Understanding Alternative Medicine

To be a quality consumer, you should understand the various approaches and perspectives used in the field of natural healing.

and alternative medicine refers to any healing approach that falls
outside the realm of current mainstream medical practice. Complementary
medicine is typically used in conjunction with conventional medical
therapies, whereas alternative medicine is used in place of these

In 1992, the National Institutes of Health (NIH)
outlined seven areas of complementary and alternative medicine. They
were: (1) homeopathy and acupuncture; (2) magnetic field therapies; (3)
nutritional and dietary support approaches; (4) herbal remedies; (5)
chiropractic, massage and other touch-based therapies; (6) mind/body
interventions; and (7) unconventional biologic or pharmacologic

Naturopathic medicine is based on beliefs that the
body can be healed primarily from within, without use of external
measures like drugs. Approaches used include herbal and other dietary
measures, breathing techniques, and acupuncture.

proposes that small doses of compounds that could produce disease in
larger amounts can serve to protect an individual from disease.

healing methods include massage and chiropractic therapies. Massage
therapy is certified in at least 20 states, and chiropractic therapy is
licensed in all states.

Mind/body intervention techniques utilize connections
between the mind and the body to improve health, through practices such
as biofeedback and guided imagery.

Vitamin and mineral
supplementation seek optimum nutritional balance for health, while
herbal remedies use enhanced concentrations of these and other naturally
occurring substances to enhance healing.

However, in the United
States, vitamins, minerals and herbal preparations are only governed by
the Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act (DSHEA). Many herbal
remedies have undergone clinical trials to substantiate their
health-enhancing or traditional/historical claims. Others have not.

herbal medicines will interact with conventional drugs, altering their
pharmacodynamics. For example, St. John’s wort can suppress the levels
of numerous medications in the bloodstream, and Ginseng can react with
steroidal drugs to induce shaking and manic episodes. Further, where
quality control measures are lax, unforeseen contamination from
infectious agents and toxic metals can potentially cause other side

Thus, purchase supplements and herbal remedies only from
reputable distributors that guarantee dose and purity, and always make
sure your physician knows what you are taking. In this way, you can
receive optimum benefits from any alternative healing approach you may