Alternative medicine is known as the use of non-traditional therapies in place of conventional Western medicines. Alternative medicines are not a new phenomenon and in fact, have been around for thousands of years. Eastern medicines like traditional Chinese medicine have evolved over this time but it has only been in recent modern times that non-traditional medicine has become a more accepted form of healthcare in the Western world. There has been some promising research on the effects of alternative therapies. While there are some mixed reviews (depending on the type of alternative therapy) it is worth considering if they would be a beneficial resource to supplement your current healthcare practices.
According to the CDC, 36 percent of U.S. adults aged 18 years and over, use some form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). With more and more people using some form of alternative medicine either by itself or in conjunction with Western medical practices, it helps to know what options are out there. The different types of alternative medicines can be broken down into different categories to include:
These are therapies that focus on a person’s psychological state and physical being.
- Chiropractic and Osteopathic Medicine
- Music Therapies
Anything that a person would consume to improve their overall health.
- Dietary Supplements
These are treatments based on the idea of the manipulation of the energy fields that exist inside all of us.
- Electromagnetic Therapy
- Therapeutic Touch
Traditional Chinese medicine and homeopathy are other forms of alternative medicine and are some of the bigger alternative treatments that more often come to people's minds when the topic is brought up. If you would like to look up any of the medicines listed above and see the scientific research about them then please visit the website of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
Eastern Medicines Further Explained
Eastern medicines are medicines that have originated outside of Western countries. It is different from Western Medicine in the sense that Eastern medicine focuses on the imbalances in the body based on someone’s chi and treating the whole person. To treat a person, a combination of natural therapies, such as massage, acupuncture, or nutrition, are used to bring back balance to the body. Western medicine specifically diagnoses disease and treats that disease by prescribing pharmaceutical drugs. The following are some of the major treatments practiced in traditional Chinese medicine:
When someone is getting acupuncture done, they will have very thin needles stuck in their skin, all over the body. This is meant to stimulate the body into releasing natural chemicals to reduce pain. According to the NCCIH, studies have shown that acupuncture can actually be an effective form of pain management with issues, like lower back pain. There is even some evidence to show that you can get a placebo effect from “fake” acupuncture, which still includes inserting needles, just not in the correct spots.
Chinese Herbal Medicine
Chinese herbs are given to a person to help restore energy balance and are used to treat a wide variety of issues. For example, Green Tea has been used for medicinal purposes by the Chinese for a long time and has been touted as having many benefits. Some of the benefits include helping with mental alertness, digestive problems, headaches, and weight loss.
Chinese Dietary Therapy
The belief behind this is that eating a poor diet will eventually lead to health problems. This diet is all about balance and how when a balanced diet is achieved then good health is sure to follow suit, as Chinese medicine is primarily about balance in the body. To follow this diet, it is recommended to eat a wide variety of foods. The literature does suggest that this diet can help better control blood pressure and hypertension.
This is a type of massage that is used in place of acupuncture, often when it cannot be used. The massage focuses on acupressure points, like in acupuncture, and uses multiple techniques to stimulate the muscles to help heal the body. Tuina works to remove any blockages and restore peace. Like other kinds of massage, such as Thai or Swedish, it is beneficial for any problems with joints or anything to do with the musculoskeletal system.
Often referred to as “meditation in movement,” tai chi is considered to be a great form of exercise that can help calm the mind and the body. It originally began in China as a form of martial arts and has since become a low-impact exercise and is great for anyone who wants to practice. It is known to be able to help improve muscle strength, flexibility, balance, and to some degree aerobic conditioning. It encourages calmness through gentle movements that flow into each other and a focus on deep breathing.
Homeopathic medicine was created in Germany over 200 years ago and is one of the oldest forms of alternative medicine in Europe. It is based on two concepts of “like cure like,” where someone is given a substance that produces similar effects in healthy people, and the “law of minimum dose,” which believes that the lower the dose the better the results. Homeopathic treatments are made from multiple different resources like plants, minerals, and animals and are typically distributed in the form of sugar pellets. They can also be made as ointments, gels, and creams. Every treatment is specified for each person to take into account their differences, so even if multiple people are being treated for the same thing, then they may be receiving completely different remedies. Homeopathy does not currently have any scientific research to support its use and it is a controversial practice. Please be cautious when it comes to anything labeled homeopathic that you will be ingesting.
Natural products can be found in places such as over-the-counter sections of pharmacies and marketplaces and are easy to access. They are an aspect of alternative medicine that many people might not think of as much, as opposed to other treatments like meditation and acupuncture. Natural products are composed of vitamins, minerals, herbs, botanicals, and probiotics. So any vitamins, like iron supplements, vitamin D, melatonin, or multivitamins, fall under the umbrella of being a natural product. Another great example of a natural product is aloe vera, which is a topical ointment most often used to treat sunburns. Aloe Vera is generally recommended for use by doctors, so it goes to show how some of these products can be trusted by Western medical practices and alternative medicine is something to take into consideration. It should also be known to be careful with natural products, like vitamins, because many of them are not regulated by the FDA and can potentially have serious side effects.
Why Consider Using Non-Traditional Treatments
People often use alternative medicines without even realizing they technically fall under that category. If you have ever bought vitamins at the grocery store or practiced yoga to improve flexibility and health then you have engaged with alternative medicines. However, most people may not think to use these methods as part of real treatment for a real illness. While it is not recommended to rely solely on alternative therapies, it can be useful when used in combination with traditional Western medicines. Many doctors will recommend certain treatments along with pharmaceutical methods, like meditation along with medication to help with anxiety disorders, or even more serious diseases. Several alternative medicines help people feel like they are in control of how they are being treated and a person’s attitude makes a big difference in terms of recovery.
Want to Know More About Alternative Medicines
If you are interested in learning more about alternative therapies and what they can do for you or want to look into combining them with your traditional medical treatments call Shakthi Health and Wellness Center today! Dr. Jyothi Rao is a highly skilled and experienced physician who can effectively evaluate your symptoms and optimize your body’s vitality. Call (301) 703-5067 and speak to our concierge staff to schedule your appointment today.
Author: Megan Dempsey
Editor: Donya Mann