Integrative medicine in allergy and immunology

Christopher Chang, M. Eric Gershwin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Integrative medicine is a relatively new discipline which attempts to combine allopathic medicine with alternative or complementary medicine, to reap the benefits of both forms of medicine in optimizing the care of patients. Integrative medicine concentrates on treating the patient as a whole, both in body and mind. While the scientific method and "evidence-based" clinical research drives the management and treatment of diseases in conventional Western medicine, alternative or complementary medicine is based on unproven yet potentially beneficial techniques that have been developed throughout history, dating back to the ancient cultures in the Middle East, Africa, and China. In spite of the lack of evidence of most alternative medicine techniques, these methodologies have been practiced for centuries with great acceptance in many countries. It is in the Western world, where "modern" medicine is dictated by the scientific method, that the most controversy in the use of these alternative modes of therapy exists. Since the science behind alternative medicine is incomplete or non-existent, it is difficult for those trained in Western medicine to accept or adopt this approach. But perhaps it is the failure of Western medicine to adequately guarantee our well being and good health that have led to the ongoing debate between the medical profession and the general public as to the benefits of these alternative treatments. In one sense, integrative medicine may be a futile attempt to coin a new term in the hope of legitimizing alternative medicine. On the other hand, there is a wealth of historical experience in the use of the techniques. Studies to evaluate the scientific basis behind ancient medical techniques are ongoing, and it is to be expected that the results will neither be uniformly positive nor negative. Of particular interest is the effect of traditional medicine, herbal formulations, and manipulative techniques on the immune system, and its application in the treatment of autoimmune and allergic diseases. Studies are being designed or conducted to investigate immune effects of herbal formulations or their components. Herbal plants or medicines may lead to skewing of the Th1/Th2 balance in either direction, thus may offer potential application in the treatment of allergic or autoimmune diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)208-228
Number of pages21
JournalClinical Reviews in Allergy and Immunology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2013


  • Acupuncture
  • Allergy
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Ayurveda
  • Complementary and alternative medicine
  • Herbal remedies
  • Immunology
  • Integrative medicine
  • Th1
  • Th2
  • Traditional Chinese medicine
  • Unani

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy


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