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Irregular practice became increasingly marginalized as quackery and fraud, as western medicine increasingly incorporated scientific methods and discoveries, and had a corresponding increase in success of its treatments.
In the 1970s, irregular practices were grouped with traditional practices of nonwestern cultures and with other unproven or disproven practices that were not part of biomedicine, with the group promoted as being "alternative medicine".
Although more neutral than either pejorative or promotional designations such as “quackery” or “natural medicine”, cognate terms like “unconventional”, “heterodox”, “unofficial”, “irregular”, "folk", "popular", "marginal", “complementary”, “integrative” or “unorthodox” define their object against the standard of conventional biomedicine, Conventional medical practitioners in the West have, since the nineteenth century, used some of these and similar terms as a means of defining the boundary of "legitimate" medicine, marking the division between that which is scientific and that which is not. In countries such as India and China traditional systems of medicine, in conjunction with Western biomedical science, may be considered conventional and mainstream.
Commonly, however, quackery was associated with a growing medical entrepreneurship amongst both regular and irregular practitioners in the provision of goods and services along with associated techniques of advertisement and self-promotion in the medical marketplace.
The constituent features of the medical marketplace during the eighteenth century were the development of medical consumerism and a high degree of patient power and choice in the selection of treatments, the limited efficacy of available medical therapies, In states that had exercised weaker central power and adopted a free-market model, such as in Britain, government gradually assumed greater control over medical regulation as part of increasing state focus on issues of public health.
Examples are Traditional Chinese medicine and the Ayurvedic medicine of India.
Other alternative medicine practices, such as homeopathy, were developed in western Europe and in opposition to western medicine, at a time when western medicine was based on unscientific theories that were dogmatically imposed by western religious authorities.Access was restricted and successful candidates, amongst other requirements, had to pass examinations and pay regular fees.The theories and practices included the science of anatomy and that the blood circulated by a pumping heart, and contained some empirically gained information on progression of disease and about surgery, but were otherwise unscientific, and were almost entirely ineffective and dangerous.Homeopathy was developed prior to discovery of the basic principles of chemistry, which proved homeopathic remedies contained nothing but water.