Medical practices outside the mainstream of "official" medicine have
always been an important part of the public's health care. Healers and herbalists,
bonesetters and barbers, shamans and spiritualists have offered the public
a multiplicity of ways to address the confusion and suffering that accompany
disease. A century ago in the United States there was a period of "enchantment"
with unorthodox medicine. Homeopaths, herbalists, psychic and magnetic healers,
and "eclectics" proliferated—most with little to no training, regulation
of practice, or standards for quality of care. The prominence and configuration
of these "irregulars," as they were called, has waxed and waned, depending
on the perceived value of orthodox medicine, the needs of the public, and
the changing values of society. The prominence of these practices subsided
with the development of scientific medicine in this century and its dramatic
advances in the understanding and treatment of disease.1
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