Trends Towards Alternative Therapies

Over the past ten years the attitudes of both doctors and common people in western countries has undergone a remarkable change with respect to their outlook towards a host of alternative therapies that have been practiced for ages, essentially in the east. Alternative therapies : not widely taught in schools not practiced by physicians in the developed world especially America. Not clearly defined as yet…. Not talked about much…..

You could be wrong if u think that The United States is the only country with a documented use of alternative therapies. International studies show use in from 25 to 75 percent of the populations of the United Kingdom, Australia France, Germany, Israel, Finland and Japan.

The Netherlands also uses alternative therapies. In China and India the majority of medical care is provided by "traditional" providers practicing acupuncture and Ayurveda.

Should we say alternative healing is the same as the folk healing of old times?

Pre-industrial people the world over had been practicing alternative healing therapies. The healer, man/woman, was often an elder of the group, wise in the practical and spiritual ways of the people. Generally he used to be a respected figure of his community say Priest . At that time, the disease was thought to be due to either natural or supernatural causes. Supernatural means either due to the intrusion into the body of an evil spirit or substance, or the loss of the person's own spirit. Treatment was given by a healer whose function was partly priestly; he used a wide variety of plant remedies, some pharmacologically active, remedies of animal origin, may be excreta, or magic. Charms and talismans were commonly used, and the doctrine of sympathies accepted. The medicine of Canadian aboriginal people was a good example.

People all over the world were divided on the basis of their cultures, civilizations, their customs but even then there was a common thread or should we say link which linked them all. Guess what ? Perhaps the close relationship between religious belief and healing.

With the passage of time and advancement in technology, the healing practices of several great societies grew up in relative isolation from western medicine. Much Chinese medicine was semi-magical. Massage was an important mode of treatment as was acupuncture, insertion of fine needles at pre-determined points. Moxibustion, the burning of dried fragments of vegetable matter on the body surface was also used.

Medicines were given orally, by inhalation or by enema. Often the healer would induce altered consciousness, perhaps in a sweat lodge, would let blood, and use supernatural or magic remedies. You will wonder that treatments in vogue included horseback riding for pulmonary tuberculosis, and a decoction of carrots for jaundice. Dropsy was treated by bleeding, tapping, and plantain and liverwort. Ague was known to be related to mosquito bites, and was treated with Peruvian bark, but it was alleged that the incorporation of the bark in a waistcoat would protect a child.

According to the ancient Chinese system of philosophy, the human body is governed by Chi, which can loosely be translated as the 'Life Force'. The Chi is made up of the Yin and the Yang - the feminine and masculine principles - that in perfect balance ensure health, peace and well being. And If there is an imbalance between these two, it result in the development of some or the other disease in one’s body. According to the famous Chinese healing method of Acupuncture there were particularly identified pressure points in the human body that were considered crucial for the healing process. By manipulating these pressure points, ancient Chinese physicians could treat the most complicated of disease.

While in Greek medicine, it is synonymous with the name of Hippocrates, who is deemed to be the father of modern medicine. He based his study and his practice of medicine on reasoning and scientific experimentation. He recorded all his theories and observations in a series of books, which are now held sacred by the practitioners of modern medicine all over the world. Greek surgeons used various types of knives, syringes and forceps as surgical tools. But on the same time there is a school of thought which believes that transfer of similar knowledge from India through the trade connections cannot be ruled out entirely.

The Hindu holy books, the Vedas, date mostly from before 1000 BC; the principal source of medical information, the Ayur- Veda dates from before the first century AD (or CE). This is a divinely inspired epic poem cycle containing wisdom on drugs and medicine--magic, drugs, charms, amulets, chants and mantras against the demons of fevers, fractures, wounds and snake-bite. Ayurvedic medicine was more of priestly. It stressed the maintenance of health, rather than the treatment of disease. It was divided into internal medicine, diseases of the head, surgery, toxicology, etc.

There were three semi-legendary physicians of great wisdom – Caraka, Susruta and Vagabhata, living probably in the first millennium BC. They wrote of mantras, of diet and drugs, of subjection of the mind. Even at that time back in the ancient and so called unscientific age, Susruta, wrote of the characteristics of a good medical student, of a good hospital, and of surgical treatment.

But only in the recent years has there been a dramatic increase in public interest and awareness of alternative therapies. What exactly is the alternative medicine? Unfortunately, the definition is not at all standardized. "Complementary", "alternative", and "integrative" are all commonly used terms applied to multiple different therapies.

The study reports in America so far now tell that between 1990 and 1997, the prevalence of alternative medicine increased by 25 percent. During this same period, expenditures for alternative medicine professional services increased by 45 percent. Expenses for these services, conservatively estimated at $21.2 billion.

In the recent years the attitudes of both doctors and common people in western countries has undergone a remarkable change with respect to their outlook towards a host of alternative therapies that have been practiced for ages, essentially in China and India. Some of which are being looked into here: Acupressure ,Magnet Therapy ,Ancient Medicine, Reiki ,Aroma Therapy, Laughter Therapy ,Massage Therapy and Aura Therapy .aroma therapy, gemstone therapy etc. Apart from this are some more therapies like alphabiotics, applied kinesiology , aromatherapy, aura therapy, chelation therapy, chiropractic  craniosacral therapy crystals, ear candling, energy healing facilitated communication , holistic medicine, hypnosis, iridology, joy touch, macrobiotics, massage therapy, naturopathy, rolfing, shark cartilage as a cancer cure , therapeutic touch and urine therapy etc. The therapies that saw the largest increase in usage included herbal medicine, massage, megavitamins, self-help groups, folk remedies, energy healing and homeopathy.

Along with this increasing reliance on technology, we have witnessed a rise in the credibility and utilization of alternative therapies. So many reasons are there to justify the increasing use of alternative therapies : may be they are effective, low-tech, natural way of relieving pain and suffering, free from the negative effects of long-term medication use.

Generally patients don’t disclose what therapy are they trying for their ailment besides the prescribed medicine by their physicians. One reason being that these so called alternative therapies are not evidence based . But now not even patients but physicians have also started thinking about alternative therapies in a positive manner may be perhaps due to feeling of threat to them.

This considerable increase in the use of alternative therapies suggests that there should be a healthy start to check the effectiveness/ineffectiveness of these therapies in different ailments/diseases . Physicians over the developed world should make move to start researches in this regard. Rather should we say that a start has already been made. Physicians are trying to open the doors of these different therapies to find out what actually these therapies have to offer us and upto what degree?

One can’t predict whether we could be able to find that any of these therapies could help us treating with breast cancer, or aids in minimal expenditure !  


More by :  Puneet Kaur

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