Complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) is a holistic approach to healthcare that attempts to treat the individual, not the symptoms. Focus is not only on symptoms of disease, but on the entire body, mind and spirit of the individual. Complementary and alternative medicines can be used alone or in conjunction with traditional western medicine. When used by mainstream doctors to complement their traditional healing methods, the combination of the two is referred to as Integrative Medicine.
The theory behind naturopathy is that the body is capable of healing itself without relying on medications and other medical interventions. Naturopathy relies on many types of treatments to bring about natural healing from within, all of which are non-invasive. Examples are Aromatherapy, massage therapy, Herbology and meditation.
Aromatherapy relies on the use of essential oils derived from plants to bring about healing. It is especially useful as a relaxation treatment, to address conditions such as stress, anxiety, emotional disorders and as a pain management tool. The oils are inhaled or used in massage. They can also be added in specific quantities to baths and body compresses. The essential oils are highly concentrated and this high dose of essence is believed to have a positive impact on brain waves and neurological systems. Examples of popular essential oils used in aromatherapy include lavender, citronella and bergamot.
3. Massage Therapy
Massage therapy relies on the healing power of physical touch to relieve stress and treat disease. Muscles and soft tissues are manipulated by a trained therapist who presses, pushes, pulls and rubs the affected area. Therapist not only use their hands, but depending on the type of massage, may use their fists, arms, elbows and even their knees to work on particular areas of the body. There are numerous types of massage therapy, each one used to address different conditions. Examples are relaxation massage, Swedish massage, craniosacral massage, sports massage and prenatal massage.
Herbology is the use of herbs, botanicals, vitamins, minerals, probiotics, flowers, flower essences leaves, stems, roots, bark, fruits and seeds to induce healing in the body. Herbology has been around for thousands of years, and was the main treatment of disease in ancient cultures, before the antibiotics were invented. Herbology is used by many different complementary and alternative medicine practitioners, including Naturopaths, Ayurveda Practitioners and in traditional Chinese Medicine. Although Herbology is all natural and generally considered to be safe, some herbs are very powerful and can interact with traditional medications. Individuals can also experience allergic reactions.
Meditation is used to bring about a peaceful state of quiet consideration. There is not one particular way to meditate; rather, there are multiple types of meditation. Although the techniques used to meditate may vary, the goal is the same for all. That goal is to quiet the mind and calm the spirit, leaving the individual free from stress, anxiety and negative thoughts and emotions. Some examples of different types of meditation are prayer, Taoist meditation, Buddhist meditation, Zen and transcendental meditation. While some types require no movement whatsoever, others encourage free flowing body movements or specific controlled poses. Meditation is often prescribed to cancer patients and individuals suffering from debilitating illness.
Ayurveda is one of the oldest forms of healing to date. The goal of this holistic healing method is to assist people in living a long and healthy life. It focuses on keeping the body in an overall balanced state. To bring about that balance, Ayurveda promotes a healthy diet, proper hydration, good mental state, meditation and relaxation techniques for a peaceful mind and herbal remedies to address health conditions. Ayurveda practitioners express the need for individuals to remain in control of their health by opening their supreme consciousness to become balanced with the universal energies. It promotes positive emotions and the avoidance of negativity.
The main principle behind Homeopathy is to treat like with like. What this means is that any substance which causes symptoms in an individual can be used to eradicate those symptoms when the substance is ingested in large doses. An example of this would be an individual taking bee pollen to eradicate allergy symptoms. The purpose is to stimulate the body’s ability to self-heal. Homeopathy even carries over to mainstream medicine. One example would be giving the medication Ritalin, which is a stimulant, to a child who is hyperactive. Homeopathic treatments usually come in the form of tiny pellets that are placed under the tongue. The formulas are prepared by specialty pharmacists who carefully dilute the substance and vigorously shake it to activate it.
8. Chinese Medicine
The ancient practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine relies on the laws of nature to improve health. The basis for Chinese Medicine is that the underlying disease itself must be treated and not just the symptoms that develop as a result of illness. Much like other forms of complementary and alternative medicine, Chinese Medicine employs a holistic approach, treating the body, mind and spirit together, as a whole. There are numerous treatment modalities that are used by practitioners of Chinese Medicine, including acupuncture, acupressure, herbal therapy and energy balancing.
Acupuncture uses tiny needles inserted into various trigger points in the body to alleviate symptoms and release internal energy blockages. It is generally painless and is used to stimulate total healing of the body and mind. The theory is that problems arise within the body as a result of blocked energy channels. When the needles are inserted at the proper meridian channel, they help to unblock those channels, releasing any negative energy that was trapped.
Reflexology is similar to acupuncture in that is believed to release trapped energy from certain trigger points in the body. The treatment involves using special finger and hand techniques to apply pressure to areas of the foot that represent certain parts of the body. Bare hands are used, and no oils or lubricants are used. Therapists rely on a reflexology chart that mirrors an image of the body onto the feet. Each are of the body has a specific area on the foot. The area of the foot is treated is directly related to the body part that requires healing.
Chiropractic medicine is the use of spinal manipulation to free the body from disease. It is commonly used as a natural method for relieving back and neck pain. Chiropractors use controlled pressure and quick, forceful movements to manipulate spinal joints. In doing so, they attempt to move the joint beyond its current stopping point. By “unsticking” the joint, range of motion improves and muscles and bones begin to return to their normal location. With regular chiropractic treatments, many individuals have achieved complete relief from pain and correction or improvement of spinal abnormalities. Chiropractic treatments are often used in conjunction with other therapies such as massage therapy and naturopathy.
Reiki is a form of touch therapy. Its principle belief is that individuals are controlled by a universal life force energy known as “qi”. Reiki practitioners use their hands to release energy blockages along specific meridian points in the body. This laying-of-hands therapy can help to channel the energy throughout the body and redistribute it as needed.
The goal of complementary and alternative medicines is to promote optimal health and wellness through non-traditional therapies and techniques. Many of these therapies, once considered “fringe” therapy, are now being recognized as powerful tools in the fight against sickness and disease.