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To most of the world's population, over 80 per cent to be precise, alternative medicine is not "alternative" at all, but rather the basis of the health care system. To Western-trained physicians alternative medicine is "something not taught in medical schools" and something that allopathic doctors don't do and, one could add, generally know nothing about. Alternative medicine actually encompasses a very large array of different systems and therapies ranging from ayurvedic medicine to vitamin therapy.


Ayurvedic medicine has been practiced in India for the past five thousand years and has recently undergone a renaissance in the West due, in no small measure, to the work and lectures of Dr. Deepak Chopra, MD. Ayurvedic medicine is a very comprehensive system that places equal emphasis on body, mind, and spirit and uses a highly personalized approach to return an individual to a state where he or she is again in harmony with their environment. Ayurvedic medicine uses diet, exercise, yoga, meditation, massage, herbs, and medication and, despite its long lineage, is as applicable today as it was 5000 years ago. For example, the seeds of the Mucuna pruriens plant have long been used to treat Parkinson's disease in India; it is now receiving attention in conventional circles as it is more effective than l-dopa and has fewer side effects.

Acupuncture is one of the oldest, most commonly used medical procedures in the world. Originating in China more than 2,000 years ago, acupuncture began to become better known in the United States in 1971, when New York Times reporter James Reston wrote about how doctors in China used needles to ease his pain after surgery.

The term acupuncture describes a family of procedures involving stimulation of anatomical points on the body by a variety of techniques. American practices of acupuncture incorporate medical traditions from China, Japan, Korea, and other countries. The acupuncture technique that has been most studied scientifically involves penetrating the skin with thin, solid, metallic needles that are manipulated by the hands or by electrical stimulation.

In the past two decades, acupuncture has grown in popularity in the United States. The report from a Consensus Development Conference on Acupuncture held at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 1997 stated that acupuncture is being "widely" practiced--by thousands of physicians, dentists, acupuncturists, and other practitioners--for relief or prevention of pain and for various other health conditions. According to the 2002 National Health Interview Survey--the largest and most comprehensive survey of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use by American adults to date--an estimated 8.2 million U.S. adults had ever used acupuncture, and an estimated 2.1 million U.S. adults had used acupuncture in the previous year.

Traditional Chinese medicine has been practiced for over 3000 years and over one quarter of the world's population now uses one or more of its component therapies. TCM combines the use of medicinal herbs, acupuncture, and the use of therapeutic exercises such as Qi Gong. It has proven to be effective in the treatment of many chronic diseases including cancer, allergies, heart disease and AIDS. As does Ayurvedic medicine, TCM also focuses on the individual and looks for and corrects the underlying causes of imbalance and patterns of disharmony.

Homeopathy was developed in the early 1800s by the German physician Samuel Hahnemann. It is a low-cost, non-toxic health care system now used by hundreds of millions of people around the world. It is particularly popular in South America and the British Royal Family has had a homeopathic physician for the last four generations. Homeopathy is an excellent first-aid system and is also superb in the treatment of minor ailments such as earaches, the common cold, and flu. Homeopathy is again based on the treatment of the individual and when used by a knowledgeable practitioner can also be very effective in the cure of conditions such as hay fever, digestive problems, rheumatoid arthritis, and respiratory infections.

Chiropracty primarily involves the adjustment of spine and joints to alleviate pain and improve general health. It was practiced by the early Egyptians and was developed into its present form by the American Daniel David Palmer in 1895. It is now the most common form of alternative medicine in the United States. Chiropractors not only manipulate spine and joints, but also advise their patients on lifestyle and diet matters. They believe that humans possess an innate healing potential and that all disease can be overcome by properly activating this potential.

Naturopathic medicine also strongly believes in the body's inherent ability to heal itself. Naturopathy emphasizes the need for seeking and treating the causes of a disease rather than simply suppressing its symptoms. Naturopaths use dietary modifications, herbal medicines, homeopathy, acupuncture, hydrotherapy, massage, and lifestyle counseling to achieve healing.

Reiki is a simple and powerful system of healing that can transform lives. Reiki works on the body, mind, and emotional and spiritual levels. It releases blocked energy, promotes relaxation and reduces stress. Reiki can enhance intuition, meditation and personal spiritual evolution. Reiki is a system of energy healing. Reiki is the Japanese word for universal life force energy. "Rei" means universal and "ki" means vital force energy.

Vitamin therapy or orthomolecular medicine uses vitamins, minerals, and amino acids to return a diseased body to wellness in the belief that the average diet today is often woefully inadequate in providing needed nutrients and that the need for specific nutrients is highly individual. Conditions as varied as hypertension, depression, cancer, and schizophrenia can all benefit enormously from vitamin therapy.

Colon Hydrotherapy (aka colonic, colon irrigation) is the safe, gentle infusion of warm purified water into the colon using no chemicals or drugs. This is a restorative, painless procedure that is both relaxing and effective. Colon hydrotherapy is one of the most effective ways of cleansing the lower intestinal tract (colon) and detoxifying the overall system.

Biofeedback, body work, massage therapy, reflexology, aromatherapy, and various other forms of energy medicine round out the vast spectrum of alternative medicine modalities.



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