Alternative Medicine: What to Know About the Growing Industry


Business is booming if you’re in the alternative medicine industry. While it once was a small operation focused on homemade remedies, the practice has changed. “This is not just Mom and Pop selling herbs at the farmer’s market,” says Josephine Briggs, a physician and director of the National Center on Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

In fact, 50 percent of Americans are purchasing and using some form of alternative medicine, which is defined as a range of medical therapies that aren’t regarded as orthodox by the medical profession, such as herbalism, homeopathy and acupuncture.

When alternative medicine first began, it was viewed as homemade remedies passed down through families or recommended by family doctors. But, today it is an aggressive $34 billion a year industry. According to Leah Binder, “the biggest misconception is that it’s not big business. Many people think of alternative medicine as the incense-filled office next to the yoga studio, where the soft-spoken, sandal-clad practitioner is there not to make a profit, but for a higher purpose — the good of humanity or healing.”