Acupuncture is based on the theory that health is determined by a balanced flow of energy (chi or qi), which is thought to be present in all living organisms.
This life energy circulates throughout the body along a series of energy pathways (meridians). Each of these meridians is linked to specific internal organs and organ systems. Within this system of energy pathways, there are over 1,000 acupoints that can be stimulated through the insertion of needles. This is thought to help correct and rebalance the flow of life energy, and restore health. Acupuncture has been used to treat health problems and conditions ranging from the common cold to addiction and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Someone who is knowledgeable about a specific alternative health therapy provides care or gives advice about its use, and usually receives payment for his or her services.
For some therapies, the provider may have received formal training and may be certified by a licensing board or related professional association.
For example, a practitioner of biofeedback (biofeedback therapist) has usually received training in psychology and physiology and may be certified by the Biofeedback Certification Institute of America.
This comprehensive system of medicine, developed in India over 5,000 years ago, places equal emphasis on body, mind, and spirit.
The goal is to restore the natural harmony of the individual.
An ayurvedic doctor identifies an individual’s ‘‘constitution’’ or overall health profile by ascertaining the patient’s metabolic body type (Vata, Pitta, or Kapha) through a series of personal history questions.
Then the patient’s ‘‘constitution’’ becomes the foundation for a specific treatment plan designed to guide the individual back into harmony with his or her environment.
This plan may include dietary changes, exercise, yoga, meditation, massage, herbal tonics, and other remedies.
This method teaches clients, through the use of simple electronic devices, how to consciously regulate normally unconscious bodily functions (e.g., breathing, heart rate, blood pressure) to improve overall health.
Biofeedback has been used to reduce stress, eliminate headaches, recondition injured muscles, control asthmatic attacks, and relieve pain.
This therapy involves a series of intravenous injections of a binding (chelating) agent, such as the amino acid EDTA, to remove toxic metals and wastes from the bloodstream. Following injection, the binding agent travels through the bloodstream attaching itself to toxic metals and wastes, which are subsequently excreted through the patient’s urine. Used initially to treat
lead poisoning, chelation therapy is used by a growing number of practitioners to treat and reverse the process of arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
This care involves the adjustment of the spine and joints to influence the body’s nervous system and natural defense mechanisms to alleviate pain and improve general health.
It is primarily used to treat back problems, headaches, nerve inflammation, muscle spasms, and other injuries and traumas.
Therapies not usually taught in U.S. medical schools or generally available in U.S. hospitals, it includes a broad range of therapies and beliefs such as acupuncture, chiropractic care, relaxation techniques, massage therapy, and herbal remedies.
Deep breathing involves slow, deep inhalation through the nose, usually for a count of 10, followed by slow and complete exhalation for a similar count. To help quiet the mind, one generally concentrates fully on breathing and counting through each cycle. The process may be repeated 5 to 10 times,
several times a day.
These systems of healing (such as Curanderismo and Native American healing) have persisted since the beginning of culture and have flourished long before the development of conventional medicine. Folk healers usually participate in a training regimen of observation and imitation, with
healing often considered a gift passed down through several generations of a
Folk healers may employ a range of remedies including prayer, healing touch or laying on of hands, charms, herbal teas or tinctures, magic rituals, and others. Folk healers are found in all cultures and operate under a
variety of names and labels.
This therapy refers to the use of vitamins in excess of the Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA) established by the National Academy of Sciences, Food and Nutrition Board. Although these therapies have been used for the
prevention and treatment of diseases and illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, schizophrenia, and the common cold, some high dose or megavitamin regimens can produce adverse or toxic effects.
This system of medical practice is based on the theory that any substance that can produce symptoms of disease or illness in a healthy person can cure those symptoms in a sick person. For example, someone suffering from insomnia may be given a homeopathic dose of coffee.
Administered in diluted form, homeopathic remedies are derived from many natural sources, including plants, metals, and minerals. Numbering in the thousands, these remedies have been used to treat a wide variety of ailments including seasonal allergies, asthma, influenza, headaches, and indigestion.
An altered state of consciousness, it is characterized by increased responsiveness to suggestion.
The hypnotic state is attained by first relaxing the body, then shifting the
client’s attention toward a narrow range of objects or ideas as suggested by the hypnotist or hypnotherapist.
The procedure is used to access various levels of the mind to effect positive changes in a person’s behavior and to treat numerous health conditions. For example, hypnosis has been used to lose weight, improve sleep, and reduce pain and stress.
This low fat diet emphasizes whole grains and vegetables
and restricts the intake of fluids.
Consumption of fresh, unprocessed foods is especially important. Daily intakes break out as follows: 50–60% whole grains; 25–30% fresh vegetables; 5–10% beans, soy-based products, and sea vegetables; and 5–10% soups.
Meat, poultry, dairy products, eggs, alcohol, coffee, caffeinated tea, sweets and sugar, and strong spices are to be avoided.
This therapy involves pressing, rubbing, and otherwise manipulating muscles and other soft tissues of the body, causing them to relax and lengthen and allowing pain-relieving oxygen and blood to flow to the affected area. Using their hands and sometimes feet, elbows, and forearms, massage therapists may use over 75 different methods, such as Swedish massage, deep-tissue massage, neuromuscular massage, and manual lymph drainage.
Massage is considered effective for relieving any type of pain in the body’s soft tissue, including back, neck, and shoulder pain, headaches, bursitis, and tendonitis.
Mental calmness and physical relaxation is achieved by suspending the stream of thoughts that normally occupy the mind. Generally performed once or twice a day for approximately 20 minutes at a time, meditation is used to reduce stress, alter hormone levels, and elevate one’s mood.
In addition, a person experienced in meditation can achieve a reduction in blood pressure, adrenaline levels, heart rate, and skin temperature.
These products are taken by mouth and contain a dietary ingredient intended to supplement the diet other than vitamins and minerals. They include herbs or herbal medicine (as single herbs or mixtures), other
botanical products such as soy or flax products, and dietary substances such as enzymes and glandulars. Among the most popular are echinacea, ginkgo
biloba, ginseng, feverfew, garlic, kava kava, and saw palmetto.
Garlic, for example, has been used to treat fevers, sore throats, digestive ailments, hardening of the arteries, and other health problems and conditions
This broad system of medicine is based on the theory that the body is a self-regulating mechanism with the natural ability to maintain a state of health and wellness.
Naturopathic doctors, who generally reject invasive techniques and the use of synthetic drugs, try to cure illness and disease by harnessing the body’s natural healing powers.
This is done with the use of various alternative and traditional techniques, including herbal medicine, homeopathic treatment, massage, dietary
supplements, and other physical therapies.
This is a high fiber, low-fat vegetarian diet that promotes weight loss and health by controlling what one eats, not by restricting the intake of calories. Fruits, beans, grains, and vegetables can be eaten at all meals,
and nonfat dairy products such as skim milk, nonfat cheeses, and egg whites are consumed in moderation. Products such as oils, avocados, nuts and seeds, and meats of all kinds are avoided.
This diet (or Pritikin Principle) is a low-fat diet (10% fat or less) that emphasizes the consumption of foods with a large volume of fiber and water (low in caloric density), including many vegetables, fruits, beans,
and natural, unprocessed grains.
According to this diet, weight loss will occur if the average caloric density of a meal is kept below 400 calories per pound.
This therapy involves the successive tensing and relaxing of each of the 15 major muscle groups. Performed lying down, one generally begins with the head and progresses downward, tensing each muscle as tightly as possible for a count of 5 to 10 and then releasing it completely.
Often combined with deep breathing, progressive relaxation is particularly useful for reducing stress, relieving tension, and inducing sleep
These diets are devoid of meat. There are, however, numerous variations on the nonmeat theme. For example, some vegetarian diets are restricted to plant products only, and others may include eggs and
dairy products. Another variation limits food consumption to raw fruit,
sometimes supplemented with nuts and vegetables. Some vegetarian diets
prohibit alcohol, sugar, caffeine, or processed foods.
Barnes PM, Powell-Griner E, McFann K Nahin RL. Complementary and alternative medicine use among adults: the United States, 2002. Advance data from vital and health statistics; no 343. Hyattsville, Maryland: National Center for Health Statistics. 2004.