Turkey embraces alternative and complementary medicine

Published 24.08.2017 00:00
Turkey embraces alternative and complementary medicine

Whether to boost the effects of traditional medical care or simply to comfort patients, alternative and complementary medical practices are on the rise in Turkey with plans to make advancements by bringing back traditional medicinal treatments that have roots in the country's historical cultural traditions

As medical practices become more and more advanced, many people are turning to traditional medicine and alternative therapies which are considered to have healing effects on the human body, despite not being scientifically proven. Recently, alternative medicine and complementary medicine is widely used around the world, and even accepted by the traditional medical practitioners.

Complementary medicine is a group of diagnostic and therapeutic disciplines that are used together with conventional medicine. Complementary medicine includes a large number of practices and systems of health care which have begun to be adopted by mainstream Western medicine as well. Complementary medicine includes a variety of products such as herbs, vitamins and minerals and probiotics. These items are widely marketed, readily available to consumers in local pharmacies without a prescription and are often sold as dietary supplements. Moreover, alternative medical practitioners tend to advise their patients to engage in therapeutic practices to renew the mind and body for good health.

In 2014, Turkish health care institutions and state medical schools made alternative medicine a part of their health care routine.

The head of Turkey's Complementary and Alternative Medicine Practices Department of the Ministry of Health's Directorate General for Health Services Zafer Kalaycı stated that they are conducting studies to promote Turkey as full of "world cuisine" for alternative medicine.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency (AA), Kalaycı provided information about traditional and complementary medicine. He said that, in addition to protecting people from and preventing physical and psychological diseases through alternative therapies, traditional and alternative medicine include experimental and proven practices, research and holistic approaches that are unique to various cultures and are being applied for sustaining good health.

Stating that traditional and complementary medicine is a new area of application both in Turkey and world, Kalaycı said that Turkey is making strides in the world in this area. It is evident that Turkey now has well-coordinated, comprehensive regulations in alternative medicine that are the first of their kind in the world. In the context of this regulation, which is already in use in Turkey, educational standards are being enacted in the fields of reflexology, music therapy, osteopathy, prolotherapy, apitherapy, mesotherapy, homeopathy, phytotherapy, and acupuncture, along with larva, hypnosis, leeching, cupping and ozone applications.

For the application of these standards, traditional and complementary medicine centers were opened at 32 universities and training research hospitals across the country.

Noting that active education is ongoing at 14 of these centers, Kalaycı added: "The regulation was issued in 2014; however, we were able to create the educational standards for the applications, as part of the series, in 2016. Up until now, 2,500 people have become certified at these branches. The demand for instruction from our physicians has been high and there is a waiting list for applicants. Currently, we have education centers in Ankara, Istanbul, İzmir, Erzurum and Kayseri. Also, the University of Health Sciences of the Ministry of Health and training research hospitals working under its auspices have begun to offer education on these branches of treatment. The University of Health Sciences is planning to launch a master's degree program in the area."

Saying that they have made international connections as they continue to advance in this area, Kalaycı said: "We are conducting one-to-one research with the World Health Organization (WHO). We also conduct joint studies with universities in the U.S., South Korea and China. Turkey is setting a new global standard in this area. We have begun to create new regulations which will make Turkey the gold standard in education in these fields. We are a shining star in the world arena now."

Kalaycı also stressed Turkey's diversity in endemic plants, asserting that the country has 4,750 endemic plants. "When you calculate the number of endemic plants all around Europe, you see that their total number does not exceed that of Turkey. Here, we conduct research in cooperation with the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock and the Ministry of Forestry. In addition to the fact that there are studies conducted by prominent academics and smart agriculture applications, the number of plants in Turkey has reached 12,000. We raised awareness by a lot, sharing this information with the world."

Stating that Turkey has seriously important endemic plants, Kalaycısaid: "Every single one of the 81 provinces in Turkey has their own unique, endemic plants. We have to evaluate them. This situation is also gaining world-wide attention. Some products are imported to Turkey for between $45 and $50, while they are exported for $1."

"At the Ministry of Health, our aim is to turn Turkey into a fountain of cuisine for the education and application process of traditional and complementary medicine. We are conducting sophisticated academic, clinical and laboratory studies in education in this area. We have a department known as the Directorate of Health Institutions, as well as six institutions bound to it. One of these is the Traditional and Complementary Medicine Application Institution. We are making progress in a well-organized way in all aspects," he said.

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