Alternative Health Practices

Alternative medicine, complementary therapies, holistic practices, natural healthcare, integrative medicine--these are a few of the terms used nowadays to describe a wide array of healing practices that fall outside purely pharmaceutical or surgical treatments. Some examples are massage, meditation, and acupuncture.

A few years ago, complementary and alternative medicine was defined as therapies that were not taught in medical school or offered in mainstream hospitals. But this no longer applies. Many complementary and alternative therapies are now offered in clinics and hospitals around the country and their use and acceptance are growing rapidly. This is reflected in a new name used in many healthcare settings: "integrative therapies."

But whether you say integrative or complementary therapies, or holistic practices, or something else, it refers to the same thing-a wide array of healing practices that fall outside purely pharmaceutical or surgical treatments.

In general, the term “alternative therapy” refers to any health treatment not standard in Western medical practice.


Beyond that, complementary and alternative therapies are great because the field is so diverse; it encompasses practices spanning diet and exercise changes, hypnosis, chiropractic adjustment, and acupuncture. Technically, “alternative” treatments are used in place of conventional medicine; when used alongside standard medical practices, alternative approaches are referred to as “complementary” medicine.

The immune system is your number one defense against disease.  Natural medicine is designed to treat the body holistically, not to “cure” one disease only to have it transform and mutate into another ailment.

What is the point of transferring an imbalance in one area into an imbalance in another area? None, unless you are trying to profit from a disease like Big Pharma. It is not real healing.


To help you get started, we’ve put together a big list of complementary therapies, and listed some of the main benefits of each one, in order to give you an introduction to the wide and varied world of natural therapies and help you choose the right treatment.


1. Acupressure

Acupressure is an ancient form of therapy which involves applying pressure to certain points around the body in order to stimulate the body’s own healing processes and bring about positive health benefits. Pressure is normally applied with the fingers, but  Practitioners can also use their hands, elbows, or feet to apply pressure to specific points along the body’s “meridians.” According to the theory behind acupressure, meridians are channels that carry life energy (qi or ch’i) throughout the body. The reasoning holds that illness can occur when one of these meridians is blocked or out of balance; acupressure is thought to relieve blockages so energy can flow freely again, restoring wellness. More research is needed, but pilot studies have found positive results: Acupressure might decrease nausea for chemotherapy patients and reduce anxiety in people scheduled to have surgery. and the process is so simple to learn, you can use it on yourself, or have a licensed practitioner treat you for even greater health benefits.


  • Boosts the immune system

  • Relieves stress

  • Relieves headaches

  • Alleviates other aches and pains around the body

  • Increases circulation

2. Acupuncture

Though “acupuncture” may immediately bring needles to mind, the term actually describes an array of procedures that stimulate specific points on the body.  Acupuncture is a type of traditional Chinese Medicinal therapy related to acupressure in the sense that it focuses on stimulating certain healing points around the body, called acupoints. These points, in turn, stimulate the body’s own healing mechanisms. Rather than using the fingers to stimulate these areas, acupuncture involves the insertion of very tiny needles into the top layers of the skin and muscle by a registered acupuncture practitioner. It’s currently used by millions of Americans each year.


  • Clears energy blockages in the body

  • Relieves sore, spasming muscles

  • Alleviates stress

  • Aids better, deeper sleep

  • Strengthens the immune system

3. Alexander Technique

The Alexander Technique is a physical method of retraining the body to “unlearn” negative physical habits and patterns of movement in order to allow the body to move more freely and naturally. The technique can be learned from an accredited teacher, by attending an in-person course, or it can be self-studied. Basically, it allows you to identify tension patterns that are affecting your posture and the means to correct them. This complementary therapy seems popular with musicians who often hold a tense posture for extended periods of time.


  • Allows you to move more freely and comfortably

  • Relieves stress and tension in the body

  • Helps alleviate pain from repetitive strain injury or carpal tunnel syndrome

  • Alleviates backaches, and pain associated with a stiff neck and shoulders

  • Can help makes sitting at a computer for long periods of time more comfortable

  • Helps you feel more comfortable in your own body

4. Apitherapy

Apitherapy is a type of therapy which involves the medicinal use of bees and bee products for their many health benefits. It has origins dating back thousands of years and involves various applications of bee products including bee pollen, beeswax, royal jelly, propolis, honey, and bee venom. Depending on which specific product is used, different bee products each have a multitude of benefits for certain health concerns.  


  • Bee venom stimulates a healthy immune response

  • Reduces pain and inflammation in the joints caused by conditions such as arthritis

  • Royal jelly and propolis treat burns

  • Propolis is a powerful antibacterial and antifungal

  • Honey is a well-known antibacterial

5. Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is the method of using the scents and aromas of essential oils(concentrated extracts from the roots, leaves, seeds, or blossoms of plants) to alleviate a range of emotional and physical concerns, from stress and anxiety to blocked sinuses, pain and cognitive function. Scents from essential oils can be diffused in a traditional oil burner with a candle or using a more modern aromatherapy diffuser (which often has the added benefit of helping to humidify the air in a room.)The oils can be inhaled, massaged into the skin or (in rare cases) taken by mouth, and each has a specific purpose: Some are used to treat inflammation or infections; others are used to promote relaxation. Studies suggest aromatherapy might reduce pain, depression, and anxiety.


  • Induces sleep

  • Relieves stress

  • Alleviates headaches

  • Aids digestion

  • Strengthens the immune system

  • Helps to treat a wide range of common ailments

6. Auriculotherapy

Auriculotherapy involves the stimulation of the external part of the ears (the auricles) in order to treat a number of health conditions and concerns. It was first developed in 1957, using the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and involves using pressure (either with small acupuncture needles or a wand which applies a gentle electromagnetic current) on certain points on the outer ear in order to treat certain conditions.


  • Help treat insomnia

  • Alleviates back and neck pain

  • Helps treat certain emotional disorders

  • Alleviates stress & anxiety

7. Autosuggestion

Autosuggestion is a psychological technique in which you learn how to guide your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors simply through the power of self-suggestion. It can be thought of as a form of mild self-hypnosis and takes positive self-talk one step further into actually causing strong positive shifts in your overall sense of well-being and happiness. Many see it as a way to directly influence the sub-conscious mind to improve one’s life in any way that you desire. Heard of the law of attraction? Well, this is kind of the ‘official’ name.


  • Helps create new positive thought patterns

  • Eases stress, anxiety, and depression

  • Eliminates bad habits

  • Resolves relationship problems

8. Ayurvedic Medicine

Also known as Ayurveda, Ayurvedic medicine originated in India and has been around for thousands of years. Ayurveda is an ancient Indian form of medical practice which focuses on bringing balance back to the body and the mind in order to both prevent and cure disease. Depending on the health needs of the individual, Ayurvedic treatments may involve a combination of special herbs, diet changes, yoga practice, acupuncture, meditation, and massage.


  • Focuses on preventing disease, rather than simply curing it

  • Easy to incorporate many aspects of Ayurveda into your daily routine

  • Lowers blood pressure

  • Alleviates stress

  • Increases fertility and libido

9. Bach Flower Therapy

Bach Flower therapy is a treatment involving the use of Bach Flower Remedies – a series of 38 flower therapies developed in 1930 by an English homeopath, Edward Bach. Each of the 38 remedies is made up of a mixture of water, brandy and diluted flower essences derived from petals, with each of the specific formulas being developed to treat a certain emotion or negative state of mind one may be suffering from. The remedies are taken by adding a few drops to a glass of water and sipping it, or by dropping the remedies directly onto the tongue.

Benefits (depending on the specific remedy):

  • Improves confidence

  • Treats shock

  • Eases depressive thoughts

  • Allows you to gain greater clarity on your direction in life

11. Biofeedback

Biofeedback techniques allow people to control bodily processes that normally happen involuntarily—such as heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, and skin temperature—in order to improve conditions including high blood pressure, headaches, and chronic pain. Patients work with a biofeedback therapist to learn these relaxation techniques and mental exercises. In initial sessions, electrodes are attached to the skin to measure bodily states, but eventually, the techniques can be practiced without a therapist or equipment. Relaxation seems to be a key component, as most people who benefit from the practice have conditions that are caused or exacerbated by stress.


  • Chronic pain

  • Muscle tension or spasms

  • Urinary incontinence (frequent urges to urinate)

  • High blood pressure (hypertension)

  • Tension or migraine headaches

  • TMJ symptoms (temporomandibular joint dysfunction)

  • Trouble sleeping or insomnia

  • Digestive symptoms including constipation, IBS, and diarrhea

  • Anxiety and depression

  • Eating disorders

  • ADHD and autism spectrum disorders

  • Epilepsy

  • Cancer recovery

  • Heart disease

  • And just about any other condition made worse by stress

10. Balneotherapy

Also known as hydrotherapy, balneotherapy involves the use of water for therapeutic purposes, and it dates as far back as 1700 B.C.E. It’s based on the idea that water benefits the skin and might treat a range of conditions. Practitioners use mudpacks, douches, and wraps in attempts to reap agua’s rewards. Proponents of the therapy cite findings that water might boost people’s immune systems.


  • Clear acne

  • Reduce swelling

  • Eases pain

  • Reduces anxiety

  • Boost Immune system

12. Chiropractic

Chiropractic is pretty widely accepted in the medical community, and thus qualifies more as a “complementary” medicine than an alternative one. The practice focuses on disorders of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems, including pain in the back, neck, joints, arms, legs, and head. The most common procedure performed by chiropractors is “spinal manipulation” (aka an “adjustment”), which involves applying controlled force (typically the chiropractor’s hands) to joints that have become “hypermobile.” The idea is that joints’ movements become restricted when surrounding tissues are injured either during a single event or through repetitive stress. Chiropractic adjustments of the affected area are intended to restore mobility and loosen the muscles, allowing the tissues to heal and the pain to resolve. Studies of chiropractic generally affirm its efficacy, with research suggesting the practice can decrease pain and improve physical functioning. Chiropractic sessions should always be performed by a licensed and trained chiropractor, who will identify the root cause of one’s pain, and prescribe a course of treatments to help alleviate it and prevent further pain in the future.


  • Alleviates back and neck pain

  • Reduces muscle soreness

  • Treats headaches

  • Treats mild scoliosis (curvature of the spine)

  • Help treat sport injuries

  • Helps improve posture

13. Crystal healing

Crystal healing, also sometimes referred to as gemstone treatment or crystal therapy, involves the use of special crystals to treat different health concerns. It is based on the principle that certain natural gemstones and crystals each have their own effects on the energy fields of the body. Crystals are either worn as jewelry, carried by the person in their pockets or bags, or placed strategically around the home or workplace where their healing energies can have the greatest benefit.


  • Depending on the type used, crystals can treat a range of emotional concerns

  • Promotes a calm and centered mind

  • Crystals do not lose their energy over time

  • Easy to use by anyone

14. Cupping

Cupping therapy is a form on Ancient Chinese Medicine, which involves the placement of heated glass suction cups onto the skin in order to form a vacuum and draw blood to the surface of the skin in these areas. It is performed by a licensed practitioner, who will determine the specific points on the body where the cupping is needed, and how many cups to use. Cups are usually left on the skin for between 5 and fifteen minutes.


  • Helps sore, overworked muscles recover faster

  • Promotes circulation

  • Deeply relaxing

  • Releases toxins from the body

15. Ear candling

Ear candling is a type of therapy which involves inserting one end of a special type of candle into the ear, and lighting the other end with a small flame. One usually lays on their side while the treatment is taking place. It can be performed at home, with the assistance of someone to light the candle for you, or in a practitioner’s office.


  • Helps soften and extract built up ear wax from the ear canal

  • Helps relieve sinus pressure

  • Can help treat tinnitus (ringing in the ears)

  • Deeply relaxing

16. Electromagnetic therapy

Electromagnetic therapy is a type of treatment which revolves around the premise that all functions in the body are controlled by electromagnetic waves, and that a disturbance in the frequency of these electromagnetic waves is what causes disease. The therapy itself involves the use of electromagnets by a practitioner to rebalance the currents in the body and help treat a range of disorders.


  • Non invasive

  • Aids relaxation

  • Rebalances imbalances in the body’s energy field

17. Enema

Enema therapy is a type of therapy which involves using water or other fluids to flush and cleanse out the colon and lower bowels. There are different types of enema, with coffee enemas being one of the most popular in recent times. The aim of enemas is to cleanse the bowels of uneliminated waste that has built up in the digestive system over a number of years and leave you feeling lighter and less sluggish straight away.


  • Aids digestion

  • Reduces bloating and stomach discomfort

  • Detoxifies the body

  • Increases energy levels

  • Can be performed yourself at home with the right equipment

18. Homeopathy

Homeopathy functions in much the same way as a vaccine: It’s based on the principle of treating “like with like,” meaning a substance that causes adverse reactions when taken in large doses can be used—in small amounts—to treat those same symptoms. (This concept is sometimes used in conventional medicine, as well; for example, Ritalin is a stimulant used to treat patients with ADHD.) Homeopaths gather extensive background information on patients before prescribing a highly diluted substance, usually in liquid or tablet form, to jumpstart the body’s natural systems of healing. There’s some clinical evidence that homeopathy is more effective than placebos.


  •  For chronic or acute conditions

  • Remedies are readily available and can, therefore, be used by anyone

  • Typically inexpensive and therefore provide an affordable approach to healing

  • Can be stored for long periods of time

  • Non-invasive

19. Hypnotherapy

Hypnotherapy is a form of psychotherapy in which the patient is first put into a state of hypnosis, then on a subconscious level, encouraged by the hypnotherapy practitioner to alter their subconscious and create new thoughts, feelings, and patterns of behavior.


  • Aids relaxation

  • Helps with acute or chronic pain management

  • Helps manage or eliminate addictions (including drugs and alcohol)

  • Can help treat eating disorders

20. Moxibustion

Moxibustion is a traditional Chinese therapy which involves burning the dried Chinese herb “moxa” close to the skin to alleviate a range of ailments and health concerns. The goal is to warm regions of the body under which the herb is burnt, hence stimulating circulation and helping to increase the flow of blood and qi to the area.


  • Pain relief

  • Strengthens immune system

  • Can help to change breech presentation of babies

21. Music therapy

Music therapy involves the use of music-based interventions to help treat and alleviate a range of emotional, cognitive, and physical concerns. “Interventions” are supervised by an accredited musical therapy professional, and can include creating music, singing, moving to music, listening to music, or a combination of all of these. It is a powerful and scientifically proven type of therapy that can be used to treat people from all age groups, including unborn infants still in the womb.


  • Prenatal stress relief

  • Treats mood disorders

  • Improves cognitive function in children with autism

  • Reduces blood pressure

  • Aids with anxiety and stress relief

  • Treats symptoms and behaviors associated with dementia and Alzheimer's

22. Naturopathy

Naturopathic medicine is premised on the healing power of nature. Naturopathic doctors are trained in both conventional and alternative medicines, and seek to understand the cause of a condition by exploring its mental, physical, and spiritual manifestations in a given patient. Naturopathic medicine can be seen as an “umbrella” term which encompasses all forms of natural, holistic, herbal and ancient medicinal treatments, such as acupuncture, reflexology, meditation, ear candling, aromatherapy, and more.


  • Avoid harsh chemical or medical interventions when they’re not needed

  • Some are more cost-effective than traditional medical interventions

  • Improves overall health and wellbeing simply and easily

  • Potentially help alleviate, prevent or cure a large number of conditions and ailments

23. New Thought (My Personal Favorite)

New Thought (also sometimes called the Mind Cure or Mind Science) is a movement that asserts that thoughts and beliefs have a strong effect on our reality, including things and people around us. The overarching principle is that thinking creates our reality and that changing our thoughts can directly change our lives. There are both religious and secular versions of New Thought and it is the same sort of concept as autosuggestion.


  • Heals certain physical or emotional ailments through the power of thought

  • Encourages positive thinking and emotions

  • or medical interventions when they’re not needed

  • Some are more cost-effective than traditional medical interventions

  • Improves overall health and wellbeing simply and easily

  • Potentially help alleviate, prevent or cure a large number of conditions and ailments

24. Neuro-linguistic programming

Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is a personal-development and psychotherapy method which states that behavioral patterns, language, and neurological processes are all connected, and can be altered to achieve a specific goal or treat a certain concern. An NLP session will typically begin with the practitioner finding out more about the client, about their specific goals and desires, and then performing a series of verbal “interventions”, which may involve simply speaking to the client using certain words, or asking them to imagine themselves in the future, achieving a certain goal.


  • Treats depression

  • Eliminates phobias

  • Helps many achieve their life goals

25. Nutritional Healing

Nutritional healing involves consuming a certain diet comprised of natural foods, supplements, and herbs in order to treat certain ailments and disorders. Nutritional healing places a strong focus on the natural benefits of vegetables, fruits (usually organic and non-genetically modified), and may also involve abstinence from eating certain types of foods which are seen to be detrimental to an individual’s health.


  • Strengthens the immune system

  • Helps with certain nutritional deficiencies

  • Can be used very safely in conjunction with more “mainstream” medicines and therapies

26. Nutritional supplements
Nutritional supplements can refer to any type of supplement which is ingested for nutritional benefit. These can include manufactured supplements, as well as natural herbal supplements in the form of pills, tablets, liquids, powders, teas, or food items. Different combinations of nutritional supplements can be used to treat certain concerns or help you achieve certain health goals, such as weight loss, improved energy, better sleep, better concentration, or relief from pain issues such as joint pain.


  • Helps to fill nutritional “gaps” in your diet which may not be filled by diet alone

  • Improves mood and energy levels

  • In most cases, can be used in conjunction with other therapies and medications

27. Orgonomy

According to the American College of Orgonomy, Orgonomy is “the natural science of orgone energy and its functions.” Orgone energy, according to the person who first described it, Wilhelm Reich, is the energy from which all matter in the universe is created. Medical orgone therapy involves working with a special orgone therapist, and it aims to treat a range of emotional disorders ranging from stress and depression, low sex drive, eating disorders, and Tourette's syndrome.


  • Helps you become more aware of your emotions

  • Treats post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

  • Can help alleviate neuroses such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

  • Treats those with bipolar disorder

28. Pilates

Pilates is a fitness system developed by Joseph Pilates, the son of a gymnast father and a naturopath mother. It involves performing a series of controlled exercises performed either on the floor or standing upright and can be done with just the body, or with special aids such as a Pilates ring, ball, or a Pilates reformer machine. Pilates can be practiced at home with the aid of DVDs or online videos, or by attending an in-person class delivered by a qualified instructor (recommended for those who are just starting out)


  • Improves balance, coordination, and posture

  • Strengthens muscles and core

  • Improves flexibility

  • Great for people who cannot participate in high impact exercise

29. Polarity therapy (Another Favorite!!)

Polarity therapy focuses on the interdependence of mind, body and spirit, and how they interact with each other based on the universal laws of energy: attraction, repulsion, and neutrality. The practice involves energy-based bodywork performed by a specialist in a polarity session, as well as specific diet and exercise guidelines and self-awareness exercises.


  • Balances the body’s flow of energy

  • Treats allergies

  • Stimulates the immune system

  • Aids with joint and muscular pain relief, including pain associated with arthritis

  • Treats stress, anxiety, and depression

  • Increases energy

30. Pranic Healing

Pranic healing is a type of energy healing developed by GrandMaster Choa Kok Sui and aims to re-balance the flow of energy in the body. Pranic practitioners do not touch the subject but instead focus on drawing energy from their surroundings and channeling it through the subject’s body in order to re-establish balance in your body’s energy.


  • Activates your body’s own self-repair system

  • Non-invasive

  • Increases energy and stamina

  • Heals common colds and flu

  • Reduces stress

  • Improves self-esteem

  • Helps tackle other mental problems such as depression or addiction.

31. Qigong

Qigong (pronounced “Chee-gong”) is an ancient Chinese practice which involves using specific postures, movements, meditation and breathing practices in order to balance the body’s flow of energy and achieve higher states of consciousness and awareness. It is both similar and related to Tai Chi.


  • Improves balance and coordination

  • Alleviates stress and anxiety

  • A great low-impact form of physical activity

  • Improves cardiovascular health

  • Speeds up recovery time from surgery and other medical procedures

32. Radionics

Radionics is a type of therapy in which specific diseases are detected and treated using waves of energy similar to radio waves. It is based on the principle that normal, healthy people’s bodies give off a certain frequency of energy frequencies, while those affected by certain diseases or health conditions will give off different energy frequencies. Treatment involves the rebalancing of these energy frequencies.


  • Possible to detect illnesses and diseases at an early stage

  • Non-invasive

33. Rebirthing

 Rebirthing is a special type of conscious, controlled breathing technique which is thought to help cure certain conditions and effectively deal with traumatic, repressed childhood memories. Rebirthing sessions are usually conducted one-to-one between the client and their practitioner, or as part of a workshop with multiple people in the room.


  • Brings greater self-awareness

  • Treats anxiety and depression

  • Can help with relationship issues

  • Helps those who simply want to get more enjoyment out of life

34. Reflexology

Reflexology involves applying pressure to specific areas on the feet, hands, or ears. The theory is that these points correspond to different body organs and systems; pressing them is believed to positively affect these organs and a person’s overall health. (For example, applying pressure to a spot on the arch of the foot is believed to benefit bladder function.) A person can either use reflexology on her or his self, or enlist the help of a reflexologist. Millions of people around the world use the therapy to complement conventional treatments. Special reflexology products (such as shoes, for example) can be purchased for everyday use.


  • Stimulates nerve function

  • Relaxes and relieves stress

  • Relieves tired and tense feet and ankles

  • Eases anxiety and stress

  • Is beneficial for babies and children

  • Improve kidney function

  • Eases asthma

  • Reduce fatigue

  • Improve sleep

35. Reiki

Reiki is a form of energy healing based on the idea that a “life force energy” flows through everyone’s body. According to this philosophy, sickness and stress are indications that life force energy is low, while energy, health, and happiness signify a strong life force. In a Reiki session, a practitioner seeks to “transfer” life energy to the client by placing their hands lightly on the client’s body or a slight distance away from the body (Reiki can also be performed long-distance). The purpose is to promote relaxation, speed healing, reduce pain, and generally improve the client’s wellbeing. For the most part, there’s no regulation for Reiki practitioners. Studies of the practice’s efficacy are varied: Some find therapeutic touch to be an effective form of treatment; some don't. 


  • Improves mental clarity and wellbeing

  • Helps to alleviate physical pain in the limbs, muscles or joints

  • Aids sleep and relaxation

  • Stimulates the immune system

  • Relieves pain from headaches and migraines

  • Reduces stress

36. Seitai therapy

Seitai therapy is a Japanese treatment which focuses on stimulating a series of “master” points around the body, in a specific sequence, in order to bring balance and alignment to all organs and areas of the body (the word “seitai” in Japanese translates to “to bring the body into order”). During a session, the seitai practitioner will stimulate these acupressure points with their thumbs, elbows, and fingers.


  • Helps with respiratory problems

  • Relieves stress

  • Stimulates the immune system

  • Alleviates back, neck and shoulder pain

  • Helps alleviate joint pain and inflammation

  • Improves posture

37. T’ai chi ch’uan

T’ai chi ch’uan (often also known simply as Tai Chi) is a type of martial art which focuses on slow, controlled movements and breathing performed in a continuous, flowing manner. Originating in China, the art form has now become a popular form of gentle exercise and can be performed either alone, or in a class setting with others.


  • An ideal gentle form of exercise for older persons, or those with physical disabilities

  • Encourages deep relaxation

  • Improves balance and coordination

38. Tibetan medicine

Traditional Tibetan medicine is influenced heavily by Tibetan Buddhism, which is centered around the belief that all pain and suffering in life is caused by ignorance, attachment, and aversion. Tibetan Medicine is focused on re-balancing what it believes to be the body’s three humors – rLung (blood circulation, nervous system, and thoughts), mKhris-pa (which encompasses bodily functions such as thermoregulation, metabolism, and liver function) and Bad-kan (digestion, joint health, and mental stability).


  • Takes into account the health and functioning of the entire body when discerning the cause and treatment of a certain illness or health concern

  • Focuses heavily on one’s mental well being and clarity

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