Ted J. Kaptchuk, OMD; David M. Eisenberg, MD
Acknowledgments: The authors thank Robb Scholten and Maria Van Rompay for research assistance and June Cobb and Marcia Rich for editorial suggestions.
Grant Support: In part by educational grants from the National Institutes of Health (U24 AR43441), John E. Fetzer Institute, the Waletzky Charitable Trust, Friends of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and American Specialty Health Plan.
Requests for Single Reprints: Ted J. Kaptchuk, OMD, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, 330 Brookline Avenue, W/K-400, Boston, MA 02215.
Current Author Addresses: Drs. Kaptchuk and Eisenberg: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, 330 Brookline Avenue, W/K-400, Boston, MA 02215.
The first of two essays in this issue demonstrated that the United States has had a rich history of medical pluralism. This essay seeks to present an overview of contemporary unconventional medical practices in the United States. No clear definition of “alternative medicine” is offered because it is a residual category composed of heterogeneous healing methods. A descriptive taxonomy of contemporary unconventional healing could be more helpful. Two broad categories of unconventional medicine are described here: a more prominent, “mainstream” complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and a more culture-bound, “parochial” unconventional medicine. The CAM component can be divided into professional groups, layperson-initiated popular health reform movements, New Age healing, alternative psychological therapies, and non-normative scientific enterprises. The parochial category can be divided into ethno-medicine, religious healing, and folk medicine. A topologic examination of U.S. health care can provide an important conceptual framework through which health care providers can understand the current situation in U.S. medical pluralism.
Kaptchuk TJ, Eisenberg DM. Varieties of Healing. 2: A Taxonomy of Unconventional Healing Practices. Ann Intern Med. ;135:196–204. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-135-3-200108070-00012
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Published: Ann Intern Med. 2001;135(3):196-204.
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