Alternative Medicine

The field of medicine has experienced great advances over the past few years, and still shows promising developments in the years to come. But because there are still hundreds of diseases that are yet to be treated, and millions of people worldwide that suffer from illness, it seems that conventional medicine is not sufficient enough to answer the growing needs of the population. In this regard, complementary alternative medicine is steadily becoming an option for many patients around the world.

What is Alternative Medicine

Alternative medicine, as the name implies, refers to a system of remedies or treatments that can be used as a replacement for conventional drugs or procedures. The origin of alternative medicine, in large part, is a return to a more holistic and natural approach to healing. The roots of alternative medicine may be traced to the ancient civilizations of the world, like the Chinese, Indian, Aztecs, Mayans, and Incas. These ancestral races relied highly on plants and natural products for treating ailments; their practices have been well-preserved in their countries, and have even found their way into modern medicine.

Alternative Medicine Research

In the United States, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) established the National Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) in the 1990’s to determine which treatments are safe to use, as well as perform research to test the effectiveness of such remedies. Interestingly enough, hundreds of scientific research agencies around the world also conduct studies on alternative treatments. These agencies give scientific review of alternative medicine.

Alternative Medicine Treatments

These days there is a demand for the old methods of medication. One of the reasons that more people turn to these remedies is that they are cost-effective. There are alternative therapies that do include innovative procedures, such as chelation therapy; however, what many consumers may be surprised to learn is that if you pray, exercise, or take vitamins, you are practicing forms of alternative medicine. The term alternative literally means making a choice between options available. It is critical to make a decision knowing what are our options. The demand for alternative therapies in health and medicine is steadily increasing also because most of the procedures are non-invasive and can be applicable to almost all ages of patients.

Much of the controversy involving alternative healing medicine stems from the fact that the healing powers of such treatments may simply be due to the placebo effect on its patients. Regardless of this, the NCCAM recommends over a hundred possible avenues for healing, aside from conventional medical procedures. Some of these alternative medical treatments make use of mind-body medicine techniques, where the mind is tapped so its power to heal the physical body is enhanced. Included in mind-body medicine are meditation and yoga. Meditation has already been established as a promising alternative to treating stress, anxiety disorders, and possibly reducing the risks of cardiovascular disease.

Types of Alternative Medicine

Alternative medical cure systems include Chinese medicine, ayurvedic medicine, naturopathy, and homeopathy.

Traditional Chinese alternative medicine focuses on two opposing life energies, the yin and the yang. Disease is caused by blockage in this life energy, resulting in either pain or illness. The treatment methods are herbal medicines, nutrition, body therapies and acupuncture.

Ayurvedic Alternative Medicine

Ayurvedic medicine is considered another type of alternative medical system integrating the mind, body, and spirit and the ability to restore health through that integration. According to ayurvedic medicine, a person’s constitution, which embodies both physical and psychological aspects, determines the body’s optimal functioning. There are body types known as doshas, which are divided into three categories: vata, pitta, and kapha. Each of these body types is thought to be characterized by personality types and tendencies toward certain health problems. Various imbalances in the doshas can occur as a result of a number of factors, namely, unhealthy diet: insufficient exercise; and lack of proper protection from the elements, germs, or various chemicals.

Naturopathic Alternative Medicine

Naturopathy means nature cure and involves all therapeutic modalities that will guide the human organism back to an original state of wholeness. It is natural alternative medicine. Much akin to Native American thought proponents believe that there is healing power present in all living things. Naturopathy uses nature’s resources, which proponents believe contain inherent healing powers. The naturopathy does not use external remedies, such as medicines or surgery, but uses methods like fasting, hydrotherapy, massage, vitamin and mineral therapy, vegetarian diets, health foods, herbs, mud packs, and exercise.

Alternative medicine therapy is any form of healing therapy outside the confines of allopathic or traditional medicine. Alternative medicine includes all forms of therapy from acupuncture to Zen Buddhism as potential pathways to health. Acupuncture, the ancient Chinese practice of inserting fine needles into the body at strategic points to alleviate pain and promote healing is just one of the many treatments available that fall under the heading of alternative medicine.

Many of the healing therapies utilized in the current practice of alternative medicine also incorporate energy therapies, which has been an ancient tradition of Chinese culture, wherein the balancing of the life force or energy of the body facilitates healing. Reiki, shiatsu, and Qi Gong are some examples of energy medicine. Medical journals have published many successful trials on the therapeutic effects of many of the alternative treatments available.

Other widely recognized alternative medical procedures include: therapeutic touch, homeopathy, chiropractic treatment, crystal healing, holistic medicine, hypnotherapy, magnet therapy, aromatherapy, osteopathy, and herbal medicine, among others.

Alternative medicine is so called because it differs in approach and philosophy from Western medicine, as the conventional medicine with which are more familiar is known. The various types of alternative medicine borrow from ancient medical practices that rely on plants, natural oils and spiritual and hands-on healing, and take a preventive approach, as opposed to the drug and technology centered methods of conventional medicine, which tends to treat existing illnesses. They are also called holistic alternative medicine as they focus on the holistic health of the person.

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