People are increasingly turning to natural products and seeking to have more control over their health. Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is becoming a popular choice for many, as it offers a holistic approach to relieving common symptoms, improving quality of life, and protecting against diseases and illnesses. Traditional medicine is a body of knowledge, skills, and practices based on theories, beliefs, and experiences of different cultures. It is used for the maintenance of health and for the prevention, diagnosis, improvement or treatment of physical or mental diseases.
Medicinal herbs are often used in traditional medicine to treat diseases. However, traditional medicine encompasses much more than just herbs; it also includes the use of animals, fungi, rocks, minerals, and other components of nature. Alternative medicine is a term used to describe medical treatments that are used instead of conventional therapies. It is sometimes referred to as “comprehensive” or “complementary” medicine.
Traditional medicine refers to the ways to protect and restore health that existed before modern medicine. In recent years, there has been a growing interest in traditional and alternative medicine systems in many developed countries. Studies have shown that those who experience certain health problems are more likely to use alternative medicine in general (not just to treat that particular disorder). In the United States, one-third of adults have used alternative treatments; in the Netherlands and Belgium, 60% of the public are in favor of complementary medicine being available under the National Health Service; and in the United Kingdom, 74% are in favor.
Non-State actors such as multinational companies can take advantage of traditional knowledge and obtain patents for their own benefit. In China, traditional medicines (herbal preparations) account for 30-50% of total drug consumption. Contrary to some previous findings, negative attitudes toward or experiences with conventional medicine were not found to be predictive of alternative health care use. Traditional medicine is the mainstay of health care delivery around the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) supports Member States in their efforts to formulate national policies on traditional medicine, evaluate practices, review safety and effectiveness, improve knowledge among traditional and modern health professionals, and educate the public about proven traditional health practices. In 1996, WHO adopted a list of 28 medicinal plants originally prepared by the WHO Collaborating Center for Traditional Medicine in Chicago.
Since most healthcare alternatives are not covered by insurers, having access to more financial resources predicts the use of alternative medicine. Some authors understand alternative medicine as a set of theories, knowledge and practices that can replace modern therapeutic methods when these methods fail to achieve their objective. Regulators, producers and scientists may not be aware of the breadth and depth of problems related to quality control of traditional medicine products and practices.