Have you ever wondered if optimal health could be achieved through more than just traditional medicine? Already practiced in other parts of the world – for centuries in some cases – alternative medicine is quickly growing in popularity across the western world. Many people are looking to various forms of alternative methods to prevent and treat illness, ailments and injuries, and with good reason!
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What It Is
Alternative medicine is any form of treatment that exists outside of mainstream healthcare practices. The Medical Dictionary defines alternative medicine as, “any of various systems of healing or treating disease… that are not included in the traditional curricula taught in medical schools.”
What It Isn’t
Alternative medicine is not religion. While it does go hand-in-hand with certain metaphysical beliefs such as energy healing (keep reading!), alternative medicine is suited for anyone with an interest in exploring new wellness options. Similarly, alternative medicine is not just one kind of medicine. It is made up of a wide variety of treatments and systems from acupuncture and Ayurveda (ancient Indian medicine) to hands-on energy healing and aromatherapy.
What Are the Types of Alternative Medicine?
Since we already know that the term alternative medicine encompasses several different systems, let’s look at just some of the traditions and treatments that fall under that umbrella, and keep in mind that there are more alternative treatments available than what’s being mentioned here. These, however, are taking off like wildfire across the western world at this time!
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medicinal technique where a professional uses thin needles to stimulate acupuncture points along the body’s skin. This practice is used for a wide array of conditions, from minor aches and pains to intrusive headaches to debilitating disorders and physical traumas. You can also receive acupuncture as a relaxing treatment, even when you’re not ill.
Ayurveda is ancient Indian medicine that is still practiced in modern India today. Ayurveda offers a wide variety of diagnostic strategies and treatments. Herbal supplements, massage and even yoga are all facets of Ayurveda. There is more to it than just technical application, however. Ayurveda holds a strong philosophy that the prevention of disease is just as critical as its treatment. While the ideologies involved are complex and rich with interesting history, one main principle includes energies called doshas. The three doshas are said to create a harmonic balance when you are in good health, and they are bodily function (Vata), the body’s metabolic system (Pitta) and growth (Kapha).
Several forms of energy healing exist, but one of the most commonly practiced forms in the west is called Reiki. Reiki originated in Japan, and while the exact history of how and when it arrived in the United States (and eventually other parts of the western world) is debated, it is known that it originated in the early 20th century. Reiki is simply the gentle hands-on (or hands “near” for those who don’t wish to be touched) exchange of energy between two or more people or on oneself. It has been used to heal injuries, soothe symptomatic illnesses and relieve psychological stress. Reiki is as spiritual as it is medicinal, and it is used daily by devotees in meditation.
Aromatherapy involves using plant-derived substances such as essential oils to help prevent and treat diseases and troublesome conditions. Some of the most common oils are lavender oil, tea tree oil, sandalwood and patchouli. They are typically used in massage, baths or by direct inhalation. Different plants are said to have different healing properties, so close contact and inhalation of their essential oils is believed to make use of their medicinal capabilities.
Alternative Medicine vs. Traditional Medicine
Traditional western medicine is often criticized for providing aggressive treatment without initial preventative health measures. This is where most forms of alternative medicine are different: The prevention of disease is just as important as its treatment, and the goal is to maintain a balanced life in body, mind and spirt.
One of the benefits of alternative medicine is that it can greatly improve more than one aspect of your wellbeing with only one form of treatment. Whereas mainstream medicine prescribes one pill for your first condition, another for your second and so on, therapies such as acupuncture or energy healing have been known to have profound effects on more than just one ailment at a time. Most alternative medicine is practiced with the intention of accomplishing harmony, not just in the physical sense, but also in the mind and the spirit.