The expression also refers to a diverse range of related and unrelated products, practices, and theories ranging from biologically plausible practices and products and practices with some evidence, to practices and theories that are directly contradicted by basic science or clear evidence, and products that have been conclusively proven to be ineffective or even toxic and harmful.
The terms alternative medicine, complementary medicine, integrative medicine, holistic medicine, natural medicine, unorthodox medicine, fringe medicine, unconventional medicine, and new age medicine are used interchangeably as having the same meaning and are almost synonymous in some contexts, The meaning of the term "alternative" in the expression "alternative medicine", is not that it is an effective alternative to medical science, although some alternative medicine promoters may use the loose terminology to give the appearance of effectiveness.
AM, complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), complementary medicine, heterodox medicine, integrative medicine (IM), complementary and integrative medicine (CIM), new-age medicine, unconventional medicine, unorthodox medicine How alternative treatments "work": a) Regression to the mean — the individual gets better without treatment.
Treated individuals (pill) getting better is used as proof for the "alternative therapy".
b) Placebo or false treatment — an individual receives "alternative therapy" (pill) and is convinced it will help.
The conviction makes them more likely to get better.
Alternative practices, products, and therapies – range from ineffective to having known harmful and toxic effects.
Perceived effects of alternative medicine may be caused by: placebo; decreased effect of functional treatment (and therefore potentially decreased side effects); and regression toward the mean where alternative therapies are credited for improvement which occurs anyway; or any combination of the three.
Despite laws making it illegal to market or promote alternative therapies for use in cancer treatment, many patients use them.
Alternative medicine is criticized for taking advantage of the weakest members of society.