Alternative medicine is a way to practice health care in a different way than the clinical medicine way, instead using natural remedies. This can be including supplementing your nutrition with herb or vitamin supplements, following a special natural diet or applying different kinds of approaches which, in general, clinical doctors would not think about.
A patient who suffers a lot from migraine attacks might decide that a small adjustment to the diet can be more useful than going to the doctor's office and being prescribed some painkillers.
Normally when we are having symptoms of some kind, we go to a conventional doctor who will examine you, make the diagnoses if possible and the doctor will provide treatment which often contains drugs, again if possible.
These diagnoses and treatments are all based on studies, clinical trials and developed over time by observation. This is the way we are used to dealing with our inconveniences in the modern Western part of the world.
However the ancient Eastern cultures have had a different kind of approach for many years. They have developed all sorts of medical treatments over a great period of time which are called alternative or complementary medicine. This type of practicing medicine is being accepted in the Western culture little by little.
The reason for this little acceptance is because in the Western cultures we tend to rely on studies and clinical trials etc. for our information, when in Eastern culture people rely on each other for testimonials. If Grandpa says to put a certain herb in your tea to get rid of your nausea, than that is what you will do and see if it helps.
Complementary medicine is a little bit more popular than alternative medicine and the reason is that complementary medicine is being used together with clinical medical practice as we know it. A simple example is to improve a patient's state of mind by using aromatherapy in the recovery room after surgery.
Alternative medicine on the other hand is more often practised on its own and used to replace conventional medicine, without any "real" doctors interfering. The advice for treatments is usually retrieved from people telling people and just trying it out. That seems scary for some people.
What people often don't realize is that they are often already applying alternative medicine in their everyday difficulties. We all know that putting ice on a swollen ankle helps to reduce the swelling or that you pour vinegar over a jellyfish sting in order to take away the pain.
Knowing this actually shows that there is not really a big difference between complementary and alternative medicine. Practitioners of alternative medicine are dreaming of working together with family doctors in order to provide a combination of treatments where the patient ends up having great results.
It's the researchers who are dividing the camps, putting labels on treatments. They tend to have a better attitude towards a treatment as long as there is some scientific evidence to back the results.