Western medicine has come a long way. There is a pill, doctor, and surgery for almost everything. These definitely come in handy, but they’re not your only options. Instead, you could try varied alternative medicines.
Alternative medicine is gaining popularity by the day. In 2007, nearly 4 out of 10 adults used complementary or alternative medicine (CAM). Complementary medicine is used with Western medicine, while alternative medicine is used in place of it. Either kind may include practices and products that aren’t “mainstream.”
Many alternative medicines have been around for thousands of years. So why is it catching on now? Thanks to the Internet, consumer awareness is at an all-time high. People are paying closer attention to what goes in their bodies. In turn, it fuels the craving to control one’s own health.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, most people use a combination of alternative and conventional medicine instead of alternative medicine alone.1 Regardless of what you prefer, it helps to know what’s out there. Wondering if an alternative practice is right for you? Check out these 7 therapies.
Ayurveda has been around for more than 3,000 years.2 This ancient Indian system of medicine aims to balance the body, mind, and soul. The goal? To prevent and treat illnesses while establishing the ultimate harmony.
Special diets, herbs, and lifestyle habits make up Ayurveda. But if used incorrectly, some treatments can be harmful. So before going for this, do your research and talk to an expert.3 An example of Ayurveda is using turmeric to ease arthritis symptoms. For most people, this is known as a “holistic” remedy.4
Aromatherapy is exactly what it sounds like: therapy using aroma. It’s used to enhance physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. And the scented tool of choice? Essential oils. Popular oils used in aromatherapy include lavender, cedarwood, and chamomile – but there are countless options.
Experts think the oils work by altering chemical messengers in the brain. In fact, it’s so effective that aromatherapy can help cancer patients feel less stressed and anxious.5 Studies have even found benefits for postoperative nausea, depression, and mothers going through labor.6 7 8
Aromatherapy can be used in everyday life. Can’t sleep or feeling stressed? Inhaling lavender will relax the body and mind.9
Naturopathy, or naturopathic medicine, stems from folk and ancient medicine. Drugs and testing may be used, but it’s all about limiting invasiveness. The fewer the side effects, the better.
This method of treatment doesn’t focus solely on the symptoms. Naturopathy looks at the entire body and how different parts affect each other. Treatment assesses related factors and not just the symptoms alone.10
Let’s say your skin has been breaking out. Instead of prescribing a chemical cream, a naturopathic doctor will do tests to see if your diet or allergies are at play. Natural remedies to balance hormones might also come up.
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medicine. Here, a practitioner inserts thin needles in the skin to stimulate specific points. Every point is thought to affect some aspect in your body.11 For instance, the vagus nerve controls appetite, and it can be stimulated to help those struggling with weight loss.12
No, this isn’t something out of a sci-fi film. Biofeedback uses simple electronics to help patients control vital body functions, such as heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and physical movement. This method works out for conditions like stress and muscle injury.
In a typical biofeedback session, electrodes are attached to your skin. Therapists help you decipher the measurements on a monitor. With their guidance, you will learn to control the specific measurement. Relaxation is the name of the game. Most problems are caused by chronic stress, so biofeedback teaches you how to relax.
For example, are you dealing with urinary incontinence? It affects over 15 million Americans, so you’re not alone.15 In a 2014 study, pelvic floor muscle training plus biofeedback helped stress-induced urinary incontinence in postpartum women.16
6. Chiropractic Care
Chiropractic care is one of the most accepted alternative therapies. The goal is to relieve pain by altering the musculoskeletal and nervous systems. To make this happen, a chiropractor adjusts the spine and joints in a specific way. These adjustments are made with a hands-on therapy called manipulation. Problems like back issues, headaches, nerve inflammation, muscle spasms, and other physical injuries may all benefit from chiropractic care.17
It’s not the same as physical therapy, which uses movement to improve function. Physical therapy focuses more on rehabilitation. Chiropractic care, on the other hand, is best for re-alignment, as seen in a 2011 study. It can improve pain, disability, and even the curve’s severity.18 This sure beats spinal surgery!
Reiki uses energy to heal. The Japanese practice was created in the late 19th century, so it’s fairly new! Unlike acupuncture or chiropractic care, Reiki does not involve physical manipulation. Instead, a gentle touch is used. Reiki practitioners place their hands on or near you to transmit ki, the life-force energy.19
Reiki is best for managing stress, anxiety, and sadness. You may feel relaxed after a session. However, it’s not meant to cure an illness or disease, so be wary if a practitioner makes such a claim.20
Before trying out an alternative medicine, do adequate research and see if a particular method is the right one for you. Taking prescription pills? Check with your doctor prior to using supplements or herbs to avoid any unnecessary side effects.
|↑1, ↑3, ↑17, ↑19||Barnes, Patricia M., Barbara Bloom, and Richard L. Nahin. “Complementary and alternative medicine use among adults and children; United States, 2007.” (2008).|
|↑2, ↑4||Ayurveda Medicine: In Depth. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.|
|↑5||Aromatherapy and Essential Oils. National Cancer Institute.|
|↑6||Hunt, Ronald, Jacqueline Dienemann, H. James Norton, Wendy Hartley, Amanda Hudgens, Thomas Stern, and George Divine. “Aromatherapy as treatment for postoperative nausea: a randomized trial.” Anesthesia & Analgesia 117, no. 3 (2013): 597-604.|
|↑7||Nan Lv, Xiao, Zhu Jun Liu, Huan Jing Zhang, and Chi Meng Tzeng. “Aromatherapy and the central nerve system (CNS): therapeutic mechanism and its associated genes.” Current drug targets 14, no. 8 (2013): 872-879.|
|↑8||Yazdkhasti, Mansoreh, and Arezoo Pirak. “The effect of aromatherapy with lavender essence on severity of labor pain and duration of labor in primiparous women.” Complementary therapies in clinical practice 25 (2016): 81-86.|
|↑9||Lavender. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.|
|↑10||Definition of Naturopathic Medicine. The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians.|
|↑11, ↑14||Acupuncture: In Depth. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.|
|↑12||Lacey, J. M., A. M. Tershakovec, and G. D. Foster. “Acupuncture for the treatment of obesity: a review of the evidence.” International journal of obesity 27, no. 4 (2003): 419.|
|↑13||Darbandi, Mahsa, Sara Darbandi, Ali Akbar Owji, Pooneh Mokarram, Majid Ghayor Mobarhan, Majid Fardaei, Baxiao Zhao et al. “Auricular or body acupuncture: which one is more effective in reducing abdominal fat mass in Iranian men with obesity: a randomized clinical trial.” Journal of Diabetes & Metabolic Disorders 13, no. 1 (2014): 92.|
|↑15||Biofeedback. University of Maryland Medical Center.|
|↑16||Liu, Juan, Jie Zeng, Hailan Wang, Yan Zhou, and Chunyan Zeng. “Effect of pelvic floor muscle training with biofeedback on stress urinary incontinence in postpartum and post-menopausal women.” Zhonghua fu chan ke za zhi 49, no. 10 (2014): 754-757.|
|↑18||Morningstar, Mark W. “Outcomes for adult scoliosis patients receiving chiropractic rehabilitation: a 24-month retrospective analysis.” Journal of chiropractic medicine 10, no. 3 (2011): 179-184.|
|↑20||Reiki. BetterHealthChannel, State of Victoria Government.|