10 Types Of Alternative Medicine Explained

Your ultimate guide to natural healing

Our priority at The Health Code is to help people take control of their health. Alternative medicine is growing in popularity as society realises that conventional medicine might not have all the answers.

If you think about it, as humans we are starting to go back to our roots and live more in line with the way our ancestors did.

These were the days before fast food, additives and preservatives.

The earliest humans fed off the earth. In other words, they only ate what nature produced. They also sourced natural remedies from plants, trees, herbs, and spices to produce medicine.

It’s clear that natural healing can complement conventional medicine as we strive for greater health and vitality.

What types of alternative medicine are there?

There are various types of complementary medicine used to help treat various ailments and even improve overall health. Some of the most common types include:

  1. Aromatherapy
  2. Acupuncture
  3. Ayurveda
  4. Acupressure
  5. Biofeedback
  6. Chiropractic
  7. Homeopathy
  8. Naturopathy
  9. Reiki
  10. Reflexology

Each of the above is especially used to help heal the patient using natural methods. While some of these methods of medicine combine science and research, others solely rely on nature and backed by very little research.

What are the benefits of alternative medicine?

Alternative medicine can help a patient improve overall health and wellness through some of the following:

  • Maintaining proper blood pressure
  • Improving metabolism
  • Improving sleep patterns
  • Decreasing inflammation
  • Improving focus
  • Balancing the flow of energy
  • Promoting better muscle function
  • Improving flexibility and balance
  • Reducing headaches
  • Resolving allergies
  • Improving respiratory function

Those are just to name a few of the vast benefits of using natural medicine.

Now it’s time to break it down and discuss the types of complementary medicine in their own right and some of the benefits.

Just a quick disclaimer: do not embark on any diet, alternative medicine/therapy or exercise program without the prior approval of your doctor.

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Types of alternative medicines, their function, and benefit for patients

1. Aromatherapy

This is a very popular form of self-care. Aromatherapy is a really appealing form of alternative therapy because it involves some gorgeous scents straight from nature.

In short, aromatherapy uses essential oils purported to have healing properties. Some oils are best diffuses in an oil diffuser while others are applied topically using a carrier oil. One can also use a few drops in the bath. When used in a bathtub, be careful not to slip as these oils can make surfaces slippery.

Tiny droplets of essential oils are inhaled when dispersed into the air using a diffuser or one can enjoy the scents by inhaling them from the bottle.

Essential Oil
Example of Lemongrass Essential Oil.

When it comes to preparing the oils, methods of extraction include distillation or cold compression to retrieve the oils from the fruit, leaves, or stem of the tree or plant.

Some popular oils include but are not limited to:

  • Frankincense (Boswellia sacra)
  • Tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia)
  • Lavender (Lavandula)
  • Clary sage (Salvia sclarea)
  • Sandalwood (Santalum album)
  • Ylang Ylang (Cananga odorata)
  • Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
  • Pomegranate (Punica granatum)
  • Clove (Syzygium aromaticum)
  • Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus)

Oftentimes people enjoy using aromatherapy blends. This is when complementary oils are mixed to create various remedies. Examples of targeted blends include focus, sleep better, or simply unwind and relax. 

2. Acupuncture

Acupuncture is an ancient Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practice that involves targeting the meridians of the body. The meridians are special points found in certain parts of the body where energy (qi) continues to flow.

A qualified acupuncturist focuses on keeping the body’s natural energy flow in sync, but sometimes this natural flow is disrupted. In most cases, “energy disruption” is a result of stress, anxiety, and illness which leads to negative health conditions. Targeting these meridian points will help guide the energy flow and thus the body’s inherent ability to heal itself.

Acupuncture targets various conditions including but not limited to chronic headaches, muscle pain, insomnia, blood circulation, and restoring the body’s natural energy flow to name a few.

3. Ayurveda

Ayurveda is an ancient health practice from the East, with its roots deep in countries such as India. Some ancient Sanskrit texts speak of the philosophy of Ayurveda.

The ancient practice of Ayurveda believes that the body functions according to the 5 elements which include “Vayu” air, “Jala” water, “Aakash” space, “Privthi” earth, and “Teja” fire. It’s the complex connection of these elements that forms the “humors” of the body. These humors are based on ancient Greek and Roman physician practices.

When looking for types of natural medicine you’ll often find that it incorporates natural practices. Ayurveda involves yoga, meditation, massage, and exercise amongst others. There are also certain Ayurvedic foods such as turmeric, Gotu Kola, Ashwagandha, and Boswellia to name a few.

Ayurveda aims to heal the “whole” body or the “whole person”.

4. Acupressure

Acupressure is also part of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Just like acupuncture, throughout the years, acupressure has formed part of Western medicine too.

Acupressure shares many similarities to acupuncture as pressure points (meridians) are also targeted. However, there are no needles used to treat the patient. 

This is a great option if you have a fear of needles!

5. Biofeedback

Biofeedback uses specific statistics to help the practitioner understand what’s causing the medical concern.

Usually, it involves scans of the brain which are interpreted by qualified personnel.

With that information, the patient will then learn specific techniques to help cope or reduce stress, insomnia, high blood pressure, or reduce pain among others.

Basically biofeedback “retrains” the brain to respond differently to negative experiences and stimuli. This can provide immense relief to patients because they gain control of their experiences instead of relying solely on medication.

Not much research is available to back biofeedback, but it forms part of the many types of natural and complementary therapy available.

However, the concept of a patient being able to control their body’s functions when needed has shown to work in some people. 

6. Chiropractic

Chiropractors focus on spinal health and the proper alignment of the head, neck and spine. Chiropractic is one of the most popular types of alternative medicine practised.

A chiropractor treats patients suffering from chronic pain, migraine headaches, sports injuries, and specialised chiropractic for pregnant women.

Chiropractors focus on the alignment of the spine.

The goal of chiropractic is to help align the spine so that the nervous system can transmit messages without any “interference”. Often when the spine is misaligned and the body cannot receive “clear” messages through the nervous system. A misaligned spine may lead to conditions like allergies, inability to sleep properly and aches and pains due to poor posture.

In addition, many people suffer from poor posture due to sitting at a desk all day. So even if you don’t have back pain as such, you might benefit from chiropractic adjustments for preventative purposes.

Chiropractic also focuses on the musculoskeletal system and can help patients dealing with arthritis and other rheumatic conditions.

7. Homeopathy

Homeopathy is an old practice dating back to the 1700s founded by Samuel Hahnemann, a German physician.

The philosophy of homeopathy can be summed up in the phrase “Like cures Like”. This concept is based on that which causes healthy people to become ill is the same substance that can heal them. The thinking is that by introducing tiny quantities of the “offending” condition, it will stimulate the body’s immune system and naturally heal the patient.

Therefore, homeopathy uses these various strains in diluted doses to help create medicine for the patient.

Doctors of homeopathy study the patient’s conditions and symptoms to make sure that they develop the correct medicine.

The holistic benefits claimed by homeopathy include:

  • Reducing premature ageing
  • Helps manage chronic conditions
  • Helps improve skin conditions such as eczema
  • Pain management associated with arthritis
  • Treat heartburn and gastric reflux
  • Treats respiratory conditions
  • May improve emotional balance

8. Naturopathy

Naturopathy doctors are versed in pseudoscience and conventional medicine and practices. This form of natural medicine uses the power of nature to help the body tap into its ability to heal itself.

Additionally, naturopathy takes on a vitalistic approach to healing the whole person. With that said, it also requires that the patient make lifestyle changes that may include changing their diet, incorporating exercise, and possibly altering their job environment.

9. Reiki

Reiki is another Far Eastern, ancient medicine practice started in Japan by Dr Mikao Usui aka Usui Sensai. It focuses on treating as well as stabilising the mind and emotions through spiritual practices. In a word, Reiki helps create emotional balance and overall mental wellness in patients. 

A Reiki practitioner working with a patient.

In essence, patients who receive Reiki treatment can benefit from the following:

  • Feel more relaxed and less stressed
  • Better flow of the body’s energy
  • Mental clarity

In addition to mental and emotional wellness, Reiki is said to also help with health conditions such as pain and helps the body to detoxify, as well as improve sleep.

10. Reflexology

Reflexology is wildly popular in Chinese and Western medicine.

It involves a non-invasive approach that tackles pressure points on the feet and hands. These pressure points are also referred to as “zones”. In theory, reflexology uses these points as it is believed to connect to various organs of the body.

The benefits of reflexology include:

  • Uplifting a low mood
  • Improving mental clarity
  • Improve immune system
  • Improves digestion
  • Helps ease arthritis pain
  • General wellness

Apart from the above-mentioned advantages, Reflexology is very relaxing with virtually no risk of side effects.

Pregnant women should note that certain pressure points can stimulate contractions of the womb so remember to check with your doctor before visiting any alternative health practitioner.

Closing thoughts about various types of alternative medicine

Alternative medicine provides a non-invasive approach to healing. In other words, there is no surgery involved but rather natural means to help the body to heal itself.

Alternative Medicine is now much bigger that what anyone can think, and it plays a role in health and human welfare beyond what anyone could have imagined a decade ago.

Dr. Johnson C. Philip

Nature offers so many answers to various health conditions. These can often be used in conjunction with conventional medicine to promote health and wellness.

Changing your lifestyle to incorporate a natural approach will go a long way to improve overall wellness.

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