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Alternative Medicine

There is a widespread feeling that 20th century medicine has let us down. There are new deadly diseases with no miracle cures and regardless of new technology and massive expenditure that goes into health services, illness appears to be increasing. Conditions like heart disease, cancer, AIDS seem to have appeared from nowhere.

It is this disappointment which encouraged many people to switch from traditional medicine. In this section, you can find out about some of the treatments not normally used by your family doctor. Their common name is complementary, or alternative medicine.

They include:
Faith healing
Herbal medicine
Psychological therapies
T'ai chi

In China, the theory of balancing your body's forces is expressed with symbols Yin and Yang. Together they represent all functions of body and mind - the perfect balance of positive and negative forces. If someone becomes ill, these forces must be balanced to restore health.
This ancient Chinese medical art, documented over 4,000yrs ago, is based on the theory that there are 26 meridians (paths) in the body, through which life forces flow. Each path is related to an organ or bodily function. Needles are used to penetrate the paths, releasing excess life force (or chi) to re-establish body balance.
This is done by putting tips of silver alloy needles into certain acupuncture points in the skin and then vibrating them (there are 800 acupuncture points in the body). The needles don't normally hurt. Occasionally, the acupuncturist will burn part of a dried mugwort plant (moxa) on ends of needles generating a soothing heat which travels down the needles and into the body.
Sometimes lasers or ultrasound are used as a substitution to needles. Acupuncture claims to alleviate or cure many physical and mental ailments, as well as inducing anaesthesia. The use of acupuncture, with conventional medicine, has increased significantly in the western world in recent years.

Art of healing based on a range of treatments using aromatic oils extracted from plants. Many ancient civilisations, particularly the Chinese, documented the use of essential oils in treating illness. Aromatherapy is particularly effective against psychosomatic and stress related illnesses.
Having described symptoms, the patient is furnished with the appropriate oils. These are applied by massage, inhalation, creams or lotion (they are rarely taken internally).

Art of healing, based on the theory that disease is due, in part, to abnormal nerve functioning. A range of disorders are treated by manipulation of the spine.

Faith Healers
Art of medical healing, based on religious belief, a belief that illness can be cured by harnessing spiritual forces. Faith healing was practised over 3,000yrs ago by ancient Egyptians and Greeks. In later times, it is particularly familiar to Christians, through the miracles attributed to Jesus in the New Testament.
Roman Catholic shrines such as Lourdes in France, are visited by 1,000's of people every year who seek a cure from the Virgin Mary. Most doctors believe that the cure is more psychological and people simply believe they will get better.

Herbal Medicine
Art of healing, based on the use of plants, or substances extracted from them. This is probably the oldest form of treatment known to man and was practised in prehistoric times. Herbal treatments formed the basis of medical care in most ancient cultures. Many drugs used in modern medicine are derived from plants.
Modern interest in herbalism relates to a growing awareness that many man-made drugs have unpleasant and sometimes serious side-effects. However, some plant mixtures are potentially very dangerous, therefore anyone seeking treatment should obtain the endorsement of their doctor. Herbal medicines should not be self-administered without the advice of a qualified person.

Home Made Remedies - site recommended by a reader.

Based on the theory 'like cures like', this idea was first suggested by Hippocrates, father of ancient Greek medicine.
Homeopaths believe that symptoms of illness are caused by the body's fight against it and not by the illness itself.
Homeopathic medicines are designed to stimulate natural forces of recovery within the body.
Modern day homeopathy was founded 200yrs ago by a German doctor, Samuel Hahnemann. He discovered that by using these same remedies, but in extremely diluted form, their performance was significantly better. A major benefit of these medicines, which are mostly derived from natural substances and generally administered in minute doses, is low risk of adverse reaction to the drug.
Although this is in direct contradiction to modern medicine (which treats disease with drugs that have the opposite effect to the patient's symptoms), Homeopathy is not a fringe medicine. It is widely practised in Europe, India and South Africa. H.M. The Queen Elizabeth has a specialist in homeopathy.

Art of healing, based on the principle that disease is due to accumulation of waste products and poisons in the body and the symptoms reflect body's attempt to rid itself of these substances. Naturopathists believe health is maintained by avoiding anything artificial or unnatural in diet or environment.

Art of healing, founded 100yrs ago by Andrew Taylor Still. He established principles that all pharmaceutical agents required for maintenance of health are manufactured within the human body and are released by manipulation of bones and joints (particularly the spine). The manipulation can be vigorous (particularly 'high velocity thrust').
Osteopathy is respected by many doctors as a potential cure for back pain and unexplained muscle or joint problems. In the USA, osteopaths undergo extensive and lengthy training (up to 7yrs) and many practise in special hospitals.

Art of healing, by the mind. These include Yoga, hypnotism, meditation, etc. Sigmund Freud developed psychoanalysis about 100yrs ago. It involves special counselling, drawing out personal troubles (which he believed were the root cause of depression and illness). As with most psychological therapies, the patient often experiences a sense of release and find their health improves.
These treatments are most effective with stress related illness or for addictions (e.g. smoking, drugs, alcohol). Additionally, when used as a preventive measure against stress and life pressures, they can also improve lifestyles and thus prevent illness.

Art of healing, a form of massage, originally developed in Japan. Based on the same principles as acupuncture, but using fingers as opposed to needles (sometimes referred to as acupressure). The technique, which can be practised by the patient, involves stimulating certain areas of skin with the finger and thumb.

Tai Chi
Art of healing, based on a Chinese exercise system using more than 100 postures. Signified by outer movement and inner stillness. Its purpose to achieve the integration of mind and body (Chinese believe 'chi' is the essential life energy).

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