Allopathic medicine is another term for conventional, or modern Western medicine. It is an evidence-based system where doctors and other healthcare professionals treat symptoms using conventional medications.

Unlike complementary medicine, allopathic medicine relies on clinical examinations and screening to confirm a diagnosis, focusing on a person’s symptoms and signs before treatment.

Conventional (allopathic) medicine treatment modalities include pharmacological drugs, surgery, and radiation therapies. Before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves a drug, the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CEDR) reviews all drug testing data.

An allopathic doctor can prescribe medications that require a prescription.

Read on to learn more about allopathic medicine, including its history, benefits, and more.

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Allopathic medicine is a term that describes what people consider to be modern medicine. Healthcare professionals who practice allopathic medicine tend to take an evidence-based approach when they treat disease. This means they try to follow current literature guidelines and may request several diagnostic tests before deciding on the best course of treatment.

Allopathic doctors prescribe FDA-approved medications. Furthermore, the manufacturers of these drugs spend years developing and testing them via robust clinical trials to measure their effectiveness and safety.

In the early 19th century, German physician Christian Friedrich Samuel Hahnemann coined the term allopathy. He did this to make a clear distinction between conventional medicine and homeopathy, a type of alternative medicine.

Allopathy originates from the Greek ‘allos’, which means other, and ‘pathia’, which means ‘suffer’.

The expression implies that medicinal treatment should produce the opposite effect of the disease or suffering.

An allopathic doctor has a medical degree and the title MD (Doctor of Medicine). Within allopathic medicine, there are 24 specialties, two of which are neurology and anesthesiology, and subspecialties within.

Other specialties include:

  • allergy and immunology
  • internal medicine
  • medical genetics and genomics
  • nuclear medicine
  • obstetrics and gynecology
  • emergency medicine
  • family medicine
  • preventive medicine
  • radiology
  • surgery

Depending on the allopathic doctor’s specialty and expertise, their day-to-day procedures will vary.

However, generally, most allopathic doctors may:

  • record a person’s medical history
  • perform physical examinations
  • vaccinate people
  • prescribe medications
  • perform procedures and possibly surgery
  • request imaging or blood tests
  • refer people to more specialized care
  • conduct research
  • provide counselling

The main benefit of allopathic medicine is its evidence-based system. This means each diagnostic tool and treatment regimen is the product of robust scientific research.

Other benefits of allopathic care include:

  • receiving treatment from highly qualified and licensed professionals
  • accessing the most effective medicines
  • using sophisticated diagnostic tools
  • using extensively researched and tested treatments
  • accessing clinics and treatment centers in most towns and cities
  • funding for new drugs and treatments in large amounts

The progression of allopathic medicine over the last century means preventive medicine specialists can reduce the likelihood of a person experiencing a serious disease or disability at both occupational and community level.

The three areas of preventive medicine include:

  • Public health and general preventive medicine: This focuses on preventing disease and disability at the community level and in individuals.
  • Occupational medicine: This aims to ensure people continue to stay healthy at work. Specialists also develop strategies to improve health, safety, and quality of life within the workplace.
  • Aerospace medicine: This focuses on the unique needs of aircraft crew members and passengers. Specialists who work in this field tend to live in remote locations and in extreme environments that promote physical and psychological stress.

Allopathic medicines or drugs are not categorically risk-free, despite undergoing rigorous clinical trials and approval processes.

The FDA only considers a medication safe when the benefits outweigh the risks. Consequently, some people may experience side effects after taking prescription medications. Sometimes these side effects are minor, but they can be serious on rare occasions.

Medication use risks include:

  • Harmful interactions: This could happen when medication reacts with food or supplements a person has consumed.
  • Allergic reaction: A person may not know they have an allergy to a specific ingredient within the medication until they take it.
  • Unexpected effect: The medication works differently from what the doctor expected.

It is important to note that although prescription drugs carry some risk of side effects, these risks are mostly minor and are unlikely to occur in most people.

Furthermore, complementary ‘natural’ supplements do not undergo the same amount of testing. It is important for people to be aware that when a manufacturer markets a product as natural, it does not mean it is safe, nor does it mean it is safer than prescribed medication.

Osteopathic medicine has a more holistic approach than allopathic medicine.

Its philosophy is centered on treating the mind, body, and spirit. Furthermore, there is a focus on structure determining function and that all bodily systems are interconnected.

Consequently, the condition of the musculoskeletal system both reflects and impacts the health of other systems within the body. Because of this, manual manipulation of the muscles, tendons, bones, and joints is a fundamental component of osteopathic treatment.

Otherwise, allopathic and osteopathic degree courses are almost identical. The main difference is that osteopathic students learn musculoskeletal manual and manipulative medicine.

Learn more about osteopathic medicine here.

Homeopathy is a type of complementary or alternative medicine. Its philosophy focuses on the idea of ‘like cures like’.

Proponents of homeopathy claim the consumption of diluted substances that cause symptoms in healthy people can cure illnesses that present with the same symptoms. Moreover, homeopathy theororizes that the greater the dilution, the more potent the treatment is.

However, often products are so dilute that the FDA does not find any trace of the substance the manufacturers state as the active ‘homeopathic’ ingredient.

Additionally, there is little to no scientific evidence that supports homeopathy practices as being effective — if a person is feeling unwell, they should speak with a doctor.

Allopathic medicine is what people know as modern or Western medicine. It is an evidence-based system of care, which relies on data from clinical trials and studies to develop more effective treatments.

Allopathic medicine and osteopathic medicine are similar, but their philosophies differ. Osteopathic medicine focuses on a more holistic approach that includes the mind, body, and spirit.

Homeopathic medicine is an alternative therapy that has little to no support from the wider scientific community. If a person is feeling quite unwell, they should consider not using homeopathic treatment and instead speak with their allopathic or osteopathic doctor, who will likely suggest an effective treatment plan.