Why do millions of people worldwide use alternative medicine? For many, it’s because it works. But how does this type of medicine work, and why is it effective for some but not others? In order to try and answer these questions, let’s explore the science behind alternative medicine.
What is Alternative Medicine?
Alternative medicine is any healing practice that falls outside of mainstream Western medicine. This term includes everything from Traditional Chinese Medicine to aromatherapy to yoga.
The scientific basis for alternative medicine’s efficacy is not always well-understood. However, many of these treatments seem to work due to their ability to influence the body’s physiologic processes. For example, acupuncture may help to correct imbalances in energy flow, and herbs may have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
Why Do People Resort to Alternative Medicine?
Some people believe in its efficacy wholeheartedly and see results because of the placebo effect. For others, it is the last resort before trying something that might have dire side effects. In most cases, people see it as a low-risk gamble with little chance for negative consequences with a possibility of getting all they were looking for.
Some people don’t put their faith in traditional Western medicine. They often prefer alternative medical practices because they feel more empowered to make decisions about their care. Additionally, these patients may find that alternative treatments are more closely aligned with their personal worldview and principles.
Below are some of the most commonly used alternative treatments. Science has some things to say about them, which might help you decide if you want to try them out!
Acupuncture, a form of ancient Chinese medicine, uses thin needles inserted into particular points on the body to help soothe pain. Though some studies suggest acupuncture may work immediately, not enough evidence exists to draw conclusions.
There are a number of conditions that acupuncture may be able to help with. These include chronic pain, headaches, back pain, and arthritis. Acupuncture may also be helpful for people who are trying to quit smoking or lose weight.
Although acupuncture is safe when done by a professional, there are some risks that come with the procedure. These include puncturing the skin or organs, infection, dizziness, and fainting.
Acupressure is a form of traditional Chinese medicine that, instead of needles, uses pressure to stimulate specific points in the body. Although there is some evidence suggesting acupuncture’s efficacy in treating pain, more research is needed to come to a conclusive finding. Nevertheless, people who experience various types of pain and discomfort, such as chronic body pain and headaches, recommend it.
After completing the necessary training, acupressure is safe to perform and has a low chance of any complications, such as bruising or lightheadedness.
Ayurveda is a traditional medicine system from India. Its name comes from the Sanskrit words “ayur” and “veda,” which mean “life” and “knowledge.” Therefore, Ayurveda translates to “knowledge of life.” It has been in continuous practice for 3,000 years now. Most popular treatments under this umbrella focus on aiding digestion and metabolism.
Although some less credible studies suggest that certain Ayurvedic treatments may help with osteoarthritis and type 2 diabetes, it’s important to remember that each treatment is personalized for both the patient and their specific ailment.
At the moment, there is no license or national standard for Ayurveda treatment providers. The FDA hasn’t reviewed products related to Ayurveda but has cautioned that some of them might contain toxic chemicals such as lead and mercury.
Homeopathy is a branch of alternative medicine involving the usage of natural substances in minuscule amounts to treat health issues. Late 1700s saw its establishment by German medical doctor Samuel Hahnemann. According to Hahnemann, the key to treating diseases lied in administering patients with doses of substances causing similar symptoms as the ailment itself would. It is called homeopathy because it came from Greek terms “homoios” (meaning “similar”) and “pathos” (meaning “suffering”).
Though it was first named in the 1700s, this practice actually dates back much farther than that. In fact, it started with King Mithridates IV Eupator, who would ingest small doses of poison to make himself immune to them. This method became known as “Mithridatism,” and other monarchs and emperors used it as well.
Homeopathy was at first met with doubt, but shortly became popular in Europe. Today, homeopathy is utilized all over the world, and there exists some evidence that it might be effective in treating particular health issues. Nevertheless, most of the proof is inconclusive. Besides, because homeopathy relies on minuscule and weakened doses of natural substances, Homeopathic medicine is usually considered safe when used correctly.
While there are some people who claim it works, there is no strong scientific evidence to support this belief. Instead, research suggests that there are numerous harmful effects of engaging in homeopathy, such as allergic reactions and poisoning.
If you are looking for an alternative to traditional medicine, chiropractic care may be right for you. Chiropractors focus on diagnosing and treating disorders of the musculoskeletal system. It is said to be helpful in fixing a variety of problems, including: neck pain, back pain, headaches, sports injuries, and carpal tunnel syndrome. However, while chiropractic care may be helpful for some people in treating these issues, it is not always effective. Additionally, chiropractic care can be expensive, and often does not have insurance coverage.
To accomplish this goal, they often manipulate the spine and other joints using a variety of techniques. This usually results in reduced pain and improved function.
Although there is not a great deal of evidence, some suggest that chiropractic care may help alleviate certain types of pain. When performed by somebody with the necessary training, this method is usually safe; however, as spinal manipulation is part of the treatment, there is a small chance it could lead to more serious medical issues such as stroke or paralysis.
Overall, each of these forms of alternative medicine have their own benefits and drawbacks. It is important to do your own research before deciding on any particular treatment in order to make an informed decision about what is best for you. Remember that just because something is labelled as “alternative,” this does not mean it is automatically safe or effective. If you are unsure about a particular treatment, consult with your doctor before starting anything new.