Alternative Medical Systems
Alternative medical systems are entire systems of health theory and practice (including traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurvedic medicine, naturopathy, and homeopathy) that developed separately from conventional medicine. These systems typically use a variety of methods that fall under the CAM umbrella (herbal remedies, manipulative practices). Traditional Chinese medicine relies heavily on the use of “energy”-based practices such as acupuncture and Qigong, based on the belief that the uninterrupted flow of energy through 20 meridians is necessary for the maintenance of health (a view that still lacks supporting experimental evidence). The quality of clinical trials performed to evaluate traditional Chinese medicine has generally been poor (Tang et al, 1999). There have been a number of studies of traditional Chinese medicine in the treatment of various developmental disabilities, including cerebral palsy, intellectual disability, and ADHD, although significant methodologic shortcomings and biases in these studies preclude any conclusion about whether such methods are truly beneficial. Ayurvedic medicine, which originated on the Indian subcontinent, is based on Hindu philosophy and uses dietary or herbal remedies and various mind-body therapies. There are no published controlled trials indicating efficacy for any Ayurvedic practice in the treatment of developmental-behavioral disorders. Caregivers of children with developmental disorders should actively avoid naturopathy, which comprises a number of suspect diagnostic and therapeutic approaches that lack experimental validation and often do not have acceptable biologic plausibility. There have been some efforts to study homeopathy (which is based on the theory that “like cures like” and that disease can be treated by the administration of extremely dilute solutions of various compounds) in ADHD and traumatic brain injury, although there is no replicated experimental evidence showing that these methods are effective in treating these or any other medical conditions.