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Examples are Traditional Chinese medicine and the Ayurvedic medicine of India.Other alternative medicine practices, such as homeopathy, were developed in western Europe and in opposition to western medicine, at a time when western medicine was based on unscientific theories that were dogmatically imposed by western religious authorities.The variety of alternative medical systems which developed during this period can be approximately categorised according to the form of treatment advocated.These were: those employing spiritual or psychological therapies, such as hypnosis (mesmerism); nutritional therapies based upon special diets, such as medical botanism; drug and biological therapies such as homeopathy and hydrotherapy; and, manipulative physical therapies such as osteopathy and chiropractic massage.In addition to the traditional French medical faculties and the complex hierarchies of practitioners over which they presided, the state increasingly supported new institutions, such as the Société Royale de Médecine (Royal Society of Medicine) which received its royal charter in 1778, that played a role in policing medical practice and the sale of medical nostrums.This system was radically transformed during the early phases of the French Revolution when both the traditional faculties and the new institutions under royal sponsorship were removed and an entirely unregulated medical market was created.

Much of what is now categorized as alternative medicine was developed as independent, complete medical systems, was developed long before biomedicine and use of scientific methods, and was developed in relatively isolated regions of the world where there was little or no medical contact with pre-scientific western medicine, or with each other's systems.Following the counterculture movement of the 1960s, misleading marketing campaigns promoting "alternative medicine" as being an effective "alternative" to biomedicine, and with changing social attitudes about not using chemicals, challenging the establishment and authority of any kind, sensitivity to giving equal measure to values and beliefs of other cultures and their practices through cultural relativism, adding postmodernism and deconstructivism to ways of thinking about science and its deficiencies, and with growing frustration and desperation by patients about limitations and side effects of science-based medicine, use of alternative medicine in the west began to rise, then had explosive growth beginning in the 1990s, when senior level political figures began promoting alternative medicine, and began diverting government medical research funds into research of alternative, complementary, and integrative medicine.The concept of alternative medicine is problematic as it cannot exist autonomously as an object of study in its own right but must always be defined in relation to a non-static and transient medical orthodoxy.Access was restricted and successful candidates, amongst other requirements, had to pass examinations and pay regular fees.The theories and practices included the science of anatomy and that the blood circulated by a pumping heart, and contained some empirically gained information on progression of disease and about surgery, but were otherwise unscientific, and were almost entirely ineffective and dangerous.It is at this point that an "official" medicine, created in cooperation with the state and employing a scientific rhetoric of legitimacy, emerges as a recognisable entity and that the concept of alternative medicine as a historical category becomes tenable.

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