qexigator (talk) 11:46, 9 September 2014 (UTC)
Floydian, again you are using words not appropriate for this discussion. We have not mentioned hoaxes. Stick to the topic. Chiropractic has always been classified as alternative medicine. Physical therapy has never been classified in that manner. You might find some comment, but nothing reliable or official. They have very different origins and very different positions in the health care system. Chiropractic started as a hostile and competitive system, and has never achieved full acceptance. PT was created by physicians within mainstream healthcare, as an adjunct to their own work. PT has never been in competition with, or hostile to, mainstream medicine. -- Brangifer (talk) 15:39, 9 September 2014 (UTC)
Look, you can try to swing the argument to my specific wording, but this isn't thesaurus time. The fact is, you've got a single source, which clearly states that they are using their own definition, to backup a claim that it is fact. So, either find more sources that back that definition, or add the text "According to... the definition is", as required by our verifiability policies. Stonewalling will only result in me taking this issue higher up the ladder, be it posting to a noticeboard regarding this misuse of a source, or an RfC. - Floydian τ ¢ 22:01, 9 September 2014 (UTC)
Reply to Floydian (22:01, 9 September): Given that the lead at the top of an article is meant to be a summary of an article as a whole, the concern is whether the lead is properly representing what is more fully expressed in the opening section "Alternative medicine". Is it your contention that the lead is misrepresenting that section and what follows it ('Before the "fringe" ', 'Medical professionalisation', 'Nineteenth-century non-conventional medicine', etc., including the Notes as well as listed sources)? If so, please specify. Qexigator (talk) 22:31, 9 September 2014 (UTC)
As it stands, a source is used in the lede that appears nowhere else in the article; the source in question. The first section is extraordinarily confusing, and reads like a philosophical rant. It essentially takes a simple concept: "The definition of alternative medicine is dependant on that of mainstream medicine. There is a clear delineation between the two, and nothing can be both." - This in of itself strengthens my point: things that were alternative medicine (i.e. spinal and muscle-skeletal manipulations [Chiropractic practise, the actual real world one we see medical doctors participate in today] as a solution to back pain, knee pain, wrist pain, and any pain caused by... well... muscular-skeletal inflammation or dislocation) are today seen as common sense science. Things that were once "common sense science" are now almost-universally regarded as lunatic fringe. By that simple fact, we cannot define alternative medicine as such when discussing the history. What defines alternative medicine may be unchanged, but what is defined AS alternative medicine has changed dramatically over the years. I suppose I've increased the number of issues here, but it still comes down to that one sentence in the lede (although now I want brevity in that confusing blob of a first section). - Floydian τ ¢ 23:05, 9 September 2014 (UTC)


The source in question was introduced by an editor intent on revising the lead by revision of 20:42, 11 August 2014[6] Should this be reconsidered? The earlier version, as at 29 July, was:

The term alternative medicine refers to systems of medical thought and practice which function as alternatives to or subsist outside of conventional, mainstream medicine. Alternative medicine cannot exist absent an established, authoritative and stable medical orthodoxy to which it can function as an alternative. Such orthodoxy was only established in the West during the nineteenth century through processes of regulation, association, institution building and systematised medical education. (Bivins 2007,p. 171)

That text in the present version is placed in section 7 "Relativist perspective".

Qexigator (talk) 23:30, 9 September 2014 (UTC)