“Allopathic medicine” is a term used for modern or mainstream medicine. Other names for allopathic medicine include:

  • conventional medicine
  • mainstream medicine
  • Western medicine
  • orthodox medicine
  • biomedicine

Allopathic medicine is also called allopathy. It’s a health system in which medical doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals are licensed to practice and treat symptoms and diseases.

Treatment is done with:

  • medication
  • surgery
  • radiation
  • other therapies and procedures

Other types or approaches to medicine are referred to as complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), or integrative medicine. Alternative approaches by definition require stopping of all western medicine.

Complementary and integrative medicine are commonly used along with mainstream medicine. These include:

  • homeopathy
  • naturopathy
  • chiropractic care
  • Chinese medicine
  • ayurveda

The term “allopathic” is most commonly used by CAM professionals to separate their type of medicine from mainstream medical practice.

The word “allopathic” comes from the Greek allos” — meaning “opposite” — and “pathos” — meaning “to suffer.”

This word was coined by German physician Samuel Hahnemann in the 1800s. It roughly refers to treating a symptom with its opposite, as is often done in mainstream medicine.

For example, constipation might be treated with a laxative.

Hahnemann was interested in other approaches based more on ancient principles of treating “like with like.” He later left mainstream medical practice and is considered to be the founder of homeopathy.

Based on the historical definition of the term, some physicians argue that it was used to falsely label mainstream medical practices. Many in mainstream medicine consider the term derogatory.

Allopathic medicine doctors and other healthcare professionals use a range of treatments to treat infection, illness, and disease. These include prescription drugs like:

Some types of prescription drugs replace hormones when the body can’t make enough or any of a certain type, such as:

Allopathic medicine professionals may also recommend over-the-counter (OTC) medications like:

  • pain relievers (acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen)
  • muscle relaxers
  • cough suppressants
  • sore throat medications
  • antibiotic ointments

Common allopathic medicine treatments also include:

  • surgery and surgical procedures
  • radiation treatments

Allopathic medicine is quite different today than it was in the 1800s. Modern or mainstream medicine works to treat symptoms and illness. But it also helps to prevent illness and disease.

In fact, allopathic doctors can specialize in preventative medicine. This branch of mainstream medicine is overseen by the American College of Preventive Medicine. Prophylactic care is treatment to prevent an illness from happening. It’s used in a variety of mainstream medical fields.

Preventative care in allopathic medicine includes:

  • vaccinations to prevent serious life-threatening illness in infants, children, and adults
  • prophylactic antibiotics to prevent infection after a surgery, wound, or very deep cut
  • prediabetes care to help prevent diabetes
  • blood pressure medications to help prevent serious complications like heart disease and stroke
  • education programs to prevent development of health issues common to at-risk populations such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes

Osteopathy is another type of healthcare. Osteopaths treat conditions with medical treatments as well as manipulation and massage of muscles, bones, and joints.

In much of the world, osteopaths aren’t considered physicians. However, in the United States, osteopathic doctors are licensed physicians and surgeons.

As with other physicians, osteopaths graduate from medical schools. Osteopathic doctors must pass the same national board exams that all physicians do. They also undergo the same residency training programs as other doctors.

The main difference is that osteopathic doctors have the title DO instead of MD. You’ll likely not notice any difference in your treatment from a physician or surgeon who is a DO rather than an MD. A DO might recommend complementary treatments along with standard medications or procedures.

Homeopathic medicine is also known as homeopathy and is often added to mainstream medicine, used as a complementary/integrative approach. “Homeo” means “similar to” or “like.” This type of healthcare is often considered to be the opposite of allopathic medicine.

According to the National Institute of Health, homeopathic medicine is based on two theories:

  • Like cures like. This means that illness and disease are treated with substances that cause similar symptoms in healthy people.
  • Law of minimum dose. A lower dose of medication is thought to have a greater effect than a higher dose.

Homeopathic practitioners aren’t licensed medical doctors. Most homeopathy medicines are natural substances that come from plants or minerals, like:

  • arnica
  • belladonna
  • marigold
  • lead
  • lavender
  • phosphoric acid

Homeopathic treatments aren’t prescription medications. Additionally, homeopathy medicines usually aren’t regulated or tested like medications used in allopathic or mainstream medicine. Treatments and doses are different from person to person. There is some research emerging on the effectiveness of some remedies.

Allopathic medicine or mainstream medicine is a system of healthcare. It has had the most evidence-based scientific research, data collection, and drug testing. It’s also the most regulated by a neutral party like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the American Medical Association.

In comparison, homeopathy drugs haven’t had any or adequate amounts of research and testing. The correct dosages, effects, and side effects may not be known. Homeopathy drugs also aren’t regulated. Some may contain ingredients that have unknown or harmful effects.

In other cases, homeopathic dosages are too diluted to have a medicinal effect. People with diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer require effective drugs and very accurate dosages of specific treatments.

However, homeopathy, naturopathy, and other types of medicine have been used for generations in some cases. Some homeopathy drugs and supplements show promising results.

The action of long-used herbs and tonics are getting some research to support their use. More testing, research, and regulation is needed.

Allopathic or modern medical schools have recently added more study and information on how food and nutrition can help prevent and treat disease. More education is being offered on integrative approaches and potential interactions with mainstream medicine.

Other areas of study in allopathic medicine include exercise and reducing the use of antibiotics and other medications that may have harmful effects.

No healthcare system is perfect. Combining homeopathic and other alternative medicine with allopathic or mainstream medicine might work in treating people with some types of illnesses or ailments.

Any kind of medical treatment should be tailored to the individual and treat the whole person, not symptoms alone. Be sure you primary care healthcare practitioner is aware of all treatments you are using.