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Regulation and licensing of alternative medicine and health care providers varies between and within countries.

It has been strongly suggested that the very idea of any alternative treatment that works is paradoxical, as any treatment proven to work is by definition "medicine".

In all of these cases, patients may be seeking out alternative treatments to avoid the adverse effects of conventional treatments.

"Biomedicine" or "medicine" is that part of medical science that applies principles of biology, physiology, molecular biology, biophysics, and other natural sciences to clinical practice, using scientific methods to establish the effectiveness of that practice.

In addition to the social-cultural underpinnings of the popularity of alternative medicine, there are several psychological issues that are critical to its growth.

One of the most critical is the placebo effect – a well-established observation in medicine.

Alternative medicine consists of a wide variety of practices, products, and therapies – ranging from those that are biologically plausible but not well tested, to those with known harmful and toxic effects.

Contrary to popular belief, significant expense is paid to test alternative medicine, including over US$2.5 billion spent by the United States government.

Providers of CAM tend to build better therapeutic relationships than mainstream healthcare professionals.