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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2, Issue 2, Pages 139-142

Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Pakistan: Prospects and Limitations

1Health Systems Division, Department of Community Health Sciences, Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan
2Community Health Sciences Research Development Office, Department of Community Health Sciences, Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan

Received 10 December 2004; Accepted 28 March 2005

Copyright © 2005 Babar T. Shaikh and Babar T. Shaikh. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Despite all the marvelous advancements in modern medicine, traditional medicine has always been practiced. More than 70% of the developing world's population still depends on the complementary and alternative systems of medicine (CAM). Cultural beliefs and practices often lead to self-care or home remedies in rural areas and consultation with traditional healers. Evidence-based CAM therapies have shown remarkable success in healing acute as well as chronic diseases. Alternative therapies have been utilized by people in Pakistan who have faith in spiritual healers, clergymen, hakeems, homeopaths or even many quacks. These are the first choice for problems such as infertility, epilepsy, psychosomatic troubles, depression and many other ailments. The traditional medicine sector has become an important source of health care, especially in rural and tribal areas of the country. The main reasons for consulting a CAM healer is the proximity, affordable fee, availability, family pressure and the strong opinion of the community. Pakistan has a very rich tradition in the use of medicinal plants for the treatment of various ailments. It necessitates the integration of the modern and CAM systems in terms of evidence-based information sharing. The health-seeking behavior of the people especially in developing countries calls for bringing all CAM healers into the mainstream by providing them with proper training, facilities and back-up for referral. A positive interaction between the two systems has to be harnessed to work for the common goal of improving health of the people.