What Is Alternative Medicine? Public Ignorance, Legality, Practice and Education


By Raphael NyarkoteyObu

He who defines the term wins the race. The Mainstream medical practitioners have defined the term to prove that conventional medicine is the only evidence-based medicine. Alternative medicine is different from Traditional or indigenous medicine, though alternative medicine also infused some form of herbalism.  Nature is the defining metaphor for many alternative medicines. The preference for botanical medicine is rooted in this idea. The health food movement articulates the superiority of “natural food”. Alternative medicine was practice before the revolution of conventional medicine.

There is a science in alternative medicine and lots of researches have been done in this faculty of alternative medicine. Medicine in itself is imperfect science because science itself is not perfect! There are a number of conventional practices that are based on false science.

This is not to debunk on the success of conventional medicine as alternative medicine also has its own predicaments; with lack of professionals, research, government support, evidence based diagnostic medical tools to work with. The science of alternative medicine is ultimately “person friendly.” Its language is one of solidarity, unity, and holism instead of the distant, statistical, and neutral conventions of normative science. The person-centered experience is the ultimate verification and reigns supreme in alternative science. Because self-knowledge and simple observation are not deprecated, no placebo effect haunts and casts doubt on the validity of therapeutic outcomes. Alternative medicine makes no rigid separation between objective phenomena and subjective experience. Truth is empirical and is ultimately accessible to human perceptions. Nature is not separate from human awareness. Instruments that extend the senses or objective diagnostic or laboratory tests that discern what cannot be felt never replace human awareness.

A patient never has to fear that an illness will be branded as existing “only in their head.” A “real” cause will be found for any sensation. The science of alternative medicine, unlike the science component of biomedicine, does not marginalize or deny human experience; rather, it affirms patients’ real-life worlds. When illness (and, sometimes, biomedicine) threatens a patient’s capacity for self-knowledge and interpretation, alternative medicine reaffirms the reliability of his or her experience.

Alternative medicine science has no radical doubt. In fact, alternative medicine science sometimes takes on the appearance of proving deeply held beliefs by selectively adopting normative scientific studies. For example, consumer infatuation with and hope in self-prescribed vitamins is unshakable and is sustained by skewed attention to scientific knowledge; conflicting evidence is often overlooked

When people use alternative medicine, “the scientific enterprise” does not have to be abandoned. In fact, the label “science” in alternative medicine, as in biomedicine, is an important source of legitimating power, moral authority, and self-definition. Alternative medicine includes chiropractic science, homeopathic science, psychic science, and even occult science. Academic science would undoubtedly call these approaches “scientism” and discuss the boundaries between science and pseudoscience. However, for practitioners and their patients, these sciences are absolutely credible. Indeed, many of these disciplines have a long intellectual tradition and sophisticated philosophy, as does the broad notion of nature’s healing power and vitalism. Adding to the genuineness of the scientific label is the fact that training in alternative disciplines may involve years of study of complex knowledge bases and relations, intricate determinations of causality, and empirical testing of practice. When debunkers or neutral scientists attack the “non-science” of alternative medicine, participants are mostly perplexed or annoyed.

Alternative medicine has a major presence and persuasive attraction in the industrialized western world. The extent to which these practices have clinical efficacy according to biomedical criteria is a matter of ongoing research and debate

Alternative Medicine is…Based on a different model to aid the body in a preventative way. The patient is the describer of alternative medicine.  People choose alternative medicine for different reasons based on their medical needs or personal beliefs.No one holds monopoly on treatments likewise on what trigger diseases. The patient is the captain of the ship and not the Doctor.

Apparently, conventional physicians deliver only about ten to thirty percent of human health care. The remaining seventy to ninety percent ranges from self-care, to care given in an organized health care system based on alternative therapies. Many cultures have folk medicine traditions that include the use of plants and plant products. In ancient cultures, people methodically collected information on herbs and developed well-defined herbal pharmaceutics. In fact, even in the first half of twentieth century much of the pharmacology of scientific medicine was derived from what we today call – unconventional medicine. Many drugs (almost one-quarter) of commonly used today are of herbal origin.

Twenty years ago, not many physicians would have advised patients to take such things as folic acid, vitamins or minerals. Medicines like “Saw Palmetto”, so popular today, would not have become urologist ‘ number one prostate remedy. Thirty years ago, acupuncture and mind-body healing were considered taboo. Now, in clinics and hospitals around the country, non-traditional therapies are becoming more acceptable, as many studies prove them to be successful in treating some chronic diseases, which couldn’t be cured by conventional medicine.

Now the question is “Does all this recent attention coming from medical personnel means that the non-conventional medicines are not science based” Today, more conventional Hospitals have a unit for alternative medicine. Health is balanced when all three metabolic processes are balanced, and excretions are in proper order.  Alternative medicine relies on a simple mission: Do no harm

Compare this with the definition of health that the World Health Organization uses: health is a complete state of physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. So we see how strongly the principles of alternative medicine are aligned with the definition of health propagated by the WHO. Health is the complete state of well-being and not the absence of disease.

Today, alternative medicine is relevant globally because of its holistic and comprehensive approach to health. But, what are the great health challenges that the world is facing today? Non-communicable diseases, lifestyle related diseases like hypertension, diabetes, and cancers have become the greatest health challenges. WHO estimates that non-communicable diseases kill about 38 million people each year and almost three quarters of NCD deaths, that is 28 million, occur in low and middle-income countries.  Today, Ghana without even a well-defined National cancer registers according to statistics records 60, 000 cases of cancers yearly. This is almost like the fully packedBabayara stadium at Kumasi with high mortality rates annually. Today, prostate cancer death tops all cancers death rates annually in Ghana with only 17.7% surviving when diagnosed. Why?

We need holistic options and management and it is in managing these that alternative medicine offers solutions. Our forefathers created Ghanaian systems of healthcare like traditional medicine believes in a harmonious relationship with nature.

These systems try to create balance and preserve health through eco-friendly practices and sustainable sourcing of medicinal herbs.

Unfortunately, the real potential of alternative medicine and even traditional medicine is untapped because of many reasons. Most importantly because of inadequate scientific scrutiny and concerns regarding standards and quality. Today, India, China and others have shown us how it is done and it can be done here. Most of the base materials are taken from Ghana so why are we still behind? Modern systems of medicine have strong and effective diagnostic tools that allow us to screen and detect disease early. The use of technology in healthcare has the potential to reduce barriers to accessing care, and improve our understanding of disease patterns.

However, we do need to look beyond. We need to look beyond providing healthcare and engage in the pursuit of good health, a combination of physical and mental well-being.

The escalating costs of treatment, the side effects of medicines have prompted medical experts to think of widening their horizons to alternative medicine. The Health Strategy identifies quality and accountability as two of the four key principles guiding the future development of health services in Ghana. These two fundamental principles are obviously just as relevant to complementary and alternative practitioners as they are to mainstream health professionals.

At its core, the provision of all health care is about people looking after people. Quality healthcare services must therefore be underpinned by the excellence of the skills, knowledge and expertise and the high standards of professional conduct maintained by all those who offer healthcare services to the public.

People´s trust in the standard of all care being provided must be copper fastened by a guarantee of quality and accountability. The development of such a quality culture is the responsibility of each and every provider of health care. Greater accountability must also be center-stage for the provision of health care services to the public.

Protection of the public must clearly be at the heart of effective regulation of any activity. As far as alternative therapists are concerned, there is an overriding requirement to ensure that the general public is properly informed so that they can be confident that a practitioner providing a service is competent to do so.


Alternative Medical Practitioners education.

Training depends on Jurisdiction and accreditation also of schools also varies. Some are voluntary.  In Cyprus, for instance, the Da Vinci College of Holistic Medicine, Larnaca city, Cyprus registered under the laws of Gibraltar and accredited by four holistic medicine bodies such as:The College and its courses have been accredited by the Pastoral Medical Association in the USA, and registered with the Complementary Medical Association (CMA) in the UK, as well as the Affiliation of Ethical and Professional Therapists (AEPT) in the UK. It also has obtained full professional board accreditation from the American Association of Drugless Practitioners in the USA.

The college rated amongst the top five holistic Medical colleges in the states according to infobarrel.com though the college is situated inLarnaca city, Cyprus.The Da Vinci College operates a modular degree system by which degrees are obtained via a process of credit accumulation. For instance, The Doctor of Science in Holistic Medicine at Da Vinci College of Holistic Medicine, Larnaca city, Cyprus consists of many separate modular courses covering a whole spectrum of health topics – each of these modular courses is a stand-alone and can be taken as an individual Diploma Course with Certification. This encourages the student to implement this knowledge-base in clinical practice as soon as they have completed each Diploma course, as they will have the Certification to prove that they have passed these exams for the said course.

There are a total of 8 Diploma courses required to complete the D.Sc (HM), making for approximately 1,600 physical hours of study. A maximum of 60 months is allowed for completion of the program. If the Bachelor of Science in Holistic Medicine is completed, then the Doctoral degree can be begun immediately without further ado.

Medical students usually study for just about 4,200 physical hours in the entirety of their course – most of the academic study is crammed into the first two years – they also have practical work on top of this. The Bachelor of Science in Holistic Medicine covers 9 courses which come to a total of 1,800 hours (9 x 200 hours = 1,800). This means those 200 hours per course is equivalent to about 12 hours physical study per week.

If a student decides to go on to complete the Doctor of Science in Holistic Medicine, there will be a further eight courses to complete, chosen from the electives (8 x 200 hours = 1,600 hours), along with the dissertation of about 20,000 words. The Bachelors and Doctoral level will result in close to 4,000 hours of study which is what most medical schools cover.

Clinical Practicuum

Doctor of Science in Holistic Medicine students will have an opportunity to study with Dr. Georgiou at the Da Vinci Holistic Health Centre and will be able to get hands-on training in all aspects of the holistic healing arts. This allows the students opportunity to see the application of everything they have learned on real patients with real diseases.

Compulsory courses required

Anatomy and Physiology

Pathology for Natural Medicine

Clinical Nutrition – Part 1

Herbal Medicine

Bach Flower Remedies

Naturopathic Medicine – Part 1

Energy Medicine and Bioresonance

Detoxification and Toxicology

Electives List:

Homeopathic Medicine

Su Jok Therapy


Clinical Nutrition – Part 2

Naturopathic Medicine – Part 2

Holistic Psychology

Live Blood Analysis

Naturopathic Sexology

Urinalysis and Body Fluids


Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis




Some define these practitioners as quacks. But The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, in the matter titled as “Poonam Verma versus Ashwin Patel, CA No. 8856/1994 dated 10.05.1996 has held that:

“A person who does not have knowledge of a particular System of Medicine but practices in that System is a Quack and a mere pretender to medical knowledge or skill, or to put it differently, a Charlatan.”

In view of the above landmark judgment, it is stated that the person who possesses recognized qualification / knowledge of a particular system of medicine is only authorized to practice in that particular system of medicine. If a person practices in any other system of medicine of which he does not possesses recognized qualification / knowledge, then that person would be considered as a quack i.e. a mere pretender to medical knowledge or skill, or a charlatan.

There are majorly three (3) systems of medicines in India i.e. (1) allopathic or modern system of medicine, (2) Ayurvedic, Siddha or Unani Tibb system of medicine and (3) Homeopathic system of medicine. Different Central and state legislations, laws and Acts have been enacted for all the three systems of medicine. It is pertinent to mention herein that all the three systems of medicine do not allow crosspathy i.e. a person who has obtained a recognized qualification / knowledge of a particular system of medicine is only authorized to practice that particular system of medicine and not the other. Further, penal actions are also there if a person practices some other system of medicine of which he has not obtained a recognized qualification.

The persons who have recognized qualification as per the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 and who are registered with the Indian Medical Council or State Medical Council as per the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 are the persons who are allowed to practice modern system of medicine as per the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956.

Similarly, the persons who have recognized qualification as per the Indian Medicine Central Council Act, 1970 and who are registered with the Indian Medicine Central Council or the respective State Medicine Councils are the persons who are allowed to practice the medicine system of Ayurveda, Sidha or Unani.

Also, the persons who have recognized qualification as per the Homeopathy Central Council Act and who are registered with the Homeopathy Central Council or the respective State Councils are the persons who are allowed to practice the medicine system of Homeopathy.

Accordingly, only the persons practicing modern system of medicine or AYUSH are allowed to use “Dr.” before their name as they are the only persons who are termed as Doctors.

In view of the above, it is stated that the physiotherapist is not allowed to practice medicine and / or to prescribe drugs especially the Scheduled Drugs as mentioned in the Drugs and Cosmetics Act on their own as they do not possess recognized qualification as mentioned in Indian Medical Council Act, 1956, Indian Medicine Central Council Act and Homeopathy Medicine Central Council Act. Also, they cannot claim themselves to be a specialist medical practitioner and by prefixing the word “Dr” with their name in their prescription. If the physiotherapists is doing the same then he is creating an impression on his patient that he is a medical consultant which is an offence in the eyes of law and the said person is a Quack as stated by the Hon’ble Supreme Court.


Legality of the system of Alternative Medicines and its Education/Practice

In Indian for instance, Indian Board of Alternative Medicines is a Government registered institution Registered by the Government of West Bengal under Act XXVI based on the Central Government Act XXI of 1860.The Indian board of Alternative medicine has won several court cases in India challenging it legality to provide alternative medicine education. See Indian board alternative medicine doctypes: judgments – Indian Kanoon https://indiankanoon.org/search/?…indian%20board%20alternative%20medicine+doct…  It doesn’t need the University grant commission UGC , the body mandated to regulate tertiary programs in India before practicing and IBAM also won a case on that which the school is operating based on court order in West Bengal. Several cases have been won on alternative medicine see also www. Judis.nic.in alternative medicine

Alternative Medicine is not regulated by the Medical Council of India or under any legal framework, but at the same time, there exists no bar qua the administration of educational/training courses in this regard nor in relation to the practice of the same.

On 07’05, 1990, the Hon’ble Calcutta High Court in its decision in ‘The Council sf Alternative systemof Medicine &Anr.vs. state of west Bengal &Ors.” 1991(2) CLJ 173 set aside complaintdated 17 -12-1987 filed by the State of West Bengal against the Council of Alternative System of Medicinesand Ors., and while considering the scope and effect of “Naturopathy” held that a system of medicinewhich is devoid of any therapy by chemicals or drugs, where the human body system is assisted to obtain a cure by controlling diet, the senses and_ breathing, does not contravene-anystatute. Copy judgment of the dated 07.05.1990 passed by the Calcutta High Court in the Council of Alternative-systems of Medicine &Anr. vs. state of westBengal&ors. is annexed herewith.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court on 20.02.20’15 in the case of G,G.S, Med. Institute. Of &Hosp, of Elect.&Anr. Vs. Union of lndia&Ors’ dismissed the SLP pressing for a ban on the medical practice.” of Electro-Homoeopathy in view of an affidavit filed by the Union of India stating that the issue relating to alternativesystems of medicine has already been considered and disposed of by the Hon’ble Supreme court and the process of legislation is in progress. It was also stated that till such time, the education and practice ofalternative systems of medicine other than those already recognized, is not barred. Copy of the Order dated 20.02.2015 passed by Hon’ble Supreme Court along with the Reply Affidavit filed by the Union of lndia on 28.02.2012 is annexed herewith.

Centralinformation commission, Government of India, in its order F. No. CIC/RK/A/20I6/001309-YA dated 15. 09.2016 with reference to the policy decision of the Ministry of Health andfamily Welfare, Government of India, and Orders of High Courts in Supreme Court, duly noted that even though, there isno policy decision yet recognizingalternative medicines like Electro Homoeopathy, there is no ban/restrainon its practice, education and research.

On 28.02-2017, the Government of India, ministry of Health and Family Welfare issued a Notification in respect of a mechanism for the consideration of proposals for the recognition of new/ alternativesystems-of medicine. The said Notificationclarifies that as on date there is no frame work to regulatealternative systems of medicines in the Country. Copy of the notice dated 28.02.2017 is annexed herewith.


Recently in Indiaa new proposal Bill, that is aimed to regulate medical education in the country by replacing corruption tainted Medical Council with India with a National Medical Commission, has introduced the concept of “Bridge Course” to promote medical pluralism by allowing AYUSH doctors to practice allopathy.

“The Commission shall hold meeting with Central Councils of Homeopathy and Indian Medicine that will reside on approving educational modules to develop bridges across the various systems of medicine and promote medical pluralism,” the bill says.Not every medical professional however is protesting the move as some see it as an initiative to enhance doctor-patient ratio in the country.“Even MBBS doctors are not allowed to work as specialists or super specialist and have a limit to what they can do so I see no problem if doctors from other streams are given basic training in modern medicine and are permitted to work at lower levels than MBBS to treat patients at primary levels,” said Bhaibhav Kumar, a doctor in Dhanbad.See www.newindianexpress.com/…/doctors-oppose-the-nmc-bill-proposal-to-allow-ayush…


The background

Over the years, it was observed that the Medical Council of India (MCI) — the independent governing body of elected representatives that was given the responsibility to regulate medical education and provisions of practice like ethics and guidelines in India — was somehow not delivering its duty with due diligence and was alleged to have invoked in corrupt practices.

And therefore the need for a separate framework was envisaged, to finally render the MCI redundant.

The idea of a National Medical Commission (NMC) was conceived in 2016, with the basic goal to salvage medical education and its abysmally deteriorating standards in the backdrop of a nefarious syndicate of some corrupt top MCI officials and private medical college owners.

However, as it has finally taken shape and awaits the Parliament’s final nod, the NMC Bill stands diversified and includes some ill thought-out provisions that may have a long-standing negative impact on the practice of medicine, especially modern medicine.

The suggestions of the parliamentary standing committee constituted to research the new bill have been selectively picked and many ignored to suit the agenda of some lobbyists influencing decisions in the present government.

The medical fraternity is largely opposed to the proposed NMC Bill, which according to them has several shortcomings. For alternative medicine practitioners it is a good omen and a sad day for medical profession and unexpected demise of medical profession in India with this new bill.  Practically, all over India, other forms of alternate medicine practitioners are dispensing allopathic medicine, but till now it was unlawful.The government seems to be interested in reviving alternate forms of medicine, especially Ayurveda, the ancient form of Indian medicine in its purest form.

The Indian Medical Association (IMA) is protesting a Bill seeking to replace the Medical Council of India (MCI) with a new body

In conclusion, from the most famous texts of Ayurvedic medicine, “The poor, those suffering from disease and those afflicted by sorrow should be helped. Even insects and ants should be treated with compassion, just as one’s own self”.

The legality of the practice appears more regulated in Ghana compared to India. In Ghana, there is a council under the Ministry of Health regulating it and awarding practitioners licensing and registration.  The practitioner in Ghana needs the right qualification and knowledge to have confidence to practice.


Dr. Raphael NyarkoteyObu is a Research Professor of Prostate Cancer and Alternative Medicine –Da Vinci College of Holistic Medicine, Larnaca City, Cyprus. He is the president and Dean of Academic Affairs at Dr. Nyarkotey College of Holistic Medicine at Tema, Com 7 Post Office, which is affiliated to Da Vinci College in Cyprus.

He is the National President of the Alternative Medical Association of Ghana (AMAG). A registered alternative Medical practitioner by the Traditional Medicine Practice Council(TMPC) He can be reached on 0541090045. E mail: Oburalph30@yahoo.co.uk




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