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    What is Alternative Medicine? Different Types & Complete Guide

    Alternative medicine is the term used for medical practices and therapies that are not part of standard care. Alternative medicine refers to a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not considered to be a part of conventional medicine. Alternative medicine is an approach used to replace conventional medicinal system and therapy. It includes applying organic substances, pursuing a special diet plan, or unique combination of methods that are not advised by a physician. These practices used for medical intervention, health promotion, or disease prevention.

    Usually the terms Complementary and Alternative Systems of Medicine are used interchangeably. However a difference lies between the two. Alternative Medicines are practices applied in place of a traditional medical solution. On the other hand, complementary therapy is applied in combination with traditional treatments.

    Alternative medicine exists in all cultures and terms such as traditional medicine, indigenous medicine or folk medicine etc. are used to describe such alternative medicine practices.

    There are a variety of alternative medicines still in practice all over the world. Every country or region has its own traditional system of health care. For the Chinese it is acupuncture, for the French, it is magnetic healing; for the Germans, it is Heilpraxis; for the English, it is Herbalism; for India, it is Ayurveda and for Japan it is Shiatsu.

    The most popular forms of alternative medicine are Ayurveda, Homeopathy, Naturopathy, Yoga, Acupuncture, Acupressure, Magneto therapy, Shiatsu, Herbalism, Meditation, Aromatherapy, Chromo therapy, Diet therapy, Hydropathy and Reiki.

    Features of Alternative Medicine

    1. Alternative therapies are based on the body's innate ability to heal it.

    2. Alternative medicines rely on natural methods rather than on prescription drugs, surgery, and other conventional medical procedures.

    3. Alternative medicine looks at the underlying cause of the problem and cures a person's mind, body, emotions, spirit without just curing the symptoms.

    4. The goal of alternative medicine is to maintain optimum health. It focuses on preventing diseases.


    AYURVEDA
    Ayurveda is called the science of life. Ayurvedic medicine is a system of traditional medicine native to the India and practiced in other parts of the world as a form of alternative medicine.

    The word ayurveda consists of the words ayus, meaning longevity, and veda meaning related to knowledge or science. Ayurveda is considered to be a form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in the western world, where several of its methods, such as the use of herbs, massage, and yoga, are applied on their own as a form of CAM treatment.

    Ayurvedic treatments aim at restoring balance to the doshas and include dietary changes, meditation, massage, purifying techniques, breathing exercises, herbal remedies, baths and exercise.

    Ayurvedic Doshas

    According to Ayurveda, everything is composed of five elements: air, water, fire, earth, and space. These elements combine to form the three doshas (metabolic types): vata, kapha, and pitta.

    The vata dosha is a combination of space and air. It controls movement and is responsible for basic body processes such as breathing, cell division and circulation. Vata body areas are the large intestine, pelvis, bones, skin, ears, and thighs. People with vata as their main dosha are believed to be quick-thinking, thin, and fast, and are prone to anxiety, dry skin, and constipation.

    The kapha dosha represents a combination of water and earth. It is believed to be responsible for strength, immunity, and growth. Kapha body areas are the chest, lungs, and spinal fluid. People with kapha as their main dosha are calm, have a solid body frame, and are prone to diabetes, obesity, and gallbladder problems.

    The pitta dosha is a combination of fire and water. It controls hormones and the digestive system. Pitta body areas are the small intestines, stomach, sweat glands, skin, blood, and eyes. People with pitta as their primary dosha have a fiery personality, oily skin, and are prone to heart diseases, stomach ulcers, inflammation, heartburn, and arthritis.

    Ayurvedic Herbs

    Ayurvedic herbs are a key component of ayurveda. These ayurvedic herbs are used to cleanse the body, boost defense against diseases, and keep the mind, body, and spirit in balance. Along with ayurvedic herbs, certain therapeutic oils and spices are also used to treat illness and promote well-being.

    Types of Ayurvedic Herbs

    More than 600 herbal formulas and plant remedies are included in the ayurvedic treatments. These remedies are grouped together according to their health effects, such as pain relief or increased vitality. Here are several ayurvedic herbs that offer various health effects.

    1) Triphala: It is a botanical formula that contains three different ayurvedic herbs namely amla, myrobalan, and belleric myrobalan. It offers antioxidant effects, strengthens the immune system and lowers the cholesterol levels.

    2) Guggul: It is used to cut cholesterol levels.

    3) Boswellia: It is obtained from the resin of the boswellia tree, and it aids in the treatment of several inflammation-related conditions, including ulcerative colitis, asthma, and arthritis.

    4) Gotu Kola: It helps to ease anxiety, improve mood, and treat varicose veins. In ayurveda, gotu kola is often used to alleviate mental fatigue, manage asthma, and soothe fever.

    5) Fenugreek: It is often used to soothe irritation, lower cholesterol levels, protect against alcohol-induced liver damage, and keep blood sugar in control.


    ACUPUNCTURE
    Acupuncture is the procedure of inserting and manipulating needles into various points on the body to relieve pain or for therapeutic purposes. Different variations of acupuncture therapy are practiced and taught throughout the world. Acupuncture reduces the risk of post-operative nausea and provides better relief for chronic low back pain.

    Acupuncture treatment consists of inserting very fine needles at specific points on the skin, which are located near nerve endings. The acupuncture points are located along the 12 identified channels (meridians) through which the vital energy (Qi) and blood flows in the body. When the qi is flowing in this balanced way, the body mind is able to regain, maintain and improve its health and vitality.

    According to Chinese Medicine, it is a blockage or imbalance in the flow of qi that is the root cause of disease. When the qi associated with a particular organ system is in a condition of excess, deficiency or stagnation, negative emotional states such as fear, anxiety, anger, sadness or worry tend to occur. By affecting the flow of qi in specific ways, acupuncture is able to resolve spiritual and emotional imbalances.

    How Acupuncture Works

    . Acupuncture stimulates the release of pain-relieving endorphins
    . Acupuncture influences the release of neurotransmitters, substances that transmit nerve impulses to the brain
    . Acupuncture influences the autonomic nervous system
    . Acupuncture stimulates circulation
    . Acupuncture influences the electrical currents of the body

    The various conditions treated by acupuncture treatment are migraines and tension headaches, sinusitis, common cold, addictions, meniere's disease, arthritis, menstrual cramps, low back pain, asthma, weight loss, infertility, etc.

    Acupuncture Treatment

    An acupuncture treatment typically consist of points located at or near to the affected area of the body called local points in addition to points located in parts of the body completely separated from the affected area called distal points. Often the distal points are the most important part of the treatment. Because the most powerful acupuncture points on the majority of the meridians are located at the end of the meridians - between the toes and the knees, and between the fingers and the elbows.

    In a acupuncture treatment the acupuncturist interviews the client about his or her primary health concern, lifestyle habits, diet, emotions, menstrual cycle, sleep, temperature, appetite, stress, and sensitivity to foods, temperature, and seasons. During the interview, the acupuncturist examines the client carefully, his face color, voice, and tongue color and coating. An acupuncturist also assesses three pulse points at the wrist to determine the health of the 12 meridians.

    After the interview, the acupuncturist gives a diagnosis and begins treatment. Usually 6-12 needles are used during the treatment.

    The acupuncturist uses one of the following techniques during the treatment:

    . Moxibustion - heating of acupuncture needles with dried herb sticks to activate and warm the acupuncture point.
    . Cupping - the application of glass cups to create suction on the skin. This is to relieve stagnation of qi and blood.
    . Herbal medicine - Chinese herbs are given in the form of teas, pills, and capsules to supplement acupuncture treatment.
    . Electro stimulation - provides electrical stimulation to two to four acupuncture needles. Can be used for pain relief and muscle pain.
    . Laser acupuncture - non-needle stimulation of needles.


    BIOFEEDBACK
    Biofeedback teaches how to consciously change and control the body's vital functions that are normally unconscious, such as breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure, through information provided by electronic devices. Biofeedback taps into the mind-body connection for healing purposes. The term biofeedback refers to a technique where a person receives extra feedback about the state that their body is in. This feedback can take the form of a tone that varies in pitch, lights that turn on and off, or a line on a computer screen.

    How Biofeedback Works

    Electrodes, with wires attached to them, are placed on the client's skin. The client is then instructed to use relaxation, meditation, or visualization to bring about the desired response, whether it is muscle relaxation, lowered heart rate, or lower temperature. The biofeedback device reports progress by a change in the speed of beeps or flashes, or pitch or quality of the tone. Biofeedback is often based on measurements of blood pressure, Brain waves (EEG), Breathing, Heart rate, Muscle tension, Skin conductivity of electricity and Skin temperature.

    Biofeedback therapy is particularly useful with stress-related conditions where there is sympathetic or adrenal stress. It is also useful for conditions where there is inadequate control over muscle groups or muscle dysfunction. Conditions treated with biofeedback include stress, headaches, asthma, muscle injury, pain relief, high blood pressure, digestive disorders, poor posture, tennis elbow, constipation, twitching of the eyelids, esophageal dysfunction, etc.

    Biofeedback treatment uses special equipment to help make you more aware of your body's reaction to stress and pain. Biofeedback helps you to learn how your body is reacting when tense or relaxed. Biofeedback techniques can help those with arthritis learn to better relax their muscles and control their response to pain.

    Biofeedback Equipment

    The equipment used in biofeedback range from a simple thermometer to a highly expensive EEG machine to monitor your brain activity. The most common biofeedback monitors are for heartbeat, blood pressure, skin temperature, sweat glands, brain activity, and muscle tension. To monitor muscle tension, an Electromyogram (EMG) machine is used. It is used to learn to control tension. It is mainly used as a relaxation tool to help ease muscles in people who have back aches, headaches, and bruxism.

    Galvanic skin responses are monitored with a biofeedback device known as a GSR2, or common lie detectors. It monitors the sweat glands in your skin and shows the results which train you to be able to control your feelings and responses to stress, and also your sweat responses.

    To monitor the brain, electroencephalography, or EEG, is used. The EEG monitors the activity of brain waves when linked to different areas and mental states, able to see how you are when you are awake, relaxing, calm, or sleeping.


    HOMEOPATHY
    Homoeopathy
    is a science discovered in 1790 by a German physician Dr Samuel Hahnemann. The word Homoeopathy is derived from two Greek words, HOMOIOS meaning like or similar and PATHOS meaning suffering. Homoeopathy is a branch of therapeutics based on the principle of SIMILIA i.e. Let likes be cured by likes. Homeopathy involves the treatment of people with the same disease, with different remedies.

    Homeopathy acts by stimulating the body's own healing mechanism. It activates the vital energy in our body. According to the law of SIMILIA, the symptoms of a diseased person can be cured by administration of a drug that has been proved to produce a similar set of symptoms in a healthy human being. Homoeopathic medicines are considered harmless and without any side effects.

    Homoeopathy is totally different from Allopathy. While Homeopathy believes in curing the sick on the basis of the Law of Similars, Allopathy believes in finding out the cause of the disease. Homeopathy believes in stimulating the vital human energy to annihilate the disease in the body. Homeopathy gives the treatment to a whole, not restricted to the local parts of the body. Allopathy prescribes multiple drugs for multiple problems, but Homeopathy needs only a single remedy at a time, that too in minimum possible dosages.

    Benefits of Homeopathy

    1. No side effects.
    2. It cures a disease, rather than merely suppressing its symptoms.
    3. It uses only natural substances in minute doses.
    4. It improves the body's resistance and immunity.
    5. It ensures long-term benefits.
    6. No complicated procedures for taking the medicines.
    7. No bitter pills or painful injections.
    8. It does away with unnecessary surgery.
    9. It is cost effective.

    Do's and Dont's

    1. Do give a detailed history to your Homeopath even if certain questions are strange or embarrassing.

    2. Keep a keen watch on all the changes of your body.

    3. Do not take any food / drink at least 15 minutes prior and 15 minutes after taking your Homeopathic dose.

    4. Do not take coffee or onions prior or after the Homeopathic dose.

    5. Do not dilute the medicines with water unless specified.

    6. Do not self-medicate.

    Homeopathic remedies are distinct, potent energy medicines, which are prepared mainly from plants, minerals and animal worlds. They are slow in action and work towards boosting the natural immune system of the body. As a result, they are safe even for pregnant women and sensitive patients. It can treat anything from acute fevers, sore throats and toothache, to chronic illnesses such as arthritis, eczema, asthma, anxiety and insomnia. Homeopathic remedies can be used at home also, to treat problems such as cuts, stings, minor burns and bruises.


    REIKI

    Reiki is a spiritual practice developed in 1922 by Japanese Buddhist Mikao Usui. It uses a technique commonly called palm healing as a form of alternative medicine. Through the use of this technique, practitioners believe that they are transferring healing energy in the form of Qi through the palms.

    There are two main branches of Reiki, commonly referred to as Traditional Japanese Reiki and Western Reiki. In both Traditional and Western forms of Reiki, there are three forms of degrees, commonly referred to as the First, Second, and Master/Teacher degree. According to Reiki practitioners and Masters, at First Degree, a Reiki practitioner is able to heal himself and others, atSecond Degree is able to heal others distantly (commonly called distant healing) with the use of specialized symbols, and atMaster level (specifically Master/Teacher level) is able to teach and attune others to Reiki.

    The word Reiki is made of two Japanese words - Rei which means "God's Wisdom or the Higher Power" and Ki which is "life force energy". So Reiki is actually "spiritually guided life force energy."

    Reiki treats the whole person including body, emotions, mind and spirit creating many beneficial effects that include relaxation and feelings of peace, security and wellbeing. Reiki is a simple, natura and safe method of spiritual healing and self-improvement.

    Reiki can be used for many ailments like reducing stress, relieving pain, headaches, stomach upsets, back problems, asthma - respiratory problems, PMT, menstrual problems, sinus, anxiety and many more. There is no belief system attached to Reiki so anyone can receive a Reiki treatment or a Reiki attunement.

    Benefits of Reiki

    It promotes natural self-healing. It balances the energies, the organs and glands in the body. It strengthens the immune system. It relieves pain. It also enhances personal awareness and promotes creativity. It helps to release blocked and suppressed feelings. It acts as an aid to meditation and positive thinking.

    Reiki Chakras

    The word 'chakra' means a wheel. There are seven main chakras from the spine to the head in the body. Chakras connect us with the unlimited world of subtle energies. All the chakras in the body correlate to organs in the body. Reiki is the life force that flows within the physical body through the chakras.

    The chakras have a direct connection to our physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. They can be over active, under active and in balance. The chakras should be harmonized to increase the energy flow from the physical body to the ethereal body. Reiki is a healing technique, used to open the chakras and clear the blockages.

    Reiki Symbols

    The Reiki healing system uses meditation to transmit healing energy of 'Ki' or life force to the sick person, using hands to pass on the energy. Symbols in reiki are sacred and enhance the flow of life energy. They are drawn in Japanese script called Kanji. These symbols have metaphysical energy that is sent to the body, mind, soul, for healing.

    1. Chou Ku Rei- It is the power symbol, which directs energy to the physical body. It is used to purify the recipient from negative influences, while offering protection from envy and manipulation.

    2. Sei He Ki- It is the mental symbol, which directs energy to the emotional body or subconscious mind. It is used to treat the cause of disease within the emotional and mental bodies.

    3. Hon Sha Ze Sho Nen- This is known as the distance symbol. It is used to send reiki to the past, present or future. It directs energy to the mental body, or conscious mind and assists in changing thought patterns. It is a symbol that helps to heal karma.

    4. Dai Ko Myo- It is the master symbol, which means great shining light. It is considered to be the light of the Buddha, used to heal the soul. Only reiki Dumo masters can use this symbol, which assists in alleviating pain or disease.


    Acupuncture Health Therapy for Vital Energy
    Many people endure physical pain, due to one or the other reason. According to a recent survey, more than one-quarter of U.S. adults had experienced some kinds of pain lasting more than a day. People are used to taking over-the-counter and prescription medications, or follow any other conventional treatments. There are many who resort to acupuncture and have got very good results Acupuncture therapy is proving to be very beneficial in getting relief from pain. Already there is a scientific research going on acupuncture health therapy for treating specific kinds of pain.

    Acupuncture is followed by people for different types of pain. The most common is back pain as well as joint pain, neck pain, and headache. Acupuncture is being researched on to understand its role in alleviating pain. It has been known to offer relief in some conditions, such as chronic low-back pain and osteoarthritis of the knee. However, research is still going on acupuncture health therapy and there is large number of research centers working in this area.

    Acupuncture is popular as it is considered safe when done in the right manner and carries no side effects. Based on the ancient Chinese medicine theory, it controls the flow of qi or the vital energy through the body. If considering acupuncture, it is essential to discuss with your health care providers about any alternative practices you use and details regarding how you manage your health. Acupuncture treatment is one of the oldest healing practices in the world and based on the traditional Chinese medicine. The practitioner makes use of specific points on the body and inserts thin needles through the skin to stimulate those acupuncture points. According to the Chinese medicine, this removes the blockages of the energy and regulates the flow of qi freely in the body.

    Millions of people use acupuncture every year for different kinds of pains, like the back pain, joint pain, neck pain, migraine, etc.On your first visit, the acupuncturist will take your detailed history and begin to diagnose your ailment. Based on the information collected, he will get to the root cause of the symptoms. He will insert the needles at different points on the body. He will also examine your pulse and the tongue as part of the acupuncture treatment. The electrical stimulation through the needles enhances the acupuncture's therapeutic effects. The number of sessions you will have with the acupuncturist will depend on the seriousness of your condition. Generally speaking, the acupuncture treatment gets completed in 10 sessions and each session may last from one to two hours.

    As the acupuncture needles are hair-thin and designed so as to not to cut the skin, they will not hurt at all. Moreover, they are inserted to much shallower levels as compared to the hypodermic needles and one will feel only minimal amount of sensation as the needle gets inserted.

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