What Is Alternative Medicine?

Alternative medicine is a term that has gained much popularity over the past few decades. As more and more people are attempting to pull away from traditional western medicine and medications, they are trying alternative or complementary medicine in its place. Many doctors are also beginning to use and even recommend these treatments to their patients, often combining them with traditional medical treatments.

What Does Alternative Medicine Entail?

There are a number of means of alternative medicine. What is currently considered to fall into this category changes on a regular basis as more and more treatments are introduced, tested and provided. Generally speaking, any treatment that incorporates natural products, mind and body practices or other naturally based health treatments are considered to be in the class of alternative medicine.

Natural Products

Natural products can include everything from essential oils to natural herb remedies and some dietary supplements. Natural products are simply those products that got their start in nature. Using certain herbs such as ginkgo biloba or ginseng would be examples of natural products. Dietary supplements that are all natural and naturally made are also considered to be natural products. Herbs and teas or certain oils and even oral capsules fall into this category and are considered a form of alternative medicine, meaning that they could potentially replace traditional medicinal products. For instance, if you drink chamomile tea for a migraine headache as opposed to taking doctor prescribed medication for that headache then you are essentially treating yourself with alternative medicine.

Body And Mind Practices

Body and mind practices have been around for centuries. This is simply strengthening the communication between your body and your mind. There are a number of ways in which this can be done and many patients who use the body and mind practice technique report that it works well, better in some cases than traditional medications. Some examples of this type of treatment include yoga, meditation, prayer and a number of relaxation and art therapeutic treatments. Body and mind practices can also include a number of massage therapies as well as chiropractic and osteopathic treatments. Reiki is a popular form of body and mind practice. Many practitioners believe that there is an invisible energy force that flows throughout the body. When this energy becomes blocked by pain or otherwise imbalanced, the patient can begin to show signs of illness. The goal of body and mind practice therapies is to unblock the energy force, therefore alleviating the symptoms of the accompanying illness. Energy type therapies can include healing touch, reiki or qi gong.

Healthy Approaches To Medicine

There are other approaches to these natural therapies that focus more on a system as opposed to a single practice. Ancient healing systems for instance, have been around since virtually the dawn of time. Homeopathy is a treatment that uses small doses of drugs to cause symptoms that stimulate the natural healing response of the body. Naturopathy focuses more on noninvasive treatment options that allow the body to heal itself. This includes a number of practices from massage and herbal remedies to acupuncture and lifestyle counseling.

Some Doctors Do Not Agree

Not all doctors are onboard with natural healing or alternative medicine. Many feel that these therapies simply do not work. Some do not feel comfortable recommending these treatments to their patients, mostly because they have questions or do not truly understand all of the therapy options available under the umbrella of alternative medicine. Doctors are right to be cautious in some cases, simply because they are used to conventional medicines and treatments that have been thoroughly researched and tested for effectiveness. While there is some evidence that alternative medicine works, there are also many questions regarding this type of treatment and some doctors simply choose to believe in what they have come to learn. Combined with the fact that some practitioners make exaggerated claims about certain healings, many doctors are simply cautious about what they do and do not recommend to their patients, particularly for certain diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, both of which are said to be effectively treated with alternative medicine techniques.

Speak With Your Own Doctor

As with any new treatment program, it is important that you keep a line of communication open with your current physician. Work with your doctor, as opposed to trying things behind his or her back, to find the treatment that will best suit your needs. Your doctor may not fully understand your treatment choices or even be able to refer you to an alternative medicine specialist but he or she can help you to research the possible effects that this medicine can have on your current medical issue. If you are pregnant or nursing, or if you have certain medical problems for which you take prescribed medications, you are encouraged to speak with your doctor prior to undergoing any alternative medicine treatment, particularly if that means replacing your current medication. Speak with your doctor first and find out all that you can about the alternative medicine treatment that you are considering. If needed, take this information with you to your next doctor’s appointment and go over it with your doctor so that you can both be onboard with this new treatment decision.

Potential Benefits Of Certain Types Of Alternative Medicine

There are a number of alternative medicine techniques that have been around for thousands of years. Acupuncture for instance, has been used since the early ages to help in a number of medical conditions. Studies show that this treatment can be very effective in treating a number of symptoms and conditions including allergies, back pain, neck pain, anxiety, depression, infertility and a host of others.

Chiropractic Medicine

Chiropractic medicine is another form of alternative medicine that has been around for centuries. This practice focuses on the overall structure of the body and how the body functions. It mainly focuses on the spine and the alignment of the spine. The belief is that lack of proper alignment can cause a number of health issues including pain, nausea and headaches. Different methods are used to adjust the spine or other parts of the body to ensure that they are all properly aligned.

Energy Therapy

Energy therapy like reiki focuses on the energy in and around the human body. Treatments in this field include magnetic field therapy, which uses electrical fields or magnets in order to treat musculoskeletal issues. Studies show that this treatment can be very effective in eliminating pain that is associated with osteoarthritis as well as a number of other muscle related pains. It can also help broken bones and fractures to heal faster, although it may not be the safest choice for those who are pregnant. Those with implanted cardiac devices or anyone who uses an insulin pump should also avoid this type of treatment.

What Is Reiki

Reiki has become highly popular in just the last few years. This type of treatment focuses on the energy in the body and helps to unblock anything that is keeping that energy from flowing. The belief is that when the energy is blocked, it can upset the systems in the body that keep it healthy. Reiki treatments include having a practitioner hover his or her hands over the body or place them lightly on the body in order to channel energy through the practitioner, who is healthy, into the patient who is not. There is little official research into how effective this therapy can be and there are a number of organizations who are now offering certification into reiki therapy.

Herbal Medicines

If you have ever had a cup of chamomile tea in order to help you to fall asleep at night, you have tried herbal therapy. In addition, if you have used any type of plant, root, berry, flower or leaf in order to heal your body, you have used herbal therapy. This type of treatment has been around for centuries and the World Health Organization estimates that nearly 80 percent of all of the people in the world use herbal medicine at some point in their lives. Studies have been conducted to show that certain herbs can be very effective in treating certain health issues such as chronic fatigue, PMS and allergies.

Ayurvedic Medicine

Ayurveda is one of the oldest medical systems in the world. This type of medicine was started more than 3,000 years ago in India and is still wildly popular in India as well as other parts of the world today. Practitioners in Ayurvedic medicine use a number of herbs and special diets, as well as other treatment methods in order to treat certain illnesses. There has not been adequate research to prove if this type of treatment is effective for certain medical conditions, although it is important to note that some of the products used in Ayurvedic medicine can contain toxic minerals and should be avoided.

If you are interested in alternative medicine from a patient’s perspective, it is vital that you do your research and stay in contact with your doctor who can let you know about any adverse effects that you may experience if you suddenly stop taking prescription medications.


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