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Traditional, or Alternative Medicine is being sought out more than ever before in the Western world. A billion dollar industry which is giving the allopathic doctors some serious competition is being "legitimized" through science at every turn. The pharmaceutical industry has not turned a blind eye to the moneymaker. Common over-the-counter drugs now boast their improved versions containing "natural" elements. Perhaps this is because of the widespread belief that allopathic or Western medicine is failing. Due to high costs, impersonal and often unsuccessful treatment, HMOs and the illusion that the medical community is blind to this reality, if not even part of the problem, patients are growing ever more impatient.

Advancing human health by improving the environment is the focus of ecological medicine. Special interests, hazardous chemicals and general degradation of our habitat have altered the human condition. Some scientists believe that the only reasonable solution for the future of human health is to improve the environment and preserve our botanical resources. Carolyn Raffensperger, director of the Science and Environmental Health Network (SEHN) explains, a "truly holistic medicine extends beyond the mind-body connection to the human-planet whole."

The increase in interest in Traditional Medicine in the West, however, has had a tremendous impact on biological resources and diversity. Biopiracy, the theft of biological and genetic resources indigenous to a country, is the term coined to describe the efforts of pharmaceutical companies who are trying to cash in on our demand for alternatives. Deforestation and serious exploitation of the Himalayan region is a serious issue, not to mention the damage done to the rain forest and coral reefs.

Our responsibility is to care for the Earth, to do all that we can to preserve her resources. We need to be conscious of the products we buy, as well as, to support ethical wild crafting. It is through our own efforts that we will protect the Earth from ourselves. Tee L Guidott, MD, MPH, FRCPC, CCBOM said, "The earth is no longer a self-correcting natural system; the planet now requires human intervention to stabilize its most basic functions and to reconstruct the degraded systems on which life ultimately depends."

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