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What Is Western Medicine?

Western medicine is based on clinical research and methods, including surgery as a treatment option.
Eastern medicine relies on traditional and alternative remedies such as acupuncture to treat conditions.
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  • Written By: Amy Hunter
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 08 August 2014
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Western medicine is the term used to describe the treatment of medical conditions with medications, by doctors, nurses and other conventional healthcare providers who employ methods developed according to Western medical and scientific traditions. Other names for Western medicine include traditional medicine or allopathic medicine. It differs from Eastern, or alternative, medicine, in its approach to treatment, which relies heavily upon industrially produced medications and a strict adherence to the formal scientific process.

Western medicine encompasses all types of conventional medical treatment, including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and physical therapy. The practitioners of Western medicine are doctors, nurses, physical, occupational, and respiratory therapists. Generally, anyone visiting a doctor's office or hospital will receive allopathic treatment.

The main benefit of traditional medicine is that the work of allopathic practitioners is subject to rigorous safety and effectiveness protocols. Treatments and medications pass a strict review before a patient can receive them. While some Eastern medicine treatments have been the subject of clinical trials and long-term studies, they are in the minority.

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Western medicine has a long history of safety to back up various treatment protocols. Before a new treatment or drug is approved for use on the public, it goes through an extensive testing process, first in the laboratory, and then through several layers of patient testing. Some people become frustrated with Western medicine because the approval process for new treatments is so lengthy. For people with concerns about the type of treatment they are receiving for a particular condition, there is no reason to abandon conventional medicine. Clinical trials allow many patients to take advantage of new treatment protocols before they receive official approval.

The guidelines for participating in clinical trials are very strict, and many will not accept patients who have received alternative medicines, due to concerns that it will skew the results of the trial. Teaching and research hospitals typically house most clinical trials, so living within commuting distance of one of these establishments increases the odds of participation. If you believe that you would benefit from a clinical trial, ask your physician for a recommendation.

Western medicine practitioners are generally willing to work with other allopathic practitioners to devise the best course of care for a particular injury or illness. One patient may have a primary care physician, a surgeon, a physical therapist, and an occupational therapist. They will share information with each other to help improve the prognosis, and reduce the potential downtime for each patient. Some of these practitioners may also be willing to work with practitioners of alternative, and Eastern medicine, though this is less common.

Consider a visit to a Western trained physician for any condition that is serious or invasive. The decision to treat a serious medical condition with alternative medicine is not a decision to make lightly. Instead, talk to a traditional doctor about any concerns about a specific treatment, and seek second opinions whenever possible.

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Discuss this Article

anon358767
Post 21

@anon284784: I find it funny that you say it's result proven. A result of what, exactly? Side effects that include driving people to commit suicide? Are side effects considered safe? Is that what a medical ethicist thinks is safe? You guys aren't listening to your own words. You accept things as fact, when you don't even understand the words you're using. It makes me laugh out loud. The Emperor has no clothes!

anon341070
Post 19

Western medicine is exploratory at its best, not knowing the true results of treatments and medications until years after, whether good or bad. I never trusted them and never will. If you want to keep out of a hospital, you'd best be eating what you're supposed to be eating and stop polluting your bodies.

Weren't all the wise men and wise women healers of early times throughout the 1300s to the 1600's with knowledge passed down from generation to generation dependent on herbs, plants, and barks to treat illness? That is, until the church exterminated them for being witches and not relying on church-licensed practices and others that were less effective and less affordable.

Pharmaceuticals or synthetic organic chemistry came about in the 1800s, not as a way to cure illnesses but as proof that organic compounds that are formed in living cells could be created in a laboratory. It's kind of sad to realize this is what we rely on when everything necessary for our health and well being already exists in nature.

anon340959
Post 18

The No. 1 solution to great health and longevity lies in diet and nutrition with nutrient and micro-nutrient per calorie rich foods, i.e., a plant based diet. The science and the astonishing results of chronic disease reversal are overwhelming. A leader in this field is Joel Fuhrman, MD. Check it out. No more pills, supplements or anything of the sort, except for permanent, fantastic health and longevity.

anon325002
Post 16

Correction: I apologize for this error.

America is number 50, in regards to life expectancy, among a list of selected countries, pertaining to each countries, average life expectancy!

anon323161
Post 14

America is no. 50 in healthcare results in the world. Canada is no. 12.

In 2011, the pharmaceutical industry raked in profits of $880 billion dollars. Some $330 billion dollars was raked in by the U.S. alone! The U.S. has seven of the top grossing pharmaceutical corporations in the world out of the top 25, thus making them the profiteers of well over 1/3 of the $880 billion dollar total.

Do your research and know your facts. Don't be a fool. Don't buy into the mass brainwashing!

Billions and billions of dollars have been donated to cure illness over the past several decades, yet there are still no cures! The donations are being thrown away to create long-term drugs that don't cure anything. A bottle of tablets that can cost the patient $136 can be made for about 40 cents. Learn something before you feed the world your misinformed information. These are the facts.

anon323047
Post 12

This article is totally directed at brainwashing people towards western pharmaceutical drugs, medicines which do nothing to cure anything! Western medicine/allopathic medicine hasn't cured anything since Polio in the late 1950's and the Polio vaccine wasn't even a cure.

Western medicine doesn't ever plan to cure anything. They just want you to take ridiculously expensive drugs for the rest of your life -- drugs which actually increase and create other illnesses over long periods of use. Avandia killed an estimated 200,000 people. Vioxx killed over 55,000 people.

Have we forgotten the Thalidomide babies born deformed in the 60's? Western medicine is all about keeping the profits rolling people. It has nothing to do with curing anything or anyone! Do your research!

No drugs are long-term tested. We are all being used as guinea pigs by the pharmaceutical giants which also have the government in their pockets. The FDA is evil.

Many investors from all of these areas stand to profit hugely from keeping all of us sick. Sickness is a huge, huge, profit industry. Look into it! Save your own lives!

anon284784
Post 9

A simple fact: western medicine is scientific and result proven. Eastern medicine, though thousands of years old, isn't scientific and not result proven.

If you think that herbs and supplements are safe, then you're in for a big surprise: these things can kill you. Sure prescription drugs have side effects, but in the long run they'll keep you alive. The only opponents of western medicine are the crackpots who manage their "homeopatic" medicine shops on the internet and send out their tabloid quality catalogs with outrageous bogus claims.

Let me ask you this: would you let a "psychic" be your health provider? No! you wouldn't! So stay far away form any "alternative" treatments, or as "homeopathic practitioners" like to claim: they can "cure" you.

anon217193
Post 8

There is a big difference between healing an illness and using western medicine that may cut off the problem or use drugs to deal with the symptoms of illness. Western medicine addresses illness, not wellness.

zann
Post 7

Doesn't anyone find it strange that so-called modern western medicine methods never seem to cure anything. They just write you out a pill for everything nowadays. Pills are advertised all over the media sources and a are becoming more prevalent every day. Once you get started on taking these pills regularly, what's to say that the parts of the body that used to fight disease and fix us naturally, are now shutting down and causing our systems to adjust to the meds to keep us alive.

In essence, we may be killing our bodies' own natural defense systems by replacing them with pills made in a lab. Go off the pills which you have become so dependent on, and you might just die from that because your own body has forgotten how to heal itself. Not to mention how often these dangerous drugs are recalled because people are either dying from taking them or becoming worse in other ways from all the side effects.

When my mother passed away from cancer the doctors had her on no fewer than 15 different medications, I did a great deal of reading on what she was given because they overdosed her several times, and in my own opinion of seeing her every single day for the last 2 1/2 months of her life, the chemotherapy crap that they were dumping into her system was killing her immune system totally.

She did not die from the cancer; the damn drugs killed her, crippling her in other ways physically before she passed. I could see huge differences for the worse, within a half hour of giving her those poisons. I spent the last six days of my mother's life sleeping in her hospital room with her because they made so many mistakes.

Pharmaceutical companies have one goal in mind only, and that is to keep you taking their pills forever once you start. Every pill has side-effects so they just give you more pills to try and fix those problems which the pills themselves cause. Like I said, is everyone in the West blind. They don't cure anything with these pills. Millions, if not billions of dollars are poured into medical causes and nothing gets cured. Pretty shady, don't you think?

How come they can make all of these drugs that maintain illnesses temporarily, and at a huge expense, but they never seem to come out with anything that cures anything. Even after decades and decades of research, not cures are found. If pharmaceutical companies cure people they don't make any money off anyone.

Also, doesn't anyone read their history? All present day drugs are derived from plants or natural plant drugs. Plants have been used for thousands of years to cure, yes actually cure all types of ailments and Pharmaceutical drugs have only been around for what maybe a hundred years or so, tops.

Concentrating a plant's healing properties and removing other things from the plant is unnatural. Maybe everything the plants consist of is necessary to make the whole thing work in the healing process. Hasn't this ever occurred to anyone? Drug companies don't give a crap about our health; they only care about the bottom line. Cash! Otherwise, they would find the occasional cure for the many diseases that exist.

They probably have all kinds of cures under lock and key that are only for the so-called elite people on the planet.

The rest of us, they are trying to hook on drugs that don't permanently fix anything. Again, no illnesses, no profit. We've all been brainwashed to take modern day drugs without question. It's time for people to wake up and inform themselves. Even the doctors have been programmed.

Drug companies are the biggest drug pushers in the whole world. Can you imagine for a moment how much money they make every year. Tons of people don't get better from what they have been prescribed.

Inform yourselves! Don't just blindly trust like lost sheep!

JoseJames
Post 4

I think that natural medicine and the crack pot cures it offers is one of the world's oldest scams. Just behind the churches of the world, these "doctors" have been charging people for thousands of years for herbs that may or may not be able to help us with our sickness. These scams are horrible and give people false hope in getting over a terminal illness. What is worse is that these people are destined to die from their ailment and these so called doctors just take their last money in some absurd attempt at health.

The kind of scams I am talking about are the ones where people get in huge lines to see some world famous medicine man and the leeches that he puts on your skin in some weird hope that they will suck out the disease. This is just one example of the very backward techniques that uneducated medical professionals will try. Please don't let yourself be a human experiment and take your health seriously. Go to a real doctor with real medicine and you are much more likely to get healthy then you would by drinking some tea that tastes horrible.

CoffeeJim
Post 3

While the current state of western medicine is very advanced and offers a huge amount of solutions to health problems today, we must at least keep our minds open to what alternative medicines have to offer. Simply ignoring what natural medicine men have been studying for thousands of years would be very simple minded. Surely there is some information that these people have managed to gather that is useful in today's hospitals and doctor's offices.

One area of study that I find most interesting and full of potential to help the injured and sick is the use of Chinese medicinal herbs. These natural plants that are found around the world offer a cornucopia of natural medicine. Perhaps the use of these natural medicines and western medical science can come together so we can get the best of both worlds.

In most western schools of medicine, there is a very rigorous and hard course of study to understand the current state of medical science. I wonder how difficult it would be to integrate into the studies a natural medicine program. I know that schools exist with this sole purpose but it is obvious that we need doctors that are capable of using every bit of medical knowledge in the world to help us recover from illness.

MrPolitic99
Post 2

I have had much luck in the field of alternative medicine and always suggest to my friends that they seek out a natural solution before they get the chemical nastiness that is dished out in pharmacies today. The vile chemicals that intrude on our body's natural chemistry are sometimes more harmful then the benefits that they potentially offer. Often, the reason that many medicines are available by prescription only is because of the fact that they have very harmful effects if not administered very carefully.

I guess I can understand the use of such medicines if it is the only solution that is available for the sickness that ails you, but please, at lease do the research to determine if there is a natural and less harmful medicine that can help your body and mind. I worry that we are only now starting to see the effects that decades of radical western medicine will bring to our society and our future generation's children.

jeancastle00
Post 1

There has been a big push in recent years to seek out alternative medicines to our current state of medical technology that exists in western medicine. While the use of Chinese herbs and other types of naturalistic medicine may be a great option for some with specific ailments, I fear that people disregard the years and years of research and scientific studies that have brought our state of medicine to the point that it is now.

I think one important thing to remember about the medical field is that it constantly is changing. We don't ever have a solid and consistent agreement from doctors and researchers about the entire field of medicine as we are constantly learning about the human body.

Because of this we must keep in mind that Western medicine does have it's benefits but at the same time we must stay open to the alternatives that have been used for thousands of years with much success in certain areas.

The western vs alternative medicine debate will continue to rage as people cannot cure the ailments that they have but the continued debate will help fuel a further reaching society into the best health care that we can possible provide.

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