Alternative medicine use is on the rise, according to a survey conducted by the US government in 2002.
The survey polled 31,000 people, asking them about their alternative health use, including yoga, massage, prayer, herbs and diet therapies, such as The Zone, Atkins and Ornish.
The survey, which was the largest survey on alternative health approaches in the US, concluded that 62% of American adults used alternative medicine therapies in 2002.
Prayer was the number one alternative therapy used, whether used for one's own health or for the health of another. Forty-three percent of Americans polled use prayer and ten percent participate in prayer groups.
Natural product use, including enzymes, vitamin supplements, herbs and botanicals, was the second most commonly used alternative therapy at nineteen percent, followed by eight percent using deep breathing, meditation, chiropractic care, yoga and massage.
Diet-based therapies, such as Ornish and Atkins, came in last, with only four percent of Americans using them as alternatives to conventional medicine.
The results of the survey show an overall discontent with conventional medicine. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a part of the National Institutes of Health, stated that they believe people are using alternative health practices because they are not getting the desired effects that they need from conventional medicine practices.
Concern was expressed by health officials about people using alternative therapies instead of conventional medicine. They fear that people will stop using conventional methods, which are tested and proven to be safe and effective, while natural and alternative methods of healing are still being tested to determine their safety and effectiveness.
Health officials were also concerned that people may believe because something is 'natural', that it is also safe. Two examples of unsafe natural remedies are kava kava, which has been linked to liver disease, and one of the popular herbs Ma Huang, also known as ephedra, which causes undue stress on the heart and has been known to cause stroke and heart failure. Health officials urge people to consult their doctors before using alternative medicine , to make sure they are safe, especially when mixing alternative therapies with conventional drugs.
The study did not report whether the 31,000 polled were insured or not, which proves to be a very important factor in the survey results. Health officials were troubled to find out that thirteen percent of those polled began using alternative health therapies because conventional medicine was too expensive.