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, I’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.
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
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.
Strengthens the immune system
Helps to treat a wide range of common ailments
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
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 subconscious 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
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
Increases fertility and libido
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.
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
ADHD and autism spectrum disorders
And just about any other condition made worse by stress
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
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
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.
Eases depressive thoughts
Allows you to gain greater clarity on your direction in life
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.
Reduces bloating and stomach discomfort
Detoxifies the body
Increases energy levels
Can be performed yourself at home with the right equipment