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There is no alternative medicine
  1. Pekka Louhiala
  1. Department of Public Health, University of Helsinki, Finland
  1. Correspondence to Pekka Louhiala, Vuorikatu 17 as 3, 13100 Hämeenlinna, Finland; pekka.louhiala{at}


The term ‘alternative medicine’ is a misnomer because it suggests that there are two kinds of medicine alternative to each other. Although commonly used, the term is problematic. It escapes a meaningful definition, and ‘alternative medicine’ cannot be clearly differentiated from ‘conventional medicine’. The nature of ‘alternative’ in ‘alternative medicine’ is anything but clear. In addition, bundling all the so-called alternative therapies under one heading is misleading. Due to the purely rhetoric nature of the ‘alternativity’, there seems to be no such thing as ‘alternative medicine’ in any meaningful sense.

  • Alternative medicine
  • ethics
  • history of science
  • philosophy of medicine/health care

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  • Funding Fondation Brocher, Hermance, Switzerland.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.