July 19

What is Non-Western Medicine

Author: Megan Dempsey  |   Editor: Donya Mann 

Medical professionals consider non-Western medicine to be any medical practice that is not included in traditional medical care. There are three common terms that are typically associated with non-Western medicine, which are the following: 

Holistic Medicine

A practice of healing that takes a whole-body approach in healing through the mind, body, and spirit in order to achieve balance. The belief behind holistic medicine is that the different parts of the body work together and if one aspect (mind, body, or spirit) is out of balance then it can affect the other parts. There are several different ways a holistic doctor can treat a person, as they combine traditional Western medicine with alternative therapies. The idea is not just to relieve symptoms, but also to cure the underlying problem. For example, if someone comes in with chronic stress and related issues, a holistic doctor might look towards improving diet and stress levels. They may recommend stress management techniques, such as meditation or yoga.

Alternative Medicine

This is the practice of non-Western medicine, such as traditional Chinese medicine, instead of traditional Western medical practices. Some other forms of alternative medicine include homeopathy and herbalism.   

Complementary Medicine

This is the combination of both Western medication and Non-Western medication to treat illness. Complementary medicine uses both to improve health, without simply turning to a bunch of pills.   
While these terms are often used interchangeably, it is important to know that they are different approaches to medicine. Integrative medicine, which combines conventional and complementary medicine, is another term that appears frequently when searching non-Western medicines and should be noted.   

Types of Non-Western or Alternative Medicine 

There are wide varieties of alternative medicines that can be recommended by a doctor for many individuals. Some of the most common alternative therapies include: 

  • Acupuncture 
  • Chiropractic and Osteopathic medicine 
  • Massage 
  • Yoga 
  • Dietary supplements 
  • Diet/nutrition 
  • Meditation 

The great thing about these types of therapies is their growing acceptance in Western medical practices. With more awareness around alternative medicine, people are able to ask about them and make more informed decisions about their health. While it is not advised to give up critical care for serious diseases, such as chemotherapy for cancer, some alternative therapies can vastly improve a patient’s outlook. The mind and body are powerful things. It makes all the difference when someone feels empowered to get better because they are receiving good healthcare. 

Can You Trust Alternative Medicine? 

The concept of non-Western medicine actually being useful is on the rise among traditional Western doctors, as an integrative or complementary approach. If traditional Western practices haven’t worked for you, you may want to consider visiting a doctor who incorporates holistic medicine in their treatment. While exploring alternative therapies it is critical that you see a medically licensed doctor to ensure that you receive care from someone who knows the research and can properly monitor you in case there are negative effects. A doctor who treats patients with holistic therapies incorporates scientifically backed traditional methods along with non-Western medicines and will consider methods to treat the whole body that is specific to your situation. It is ultimately up to you to make the choice to try alternative medicine, but it is best to make that decision with as much information as possible.  

Benefits of Non-Western Medicine 

There are many benefits to seeking out alternative medicine and receiving care that incorporates both traditional and non-traditional medicines. For a lot of people, they do not feel like traditional Western medicine alone is actually treating the disease, instead, they are just being pumped full of expensive medicine that only manages their symptoms. With a holistic or complementary/integrative approach you can get: 

Personalized Care

When with a holistic doctor or doctor who is using a complementary approach, a person’s entire being is taken into account, such as lifestyle and mental state, and a plan of care is structured to consider this along with any physical ailments. The aim is to improve the quality of life rather than focusing on one part of the body since everything is connected. Usually, more than one therapy is used at a time and can be done with a variety of issues that range in severity.    

Being Treated As a Whole Person

Generally, the use of complementary and alternative medicine focuses on the whole well-being of the person. So this does not just cover that one specific disease, but can also help with any other ailments or also serve for prevention of illness.  

Giving the Patient Back Their Dignity

In traditional Western medicine, a person may easily feel like their dignity is being stripped from them, as they are pushed through the healthcare system and loaded up with a bunch of prescriptions. Doctors who take a more holistic avenue tend to spend more time on a comprehensive care plan and really listen to their patients and take their preferences into account, which anyone can appreciate.  

Fewer Side Effects

By not focusing solely on prescription medications, patients will not have to deal with as many, potentially, nasty side effects and can improve the quality of their lives. If a person changes their diet and sees improvement in their joint inflammation, they may be encouraged to make other positive changes to their nutrition and eating habits. 

Consider If This Is For You 

There are a couple of aspects to think about when considering whether you should start incorporating non-Western practices into your treatments. First of all, please be aware of any risks you might be taking on. Not all, or even any, alternative medicines may be a good idea depending on your situation. It may end up causing more damage by exacerbating an existing illness. Certain prescription medications and illnesses can compromise your immune system, which means you are more at risk for other complications. Do your research and make sure that anything you do has some scientific evidence to back it up. Always seek medical advice from a licensed medical doctor, as they have the training and medical knowledge to help inform you properly. Please do not just trust word of mouth when making a judgment about something that can affect your health.   

What to Look Out For 

If you do decide that you would like to look into receiving holistic care or trying alternative medicines, then there are definitely certain things to look out for to make sure that you are being treated safely. There are always going to be people out there trying to scam someone and to make a quick buck, so being aware of warning signs is the first step to avoid falling for any schemes. Some red flags include claims of being a ‘miracle cure’ that has the ability to cure serious diseases and/or claims that there are no side effects. There is no evidence to support these claims. Also, be cautious when seeing someone who does not believe in modern Western medicine at all or is anti-science. Again, make sure to do your research.     

Curious About Non-Western Medicine 

If you are interested in incorporating non-Western therapies in your daily life or 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.  


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integrative medicine


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