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Methodologic considerations for research in traditional (alternative) medicine.
Rosenthal Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, NY, USA.
The widepsread use, in the United States and other western countries, of alternative medical practices often derived from traditional systems of health has intensified the need to evaluate their safety and effectiveness. These practices tend to generate polarized attitudes of either acceptance or rejections. Opponents reject them because, they claim, good scientific research has not supported their use. Proponents insist that current scientific methodologies are not appropriate to evaluate these practices. This article briefly examines these issue, suggesting that the answer lies between these 2 extreme positions. Various methodologic issues are considered, and suggestions are made to adapt scientific methodology, where appropriate, to respect the particularities of alternative medicine.