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Does Alternative Medicine Really Work?

Eduardo Gomez
Mr. Thomas Corbet
Alternative medicine range from herbal remedies to acupuncture and were typically used by people who are unable to use conventional medicine. However, today many people use alternative medicine because they fear big pharmaceutical drugs or cannot afford the rising cost of healthcare. People claim that alternative medicines work and heal them of illnesses but do alternative medicines really work when compared to conventional medicine?
In a recent study, it was found that about 40 percent of United States adults use some of the following forms of alternative, medicine mind-body interventions, biologically based therapies, body-based methods, or energy methods. These methods of medicine became appealing to adults during the early or mid 19th century as they were markets as “safe” and natural” methods. During this time alternative medicine actually competed with conventional medicine. However towards the end of the 19th century, alternative medicines were denounced as medical breakthroughs helped doctors understand the human body better. In today’s society, alternative medicines have again gained popularity for two reasons, one is when they are marketed as “safe” because of the fear of vaccinations or super bugs that have developed because of some conventional practices(Ventola). Another reason is the gap between physicians and people today. In the United States, the cost of health care is incredibly high so many Americans resort to alternatives that are cheaper. Americans also have access to the internet, which allows people to spread false information about conventional medicine. For example, many people believe that vaccinations and antibiotics have links to cancer and therefore use alternative medicine instead of conventional methods.
Alternative medicines range from an array of practices. Mind-body interventions include therapies such as hypnosis, meditation, yoga, biofeedback, and tai chi. According to a 2002 survey, 62% of adults in the United States use mind-body interventions. However, this practice is often only used on people with low physical and emotional risk whose condition is implemented by stress (Wahbeh). Therefore for physical conditions rather than emotional conditions, mind-body interventions loses to conventional medicine. Biologically based therapies include the consumption of herbs, foods, dietary supplements, and natural products (Ventola). The ideas behind the practice is to consume products that are rich in vitamins and minerals to help your body. Although over the years, many trials have been done on these therapies but only few have proven to be 100% effective. Some products such as herbal teas or cartilage of sharks are helpful by providing the body vitamins or minerals that you might be lacking. Thus, this type of alternative medicine could prove to beneficial over time. However for more immediate care to a health issue, conventional medicine would be more useful. Body-based methods which include massages, chiropractic, and osteopathic manipulation are proven to be as affected as conventional medicine. This practice focuses on allowing the body to heal itself by using force and massage therapies on bones, joints, and tissues. Patients of chiropractors and massage therapist have been completely satisfied when they are dealing with back pain or other issues. The problems with this practice is that many schools do not teach manual therapies for specific conditions and there lacks state of the art equipment for specific treatment (Rosenheck). Body-based therapies are very useful to patients around the world and sometimes are better than conventional medicines. Energy methods is most likely the alternative medicine that people find most skeptical. The method includes Reiki, therapeutic touch and electromagnetic field exposure. Each of the therapies deals with a person either touching you or waving their hands over you body. The science behind the specific method of trying to heal someone body is questionable, however the therapies causes you to relax. Therefore the therapies may prove to be effective since relaxation can fix many health issues such as health disease. These practices of alternative methods are sometimes questionable but do prove to cause relaxation which is extremely beneficial to health issues.
The effectiveness of alternative medicine is debatable. Many of its methods lack the science behind it when compared to conventional medicine. Therefore some people find it easier to use and believe in conventional medicine. The main reason behind the success of alternative medicine is the ability for a person to relax. Each method is easy to take part in and often involves the person being stationary. For example, some conventional methods are time consuming and difficult as alternative methods are usually easy and quick. Alternative medicine allows the person to relax which is extremely beneficial to the human body. However, in order to compare the effectiveness of alternative and conventional medicine in a person, we must look at that person’s state of mind and their condition. If a person believes they can be cured using therapeutic touch then they will most likely be cured but if a person believes in doctors than any medication they are prescribed will most likely heal them. Hospital settings may also interfere with a person’s ability to heal properly and therefore alternative medicines that can be done at home are often times better for the person. The patient’s desire to be healed and their beliefs play a crucial role when determining the effectiveness of each practice. The condition of the patient also plays a role because some conditions may require immediate attention which can only really be proved by conventional medicine. Serious conditions are better handled when using conventional practices when compared to alternative practices. The decisions ultimately comes down to the patient and how they want to be treated.
Personally, I use and believe in both conventional and alternative medicines. I seek alternative medicines when they are appropriate because of the fear of superbugs or the side effects of conventional medicine. However, conventional medicine is also extremely useful and better suited for serious health issues. Therefore, people should take into account the situation, chose alternative or conventional medicine for what is better suited for them and be the own judge of the medicines effectiveness.
References Ventola, C. Lee. “Current Issues Regarding Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the United States.” Pharmacy and Therapeutics. MediMedia USA, Inc., 8 Aug. 2010. Web. 14 Dec. 2016.
Wahbeh, Helané, Siegward-M. Elsas, and Barry S. Oken. “Mind-body Interventions: Applications in Neurology.” Neurology. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 10 June 2008. Web. 02 Jan. 2017.
Rosenheck, Druss. “Manipulative and Body-Based Practices: An Overview.” Manipulative and Body-Based Practices: An Overview. WETA, 2009. Web. 02 Jan. 2017.
Engel, Meredith. “Does Energy Healing Really Work?” NY Daily News. NY Daily News, 18 July 2014. Web. 02 Jan. 2017.

Structure and Function of Biomolecules

All Biomolecules have certain functions and these molecules all have a unique structure which is why they function in these ways. These molecules are known collectively as macromolecules, these molecules are grouped into four main categories which each have their own structure. These structures are the key to the macromolecules functions as each of them do a specific task in the body.
Macromolecules are grouped into carbohydrates, nucleic acids, proteins, and lipids. In most cases macromolecules are polymers, which is a long molecule which are made by linking together a large number of small, similar compounds called monomers. Polymers are formed by a dehydration reaction, this happens by the -OH group being removed from one monomer, and a hydrogen atom (H) is removed from the other monomer, then the polymer is formed (as shown in Figure 1).

This reaction is also used in the linking of fatty acids to glycerol in lipids. This reaction is referred to as a condensation or dehydration reaction, because the reaction produces a water molecule from the -OH and -H groups removed, and for each monomer that is added a water molecule is given off. The opposite reaction is the hydrolysis reaction which breaks down polymer to there respective monomers. Water is added to the macromolecule splitting the bonds between the monomers and the -OH and -H are attached to form the monomers (as in Figure 2).

Carbohydrates are a group of molecules made of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen in a molar ratio 1:2:1. Carbohydrates have a general formula of (CH2O)n, where n is the number of carbon atoms. These carbohydrates contain a lot of carbon-hydrogen bonds, which releases energy when oxidation occurs, as carbohydrates are well suited for energy storage. Sugars are some of the most important energy sources and they exist in several different forms, such as monosaccharides, disaccharides and polysaccharides. Monosaccharides are the simplest of carbohydrates, they may contain as few as three carbons but the ones that have a key role in energy storage have six carbons. Disaccharides serve as transport molecules in plants and provide nutrition in animals; they are used by plants for transporting glucose around the plant as disaccharides are not easily metabolised, but disaccharides are usually consumed by humans and animals. Polysaccharides provide energy storage, such as starch consists entirely of α-glucose molecules linked in a long chain. Cellulose is a structural polysaccharide which also consists of glucose linked in long chains, but these molecules are β-glucose. Carbohydrates are used as a source of energy for processes in the body such as muscle movement (Raven et al 2008).
Proteins are linear polymers made up of a combination of 20 different amino acids, which contain amino group (-NH2) as well as an acidic carboxyl group (-COOH). The specific order of amino acids determines the proteins structure and function. The amino and acid carboxyl group go through a dehydration reaction to form a peptide bond which joins the amino acids together to form proteins. Proteins have many different functions which are placed into seven categories; Enzyme catalysis, Support, Defence, Motion, Transport, Regulation and Storage. Enzyme catalysis is when enzymes which are globular proteins with a three-dimensional shape that fit around some molecules to facilitate chemical reactions (Raven et al 2008). Support proteins fibres play a structural role, these fibres include keratin in hair fibrin in blood clots and collagen which forms the matrix of skin, ligaments, tendons, and bones, and is the most abundant protein in a vertebrate body (Raven et al 2008). Defence proteins are globular and use there shape to “recognise” foreign microbes and cancer cells, these cell-surface receptors are from the core of the body’s endocrine and immune system (Raven et al 2008). Muscles contract through the sliding motion of two kinds of protein filaments: actin and myosin (Raven et al 2008). A variety of globular proteins transport small molecules and ions. The transport protein Haemoglobin, for example, transports oxygen in the blood stream (Raven et al 2008). Small proteins called hormones serve as intercellular messengers in animals. Proteins also play many regulatory roles within the cell-turning on and shutting off genes during development (Raven et al 2008). Calcium and iron are stored by binding as ions to storage proteins (Raven et al 2008).
Lipids are varied in structure and function, most of them are non soluble in water. Lipids have a very high proportion of nonpolar carbon-hydrogen bonds; so long chain lipids cannot fold up like a protein to sequester their nonpolar portions away from the surrounding aqueous environment. Lipids are hydrophobic so when they are exposed to water there hydrophilic (polar) sections of the lipids cluster together while the hydrophobic (nonpolar) sections gather together with the inside the polar sections to stay away from the water. Fats and oils are a type of lipid which are formed from glycerol and three fatty acids. Fatty acids are long chain hydrocarbons with a carboxylic acid (COOH) at one end. Fats and oils, also known as triglycerides, can be saturated where the fatty acids contain at least one carbon to carbon double bond or they can be unsaturated which means there are no double bonds. Phospholipids are also lipids and they are composed of a polar head, a phosphate group, glycerol, and two fatty acids. Phospholipids form the cell membranes and they use the previously mentioned method for holding together cells. The hydrophobic heads gather towards the water inside and outside the cell forming the membrane, which certain molecules can go through to get inside or outside the cell.
Nucleic Acids
Nucleic acids are polymers of nucleotides and each nucleotide is made up of a sugar, a base and a phosphate group. Nucleic acids are the information carrying devices of each cell containing the code for all proteins. There are two main forms of nucleic acid which are deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA). Unique among macromolecules, nucleic acids are able to serve as a template to produce a perfect replicate of it. DNA is usually found in the nucleus of cells, which contains the genetic information necessary to build specific organisms (Raven et al 2008). Cells use RNA to read the DNA’s encoded information and to direct the creation of the proteins. RNA and DNA are similar in structure and consist of duplicate copies of parts of DNA. The duplicates serve as a blueprint specifying the amino acid sequences of the proteins. In addition to serving as subunits of DNA and RNA, nucleotide bases play other critical roles in the life of a cell. For example adenine is a key component of the molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy currency of a cell (Raven et al 2008). Two other important nucleotide-containing molecules are nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD ) and flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD). These molecules function as electron carriers in a variety of cellular processes (Raven et al 2008).
So Biomolecules have certain functions which they carry out in the body because of there unique structures. These structures are unique as they contain certain bonds between molecules which are all formed in similar reactions. But the four groups of macromolecules are formed in similar reactions, dehydration and hydrolysis reactions, but they all act in different ways.