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What is Allopathy?

While today cupping may be considered homeopathy, it was one of the reasons the term allopathy was coined.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 28 July 2014
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The term “allopathy” is used by some alternative medical practitioners to describe people who practice conventional or “Western” medicine. Because this word was essentially developed as an epithet to insult traditional medical practitioners, it is rare to see regular doctors calling themselves allopaths. Some doctors also reject the use of the term because they feel it is not longer an adequate characterization of the practice of medicine.

Samuel Hahemann, the founder of homeopathy, coined the term “allopathy.” It is derived from Greek roots, and roughly translates as “opposite suffering.” He used the word to describe the often harsh and sometimes pointless treatments employed by conventional medical practitioners in the 19th century. Many practitioners relied on a theory of “humors” which dated back to the Ancient Greeks, and they believed that medical conditions were characterized by an excess or deficit of a particular humor. Bloodletting, cupping, and a variety of other techniques were used to restore the balance of humors, and Hahemann believed that these practices were barbaric.

Hahemann also wanted to clearly distinguish homeopathy from the more traditional practice of medicine. He argued that allopathy involved treating the symptoms of the disease, rather than the underlying cause of the condition. The goal of allopathic treatment was to produce effects which would counter the symptoms, but not necessarily to get to the root of the problem. Homeopathy, on the other hand, was treatment tailored to the individual patient, with a focus on the whole body, rather than abstract symptoms.

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While the practice of conventional medicine might have once deserved the label of allopathy, many physicians believe that this is not the case anymore. Osteopathic doctors, for example, practice a whole-body approach to medicine, and their credentials are almost identical to those of regular medical doctors. Many doctors also recognize the importance of looking at the whole body when assessing patient health and needs, and modern medical treatment is focused on general wellness, not just a reactive response to symptoms of disease.

The pejorative implications of this term are sometimes lost on the people who use it. Some alternative practitioners refer to allopathy in scathing tones when talking with clients, to emphasize the value of the treatments they offer. Other practitioners of alternative medicine avoid the term, however, recognizing that there are many approaches to medicine, and some even work hand in hand with conventional practitioners. A chiropractor, for example, might work with a spine specialist to treat and prevent back injuries.

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Discuss this Article

LisaLou
Post 5

There are so many variables that go in to something like this that I have a hard time making a blanket statement saying that any doctor who practices conventional medicine is only there to treat the symptoms.

I have had several wonderful medical doctors who have treated myself and many family members with great results. These were very qualified physicians who did care about the whole person and did their best to determine what the causes of the problems were.

I also know several very good doctors who practice alternative medicine. There have been many people who have achieved great results with homeopathy that they were unable to get with conventional medicine.

I think it is important for anyone to do their research on the physicians they are seeing. There are many options available and if one doctor is not meeting your needs, it is not hard to find one that will work with you.

bagley79
Post 4

Sometimes there can be quite a bit of negative feelings between those doctors who practice conventional medicine and those who use alternative medicine. I think it takes some work and research to find the doctors who you feel are best qualified to treat you.

Every month I go to an osteopathic doctor for manipulation treatments that are similar to what a chiropractor would do. She is a licensed doctor of osteopathy and can write prescriptions if needed. She has really helped me with my headaches and back problems.

She is also a great resource for me as she has connections with many physicians in our city. Some of them are medical doctors and some of them are osteopathic doctors. I feel very comfortable with the approach she takes towards treating her patients. She is very thorough and really tries to focus on what is causing the underlying problem.

John57
Post 3

When I think of all the advances that have been made in modern medicine I am amazed. We have so many treatment options that were not available several years ago.

I am thankful for conventional Western medicine as I think it has been very helpful for many people. I also like to approach things from a natural perspective and have been interested in homeopathy.

There have been some good strides made towards the acceptance of alternative medicine options, but most insurance plans will not cover their services.

I see nothing wrong with using a balance of both and still focusing on the treatment of the patient as a whole, and not just treating the symptoms.

Azuza
Post 2

@SZapper - Maybe your doctor just wasn't very good. I've definitely noticed a shift in the last few years in my regular doctor, and I think it's been for the better.

I feel like my doctor really takes the time to ask about what's going on with me and actually get to the cause of the problem. This is the exact strategy recommended by homeopathic practitioners!

Maybe it varies by doctor, but I'm more than pleased with my "allopathic" doctor.

SZapper
Post 1

I think this term still describes conventional medicine just fine. As much as I hear about wellness and prevention, every time I visit the doctor it's always the same. They spend about five minutes with me, treat whatever symptom I have, and then move on.

I think this is a really poor approach to medicine. I've definitely had serious problems overlooked before by doctors that had an allopathic mindset.

When I was younger I had a really bad fungal infection in my stomach and it took a really long time for any doctor to diagnose me. The first few doctors visits the doctor spent a few minutes with me, prescribed antacids, and that was it.

In the end I suffered to months before I got a proper diagnosis! I really think it the doctor had taken her time and focused on the whole picture, I would have been diagnosed much sooner.

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