Alternative medicine, fringe medicine, or pseudomedicine are practices that by definition do not work, and are a form of quackery or health fraud. They are claimed to have the healing effects of medicine but are disproven, unproven, impossible to prove, or are excessively harmful in relation to their effect. Scientific consensus states that such therapies do not, or cannot, work because the laws of nature are violated by their basic claims; or that the treatment is so much worse that its use is unethical. Alternative practices, products, and therapies – range from ineffective to having known harmful and toxic effects. Perceived effects of alternative medicine may be caused by: placebo; decreased effect of functional treatment (and therefore potentially decreased side effects); and regression toward the mean where alternative therapies are credited for improvement which occurs anyway; or any combination of the three. Alternative treatment is not the same as experimental treatment or traditional medicine, although both can be misused in ways that are alternative and ineffective. Alternative medicine has grown in popularity and is used by a significant number of people, though the popularity is often overstated. Large amounts of funding go to testing alternative medicine, with more than US$2.5 billion spent by the United States government alone. Almost none show any effect beyond that of false treatment, and most studies showing any effect have been statistical flukes. Regulation and licensing of alternative medicine and health care providers varies between and within countries.
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