“Western medicine” is a term sometimes used to describe evidence-based medicine, which, for various historical reasons, emerged from “Western” civilization (i.e. countries originally populated by or settled by Europeans), though it is now practiced throughout the world. The name may be substituted for other phrases such as “general medicine”, “modern medicine”, “mainstream medicine” or “allopathic medicine”. “Allopathic medicine” was an expression conceived in 1810 by the creator of homoeopathy, Samuel Hahnemann (1755–1843) to refer to the then modern, emerging scientific systems of medicine, which focussed on the use of pharmacologically active agents or physical interventions to treat or suppress symptoms of diseases or conditions.
Allopathic medicine generally focuses on the treatment of symptoms, and not the underlying causes of illness. This approach generally considers the ‘body as a machine’ and early allopaths were called mechanics. Parts were, and still are, treated in isolation. Hence we have heart specialists, hand specialists, neurologists, ear nose and throat doctors, and so on.
In this medical model, disease, or its causes, typically originate outside the body. The invading disease is viewed as an enemy that needs to be suppressed, usually with pharmaceutical drugs, which play an important role in allopathic medicine. If an illness cannot be blamed on a virus or bacteria, then the genetics are likely to be faulty. And what cannot be reduced must be removed. Treatment for germs and genes in allopathic medicine is drugs or surgery.
Despite this reductionist perspective of the body as a sum of its separate, treatable parts, modern medicine plays an essential role when used as part of the integrative medical model. Many benefits of allopathy include:
- Excellence at treating acute and life threatening illness and injuries using innovative imaging and diagnostic tools, sophisticated surgical techniques, and potent pharmaceuticals.
- Doctors, nurses, technicians and medical facilities must be licensed, and are routinely held to high standards designed to protect patients and ensure quality care.
- Allopathic drugs must pass rigorous testing before being used on patients.
- Despite the fact that pharmaceuticals may have serious downsides, and natural remedies are often a better longterm solution, medication is one of the major benefits of allopathy. Antibiotics, pain medications, hormone replacements, and mental health drugs have helped countless patients live more manageable lives.