The world of alternative medicine is vast, ranging from Chinese medicine to massage therapy. Unlike most Western medical practices, alternative medicine often seeks a deeper cause of illness, instead of simply addressing the symptoms. Alternative medicine practitioners do not prescribe drugs or perform surgery, instead relying on herbal and holistic remedies as well as acupuncture and massage.
Nearly 40 percent of adults report using complementary and alternative medicine, also called CAM for short. Doctors are embracing CAM therapies, too, often combining them with mainstream medical therapies.
Exactly what’s considered complementary and alternative medicine changes constantly as treatments undergo testing and move into the mainstream? There are many fields of alternative medicine available:
• Chinese medicine
• Massage therapy
• Herbal medicine
• Naturopathic medicine
• Indian Ayurvedic medicine
• Homeopathic medicine
The basic foundation of alternative medicine is simple: bring harmony to the body, mind, and spirit in order to promote health. This idea of balance is as old as the healing arts themselves. The practice of balancing the body’s natural energies can be found in the healing traditions of the Chinese, Indian, and Native American cultures.
Those practicing alternative medicine have a strong belief in nature and the body’s ability to heal itself. Doctors in the field of alternative medicine concentrate on illness prevention as much as they treat specific illnesses. They counsel their patients on what sort of lifestyle changes they need to make in order to decrease the risk of illness.
While Western doctors and surgeons treat the body as a conglomeration of organs and systems, alternative medicine doctors look at the body, mind and spirit as a whole. Western medicine focuses on the belief that bacteria and viruses cause disease, while alternative medicine doctors focus on the patient’s entire internal condition, including state of mind and emotional balance.