Friday 11 September 2020

The Contribution of Complementary and Alternative Medicine To Good Health

CAM practices have been around for centuries, and have been thought to provide a range of benefits for a multitude of physical and mental health issues. Let’s see what their appeal is for people…

Tis' the season to remain healthy, not only in body but also in mind. As we have seen coronavirus spread its wings across the globe, people have been advised to stay inside their homes, and only to come out when absolutely necessary. The virus has also overseen the crumbling of economies across the globe, with many people being put out of their jobs, which has led to severe mental stress among the population. We all know that the mind and the body need to complement each other effectively in order to support overall health, and that any disturbance in one will have a telling effect on the other. In this context, along with the growing discussions around the vaccines that have been in development for quite a while now, there have also been suggestions regarding the repurposing of 'complementary and alternative medicines' through rigorous testing and research.

Put simply, the concept of complementary and alternative medicine has been around for a long long time, and have been generally considered safe to practice by the general population, although the scientific and medical communities have been skeptical of these practices. However, this scenario is gradually changing, with experts supporting the integration of traditional practices into the modern setup. Although the terms are used as one, there is a major difference in the functioning of complementary and alternative techniques, with the former being used ALONGSIDE conventional treatment techniques, while the latter is used IN PLACE of conventional techniques. As the world grapples with a rising number of cancer cases, there has been a growing focus by a certain percentage of medical experts to recommend complementary therapies in the hope that it may help in the healing process, while improving the quality of life.

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, CAM is widely practiced in the United States, with 38% of adults and 12% of children having had an experience with these therapies. Here, we will have a look at some of the most common CAMs.

1. Acupuncture - Comes under traditional form of alternative medicine, and is very widely known among the general population. It is a traditional Chinese healing technique that focuses on stimulating certain points of the body through the use of needles, with the aim to begin the natural healing process. Acupuncture has been found to be effective in combating widespread conditions such as neck and back pain, anxiety, depression, and infertility, among others.

2. Homeopathy - Is based on the belief that the body cures itself ("like cures like"). Practitioners make use of small amounts of natural substances such as plants, in order to get the healing process going. Homeopathy is used to 'treat' a number of ailments such as allergies and depression, along with a variety of common illnesses. Critics of this process cite the 'placebo effect' as the benefit of this technique, and scientists have stated that any medicine, in the absence of an active ingredient, as in this case, should not have any effect on the body. Still, the method has remained ever-so-popular.

3. Naturopathy - This practice tries to get to the root cause of a person's illness, instead of working out the symptoms. Naturopathy combines traditional treatment procedures with modern scientific concepts. Some of the common issues or illnesses that are supposed to be treated include headaches, obesity, allergies, and chronic pain and fatigue, among others. However, some of the treatment methods involved can affect your body negatively, which includes the use of supplements, as well as undertaking spinal adjustments and detox diet plans.

4. Ayurveda - This technique was developed more than 3000 years ago in India, and works on the concept of optimal balance between the mind, body and spirit. Ayurvedic practitioners believe that each person is made of 5 basic universal elements, which are space, air, fire, water and earth. Furthermore, this also involves the concept of Life forces, or 'doshas', with the three primary ones being Vata dosha, Pitta dosha and Kapha dosha. A proper balance between these three is the key to good health. Ayurveda has become very popular across the globe; however, in the US, the FDA has banned certain Ayurvedic medicines on the grounds that they contain toxic metals, which can prove to be extremely harmful for children. 

5. Yoga – Yoga is probably one of the most well-known healthy practice that has been attained crazy popularity around the globe, particularly in the modern age where time is at a premium and there has been a rapid adoption of the ‘fast-life’ culture. There are a number of yoga techniques that address a range of issues, and offer benefits such as increased flexibility, weight reduction, improved respiration and vitality, and enhanced circulatory health, among many others. This is one of the few complementary techniques that can be practiced irrespective of gender or age, and has benefits for every demographic. The 21st of June is celebrated as World Yoga Day across the globe.

6. Chakra Healing - This treatment technique has had a centuries old history, with the 'Chakra system' originating in India between 1500 and 500 BC in the Vedas. There are 7 chakras, with each corresponding to a specific organ, state of being and influence. These are the root chakra, the sacral chakra, the solar plexus chakra, the heart chakra, the throat chakra, the third-eye chakra, and the crown chakra. Even if one of these goes out of balance, it disrupts the whole system. Yoga and meditation instructors talk a lot about these chakras and how to effectively manage them, even though again, there is not enough solid evidence to back these claims and approach.

7. Kinesiology - Comes from the Greek word for the study of movement. It was started by a chiropractor, Dr. George Goodheart, later integrating conventional Chinese medicine techniques. The major principle of applied kinesiology is that 'a stress that strains the whole body may objectively manifest as a weakening of a single muscle. Kinesiology makes use of manual muscle testing to evaluate a patient's health, which helps in understanding the problem, be it in the physical, emotional or biochemical realm. Kinesiology provides best results when used in combination with conventional treatment techniques. Kinesiologists apply various techniques such as acupressure, lymphatic massage, flower therapy, myofascial releases, and meridian therapy, among others.

8. Magnetic Resonance Therapy – This treatment technique has garnered great interest among chiropractors; it involves the use of a low-level magnetic field that can be used for activating a particular cell and/or tissue area. The introduction of Magnesphere in this realm has furthered the growth of this technique. The operation involves the principles of biology and quantum physics, and comprises the elements of nuclear magnetic resonance, chronic stress, stimulation of the Vagus nerve, and heart rate variability (HRV).

These are just a few of the complementary and alternative techniques that have piqued the interest of the global population in the past few years, and helped in changing lives of millions. Even though many of these techniques have been looked down on by a certain section of medical professionals, the introduction and integration of technology has helped it in slowly gaining acceptance among the medical community. With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing people to stay at home, people have taken to online resources in order to carry out their health routines and regimen, especially Yoga. With physical and mental health becoming the most precious resource in these challenging times, there will undoubtedly be greater focus on CAM in the coming years.

A few other CAM techniques have been summarized below:



Tai Chi

A stress management technique that originated in China, it results in decreased stress, anxiety and depression, while improving energy and stamina, as well as enhanced flexibility.


A Japanese technique that promotes stress reduction, relaxation and healing, on the basis of the idea that the life fore energy of an individual needs to be high for a person to be healthy and happy.


A mind, body and spirit practice that integrates posture, breathing technique, movement, sound, self-massage, and focused intent. The National Qigong Association supports the development and promotion of this technique.


It is a trance-like state wherein the individual experiences heightened focus and concentration. This technique has been thought to be effective in coping with stress and anxiety, letting go of one’s fears, thus making them relaxed and calm.


One of the more popular and simple ways of stress management, deals with the mental aspect of health. Helps in reducing negative emotions, improving stress management, as well as increasing creativity, patience and tolerance.

Visualization and Guided Imagery

Another stress management technique, involves the creation of a detailed mental picture of an attractive or peaceful environment. Research has shown this practice can reduce anxiety and fear in individual, while also lessening the frequency of headaches.

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