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                         Alternative Health Therapies

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                                              Table of Contents
1. Alternative Health Therapies Explained .............................................................................. 3
2. Why People Use Alternative Health Therapies .................................................................... 4
3. Alternative Health Therapies - Do They Work?................................................................... 6
4. What Conditions Respond to Alternative Health Therapies?................................................ 7
5. Are Alternative Health Therapies Safe?............................................................................... 9
6. Do Medical Doctors Accept Alternative Health Therapies? ............................................... 10
7. Alternative Health Solutions Pros and Cons ...................................................................... 12
8. Common Alternative Health Therapies ............................................................................. 13
9. Lesser Known Alternative Health Therapies ..................................................................... 15
10. Will Alternative Therapies Heal Cancer? .......................................................................... 16
11. Using Alternative Health Therapies for Serious Diseases .................................................. 18
12. The Origins of Alternative Health Therapies ..................................................................... 19
13. Which Alternative Therapy should I Try? ......................................................................... 21
14. Finding Out about Alternative Therapies ........................................................................... 22
15. Alternative Health Therapies Regulations ......................................................................... 24

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                        1. Alternative Health Therapies Explained

When most people get sick they go to the doctor for treatment. The family doctor has become
the mainstay of sick people who need treatment or hospitalization. But sadly, often the
medicine prescribed by the doctor does not do the job it is intended to do – heal the disease.

 All too often medical treatment either gives bad side-effects or doesn’t help the problem. And
for a large number of people the astronomical costs of conventional medicine are simply not an
option because they don’t have the money.

Alternative therapies have become a boon for people who cannot afford conventional medicine
or in cases where there is no acceptable mainstream treatment available. There are incurable
illnesses like Alzheimer’s or cancer where alternative health therapies provide relief from pain
and other symptoms, ease the journey through the illness and provide a certain degree of
comfort for the patient.

Regardless of the reason why people choose alternative therapy, the fact remains there is a
growing interest in alternative health therapies by both the medical field and the general public.
Various studies have highlighted the growing popularity of alternative therapies. This should
not be taken to mean that people have given up on conventional medicine.

On the contrary, people are choosing to combine alternative medicine with conventional
prescription treatments. For example, more people are making use of acupuncture, chiropractic,
massage and yoga, all alternative therapies, in conjunction with their conventional medical

Before we go any further let us provide a clear understanding of what constitutes alternative
health therapies. The simplest definition of alternative medicine is any kind of health therapy
that does not fit into mainstream medicine. Most alternative therapies are not substantiated by
scientific testing. When deciding to opt for alternative health therapy, some essential
considerations include a study of the different types of alternative health therapies available,
when to choose alternative therapies and what kind of therapy to choose for a particular

Studies have found a direct link between excessive stress and ill health, and as a result, there are
many therapies in use to relieve stress and anxiety. Stress manifests itself in emotional and
physiological changes including rapid breathing, increased heart rate, tightness of muscles in
the neck and shoulder areas, indigestion, high blood pressure, poor concentration, depression,
insomnia, fatigue, irritability and headaches due to tension. Long terms stress impacts the
immune system negatively.

Stress can come from various factors present in personal and work environments and adversely
affect human productivity. Yoga and meditation therapies have proven effective in treating
depression, anxiety, migraines and insomnia.

When do people choose alternative therapies? Most people first try conventional medicine and
when it fails, resort to alternative medicine. Conventional medicine cannot always provide a
cure as in the case of cancer or Parkinson’s disease. At best, it can provide solutions for most
ailments. These solutions involve harsh drugs that have bad side effects. People who have been

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through the drill sometimes prefer treatments that are less invasive or harsh, with no side effects
– so they turn to alternative therapies. For other people, conventional medicine is not an option
because of the high cost of the treatment. Such people opt for alternative therapy that provides a
degree of relief from pain and other symptoms.

Alternative health therapies have come a long way from when they were considered mere
folklore. Studies show that a good number of physicians today recommend alternative health
therapies in conjunction with mainstream medicine for a more effective treatment program.

There is a wealth of alternative health therapies available today and many are based on folklore,
traditions, spiritualism and futuristic theories. Alternative treatments like herbal therapy and
magnetic therapy have fewer side effects, but have not proven to be scientifically beneficial. On
the other hand, futuristic therapies are based on science, but again have not been proven to be
effective and the harmfulness of the treatments has not been studied.

Every alternative therapy will have pros and cons that need to be carefully evaluated. People are
unique individuals and treatments that work for some people may not for others with similar
health problems. There is no suitable explanation for why this happens.

Alternative therapy has proven to be extremely beneficial for those suffering from cancer. It
often brings relief from the terrible effects of radiation or chemotherapy. There are many other
instances of alternative health therapies helping those who suffer from disease of even terminal
illness, even if it is to alleviate their anxiety and make their last days more comfortable.

                    2. Why People Use Alternative Health Therapies

People often use alternative health therapies because they believe that they are better for them,
and they do not have the same side-effects of many mainstream medicines. But many such
treatments are based methods and knowledge that is considered untraditional or unscientific.
Even so some do actually work.

However, it is important to choose a proper alternative therapy method rather than something
that only purports to be “alternative”. When alternative health therapy is offered in conjunction
with scientific medicine the treatment is generally referred to as complementary medicine.

Alternative health therapies are numerous and include well known and highly popular methods
like acupuncture, ayurveda, Chinese medicine, homeopathy, herbal treatments, mind/body
techniques, yoga, magnetic therapy and massage therapy. There are many lesser known
therapies such as apitherapy (use of bee products), guided imagery, light therapy, color therapy,
flower essences, hydrotherapy, therapeutic therapy and sound therapy.

As one can see there is plenty to choose from and regardless of what alternative health therapy
is chosen, it is important to seek treatment from a professional physician, qualified to provide
the treatment. There are many reasons why people may decide to try alternative therapy for
health problems. Join us in studying some of the more common reasons why people decide to
go the alternative therapy route.

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One reason that appears to influence people’s decisions to switch from mainstream medicine to
alternative therapies is failure of conventional medicine to deliver what it promises – cure the
patient! Having tried a large number of pills of every shape and size, and color of the rainbow,
people cannot be blamed for losing faith in conventional medicine.

Many patients cite bad experiences with both doctors and the type of treatment received.
Doctors sometimes refuse to provide the patient with a proper explanation or take the time to
make the patient understand in simple terms what is really wrong and what the treatment
entails. This can be very upsetting to a patient already dealing with the unknown in terms of
health problems.

Another reason why people seek alternative health therapy is because conventional medicine
over time loses its effectiveness. The patient requires higher dosages of the same medicine as
the body becomes immune to the drugs. Many mainstream medicines lose their effectiveness
when taken over a prolonged period of time.

People choose to pursue alternative health therapies because of the various scary side effects of
conventional medication. Thanks to the internet, it is very easy for people to conduct research
into specific drugs prescribed by doctors. Gone are the days when patients blindly followed the
doctor’s orders! Today’s patients are for the most part techno-savvy; they want to know what
they are taking and what the possible side effects will be.

When you factor in a report released by the Journal of the American Medical Association
(JAMA) that states that prescription drugs are fourth on the list of medical causes of death in
America, it is easy to see why patients are scared about the negative side effects of mainstream

Some patients who require a higher dosage of medication find that the body is not able to cope
with the increased dosage. While the patient needs to continue taking the medicine, alternative
health therapy has been found to be effective when combined with conventional medicines.

There are patients who have existing health conditions that prevent them from being able to
successfully receive conventional medical treatment. When there is a pre-existing health
condition that can be negatively impacted by conventional medicine, the patient’s only option is
to seek alternative therapy to alleviate the health problem.

Other reasons why people seek alternative health therapy instead of conventional medicine may
include a last ditch effort borne of desperation. When all else fails, meaning when every
possible mainstream healing option has been tried and has failed, the patient may as a very last
resort seek any kind of alternative health therapy that promises relief from the disease.

Then we need to consider people who refuse to put any type of drugs into their body, choosing
instead alternative therapy like acupuncture or ayurveda to relieve their symptoms. There are
people who due to their personal values, world views or religious beliefs prefer to choose
alternative therapy over conventional medicine.

One final reason why people may choose to seek alternative health therapies is that it gives
them a feeling of empowerment. It allows them to make the decisions about what to put into
their bodies and how their disease should be treated. This in itself is a powerful energy force for
good in the treatment of many diseases.

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                   3. Alternative Health Therapies - Do They Work?

We all know that health therapies have become very popular over the last several years.
According to some reports, about 40 percent of the adult population uses alternative health
therapy with beneficial effects. A lot of doctors have now started to use alternative health
therapies by combining them with their normal medical treatments.

This combination of two diverse treatments has given birth to a new medical term – integrative
medicine. It is important to understand that the face of alternative medicine is a constantly
changing one. Through extensive testing, certain alternative therapies have become absorbed
into mainstream medicine.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) is an agency that
provides funding for scientific research on alternative medicine. The Center has grouped
complementary and alternative medicine into specific classifications including whole medical
systems; mind-body medicine; biologically based practices; energy medicine; body-based

In alternative therapy, there are no clear cut boundaries between the classifications that have
been broadly grouped. Overlapping of techniques does occur when a similar technique is used
in two or more groups.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) reports that approximately 60 percent or more of
American nationals use one form or another of alternative medicine. When considering
alternative therapy it should be noted that most medical-insurance plans do not cover these
treatments. The report goes on to state that as much as 45 billion or more out of pocket is being
spent each year by Americans on various alternative therapies including acupuncture.

One of the primary reasons why many people feel that alternative therapy does not work, and it
should be noted that it is a misconception, is people choose alternative therapy only as a last
resort. When all the possible tests, scans and antibiotics fail to bring relief, people become
desperate and choose alternative therapy expecting miracles to happen overnight.

We need to understand the fundamentals of alternative health therapies. From here stem the
reasons why some patients are highly successful in finding much needed relief from their
symptoms while others experience no change at all. There are procedural and philosophical
differences in the approach to alternative therapy as compared to mainstream medicine. Pain
and other symptoms of specific ailments are often treated with medicine to control symptoms
and in some cases provided healing through invasive surgery.

The main difference between bio-medicine and alternative therapies is the former is based on
disease-based models of health and the latter on wellness models. Alternative therapies are
primarily focused on restoring balance to the body and maintaining the balance for good health.
Alternative therapies make use of massage, herbal supplements, mind-body techniques,
exercise and diet to alleviate pain and disease.

The concept of alternative therapy may be better understood through an example. Moving into
the specifics of alternative therapies we see how some alternative therapies may work for
osteoarthritis, but not for rheumatoid arthritis. The alternative therapies practiced to alleviate

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osteoarthritis are not guaranteed to work for rheumatoid arthritis. The composition of the two
different types of arthritis is said to be the cause.

Osteoarthritis is more a structural problem where the cartilage is damaged causing joint pain.
Rheumatoid arthritis on the other hand is caused by the immune system attacking the body by
mistake. The result is inflammation in the synovial fluid of the joints. The alternative therapies
employed to treat these disorders vary because some therapies are aimed at treating the joints
and others at treating inflammation.

Alternative therapies are specifically chosen to meet the patient’s health requirements. For
example, omega-3 fatty acids and fish oils are believed to help with inflammation. Hence they
are used to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Glucosamine and chondroitin are used to help
restore the natural cartilage matrix in the joint; hence it is used effectively in osteoarthritis.

A good example of alternative therapy working is acupuncture. It has been proven through a
number of medical-based studies to work effectively in reducing pain due to arthritis.
Acupuncture is used for other purposes as well to bring relief in the case of post-traumatic
stress disorders and in in-vitro fertilization to enhance the odds of conception.

In fact, information in a journal by the American Medical Association, declares that the
stimulation of acupoints on the toe can help correct unborn babies in the breech position, thus
doing away with the necessity of a C-section delivery.

           4. What Conditions Respond to Alternative Health Therapies?

It is now a well-known fact that the physical health of a person is affected by their emotional
state. The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) went a long way to making alternative
therapies more acceptable in the early 1990s by establishing the Office of Alternative Medicine.

The office was established to study a host of techniques that are outside the scope of
mainstream medicine. This has led to a shift in thinking as more people have begun to accept
various alternative health therapies including acupuncture, mind and body techniques, herbal
remedies and botanical remedies. What is surprising is the acceptance is not limited only to
patients, but many medical physicians also accept it.

Alternative health therapies are numerous ranging from the more commonly known ones such
as acupuncture, massage and homeopathy to less well known ones like aromatherapy and sound

Are there conditions that respond well to alternative therapies? There are and there aren’t!
Confused? It’s not that difficult to understand really – some patients respond favourably to
alternative therapy and others don’t. Each treatment is individual, specific and cannot be
guaranteed to work in a similar manner for another person with the same health problem.

It may help to understand the medical scenario a bit better – medical professionals have
themselves become frustrated with the lack of time available to treat patients properly and the
sorry state of affairs of the public health system at large. This has caused a void to form

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between patient and physician. This void is being filled whether successfully or not by
alternative medicine.

One cannot generalize with regard to conditions that respond well to alternative health
therapies; we need to look at the specifics. Let us look at the more popular alternative health
therapy acupuncture. There are approximately 500 acupressure points on the body, of which
100 or so are commonly used in acupuncture treatments. Fine needles are inserted into the
points in various parts of the body to treat a specific ailment. The needles are inserted to
stimulate the organs and blood flow. Do not be surprised when the insertion of needles into
pressure points does not correspond with the area of pain or illness. For example, acupuncture
treatment for a headache does not mean that the needles are inserted into the head. The needles
may in all probability be inserted into your foot.

Acupuncture is believed to help alleviate a range of illnesses ranging from stress and anxiety to
arthritis, back pain, circulatory problems, skin conditions and allergies, asthma and high blood
pressure and more. It is also used to bring relief during pregnancy and childbirth. It is one of the
safer forms of alternative health therapies, provided it is practiced by a licensed professional.

Arthritis is one of the most debilitating diseases of all time with no known cure available. It is
responsible for the greatest amount of time off sick from work in the U.S. and other countries
around the world. Arthritis is characterized by immense pain in the joints accompanied by
swelling and inflammation. Two common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid
arthritis; osteoarthritis affects the cartilage and rheumatoid arthritis is inflammation of the
synovial fluid in the joints. It is caused by the immune system attacking the body, so it is really
an auto-immune disease.

The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) and the
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) have conducted
studies that prove that acupuncture does in certain cases provide relief from arthritic pain and
improve the function of the knees for people suffering from osteoarthritis.

There are alternative therapies that recommend special diets for a healthy body, and special
exercises to provide relief from arthritic pain and strengthen hip and knee muscles. There is
documented evidence to show that yoga helps to slow the heart rate, lower blood pressure and
decrease cholesterol levels. Yoga has been proven to reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease.

Naturopathic alternative health therapies involve healing through natural processes that include
herbal medicines, homeopathy, lifestyle changes and management, clinical nutrition and
hydrotherapy among other things. Diverse therapies may be blended together to meet individual
specific health requirements.

There are many conditions that have responded well to naturopathic alternative health therapies
over the years. These include problems as diverse as hypertension, autism, menstrual disorders,
anxiety, depression, insomnia, emotional disturbances, gastrointestinal problems, urinary
problems and renal failure.

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                        5. Are Alternative Health Therapies Safe?

Most people have the idea that if a remedy is natural it must be safe. However, many
ingredients from natural plants are actually poisonous. Still, in recent years, there has been a
noticeable increase in the number of people choosing alternative health therapy as opposed to
medicine prescribed by a medical doctor.

It should be understood that there is no real clarity about alternative health therapies, and so
there is much controversy about it within the traditional environment of medicine. There are
several different types of alternative health therapies including ayurveda, homeopathy,
acupuncture, acupressure, herbs and more. The trouble with most alternative medicine is that it
has no scientific foundation.

For this reason many doctors doubt the safety of the procedures involved. The effectiveness of
these therapies is also brought into question since no testing is being done to prove its worth.
There are many doctors who hold fast to the belief that alternative health therapies like
acupuncture, herbs, massages and meditation are quite ineffective in treating any health
conditions. The general belief is alternative therapies may even be dangerous to certain health

That said, it is important to present the other side of the coin! The popularity of alternative
health therapies cannot be denied. A large amount of this popularity is attributed to aging
sections of the population who seek to alleviate the aches and illness that are part of growing
older. When conventional medicine fails to bring relief, patients are forced to seek alternative
treatment methods. There are people who are firm believers that natural healing methods are far
superior to mainstream medicine to heal health problems. These are but few of the reasons why
people seek alternative health therapies making these forms of treatment highly popular.

To present a non-biased approach to alternative health therapies, it is essential to talk about the
perceived risks associated with these therapies. The primary risk in using alternative health
therapies lies in the fact that the substances such as herbs are untested. Alternative medicine has
opened the door to a great deal of “quackery!” Many non-professionals practicing alternative
medicine make large claims to the efficacy of the substances prescribed because of the profit

This is an unethical practice of alternative health therapies that does not consider the safety and
wellbeing of the individual. One example is the many herbal products touted online and in
stores to help restore memory, increase metabolism and decrease weight. For the most part
herbs are non-threatening; however, we need to be aware that certain remedies can cause a great
deal of harm when taken continuously over a period of time in excessive quantities.

Take the case of ephedra (ephedra sinica); the the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
prohibited the sale of any dietary supplements containing ephedra (ephedrine alkaloids) because
it was found to present a high risk of injury and illness. Major health concerns associated with
ephedra include hypertension, arrhythmia, heart attack and stroke.

There is another risk associated with alternative health therapies. People who are diagnosed
with life threatening illnesses like cancer or other types of chronic illness, upon seeking
alternative health therapies, forgo conventional medicine and all the benefits it may yield.

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Mainstream medicine has after all been tried and tested before being approved the U.S. Food
and Drug Administration. People put themselves at great risk to the extent of risking their life
when they choose alternative medicine over traditional medicine that has been scientifically

Patients who combine conventional medicine with alternative health therapy, but fail to reveal
this to their physician, may end up putting their health at high risk. Prescription medicines can
produce negative reactions with various herbs and plant extracts prescribed as part of the
alternative therapy. The risks include a seriously lessened effectiveness of the prescribed
medicine and toxicity that can cause very serious damage to the body. When the medical doctor
is unaware of the alternative therapy substances taken by the patient, the doctor may end up
prescribing medicines that interact unfavorably and harmfully for the patient.

But that does not mean to say such methods should not be used; indeed, there are some very
good ones available. However, it is wise to find a person who has been professionally trained to
prescribe and deliver the therapy. Unless your problem is of a minor nature, you should really
keep away from people who claim to have some secret and miraculous product that will cure
you. If what they claim sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

            6. Do Medical Doctors Accept Alternative Health Therapies?

Many medical doctors seem uncomfortable discussing alternative health therapies. Whether this
is because they simply don’t know enough about them to make a fair judgment, or whether they
fear that their colleagues will scorn them is uncertain.

 In Colorado, a survey of 276 physicians was conducted on their attitude toward alternative
medicine; the results were published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. To sum up the
results, the majority of doctors seldom enquired from patients about their use of alternative
therapy. Approximately 17 percent did not raise the subject of alternative therapies; 23 percent
enquired about patient use of alternative therapies and 8 percent always asked patients about the
use of alternative therapies.

The study found that many doctors had a negative attitude toward alternative therapies and
preferred not to discuss the possibilities with patients or recommend therapies to patients.
Doctors feel uncomfortable discussing the subject and many prefer to remain neutral on the

The study also highlighted some surprising facts including the fact that as much as 50 percent
of the doctors who participated in the survey had actually recommended alternative health
therapies to patients. In addition, approximately 25 percent of the doctors had personally used
alternative medicine. The favored alternative health therapies used by doctors include relaxation
therapy, massage therapy, yoga, acupuncture and alternative medicine.

As much as 60 percent of the doctors surveyed expressed interest in learning about alternative
health therapies, about 24 percent were ambivalent about wanting to learn about these therapies
and 16 percent were opposed to learning anything about alternative therapies.

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The therapies physicians prefer to recommend to patients include massage therapy,
acupuncture, relaxation techniques, chiropractic, yoga, hypnosis, herbal medicine, biofeedback
and alternative medicine.

Alternative health therapies are generally best described as healing or treatment methods that do
not fall within the boundaries of traditional medicine. Alternative therapy may be based on
beliefs, folklore, spiritualism or futuristic theories. Many of these theories and practices are
untested and in some cases are newly developed approaches to treating illnesses.

Mainstream medicine has always been the biggest critic of alternative health therapies.
However, there is evidence that in recent years alternative therapies have grown in popularity
among patients and doctors. Another study worth mentioning that supports this claim is the one
conducted by Leigh Callahan and colleagues at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
A surprising 84 percent of the physicians surveyed were in favor of the provision of adequate
funding for a number of alternative therapies. Majority of the doctors surveyed held the belief
that some alternative therapies did work and the subject should be discussed with patients.

Alternative therapies are commonly considered to be safe with minimal or no side effects.
Many of the therapies in practice have been effective in helping to alleviate pain and negative
side effects caused by contemporary medicine. In many instances, alternative therapies have
been grouped with complementary medicine under the inclusive term complementary and
alternative therapy or CAM.

There is a positive trend towards learning about alternative health therapies and a good example
of how alternative medicine is being incorporated into mainstream medicine. Many medical
institutions across the United States have begun teaching about therapies such as acupuncture
and herbal therapy. Alternative therapies and their effects on the body are now being taught
together with anatomy and physiology.

Statistics show that the U.S. government has already spent in excess of 22 million dollars to
promote the teaching of alternative medicine in medical and nursing schools and colleges. But
regardless of Uncle Sam’s efforts to bring alternative medicine to a recognizable standard,
critics who consider it a wasted effort over unproven remedies still abound.

For the benefit of anyone contemplating alternative health therapies, one thing that needs to be
clearly understood and cannot be stressed enough is the importance of discussing any planned
alternative therapy with a physician before starting treatment. Be wary of treatments advertising
miracle cures – in all honesty such cures do not exist except in the minds of con-men. Research
is key to finding out about good alternative therapies that work. The internet is filled with
information, but discretion is advised in selecting the right information. Two or even three
medical opinions need to be sought before making a final decision.

Remember that some types of alternative treatment seem to work for some people but not for
others. It may depend on the choice of therapy and the practitioner, or there may be factors at
work about which we know little as yet.

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                     7. Alternative Health Solutions Pros and Cons

There are usually pros and cons to be found with every kind of treatment and alternative health
therapy is no different. A wise person will do a great deal of research before deciding which
treatment to seek out. A doctor’s advice should rarely be ignored, especially when it comes to
the more serious diseases.

Alternative health solutions provide a variety of therapies such as acupuncture, hydrotherapy,
aroma therapy, massage and more. Not all these solutions have not been scientifically tested or
approved by the medical authorities. However some of them, for example acupuncture, have
had studies completed to prove the efficacy of the treatment.

Before we study the pros and cons of alternative health solutions, we need to have a clear
concept of alternative medicine itself. Most alternative health therapies or solutions are based
on balance. Acupuncture for example, is based on restoring “Qi” or energy to the body and
helping the body maintain good health.

People consider alternative therapy for a variety of reasons such as the failure of conventional
medicine to bring relief or a fear of the negative side effects of drugs. If you are seriously
considering a form of alternative health therapy, take the time to research the subject well for a
better understanding of what it entails. It is also essential to visit a licensed professional for

To this end, we present some of the pros and cons of alternative health solutions for your


      One of the foremost benefits of alternative medicine is the focus on prevention of health
       problems. Traditional medicine enters the picture only once the disease is diagnosed.
       People generally do not pay the doctor a visit until a problem rears its head. There are
       various types of alternative medicine practices that encourage patients to visit even
       when well. These sessions are geared toward preventing disease and general health
       problems from occurring.

      A major draw is that people who have experienced the excruciating pain of arthritis or
       some other disease’s debilitating effects, start seeking a level of personalized attention
       in addition to getting much needed treatment for the problem.

      A key distinction between traditional medicine and alternative health solutions lie in the
       type of care provided. The majority of alternative treatments focus on whole-body care,
       treating the patient’s physical ailments, spiritual health and emotional well being as
       parts of a whole. Conventional medicine with all the specializations and medical
       advancements has ended up distancing the physician’s focus away from the healthy
       body as a whole.

      Massage therapy for example is an alternative health therapy that has little or no serious
       risks attached to it. This holds good only when the massage is provided by a massage

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       professional trained in the appropriate manner. It has been proven effective for a variety
       of health problems including pain relief and rehabilitation of sports injuries.

The following downsides to seeking alternative health solutions are not meant to deter people
from seeking holistic healthcare. On the contrary, it is for the purpose of offering additional
information to aid the decision making process.


      The main drawback to alternative medicine is the possibility of the herbs and
       supplements reacting negatively when taken in conjunction with prescribed medicine. It
       is essential to inform the physician about any herbs or supplements being taken before
       starting conventional medical treatment. Natural products may produce independent
       side effects of their own that differ from person to person.

      Another disadvantage of alternative therapies is the limited scientific research done on
       these methods. While there is no doubt that the funding for research studies into
       alternative therapies is on the rise, it can in no way be compared to the research done on
       traditional medical methods.

      Alternative therapies take time to work – the patient cannot expect miracles to happen
       overnight. The process is generally a slow one focusing on healing not just the medical
       problem, but the mind and emotions as well. With mainstream medicine, the drugs are
       generally fast acting and bring relief more or less immediately.

      Alternative medicine has opened the door for a lot of scam artists to tout their therapies.
       For this reason, it is necessary to seek out only licensed professionals to perform
       procedures and treatments.

Whenever there is a wide range of treatments the patient is likely to find the decision as to
which one may be the best confusing to say the least. Good research must be done if the right
treatment is to be found. Not only do you have to find which treatment is considered best from
reliable source on the Internet, but discussing treatment with doctors and others who have had it
is also a good idea.

                        8. Common Alternative Health Therapies

Over the years there have been many surveys conducted by various institutions and groups all
seeking to prove that alternative health therapies do work. Whether they have been successful
or not, the approximately 38 million American people who visit acupuncturists, massage
therapists, chiropractors and other alternative health therapists seem to believe they do.

 Though the majority of people also believe in the effectiveness of conventional medication, at
least three-fourths of them are turning to alternative therapies that include yoga, chiropractic
and acupuncture.

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The Harvard Medical School estimates that at least one in every two persons in the U.S.
between the ages of 35 and 50 make use of alternative health therapies. In 1997 it was estimated
that the growth in the percentage of people who opted for alternative medicine rose by
approximately 50 percent since 1990. Further, it was found that the majority of people choosing
alternative health therapies were both educated and affluent.

The leaning toward alternative medicine can be seen throughout the western world from
Australia to Europe and beyond. The growth rate for certain types of common alternative health
therapies is astonishing to say the least. For example, between a six-year span, herbal therapy
use rose by 380 percent.

Critics will always be around, but for those who are seriously interested in alternative health
therapies, it is well worth the effort to consider the University Of Maryland School Of
Medicine, the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital or the New York Presbyterian Hospital’s
department of complementary medicine, to find out about the level of activity by mainstream
hospitals in the field of alternative medicine. Keep an open mind and remember the U.S.
government has established a National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Some of the more common alternative health therapies include acupuncture, herbal therapy,
nutritional supplements, yoga and homeopathy. To avoid confusion, alternative medicine refers
to treatments that are substituted for mainstream medicine. Complementary medicine on the
other hand is treatment used in conjunction with mainstream medicine. There are some very
ancient forms of alternative medicine that are commonly referred to as traditional medicine.

There is a wealth of goodness in ancient medicines that has stood the test of time. There are
many believers in alternative health therapies that believe that what cannot be treated by
conventional medicine, can effectively be treated by alternative methods. Some of the more
commonly recognized methods that are actively pursued today include:

Acupuncture and acupressure are two therapies that function in a similar manner and are often
grouped together. Both therapies work on the premise that there are certain pressure points in
the body that need to be stimulated to alleviate pain and cure serious diseases. Acupuncture is
treatment through the insertion of solid, very thin needles into the pressure points; the needles
are manipulated to stimulate these pressure points.

Herbal therapy is probably one of the most popular of all alternative therapies. It has proven in
many cases to be an efficient treatment and cure for various illnesses. Herbal therapies work by
harnessing nature’s bounties in the form of cures and relief aids. Herbal medicine makes use of
a variety of seeds, roots, barks, leaves, berries, flowers and other plant parts. Herbalism has an
ancient heritage, but is becoming more acceptable in mainstream medicine as advanced testing
and clinical research, and improved quality control have begun to highlight the value of herbal
therapy in the prevention and treatment of diseases.

Aromatherapy is an alternative therapy that makes use of plant oils such as essential oils (pure
essence of plants) to enhance physical and psychological wellbeing. Aromatherapy also makes
use of a variety of complementary ingredients such as vegetable oils, sea salts, liquid wax,
sugars, mud and clay.

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Biofield therapies make use of the body’s own healing energy by manipulating the energy
through various healing techniques. As a category of alternative medicine the group includes
reiki and healing touch among others. The main principle of biofield therapies is to facilitate an
unrestricted flow of energy through the body, promoting balance and relaxation. Anyone can
benefit from these therapies as studies have shown, from patients suffering from cancer to
infants with chronic pain.

Many studies have brought to light the fact that a lot of people who turn to alternative therapies
do so because they have not had any success with contemporary medicine and in fact, are often
seeking relief from the side-effects or worsening problems caused by it.

                     9. Lesser Known Alternative Health Therapies

We have established that in recent years there has been a considerable increase in the popularity
of alternative health therapies. However, this attraction has moved from the more common
forms of alternative therapies such as acupuncture, chiropractic, Reiki, Ayurveda and
aromatherapy to those lesser known treatments; inversion therapy, biofeedback, Alexander
technique, holotrophic breathwork and colon therapy. You may not even have heard of them, so
here is a brief description.

Inversion Therapy - dates back to approximately 400 B.C., the time of Hippocrates, inversion
therapy has a long history. The therapy is derived from an inversion table where the user hangs
by the ankles more or less upside down. The basic principle of inversion therapy is therefore the
head being lower than the feet. It is believed that Hippocrates, considered the father of medicine
in his time, used to hang his patients upside down.

In the U.S., Doctor Robert Martin is credited with bringing this lesser known alternative health
therapy to the light. The inversion table is so designed for the user to stay strapped into gravity
boots with the head lowered to the required level or until the person is in a completely upside
down position. Inversion therapy is popularly used in the U.S. army to reverse the negative
effects to the body caused by rigorous training. It is also used to combat various types of back
pain attributed to the effects of gravity on the body.

Alexander Technique - refers to a simple yet practical method used to improve the freedom of
movement. It also works to improve balance and support, while teaching the individual how to
use the appropriate amount of energy necessary for a particular activity. In this way the body
conserves energy to maintain a balance rather than expending too much energy on some
activities and too little on others. The Alexander technique may best be described as a re-
education of the body and the mind with a view to improving physical postural habits.

The Alexander Technique originated with Fredrik Alexander, a Shakespearean orator who once
lost his voice and was informed that the medical world could not help him regain it. Through
prolonged self-observation, Alexander identified his habit of unnecessarily contracting his neck
while speaking. Once this problem was resolved he got back his voice and went on to apply this
technique to improve health and wellbeing in other people.

Holotrophic Breathwork - the word holotrophic has its origin in the Greek words holos and
trepein and together means “moving toward wholeness”. Holotrophic breathwork is an

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alternative therapy that combines various approaches including mystical traditions, spiritual
practices, depth psychologies, transpersonal psychology and modern consciousness.
Holotrophic breathwork is a simple process that integrates accelerated breathing with music in a
special setting. The principle behind the therapy is to activate the inner healing process.

Zero Balancing – developed by Dr. Fritz Smith in the 1970s, this is a mind-body therapy used
to address the relationship between the structure of the human body and the energy that flows
through it. Practitioners typically use finger pressure and light traction to release tension from
joints, points of balance and bones. The main focus of the therapy is on the joints that balance
the forces of gravity and influence posture and movement. The aim of the therapy is to remove
blocks that prevent the energy flow in the body and enhance vitality.

Zero balancing alternative health therapy promises patients various benefits including pain
relief, removal of movement restrictions and emotional distress. Zero balancing is believed to
help improve concentration, release stress, eliminate harmful behavior patterns and boost
general wellbeing.

Rolfing - Dr. Ida Rolf is credited with the finding of the Rolfing therapy, a kind of structural
integration therapy referring to bodywork where various parts of the body such as the legs for
example are brought into correct positioning. The underlying principle of Rolfing is the
knowledge that the fibrous layer (fascia) over the muscles tends to lose its elasticity and
become stiff due to various reasons including poor posture and emotional distress.

In Rolfing, practitioners make use of fingers, knuckles and elbows to correct problems of
misalignment of shoulders, pelvis, legs, head and abdomen. Rolfing as an alternative therapy is
promoted to help aid digestion, balance the nervous system, improve breathing and promote
mental and emotional wellbeing.

In addition to the above, there are plenty of even lesser known alternative treatments that
include Shamballa a multi-dimensional healing therapy that dates back a considerable time; Do-
In, a self-help therapy and Aromasport therapy that uses oils as a way to strengthen the immune

                     10. Will Alternative Therapies Heal Cancer?

Once they were scorned and angrily dismissed as quackery, but these days alternative therapies
are becoming more reputable and so fast gaining in popularity. Why? It seems that the world of
traditional medicine has begun to awaken to the fact that many people have found good relief
and even healing by using them. You may discount a few people’s claims but when there are
many saying the same thing you have to realize that there must be something in their claims.

What cannot be denied is the fact that there is a definite growth in interest of alternative health
solutions. People have begun looking for healthier options as opposed to taking a whole lot of
drugs with scary side effects. The “Cancer” journal states that approximately 70 percent of
patients suffering from the dreaded cancer disease seek alternative therapy solutions.

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Alternative therapies for cancer include acupuncture, homeopathy, prayer, hypnosis, meditation
and oral supplements. The internet has led to a greater awareness of alternative therapies
through the many articles and information available online.

There is an important point to be noted about the effectiveness of alternative therapies in
treating cancer. Most people are not really seeking a cure for the disease so much as help in
dealing with the side effects of chemotherapy or other forms of cancer treatments. Patients want
something to alleviate the stress, nausea, low immunity and overall feeling of weakness brought
on by conventional cancer treatments.

The American Cancer Society released a Complete Guide to Complementary and Alternative
Cancer Therapies; a comprehensive reference guide to the numerous alternative therapies and
their possible side effects. Many of the alternative therapies in use at present are safe with few
or no side effects worth mentioning. Alternative therapies are a combination of exercise, yoga
and meditation among others. While the evidence of their effectiveness may not be very strong;
they are safe practices that provide a certain level of relief to the patient.

Let us take the alternative therapy of holistic medicine that claims to cure a number of cancers
ranging from lung to breast, liver, uterus, intestine and most every other type of cancer. Holistic
medicine focuses on the patient’s overall health condition taking into consideration the illness
present and the patient’s social situation. More simply put, holistic medicine focuses on a lot
more than just the illness.

It covers the mind and spirit of the patient as well as the body. A variety of factors that can
impact the patient’s mind such as family, social circumstances, employment, health insurance
and environment are all considered. The general belief is when all these factors are taken into
account the treatment becomes easier and more effective. Many holistic therapies such as
botanical supplements, exercise, diet and prayer are used in conjunction with mainstream
medicine such as radiation or chemotherapy.

Through the combination of various alternative therapies with conventional medicine, the
patient is empowered to take control of the illness. This leads to a feeling of physical, spiritual
and mental wellbeing.

The question on whether alternative therapies work on cancer is a difficult one to answer. There
are many schools of thought that firmly believe these therapies do work. However, scientific
testing and evidence of the results do not substantiate claims to cancer cures through alternative

One probable reason why alternative therapies have not been too successful in curing the
disease may lie in the fact that the chosen treatment does not cover the underlying causes of the
cancer itself. Depending on the alternative therapy chosen, only the physical symptoms of the
disease may be treated. A study of cancer cases that have been cured through alternative
therapies show a clear pattern of change in the patients’ diet and lifestyle. The removal or
reduction of stress and emotional healing are part of the therapy.

The link between high cortisol levels and low immune function has been medically established.
When stress levels are very high, the immune system is suppressed and does not function as it
should. This in turn has been the cause of depression, premature death and cancer. Another link

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that has been established is prolonged stress causes low adrenaline levels. Low adrenaline
levels equate to high glucose levels causing cells to mutate into cancer cells.

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, one of the top-ranked cancer hospitals in the world,
began using massage as part of a new cancer program. Massage has been known to lower stress
(cortisone) levels and restore depleted adrenaline levels. Sloan-Kettering’s use of massage has
in a way given this form of alternative therapy a seal of approval.

However it is realized that many alternative treatments work in a different way for every
person. It can be said with certainty that they do help to alleviate the harsh symptoms of
conventional cancer treatments.

           11. Using Alternative Health Therapies for Serious Diseases

So we can easily see that alternative health therapies as a whole have come a long way over the
last decade. That alternative therapies can actually benefit people is now well recognized and
acceptance within the medical community. Where non-traditional treatments were once
scornfully shunned, they are now either accepted or even embraced.

One example is with omega 3 fatty acids and ginger, which have turned out to be a boon for
people. Omega 3 fatty acids benefit people with heart ailments, and ginger has actually proven
to be a great relief to cancer patients suffering from the nauseous side effects of cancer

The two examples cited above are but the tip of an iceberg; there are an increasing number of
alternative health therapies that are fast gaining acceptance into the conventional medicine
category. A considerable amount of research is being conducted into alternative health therapies
for various serious illnesses including cancer, diabetes, obesity and arthritis among others. We
have to accept that conventional medicine certainly had a stranglehold on healthcare for
decades, but that is all changing as healthcare in general is more accepting of a holistic
approach to good health.

Holistic medicine is based on the all-inclusive approach, covering the mind, body and
emotional wellbeing of the individual. A number of healing techniques are incorporated into
this type of medicine. Doctors are no longer shying away from the benefits of alternative
therapies and are now recommending various therapies including herbal therapy, acupuncture,
homeopathy, energy healing and other therapies.

Still, people in search of alternative health therapies need to temper visions of miracle cures
with a touch of reality. Alternative treatments cover a wide range of remedies that have never
actually been tested to prove the effectiveness of the treatments. Many practitioners of
alternative treatments will treat the patient in accordance with their favored system rather than
provide treatment based on the patient’s clinical condition.

Let us now look at how alternative health therapies have actually helped with serious diseases.

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Autoimmune illnesses arise when the body’s immune system revolts against body tissues or
results in changes to an organ’s regular functions, causing a range of terrible symptoms and in
extreme cases resulting in death. Over 80 autoimmune illnesses have been found that
commonly affect the blood cells, blood vessels, thyroid, pancreas, joints, muscles, connective
tissues and skin. Many illnesses exhibit similar symptoms such as inflammation, sleep
disorders, digestion problems, headaches, depression, fatigue, joint and muscle pain and fevers.

While there are not many known cures for various autoimmune diseases such as multiple
sclerosis, various natural remedies have proven to be effective in helping to soothe and in some
cases restore the natural balance of an over-active immune system. Natural anti-inflammatories
can work to repair and restore a body’s self-healing mechanism. Herbal remedies are all-
natural; they are considered gentle on the system, effective to a large extent and without the
potentially damaging side effects that many prescription medicines come with. For example,
herbs such as sarsaparilla are used to detoxify the blood and cleanse it. Herbs such as yarrow
maybe used as an anti-inflammatory for muscle and joint pain. Natural ingredients such as
ginger and turmeric are used to treat the symptoms of autoimmune disorders.

Lyme’s disease is a good example of a serious disease being helped by alternative health
therapies. Lyme’s disease is a rather tricky disease that health officials find difficult to identify.
People are infected through a tick bite and common symptoms include rash, fever, stiffness in
the body and a feeling of fatigue. Lyme’s disease is misleading because it tends to mimic the
symptoms of other diseases and there is a possibility that it may not be correctly diagnosed.

Alternative health therapies for Lyme’s disease include herbal therapy, homeopathy, ozone
therapy, vitamin supplements, bio-body detox treatments and more. Homeopathy focuses on
treating the whole body based on the symptoms demonstrated by the patient. Heat therapy is
worth mentioning as an alternative therapy that successfully raises the core body temperature of
patients to help treat the symptoms of Lyme’s disease.

But while there is now more widespread acceptance of alternative health treatments we still
need to exercise caution when choosing the right therapy for a specific ailment. It is never wise
to completely ignore the advice of a medical doctor and just go with the alternative treatment.
You only have one life.

                   12. The Origins of Alternative Health Therapies

Alternative health therapies originated from a diverse range of places, people and traditions.
And as time goes by even more treatment methods have been added to this range. The various
methods of alternative therapy are based on traditional medicine, spiritual beliefs, folk
knowledge handed down through the ages from one generation to the next, or a combination of
all such elements.

Each alternative health therapy is individually unique, but many of the therapies do share
certain common characteristics. Some of these common traits include individualized treatments,
self-care, self-healing, revamping the spiritual aspects of the individual’s life and treating the
person as a whole to include the mind, body and spirit. Several features of alternative therapies

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are found in conventional medicine as well; for example, the focus on nutrition, exercise and
healthy lifestyle habits.

The primary difference between mainstream medicine and alternative health therapies is the
obvious lack of scientific research. Clinical studies, experiments and scientific investigation
results are seldom available to back up alternative medicine practices. Complementary and
alternative medicine, commonly referred to as CAM has begun to address the divide between
alternative and mainstream medicine. The result is a constantly changing face of alternative

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) is a branch of the
National Institutes for Health in America. NCCAM has developed one of the most popularly
used classifications of alternative health therapies. The classification system groups alternative
medicine into five primary groups with a certain amount of overlapping. These groups include
energy medicine that deals with verifiable fields of energy; whole medicine dealing including
homeopathy and ayurveda; manipulative body methods such as osteopathic manipulation or
chiropractic; mind-body methods such as holistic medicine that covers the mind, body and
spirit and biology based medicines such as herbal therapies and plant substances.

While it is not possible to study the origins of all the many alternative health therapies available
today, we can focus our efforts on a few of them. This will enable readers to have a better
understanding of how some of these therapies originated.

Homeopathy or homeopathic medicine has been practiced in the U.S. since the early 19th
century. The medical system is believed to have been developed in Germany over 200 years
earlier. Homeopathic medicine focuses on the treatment of diseases and health conditions, the
prevention of diseases and the promotion of wellbeing.

In homeopathic medicine the underpinning principle is that “like cures like”. Meaning
substances that produce similar symptoms in a healthy individual are used to cure the disease
itself. Not much scientific evidence exists to prove the effectiveness of homeopathy, but there
have been studies conducted that reported positive outcomes from the treatment.

Alternative health therapies face challenges as the medical world attempts to study these
methods. Most of the practices are based on concepts that are inconsistent with the generally
accepted understanding of the laws of science, especially physics and chemistry.

Acupuncture is one of the better known alternative therapies in existence. Its origin however,
does not seem to be all that well known. According to popular legends, acupuncture originated
thousands of years ago in China through the healing experiences of a Chinese soldier. What we
do know is it is one of the oldest healing practices in the world, forming an integral part of
traditional Chinese medicine. Acupuncture is the process of restoring and maintaining health
through stimulation of specific points located throughout the body. In the U.S. acupuncture has
become part of complementary and alternative medicine, incorporating a number of healing
practices from China, Korea, Japan and other countries.

Acupuncture is the term used to describe the alternative health therapy that uses stimulation of
numerous anatomical points on the body. One of the most common acupuncture techniques is
the insertion of thin, metallic needles into the points on the body. The needles are manipulated
by the practitioner either by hands or through electrical elements.

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Chiropractic is a combination of Greek words that describe treatments performed by hand.
Chiropractic is a hands-on therapy that involves adjustment of the spine, the central theme in
chiropractic therapy. This form of alternative therapy is focused on the relationship between the
spine (body structure) and the nervous system (body function) and how it affects health. There
are various chiropractic practices some dating back to ancient times, others more recently to the
late 1800s and Daniel David.

So each alternative health therapies, has its own unique origin and history. This does not mean
that any one is better than its brother; they are all good in some way or another. If no one had
found any relief from any specific one, it would have fallen into disuse and been lost.

                     13. Which Alternative Therapy should I Try?

There are actually several healing treatments of therapies that even seem to fly in the face of
other alternative treatments. You would hardly think that painting pictures or learning music
could have anything to do with healing disease – and yet people have found relief from certain
problems by getting creative.

Through art, there is an expression and relief of the disease’s physical and emotional effects. In
the same way, treatment is expressed to bring a level of relief to the patient. Research claims
that artistic expression helps to reduce fatigue and to alleviate certain symptoms of cancer.

There is no scientific research to confirm the efficacy of the many commonly practiced
alternative therapies. However, patients who endure the ravages of illnesses like cancer and
other serious health ailments feel that the treatments are beneficial. Alternative therapies for the
most part focus treatment efforts on helping to relieve stress and anxiety. Alternative therapies
promote the concept that positive emotions positively impact a person’s life.

People generally turn to alternative therapies following a difficult and often painful medical
treatment. Natural therapies such as aromatherapy, massage and acupuncture provide welcome
relief. In addition, practitioners of alternative therapies take time to treat patients, a far cry from
the rush of conventional medicine. Alternative therapy practitioners provide support to patients
undergoing painful traditional medical treatments such as chemotherapy.

People who need to increase their self-awareness, and enhance health and wellbeing are good
candidates for alternative therapy through artistic expression. What exactly does artistic
expression entail? There are various forms of artistic expression such as dance, music, painting,
sculpture, drawing, writing, photography and drama.

There is evidence that acupuncture, one of the more popular alternative therapies practiced for
centuries has a positive effect on patients undergoing chemotherapy. The acupuncture treatment
helps to alleviate the nausea and illness caused by chemotherapy drugs. Acupuncture therapy
does more than that by helping to relieve pain caused by arthritis and injuries, restore a sense of
balance to the body’s physical and mental functions and boost the immune system.

There is justifiable evidence that some alternative therapies provide relief from the various
symptoms of diseases. A good part of the healing effects of natural treatments comes from the

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patient’s belief in the chosen therapy. The patients have testimonies to back up the effectiveness
of alternative therapies helping to relieve painful symptoms and enhance overall health.

Cancer is a dreaded disease with no real cure in sight and more people, fearful of the fatigue,
nausea, hair loss, weight loss, lung problems and other painful side effects of chemotherapy
turn to alternative therapies. In fact, the inevitable emotional stress that is an inherent part of
cancer treatments has given rise to alternative medicine as the better solution.

Greater numbers of women with breast cancer prefer alternative therapies such as mind-body
therapies, traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture among others. The treatments are
generally complementary to mainstream cancer treatments the patient receives. Alternative
therapies are great in combating the emotional stress and various physical side effects of cancer
treatments. To many women, alternative therapies become an essential lifeline for their struggle
against the disease.

People who battle chronic pain constantly are desperate for some form of relief. Alternative
therapies such as acupuncture, acupressure and massage have been known to help alleviate the
pain. What people considering alternative therapies need to become aware of is not everyone
benefits from these therapies. Each therapy has its own advantages and disadvantages and what
works well for one individual’s pain may not work just as well for another person.

Anyone considering alternative therapy needs to consider certain fundamental factors before
rushing to receive treatment. The first concern is whether alternative therapy will put the patient
at greater medical risk. When an individual has a complicated diagnosis, other medical
problems or takes conventional medication, alternative therapy may conflict with the existing
condition or treatment. It is always a good idea to discuss the potential alternative therapy with
a physician prior to starting treatment.

Another important consideration is whether the selected treatment is safe. Alternative therapies
practiced by licensed physicians are generally considered safe. Further, each state has
regulations governing the practice of alternative therapy that needs to be adhered to by the

Much care and consideration should be taken when deciding to step away from conventional
medicine in favor of alternative therapy methods. A better choice would surely be to combine
both so that your body has many elements working together to bring about healing.

                     14. Finding Out about Alternative Therapies

A variety of terms are used to describe alternative therapies including unscientific,
complementary, holistic, new age medicine, unconventional or quackery. Many people do not
know much about the various types of treatment and people tend to be suspicious of the
unknown and to either ignore it or sneer about it. Don’t let that put you off finding out all you
can about the topic.

However, there is a certain amount of confusion about alternative therapies because each of
those different terms has different meanings. One New England Journal of Medicine study
indicated that approximately 34 percent of Americans spent billions on various alternative
therapies. These therapies included a number of alternative medicine solutions such as

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homeopathy and energy healing. Also included in the mix was weight loss programs and self-
help group therapy. Not everybody agrees on what should and should not be included as part of
the alternative therapies classification.

Alternative medicine is concerned with the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and focuses on a
person’s spiritual, physical and emotional wellbeing. Modern medicine on the other hand, treats
the health condition without considering factors like stress and lifestyle habits.

One of the best online resources for information about alternative therapies is the National
Institutes of Health (NIH), National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
(NCCAM) website. For most people, the first port of call for information is the internet because
of the easy access to online information. What we need to remember is that there are many
scammers out there. The best way to proceed when seeking information about alternative
therapies is to share the information gathered with a physician to get an informed opinion. The
NCCAM site has a “Time to Talk” section providing tips on discussing alternative therapies
with healthcare providers.

While there is certainly no shortage of information on the internet, we need to be wary of how
reliable each site is. For example, the National Institutes of Health’s NCCAM website clearly
identifies the NIH as the author of the information provided, linking to the site’s homepage.
The medical sites from which information is gathered should clearly label the creator of the

References need to be cited; for example, medical journals with the volume number, article title
and author. Bottom line, information related to health and alternative therapies should have
some evidence base. Advice and opinions need to be clearly distinguished from evidence that is
based on research outcomes. When the benefits from a specific alternative health therapy are
listed, there should be corresponding references to scientific research that supports the

There are numerous religious publications such as Mission: America that highlights a variety of
societal issues including alternative therapies from a Christian perspective. Next we have
widespread news coverage of a range of alternative therapies to reflect the public’s growing
interest in treatments that are outside the norm of conventional medical practice.

Nursing schools, medical colleges and independent institutions have begun teaching a broad
spectrum of alternative therapy courses. The SCNM (Southwest College of Naturopathic
Medicine) is one of many institutions providing distance education in naturopathic medicine.
Similarly, the U.S. has many institutions that provide a wide range of alternative therapy
programs on-campus.

For those of us who are done studying, apart from the internet, there are other resources such as
medical journals and other publications. Several books have been published on alternative
therapies. For example, the American Botanical Society has listings of various herbal therapy
publications. Information is also available from the American Journal of Chinese Medicine.
Plenty of other reading material is available including the Canadian Journal of Herbalism, the
Australian Journal of Herbalism and the Japanese Chemical and Pharmaceutical Bulletin.

Other useful resources about alternative medicine include MedicinePlus, a comprehensive site
that is produced by the National Library of Medicine. The site contains a treasure trove of

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information and data gathered from several sources. It is considered a good starting point for
anyone interested in learning about alternative therapies.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has established Healthfinder.gov; a useful
site that provides links to organizations and resource guides on alternative therapies.

Since there is a great deal of information on the Internet and not all of it can be supported it is
best to take an objective approach and not let emotions get in the way of substantial research.
Just because someone said they were helped doesn’t mean they were. Such a testimonial might
even have been made up by a person trying to sell the product. Let us be unbiased in our view
and be as fair as possible about the various alternative health treatments.

                    15. Alternative Health Therapies Regulations

One thing we do know that is based on fact and that is the U.S. National Institutes of Health has
established the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). They
must therefore think that there is something to the various alternative health therapies, even
though many seem to be based on cultural traditions rather than scientifically proven facts.

The practice of alternative medicine varies in each country and may be licensed and regulated
in jurisdictions where it is sufficiently widespread. According to Edzard Ernst, world class
professor and scientist in the field of complementary medicine, in countries like Austria and
Germany, the practice of alternative medicine is primarily in the hands of the licensed
physicians. In the U.S. there are certain estimates that indicate that approximately 50 percent of
the alternative medicine practitioners are physicians.

Anyone interested in gaining a better understanding of alternative health therapies and the
associated regulations, should know that alternative medicine is more frequently associated
with complementary medicine. The term refers to medicines used in conjunction with
conventional medicine. Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) has become the
accepted standard term.

NCCAM or National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine describes CAM as
medical and healthcare practices and products that do not fall within the realm of conventional
medicine. Alternative health therapies are practiced across all states in America and governed
by state specific prevalent laws and regulations. Laws are in place to protect patients and ensure
their access to alternative medicine from licensed physicians. Legislation affecting alternative
therapies in various States is considered a work in progress.

To present a better understanding of the existing regulations for alternative health therapies,
some examples are detailed below.

Access to Medical Treatment Act (AMTA) makes provision for state licensed providers of
healthcare to make use of alternative therapies that are non-FDA approved. Simply put, the act
allows patients to have access to medical therapies and drugs that the Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) has not approved, but are recommended by licensed healthcare

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practitioners. The act covers alternative therapies that are considered safe and have a reasonable
expectation of therapeutic benefit to the patient.

According to this law, licensed healthcare practitioners may provide alternative health therapies
if they are not known to be harmful to the patient; the patient is made aware in writing that the
therapy is not approved by the FDA; the patient receives written information about the therapy
and the possible benefits and side effects of the treatment. The act also requires that beneficial
outcomes are reported to the NIH office of Alternative Medicine, while dangerous outcomes
from the therapy are reported immediately to the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Thomas Navarro FDA Patient Rights Act - H.R. 3677 - under this act, patients are given the
right to choose the method of healthcare treatment received. The act modified the powers of the
Food and Drug Administration to provide comprehensive information about treatment options
to patients. Congressman Burton introduced the Thomas Navarro FDA Patients Rights act to
highlight various issues including patient choice, the role of alternative medicine and medical
freedom for individuals.

In the state of California, a large number of people seek alternative health therapies regularly.
However, in this state the California Medical Practices Act prohibits anyone from practicing
any form of alternative medicine without a license. The laws prevailing in California and
several other American states have very broad parameters permitting the prohibition of
practically any type of alternative medicine therapy except by licensed medical practitioners.

Other examples of regulations for alternative health therapies include the state of Florida, which
passed legislation in 2001 to allow licensed medical practitioners to practice complementary
and alternative medicine. The state of Georgia introduced the H.B. 749 - Complementary &
Alternative Health Care Freedom act to provide individuals with the freedom to seek the
treatment of their choice without legal restrictions.

Eleven states in the U.S. license the practice of naturopathic medicine and other states have
bills pending on the licensing. Much controversy has been generated over the licensing laws.
People in favor of the bills want naturopathic doctors to be allowed to practice in accordance
with the full scope of the medical training received. States that do not license naturopathy
prohibit doctors from practicing. Those not in favor of the bills are fearful that untrained people
will also be allowed to practice alternative healthcare.

Some of the American public that believes that alternative health therapies should continue to
remain free of legislation and regulations, since most practices are deemed safe. But the kind of
alternative health treatment that you seek may be dictated by the rules and regulations of your


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