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What is Alternative Medicine?

Alternative medicine, or holistic medicine, takes an unorthodox approach to treating illness, pain, disease, and various health conditions, by focusing on the body’s natural energy and healing systems.  Alternative medicine is not constituted from one single practice, but rather the combination of homeopathy, naturopathy, mind-body medicine, and biologically-based practices.   Examples of alternative medicine include acupuncture, massage therapy, diet and exercise, meditation, chiropractic care, and herbal remedies.  This approach is considered “unorthodox” because it follows a non-conventional approach than what is commonly taught and practiced in the United States.   Although alternative medicine can be used on its own, many people combine it with traditional medicine, and thus it is often referred to as complimentary medicine.   

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Types of Holistic Medicine

Acupuncture

An ancient form of Chinese medicine that believes our energy, or “Chi”, travels through meridians throughout the body.  It is believed there are over 1,000 points in the body where Chi can be accessed and influenced.  Acupuncturists use thin, sterile needles to penetrate the skin in these specific points to stimulate and enhance energy flow into areas of the body where energy has been stagnant.  The concept is that if energy is blocked, there is an imbalance, which consequently leads to pain, discomfort, and even disease.  By freeing the flow of energy in these blocked areas, there is essentially a restoration of balance and the potential for the body to naturally heal itself.  

Chiropractic Care

The purpose of chiropractic care is to use spinal manipulations and adjustments to restore joint mobility to its proper state.  Misalignments, or vertebral subluxations, cause bones in the spine to become out of place, consequently leading to interferences in our nervous system.  Misalignments, joint swelling, inflammation, osteoporosis, and nerve damage, can be treated through chiropractic adjustments, among other conditions.

Homeopathy

Founded in the 18th Century, Samuel Hahnemann believed that whatever causes negative symptoms in the human body, can also cure them.  Natural remedies such as plants and minerals, are viewed as a means to access and stimulate the body's own natural healing powers.  By using minute doses of natural substance that would normally produce a disease, the body is able to build a tolerance, and consequently cure the very same disease.  Hahnemann would dilute a particular toxin and give it to his patients in small dosages, in order to cure the disease that was originally caused by the toxin. 

Naturopathy

A non-traditional , or non-western, approach to treating disease and health conditions based off of the theory that the body can naturally heal itself.  Whereas traditional medicine attempts to treat health conditions by pinpointing a specific problem, Naturopath Health Practitioners believe that one's overall health and wellness must be analyzed and treated as a whole in order to cure disease and illness.   By combining various alternative medicine practices into a comprehensive health plan, naturopathy focuses on diet, exercise, sleep, and energy balances; rather than traditional pharmaceuticals.  

Ayurveda

The theory that health and wellness are dependent on mind, body, and spirit. Among all forms of alternative medicine, ayurveda focuses most on the connection between the mind and body.  The theory is that we are all individuals, unique and different from one another, and by strengthening our mind and body connection, we able to understand our individual needs more intimately, and therefore have the ability to heal ourselves. This is accomplished by becoming more self-aware, and meditation is seen as the path to this enlightenment.  

Other Forms of Alternative Medicine

Massage therapy, nutrition and diet, meditation, hypnosis, Tai Chi, Qigong, etc.  

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