Whole medical systems are complete systems of theory and practice that have evolved over time in different cultures and are separate from conventional or Western medicine.
There are many different systems including
Each of these systems is used to treat a wide range of people with a wide range of conditions. For example, homeopathy is used to treat numerous conditions including asthma, depression and arthritis.
Whole medical systems are based on the idea of healing the whole person in a holistic manner, rather than just dealing with the immediate symptoms. So, for example Ayurvedic medicine stresses the importance of universal interconnectedness (among people, their health, and the universe), the body’s constitution (prakriti), and life forces (dosha). Ayurvedic physicians prescribe individualised treatments, including compounds of herbs or proprietary ingredients, and diet, exercise, and lifestyle recommendations.
Various claims have been made for whole medical systems in the treatment of people on the autism spectrum. For example, the following claims were made for massage based on traditional Chinese medicine: ‘CCM massage treatments are typically tailored to each child’s needs. Intensive, sustained special CCM massage programmes, combined with moderate moxibustion [the burning of the herb mugwort] ... , appropriate herbal prescriptions and special musical therapy can help the autistic children acquire better selfcare, socialisation, and job skills.’
Determining the benefits of whole medical systems for individuals on the autism spectrum is difficult because they include such a wide range of practices. However, determining the benefits of most practices used within whole medical systems for individuals on the autism spectrum is not currently possible. We must wait for further research of sufficiently high quality to be completed.
According to the NHS Direct website, some whole medical systems (such as homeopathy) are scientifically implausible: ‘There have been several reviews of the scientific evidence on the effectiveness of homeopathy. The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee said there is no evidence that homeopathy is effective as a treatment for any health condition. ‘The ideas that underpin homeopathy are not accepted by mainstream science, and are not consistent with long-accepted principles on the way that the physical world works. The Committee’s 2010 report on homeopathy said the “like cures like” principle is “theoretically weak”, and that this is the “settled view of medical science”’.
Different whole medical systems appear to carry different risks. For example, according to the NHS website: ‘Homeopathic remedies are generally safe and the risk of a serious adverse side effect arising from taking these remedies is thought to be small.’ On the other hand, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: ‘Some Chinese herbal products may be safe, but others may not be. There have been reports of products being contaminated with drugs, toxins or heavy metals, or not containing the listed ingredients. Some of the herbs used in Chinese medicine can interact with drugs, can have serious side effects, or may be unsafe for people with certain medical conditions.’