What is Alternative Medicine?

Alternative medicine is any form of practice that is outside the area of conventional modern medicine. It covers a broad range of healing philosophies, approaches, and therapies. Most of these treatments and health care practices are not taught widely in medical schools. Examples are naturopathy, chiropractic, Ayurveda, homeopathy, herbalism, nutrition therapy, osteopathy, Traditional Chinese Medicine, folk medicine and acupuncture.

Conventional modern medicine tends to look at ‘health’ as the absence of disease. Treatment normally means treating a symptom, condition or disease rather than finding the root cause of the problem, correcting it, and looking at preventative measures for future health.

Many of the alternative practices pay attention to the mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of health, in addition to the physical body. Therapies like hypnosis and visualization claims to be able to change physical conditions through purely mental interventions. They believe that our bodies are remarkably resilient machines, capable, with some occasional prodding or intervention, of healing themselves. The name “holistic medicine” came from this unification of the mind and the body. Holistic practitioners treat the “whole person” as opposed to the individual organs of the body where symptoms occur. The importance of self care and preventing illness are stressed by holistic practitioners. Any therapy that relies on the body’s own healing powers may be considered natural medicine.

There are many remedies that can aid in the prevention of diseases as well as give you piece of mind. Here are examples of healing therapies and systems included in alternative medicines.

1. Chiropractic – healing through the spine and back
2. Massage – healing through muscle massage and relaxation
3. Acupuncture – healing through stimulating anatomical points on the body
4. Good Nutrition – healing through the consumption of nutritious foods to help cleanse the body
5. Vitamins and Nutritional Supplements – healing through consumption of needed vitamins that the body does not get on a day to day basis
6. Aromatherapy – healing through the use of volatile plant oils for physical and psychological therapy
7. Meditation – healing through exercise of the mind to relieve stress
8. Herbal remedies – healing through consumption of remedies for soothing of the mind and body
9. Environmental Therapy – healing through the use of the five senses in an individual’s environment, whether it be at home or outdoors
10. Chinese Medicine – healing through therapies and herbal supplements of the Chinese
11. Homeopathy – healing through the study of the body’s defense mechanisms and remedies to treat the specific illnesses
12. Naturopathic Medicine – healing through the integrity of the whole person by using methods and treatments for the individual’s vital force
13. Osteopathy – healing through the spine for musculoskeletal problems
14. Ayurveda – healing through the complete way of life and includes herbal remedies for the prevention and cure of some diseases
15. Qi Gong – healing through meditation, movement, and breathing combined

The decision to use complementary and alternative treatments is an important one. While most people consider vitamins and herbs to be natural, they still must be taken correctly as overdosing on some natural substances can be toxic and dangerous. Another consideration to be aware of is that when purchasing vitamins and supplements look for companies and manufacturers that have been around for a while and are reputable. Nutritional supplements are not regulated by the FDA as are pharmaceuticals and so there can be a wide range of quality in products. Also, it is always wise to inform your physician of any supplements you intend to take as some may adversely affect some medications you may be taking.

The following, per National Institutes of Health and US FDA, are topics to consider before selecting an alternative therapy:

  • The safety and effectiveness of the therapy or treatment.
  • The expertise and qualifications of the health care practitioner.
  • The quality of the service delivery.

Alternative medicines provide a more natural way for the healing of the mind, body, and soul. Healing comes from all aspects of oneself and alternative medicine can provide you with multiple ways to do this. A variety of therapies can be found to treat almost any disease, or at least lessen the pain for those non-curable illnesses.