Alternative Medicine

Alternative medicine is the practice of healing without the use of traditional prescription drugs. The idea behind alternative medicine is that the energy of the body needs to be in harmony with the mind and soul. There are a variety of healing philosophies, therapies, and approaches within alternative medicine.

The History of Alternative Medicine

Although alternative medicine is a relatively new approach in the 21st century, it dates back over 5,000 years with Chinese and Indian traditional medicine as well as the healing traditions of other cultures. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) dates back more than 2,000 years with unique systems to diagnose and treat illnesses. With TCM, understanding the human body is based on understanding the universe holistically as described with Daoism. With traditional Indian medicine, better known as Ayurveda, the body matrix consists of three humours, tissues, and waste products from the body; the three humours are called Vata, Pitta and Kapha.

Types of Alternative Therapies

There is a wide variety of alternative therapies that are used. They include alternative medical systems such as ayurveda, homeopathy, TCM and naturopathic medicine; mind-body interventions such as yoga, hypnotherapy and meditation; biologically based therapies such as diet, herbal products and supplements; manipulative and body-based therapies such as reflexology, massage therapy and acupressure; and energy therapies such as biofield (reiki) and bioelectromagnetic-based therapies (electromagnetic fields). Some systems use more than one technique from these categories to complete their therapy.


Homeopathy is becoming increasingly popular and is the second most used medicine system in the world, gaining acceptance among Western doctors as a safe and effective means of treating certain medical conditions. When speaking of the difference between using homeopathic remedies and prescription drugs, homeopathic remedies take longer and require more patience than that of prescription drugs; this is because homeopathic practices are based on where the pain or condition stems from. It takes a look at what is causing the pain or condition to occur, what makes it worse and other symptoms that are experienced as a result of it. The remedy is matched to the particular problem instead of having a general pain medication or antibiotic.

Acceptance in Western Culture

According to the National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine, 36 percent of adults in the United States that are over the age of 18 use some form of alternative medicine. Although there are still some skeptics around, the use of alternative medicine and therapies is becoming increasingly popular in the western culture.

Before beginning any sort of complementary or alternative therapy, it is advised to consult with your health-care provider; the use of some supplements may have adverse effects if taken with other medication.