Alternative Medicine Essay, Research Paper
The Power of Aromatherapy
There are literally hundreds of types of unconventional medicines. An unconventional medicine is any type of therapy that is different from traditional medicine in the way
that it focuses on a patient’s mind, body, and inner energy, to aid in healing. Some, use magic charms, colour therapy, sound therapy, and juice therapy, in which natural
juices are used as tonic therapies.
Flower remedy is a system of natural medicine that uses remedies distilled from blooming plants and trees, and some followers believe that flowers are nature’s gentle
tools for treating and preventing disease. (Gottlieb,1995:37)
There is even a healing process called food therapy. It involves a healthy diet and relating nutrition to disease, something a lot of conventional doctors do not practice
Hydrotherapy involves using different water temperature and pressure to help heal many things such as sprains, headaches, and even pneumonia. It is usually
accompanied by massage, and used often in sports.
Imagery is a type of therapy in which the patient imagines that they are being healed, and before long, they will feel better. For example, if a patient had a bad sunburn on
their back, they could imagine that a block of ice was melting inside their neck and dripping down the back. Within minutes, the pain should be gone. Imagery can also
include sounds, tastes, and smells. (Nash,1996:45) The list of alternative therapies goes on and on.
For every disease known to mankind, there is probably a complementary alternative medicine to counter it. Most alternative medicines are unheard of in North America,
where conventional medicines and doctors dominate over eastern medicine. This is mainly because when North Americans hear the term “alternative medicine”, they can
think up some pretty exotic images. In recent years though, the more popular eastern medicines have become more widely used in the west. For example, a few years
ago, herbal teas, were used as remedies for everything from insomnia to morning sickness, were sold mainly in health food stores. Today, one can find seemingly endless
varieties in a regular supermarket.
Of all the different remedies that exist, North Americans are probably most familiar with therapies that are most talked about and receive the most attention. Reflexology,
aromatherapy, and acupuncture are valid and considerable forms of alternative medicine. They are proven to work effectively, and when administered by a professional,
are usually safe, and non-toxic. These three types of natural medicines are often talked about on television specials, in magazine articles, and other visual and print media.
They are being used more commonly as people are getting tired of conventional medicines that don’t work, or worsen the problem, and doctors who do not treat their
patients as individuals, and are always overbooked.
Now is a time when people crave information about the human body. Many people would like to heal themselves of illness, or prevent disease, using methods that have
fewer toxic side effects than many of today’s modern pharmaceuticals. (Gottlieb,1995:2) This is why many people are turning to the ancient tools of the past.
Reflexology is a skilled treatment of pressure points on the feet, developed by an American medical doctor, William Fitzgerald. “It has become one of the most popular
complementary therapies because it is so effective.” (Mackay,1997) It is gentle, painless, very relaxing, and has no harmful side effects, yet it is quite effective because it
corrects the underlying cause of the problem, rather than just masking the symptoms.
Reflexologists believe that certain spots on the feet are directly linked to other body parts, including muscles, bones, organs, and more. Working these spots helps the
body relax, giving it a chance to heal. (Gottlieb,1995:108) The idea is that pressure is applied to the hands and feet promotes a beneficial response throughout the body,
providing a break from stress. Although researchers are still looking for the how’s and why’s of reflexology, Kevin and Barbara Kunz, reflexology researchers in Santa
Fe, New Mexico, and authors of Hand and Foot Reflexology, say “The results are obvious. Reflexology can be a great contributor to overall health.” (Gottlieb,1995:107)
According to reflexology, the body is divided into ten zones called “energy zones”. Every tendon, ligament, organ, muscle, bone, and brain cell in included in one of these
zones, and every zone ends at the soles of the feet. (Hill,1978:187) Reflex areas are the spots on the feet that when massaged, correspond to specific body parts and
help them to feel relaxed. Hands also have reflex areas, but feet need the relaxation more so because they are constricted to shoes all day. Some reflexologists say that
toxins settle in the feet because of gravity, so this is another reason why the feet need to be worked on more than the hands. (Rosenfeld,1996:162)
Reflexologists say that they can often tell from the feet when something in the body is wrong. Tender spots on the feet indicate that you may have a problem in the
corresponding part of the body. (Gottlieb,1995:110)
An explanation behind reflexology is still a mystery, but evidence is building up that it does work. Research remains limited, but one study shows a possible link between
reflexology and the relief of pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS). The study involved 35 California women who complained of PMS symptoms, and the women who received
true reflexology reported feeling significantly better than those who received placebo reflexology sessions which included working on parts of the ears, hands and feet that
are not supposed to have any effect on PMS. (Jacobs,1996:193)
Reflexology can be used to treat many things including anxiety, arthritis, bronchitis, indigestion, sinus problems, and even grief. Laryngitis, for example, can be treated by
paying special attention to the throat, chest, lung, diaphragm, and lymphatic system reflex points on both feet. It is also suggested to thoroughly work all of the points on
the sides and bottoms of the toes. (Gottlieb,1995:409)
Aromatherapy is another form of alternative medicine. It the use of essential oils to promote good personal health. It combines the sciences of chemistry, botany, and
physiology with the art of essential oil blending to achieve physical, emotional, and mental balance. (Monte,1993:212) Healing effects of organic chemical components are
done by inhalation or application of essential oils and hydrosols. Essential oils can be inhaled by diffusers, candles, a handkerchief- or anything that can give off a scent. A
hydrosol (which is the leftover water from distilling the plant material) is spritzed in the air or on the face and inhaled with a deep relaxing breath. By application and
inhalation, aromatherapy claims to affect the entire being to promote vital health and wellness. It is a form of complementary medicine to heal physical and mental
imbalances. (Earle & Rose,1996)
Aromatherapy often works because “humans relate fragrance to specific experiences. Take for example, being in a rain forest. The brain records these experiences, often
unconsciously, and when the odour is re-encountered, one recalls the specific point in time.” (Monte,1993:212)
Essential oils have the ability to help heal and prevent infections. During World War One, chemist Maurice Gattefosse experimented with the use of essential oils for the
treatment of soldiers war wounds. In July of 1910, he burned his hands in a laboratory explosion. He rolled in grass to put out the flames, but gas gangrenous sores began
to appear. He applied essential oils of terpene-free lavender to the burns and noticed a sudden arrest of gasification tissues. (Nash,1996:19) Quick healing, arrest of
blisters, and masking of gangrenous odours were all achieved in record time.
Aromatherapy is known to help the immune system stay strong. Lavender, lemon, bergamot, thyme, chamomile, pine, sandalwood, myrrh, and vetiver are all essential oils
that stimulate the production of infection fighting white blood cells. (Earle & Rose,1996) The antiviral action of certain essential oils with terpenoid compounds are very
specific- the citruses and the pine oils are the most effective at boosting immunity. (Keville & Green,1997)
Headaches can also be treated by a range of different oils and herbs depending on the specific origin of the headache. It is important to find the cause of the headache in
order to obtain the proper essential oil. Peppermint oil is one of the more traditional aromatherapy remedies for headaches. It can be applied as a compress, or straight-
one or two drops directly to the back of the neck. A significant reduction in pain, as well as positive mood change, and noticeable performance improvement was seen in
aromatherapy patients in a large experiment in 1990. (Earle & Rose,1996)
Natural remedies are said to increase the body’s resistance to disease by improving its ability to fight infection. No single essential oil will heal a person, but many plants
have immune modulating properties. (Rosenfeld,1996:45) Essential oils should not be solely relied upon in cases of serious illnesses, but may be integrated into any
therapeutic program such as physiotherapy, or massage therapy.
Aromatherapy is both a specific science, and a deeply complex art. An understanding of the human body and the interrelated functions of all its systems allow the
aromatherapist to act as both an artist, and a scientist for their patient. This form of unconventional medicine is slowly making its way into acceptance in society.
In the past few years, acupuncture has also established itself as an effective and considerable form of medicine in North America. It’s recognition has increased in the
conventional medical world, and has also made an impression on the public. Acupuncture has a reputation for treating the person as whole, as well as curing specific
ailments and complaints, and its growing role in the west is matched by an increasig demand for well trained and qulaified acupuncturists.
Acupuncture invloves using very fine needles that peirce the skin, which work as antennae to draw Qi (pronouned “chee”) into the body at specific points and along
certain meridian lines. (Monte,1993:247) It works by stimulating the body’s own healing abilities. The fine hair-thin needles do not inject anything into the body, but
instead, the healing components of the body are broadened, directed, and generally made stronger in order to manage future health problems. (Nash,1996:15)
According to the Chinese, a huge group of pathways run throughout the body. These pathways flow from organ system to organ system, and connect with every cell of
the body. Along these pathways, close to the surface of the skin are little nodules, or acupuncture points, that only a trained acupuncturist can feel. (Galem,1997) When
these points are stimulated by heat, touch, or penetration by a needle, the nodules cause a chain reaction of events that affect many aspects of the body, mind, and spirit.
These pathways, or meridians were explained by the Chinese as being channels of energy, or Chi (pronounced “chee” and sometimes spelled “Qi”). Dr. Ben Galem says
that: “Each person is, in reality, an energetic body with a physical body contained within. By cultivating and building Chi in the body, we strengthen ourselves so that our
body works better, our immune system gets stronger, our energy level grows, and we have a greater sense of well being.” (1997)
A concept of Chinese medicine that influences acupuncture, is that of yin and yang. Everything is composed of opposites, which need each other to exist- like a cycle.
Hot does not exist without cold, and vice versa. Sometimes these opposing forces become out of balance with each other, and acupuncture, and other Chinese medicine
can turn up or turn down the Chi and cause a balance to return to the individual who is being treated. (Eisenberg & Lee,1995:52) For example, if a person is too hot,
then hot can be turned down, and cold raised. If a person is too cold, the cold can be turned down, and the hot raised. (Galem,1997)
Another way acupuncture works, is by countering outside influences such as cold weather. Acupuncture can help build the body’s immune system so that catching
common colds and other viruses is less likely. If treatment is given in the early stages of cold, symptoms will be less intense. If it is given in the late stages, it can speed up
Duration and frequency of treatment depend on the initial patient condition and severity of the disorder. Usually, patients see their acupuncturist twice a week for the first
two weeks, then once each week, and then less frequently as symptoms settle. After therapy is over, maintenance visits are five times yearly. The goal is to maintain
homeostasis in the body for longer periods of time. (Galem,1997)
Acupuncture can be used to treat many conditions including migraines, asthma, bursitis, tendonitis, menstrual pain, aid in weight loss and quitting smoking, back pain,
sports injuries, and much, much more. It is a very well known type of therapy, and its possibilities are almost endless.
The use of major alternative medicines is increasing in areas where they remain inferior to conventional medicine, mainly in Canada and the United States. This is because
people with health problems and complaints do not like the atmosphere of a regular doctors office, and they do not feel as if the doctor is giving them the attention that
they need and deserve.
Practitioners of natural healing all believe that the patient and their illness must be looked at deeply, and seriously. The mind, body, inner energy, and lifestyle, must be
treated as a whole. There must be no distractions, and the appointment must not be rushed, as is the case of many conventional doctors offices with crowded waiting
rooms, and small, stuffy examining rooms.
Reflexology, aromatherapy, and acupuncture are all unconventional medicines that are worth consideration. They are proven to be valid, effective, and very helpful.
Believers and patients of these natural remedies swear by them. Researchers are constantly finding evidence that back up practitioners theories that natural remedies
really do work just as well, if not better, than popping a few pills.
Although most alternative medicines are safe, and have far less toxic side effects than many doctors prescriptions, some natural remedies, whether they include flowers
and herbs, or sound and a wide imagination, can have unwanted, and sometimes harmful side effects. This usually happens when an inexperienced person tries to treat
themselves and they know nothing about the field. A professional should always be consulted before action is taken.
There is a lot of information to be found as more and more research is brought out about alternative medicine methods such as reflexology, aromatherapy, and
acupuncture, and many, many more. One should converse with a qualified practitioner and come to a decision on what type, or types of, natural healing methods that they
wish to use to help heal their sickness. Natural remedies can be used on their own, or blended with another for faster relief. They can also be incorporated with modern
science and modern medicines, pain-killers, or supplements.
For anyone seeking help for anything from depression and insomnia, to headaches, and the common cold, and thousands of more unwanted sicknesses, many believers of
natural remedies will strongly recommend this form of healing which dates back thousands of years, to aid in therapy of open minded individuals.