If something is being sold to treat disease and it isn't a prescription drug, or an expensive surgery, surely it must be quackery and nonsense. The insistence that only pills containing synthetic and patented molecules designed and owned by pharmaceutical companies are the only things on this green earth that could affect a person’s health is a viewpoint that is not only absurdly improbable, but also widely accepted amongst conventional medical practitioners (and many people in general). Indeed, their logic would suggest that should a naturally-occurring molecule have any positive effects on health that it must be laughable witch medicine.

This may sound unbelievable, but I have been wrestling with this stubborn generalization for over 15 years. I have clients that visit our dispensary, point around at things on the shelf and say "my doctor says none of this stuff works.". My wife has patients whose medical doctors lose their minds when they find out that she's been prescribed 1000iu of vitamin D per day (which is in the low-end of Health Canada's safe range of dosages) and suggest that if she merely stop taking this poisonous voodoo medicine that her problems will go away. Relative to naturopathic doctors (for instance) not only are conventional medical professionals unqualified to cast judgment on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) as it is barely part of their academic curriculum, but CAM therapies are often immediately targeted as "the reason" why someone is experiencing symptoms - deliberately placing fear where none is warranted.

Before I get too worked up, allow me to remove this sweeping generalization that I am making about conventional medical therapists. The fact that a huge number of our patients and clients are in fact nurses, and to a much lesser extent doctors and specialists clearly illustrates my point. But are the wounds suffered by CAM strictly due to relentless attacks from mainstream medicine? Are any of these wounds self-inflicted?

As someone who has worked in the CAM industry for over 15 years, I understand and respect every bit of criticism leveled at our industry. I wish the CAM industry consisted of nothing but evidence-based, tried and truly successful practices. I wish that every pill contained something useful to humankind, and that every practitioner was doing something worthwhile. My present observations would suggest that there are so many questionable CAM practices that go on with little to no scientific evidence, that the diamonds sitting in the rough have lost much of their shimmer and go unnoticed by those who attempt to even look; worse still if those doing the looking have any medical or scientific background.  It's no wonder so many people still view the CAM industry with such negativity.  

The CAM industry is a wild beast; home to everything from evidence-based therapies, to parlour tricks to outright fraud. For every incredible CAM product or service I see, I witness one that make me shake my head in concern or disbelief. If the CAM industry expects to gain any sort of scientific support, or more specifically medical support that will help facilitate itself as a mainstream form of medicine, it’s going to have to try much harder – it certainly isn’t doing itself any favours at present regardless if it means well. I would like to think that everyone in the CAM industry is here to help people; but when the health of our fellow humans is at stake, we owe it to them to ensure that we’re not just regurgitating some myth or folklore, or peddling the wares of a supplement manufacture based upon their marketing materials without first critically evaluating it against real supporting evidence. I’ve been in the industry long enough to not only witness this practice, but unwittingly play a role in it.

Until the CAM industry pulls up its knickers and starts getting serious, it will never be accepted and continue to have its gargantuan share of critics. True evidence-based therapies will continue to be lumped together with the magic tricks and miracle pills which perpetuate a continued aversion to CAM use, even when there is merit. My first request to my fellow CAM members is to be honest, be reasonable, be realistic, be critical, be skeptical, and put truth before the dollar; unlike the pharmaceutical industry, we don’t have the lobbyists in politics to bend it.

I wish to see a not-so-distant future where everything is done in the best interest of the patient. Whether that option is a drug, a surgery, vitamin or mineral therapy, or a botanical remedy I could ideologically care less. Outside of our continental borders, many developed nations have managed to integrate pharmaceuticals with non-pharmaceuticals with very good success and without the need to categorically eliminate things based on which companies make them and who makes the profit each fiscal quarter. To me, the best ideals are the one where the patient is put first.