The World Health Organization (WHO) defines traditional medicine as including various health-related knowledge and beliefs, approaches and practices, herbal, animal and mineral products, spiritual and manual therapy, exercises used individually or in combination to maintain well-being and prevent, diagnose and treat diseases.
Traditional medicine is commonly defined by other terms: traditional, alternative, natural, unorthodox or complementary medicine. Traditional medicine, existing in the oral tradition and tied to a specific geographical region, is usually transmitted from teacher to student. Traditional medicine has been preserved and developed in written monuments, with formulated concepts that differ from the theories of modern scientific medicine; “traditional medicine” is a complex term that refers to medical systems such as traditional Chinese medicine, traditional Indian medicine or traditional Unani Arabic medicine. Traditional medicine is diagnostic and treatment methods specific to a given locality or nation (for example, yoga in India or acupuncture in China).
The terms “alternative medicine” or “complementary medicine” are used in some countries equivalently with “traditional medicine” in order to refer to health care methods that are not part of the country’s own tradition, or are not integrated into its health care system; i.e. acupuncture as part of Chinese traditional medicine, Ayurveda as part of Indian traditional medicine, homeopathy and chiropractic, created in Europe and America in the XVIII – XIX centuries, are considered in other countries as an alternative or complementary medicine.
Methods of natural medicine are the legacy of traditional medicine: phytotherapy goes back to the practice of sorcerers, shamans and the use of ethnobotanical medicinal plants; chiropractic and osteopathy – to the art of chiropractors; naturopathy – to the teachings of Hippocrates; homeopathy – to the ancient principle of “similia similibus curantur”, etc.