Long delegated to a bizarre sector of unconventional American medicine, alternative medicine has often been cast-off as something that’s too practical to efficiently alleviate health concerns. However, that mindset has been reversed, leading to the uncovering of a form of medicine that actually has significant value. Complementary and alternative medicine has proven a constructive and worthwhile tool to help combat the pressing health matters of today.
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine defines this form of medicine as “a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not generally considered part of conventional or western medicine.” Specifically, complementary medicine is used in combination with traditional medical treatments and procedures, whereas alternative medicine is used without conventional medicine. Examples of complementary and alternative practices include tai chi, acupuncture, botanical and nutritional medicine, massage therapy and joint manipulation, music therapy, and homeopathy.
What Is Complementary and Alternative Medicine?
The U.S. National Institutes of Health has categorized complementary and alternative medicine into five main groups (although these classes can overlap):
1. Biologically Based Practices (Example: Vitamin Supplements)
This includes mineral and vitamin supplements, nature-derived products like chondroitin sulfate (which comes from cow and shark cartilage), botanical medicine, and diet-based practices (like the low-carb Atkins diet and fermented or functional foods). Probiotics, which are live organisms like the bacteria found in human bodies or certain foods, may be consumed as part of an alternative approach.
2. Manipulative and Body Based Approaches (Example: Massage)
This approach often refers to treatments involving vertebrae and spinal nerve roots and the functions of the skeletal system. Massage, as well as chiropractic and osteopathic medicine, is used to relieve the body of pressure and pain, thus optimizing the body’s ability to react to internal disruptions.
3. Mind-Body Medicine (Example: Meditation)
Contrary to the previous approach, mind-body medicine follows the belief that the mind can influence the wellbeing of the rest of the body. Spiritual, meditative, and relaxation techniques are utilized to create a sense of unity between bodily systems. Yoga, dance therapy, meditation, and art therapy are just a few examples.
4. Alternative Medical Systems (Example: Acupuncture)
This approach relies on “the balance and flow of vital energies through the body.” This form of medicine borrows from ancient Asian methods of energy targeting, such as acupuncture, where needles are