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What is alternative medicine?

In Canada, "alternative medicine" means health services and approaches that are not part of the main health care system.

For example, naturopathy and acupuncture are considered "alternative medicine." Some people also consider chiropractic, massage therapy and midwifery as alternative medicine. Some alternative health professions are regulated in Ontario. That means that you need to have a licence to practice that profession.

Alternative medicine is also called:

  • Alternative health
  • Holistic health (looks at the person as a whole)
  • Natural health (uses natural products instead of drugs)
  • Preventive health (prevents disease before it starts)
  • Traditional health or traditional medicine (uses methods that are traditional to certain cultures)
  • Wellness (promotes healthy lifestyles and well-being)

The "conventional" or "Western" approach to health care is to treat the symptoms of disease with medication or surgery. In general, alternative approaches look for the underlying causes of disease and use natural means to help the body heal itself.

In Canada, many people use alternative health services and approaches. Some people use both Western or conventional medicine and some forms of alternative medicine according to preference and need.

Cost of Alternative Medicine

The Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) may cover part of the cost, or it may not cover any of the cost. It depends on the service or treatment.

Individual and group insurance plans often cover treatments by acupuncturists, chiropractors, naturopaths and registered massage therapists.

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Last Updated: October 5, 2011
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