Alternative Medicine Essay, Research Paper
Alternative medicine, also known as alternative therapies, lie outside the realm of
conventional medicine. An alternative therapy is any intervention that: is not reimbursable by
most health insurance providers in the United States, is not well supported by scientific tests
establishing safety and effectiveness, and is not taught by most medical schools in the United
States. They are also called adjunctive, unconventional, or unorthodox therapies.
There are many general areas of alternative medicine. This paper will outline just five of
those general areas, and give examples of each. One area of alternative therapy is alternative
systems of medical practice. One example of this kind of alternative therapy is acupuncture.
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese method of relieving pain and treating a variety of diseases by
inserting needles into various parts of the body. Insertion of the needles produces a momentary
pinching feeling. This feeling quickly disappears and may be replaced by occasional tingling or a
sense of numbness, heaviness, or soreness while the needles are in place. Acupuncture is used to
relieve pain and to treat various conditions, including arthritis, asthma, migraine, ulcers, eye
diseases, and some mental illnesses. Another example of alternative systems of medical practice
is ayurveda. This is a traditional Hindu system of improving health by using herbs, diet,
meditation, massage, and yoga to stimulate the body to make its own natural drugs. Strictly
speaking, it is not a treatment. Rather, it is an entire medical system whose goal is the prevention
of disease through the proper balance of three ?irreducible principles? at work in the body.
Ayurveda medicine encompasses a wide range of treatments and lifestyle measures, including
dietary recommendations, massage, medicinal herbs, and the meditation and breathing techniques
of yoga. It is designed to bring a persons ?tridosha?, or basic metabolic type, into balance.
Mind-body interventions is another type of alternative medicine. An example of this
includes meditation. Meditation is a deliberate suspension of the stream of a consciousness that
usually occupies the mind. Its primary goal is to induce mental tranquillity and physical
relaxation. There are many different approaches to meditation, each with its own specialized
techniques. Approaches to meditation fall into three major categories. They are transcendental
meditation, mindfulness meditation, and breath meditation. The calming mental exercises of
meditation are a proven antidote for stress, tension, anxiety, and panic. Meditation is also a
scientifically verified way to reduce high blood pressure and relieve chronic pain. Many people
find it helpful for headaches and respiratory problems such as emphysema and asthma.
Biofeedback is another example of mind-body interventions. Biofeedback is a specialized
training that allows people to gain control over physiological reactions that are ordinarily
unconscious and automatic. It is the use of special devices to convey information about heart
rate, blood pressure, skin temperature, muscle relaxation, and the like to enable a person to learn
to consciously control these medically important functions. Biofeedback is not a passive
treatment. It requires a persons intensive participation as they learn to control such normally
involuntary functions as heart rate, blood pressure, brain waves, skin temperature, muscle
tension, breathing, and digestion.
A third type of alternative medicine is manual healing methods. An example of one of
these methods is chiropractic. Chiropractic is a system of health care that emphasizes the
relationship between structure and function in the body. Doctors of chiropractic believe that
good health depends, in part, on the normal alignment of the body?s parts, and that misalignment
can be a significant factor in illness. Proper alignment of the spine is considered to be of critical
importance because of its central role in the function of the nervous system. Chiropractic can
ease pain in the lower back, mid-back, neck, and joints. The pain can eventually subside on its
own, but chiropractic ends it immediately. Massage therapy is another example. Massage is the
method of manipulating the skin to produce helpful effects on the skin and underlying tissues.
Massage can improve blood circulation, relax muscles, stimulate nerve endings in the skin, and
promote a feeling of general well-being. Depending on how the massage is given, its effects can
be relaxing or invigorating. It is often used to promote healing of an injury or muscle soreness,
or to relieve tension.
Pharmacological and biological treatments is another general area of alternative medicine.
An example in this area would be chelation therapy. Which means taking a series of intravenous
treatments of the medication EDTA. People do this to help prevent potentially ?catastrophic?
complications of heart and artery diseases such as heart attack, stroke, and other problems caused
from poor circulation. Other common reasons people take it include prevention of some of the
general health problems associated with aging, and to help remove accumulation of heavy metals
from the body. Many people experience a dramatic improvement in blood flow and energy along
with a reduction of their symptoms after just a few treatments. Cartilage therapy is another
example of these treatments. This therapy is the use of clean and powdered connective tissue,
such as collagen, to improve health.
One last area of alternative medicine is diet and nutrition in the prevention and treatment
of chronic disease. Orthomolecular medicine is an example of this. Orthomolecular medicine
describes the practice of preventing and treating disease by providing the body with optimal
amounts of substances which are natural to the body. The key idea in this medicine is that
genetic factors are central not only to the physical characteristics of individuals, but also to their
biochemical milieu. Macrobiotic diets are another example of this area of alternative medicine.
This is an oriental-style vegetarian diet that is low in fat, emphasizes whole grains and
vegetables, and restricts fluids. These are some of the same dietary principles that have been
found to help prevent heart disease. The macrobiotic emphasis on fresh, non-processed foods
may prove helpful in dealing with certain food allergies and chemical sensitivities.
There are three defining characteristics of alternative therapies. An alternative therapy is
any intervention that:
~ Is not well supported by scientific tests establishing safety and effectiveness.
~ Is not taught by most medical schools in the United States.
~ Is not reimbursable by most health insurance providers in the United States.
A placebo is a substance that physicians sometimes use as a medicine, even though it
contains no active ingredients. A placebo brings out and improvement or even a cure in some
people. They look like real drugs, but most consist of only a sugar or salt solution. A placebo
effect is changes in behavior due to expectations that a drug will have some effect. In alternative
therapies, the reaction of the person is almost always a placebo effect. They believe that
acupuncture will cure them, so subconsciously it does. But it is not the acupuncture that heals
them, it is the endorphins that the pituitary gland releases that is really healing them. The
placebo effect is important in alternative medicine though, because without it, no one would
believe in and of the alternative therapies. The placebo effect also has an importance in
traditional medicine. For instance, a saline injection is 70 % as effective as morphine in reducing
pain. That?s why doctors sometimes prescribe placebos. The placebo effect relies on suggestion,
but the effect is not entirely imaginary. The body reacts to suggestions in ways that can alter
internal activities. These internal reactions, in turn, can alter behavior. So the placebo effect
plays a role in both traditional and alternative medicine.
There are many area of alternative medicine. And these areas do bring a lot of help and
relief to many people. As time goes on and these alternative therapies are used more and more,
they may eventually grow to become traditional therapies.