Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Alternative Medicine Definition:

Holistic health care; medical care that is outside of mainstream medical practice and not benefiting from a solid base of research or regulatory control.

Tennenhouse provides a rather unsatisfactory definition of alternative medicine as:

"... any form of medical care that is not accepted as traditional and is not taught to any significant extent in medical schools or residency programs...."

"[A]lternative medicine is also called complementary ... and holistic medicine."

Many forms of modern medicine were not readily accepted from the start and which appeared to be outside those branches of medicine for which the benefits could be empirically measured.

Osteopathy, when first introduced, was taken by many to be a form of alternative medicine, then used as a derogatory term. However, osteopathy (health care through the manipulation of the bones and skeleton) is now an accepted branch of medicine.

In her article K. Boozang notes that the term alternative medicine has been described by some as:

"... nontoxic, holistic, natural and noninvasive ... unproven, questionable, dubious (and) quackery ...."


  • Boozang, Kathleen, Western Medicine Opens the Door to Alternative Medicine, 24 A.J.L.M. 185 (1998)
  • Tennenhouse, Dan. J., Attorney's Medical Deskbook, 4th Ed. (Minnesota: Thomson-West, 2006), §7:8

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