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Anthroposophically Extended Medicine

Anthroposophically extended medicine is an extension of Western biomedicine and also incorporates approaches and therapeutics from two alternative medicine movements: naturopathy and homeopathy. Anthroposophically extended medicine is most prominent in Europe, but there are an estimated 30 to 100 M.D.s in the United States who practice it also. Hundreds of uniquely formulated medications are used in anthroposophical practice, each seeking to match the key dynamic forces in plants, animals, and minerals with disease processes in humans to stimulate healing. Much research in anthroposophically extended medicine has been connected with attempts to understand the nature of disease, assess treatments qualitatively, and understand how the essential properties of the objects under investigation could be applied in therapy.

Environmental Medicine

Environmental medicine, like anthroposophically extended medicine, also can be viewed as an extension of modern biomedicine. Environmental medicine traces its roots to the practice of allergy treatment and the work of Dr. Theron Randolph in the 1940s, who identified a variety of common foods and chemicals that were able to trigger the onset of acute and chronic illness even when exposure was at relatively low levels.

Environmental medicine recognizes that illness in individuals can be caused by a broad range of incitant substances, including foods, chemicals found at home and in the workplace, and chemicals in the air, water, and food. Today there are 3,000 physicians worldwide practicing environmental medicine, and there are several environmental control units in the United States and one in Canada, where patients’ sensitivities are unmasked through fasting and complete avoidance of potentially incitant chemicals.

Research in this field has been directed at clinical treatment of patients and at evaluation of the diagnostic and treatment techniques used by practitioners. Other studies have supported the use of the approaches of environmental medicine in treating arthritis, asthma, chemical sensitivity, colitis, depression, eczema, fatigue, and hyperactivity.

The belief that humans can get sick from cumulative low-level environmental exposure to certain incitants is not well accepted by the conventional medical community. However, because "sick building syndrome" and other chronic conditions that cannot be explained by other phenomena are being seen with greater frequency, environmental medicine offers a theoretical groundwork for dealing with such phenomena. Indeed, environmental medicine is in a position to be a leading force in the investigation of ways to reduce the incidence of these and other disorders.

Community Based Health Care Practices

Community based health care practices. Community-based health care practices are varied and found throughout the United States. Like other health care specialists, community-based healers may emphasize naturalistic, personalistic, energetic explanatory models or a combination. Traditional midwives and herbalists and nowadays, pragmatic weight loss specialists are probably the best known of community-based practitioners who follow the naturalistic model. In addition, the Native American medicine man or medicine woman is a community-based traditional healer with primarily naturalistic skills, that is, the skills of an herbalist in particular. Some medicine people are also shamans, in which case they are often distinguished as holy men and women.

In contrast to professionalized practitioners, community-based healers often do not have set locations such as offices or clinics for delivering care but do so in homes, at ceremonial sites, or even right where they stand. Community-based healing of the personalistic variety can also be "distant," that is, it does not require that practitioner and patient be in each other’s presence. Prayers or shamanic journeys, for example, can be requested and "administered" at any time, and charm cures are sometimes delivered by telephone.

Meanwhile, community-based systems also thrive in urban areas. These systems include the popular weight loss programs and other 12-step programs. Often the practitioners rent office space and emphasize contact between client and practitioner, and they may charge considerable fees. Since these practitioners depend on their healing practice for their livelihood, they advertise and so may be easier to identify and contact for study purposes.

Native American

Native American Indian community-based medical systems have a number of rituals and practices: sweating and purging, usually done in a "sweat lodge"; the use of herbal remedies gathered from the surrounding environment and sometimes traded over long distances; and shamanic healing involving naturalistic or personalistic healing. Tribes such as the Lakota and Dineh (Navajo) also use practices such as the medicine wheel, sacred hoop, and the "sing," which is a healing ceremonial that lasts from 2 to 9 days and nights and is guided by a highly skilled specialist called a "singer."

Formal research into the healing ceremonies and herbal medicines conducted and used by bona fide Native American Indian healers or holy people is almost nonexistent, even though Native American Indians believe they positively cure both the mind and body. Ailments and diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, thyroid conditions, cancer, skin rashes, and asthma reportedly have been cured by Native American Indian doctors who are knowledgeable about the complex ceremonies.

Latin American

Latin American community-based practices include curanderismo, which is a folk system of medicine that includes two distinct components: a humoral model for classifying activity, food, drugs, and illness; and a series of folk illnesses.

In the humoral component of curanderismo things could be classified as having qualitative (not literal) characteristics of hot or cold, dry or moist. According to this theory, good health is maintained by maintaining a balance of hot and cold. Thus, a good meal will contain both hot and cold foods, and a person with a hot disease must be given cold remedies and vice versa. Again, a person who is exposed to cold when excessively hot may "take cold" and become ill.

The second component, the folk illnesses, is actively in use in much of Mexico and among less educated Hispanic U.S. citizens. Studies have found that as many as 96 percent of Mexican-American households (more frequent in the less Americanized communities) treated members for Hispanic folk illnesses. Similarly high use patterns among Mexican migrant workers has been found in Florida and Mexico.

Although no formal effectiveness studies seem to have been done on this system, its wide popularity and the research suggesting the relevance of the folk diagnoses for biomedical practice indicate the need for further demographic and effectiveness studies.


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