Be still like a mountain and flow like a great river. - Lao Tse

Assuredly as the mountains work together with the rivers to eventually form lakes, traditional western medicine and alternative medicine together form the pools of medical knowledge whose depths are still unmeasured and under utilized. These are the natural resources of healthcare.

Conventional or traditional (allopathic) western medical practices (for most readers) form the solid foundation, the “mountains," of our great health system. It is reasonable to consider the integration and augmentation of traditional medicine practices with alternative, or other types, of “unconventional" therapies that can act in an added or synergistic manner to obtain even a better level of health and well-being. These alternative therapies are the “rivers" of flowing energy often attributed to these bioenergetic forms of medicine.

Most alternative therapies are based on the active principles of bioenergetics - stimulating healing through the flow of biological energy or the natural energy inherit to the functioning of our body’s health and homeostasis. The body utilizes the flow of its own healing energy, when appropriately stimulated. Alternative or complementary medicine (CAM) includes such systems and therapies as: Chiropractic, Homeopathy, Oriental Medicine, Ayurveda, herbal medicine, natural medicine, therapeutic massage, chuaka ka, shen, therapeutic touch, aromatherapy, auriculotherapy, bio-magnetic therapy, bio-feedback, Reflexology, Reiki, yoga etc.

The National Institute of Health (NIH), National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), at this time, lists over sixty different entities organized in seven different categories: Alternative Systems of Medical Practice, Bioelectromagnetic Applications, Diet/Nutrition/Lifestyle Changes, Herbal Medicine, Manual Healing, Mind/Body Control and Pharmacological & Biological Treatments.

According to JAMA (Journal of American Medical Association), in 1997, 4 of 10 Americans used some form of alternative medicine. Americans spent about $27.2 billion on alternative therapies, products, books, classes and services in 1998 (Nutrition Business Journal). Naturally, much of CAM’s prominence is consumer driven, but visits to alternative practitioners increased by nearly percent between 1990 and 1997. Patients who use CAM often have complicated medical conditions or conditions not easily treated by traditional medicine such as chronic pain (such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, headache), poor mental health (such as depression, anxiety, insomnia), HIV infection and cancer. These 629 million visits exceeded the number of visits to primary-care physicians (386 million visits). Between 1990 and 1997, only 38.5% of the patients reported CAM use to their physician, even though 96% had seen their doctor within the past year.

Over several decades, we have witnessed the evolution, or if you will, the maturation, of what we know as "Alternative Medicine." Anything outside of the "orthodox" conventional Western Medicine was once considered heretical and ignored by many physicians. As "Alternative Medicine" was more intensively investigated, dedicated health professionals and an educated public began to seemingly shout an appropriate quote by the author, Warren McCulloch, when he said: "Do not bite my finger look where I am pointing." It was now time to seriously look at “Alternative Medicine" and how to combine it with our traditional medical care. Further, author Stephen J. Gould (The Mismeasure of Man) stated: “... science must be understood as a social phenomenon, a gusty, human enterprise, not the work of robots programmed to collect pure information." Today, "Alternative Medicine" is no longer herbal teas and folk medicine suspect and disdained by traditional organized medicine. Physicians are beginning to seriously consider these century old therapies and treatments and it may not be long until certain alternative approaches are taught in traditional medical schools.

In the late 1960's - 70's, we were fascinated with herbal teas, natural foods (remember granola, dried fruits and carob covered peanuts!) and supplements. This was the "health food - love - peace" era. We were beginning to take some responsibility and control for our health and well-being. In the 1980's, we saw the term "Alternative Medicine" accepted as the general pubic began taking health concern more seriously. People were searching for "natural" and more holistic alternatives to traditional western medicine and expensive prescriptions. The concept of “Preventive Medicine" was getting a solid foothold as people were seeking natural ways to prevent illness.

As we approached the 1990's, we saw the new terms "Complementary Medicine" and "Integrative Medicine" emerge. We began to accept, that in most cases, alternative therapies were not going to make it alone and that it may be better to combine the best of both alternative therapies and conventional western medicine into an integrative health system. A system in which the two would complement each other to provide the best possible healthcare.


In order to navigate the reefs and shoals of the alternative medicine “rivers" we must have, at least, a basic knowledge of therapies proven efficacious. Whether it is folk medicine, health foods, alternative medicine, complementary medicine or integrative medicine, we are a people always ready to better our healthcare, our general well-being and our longevity.

There are a few important worth asking prior to selecting an alternative therapy: • Have I done my homework and do I have a basic knowledge about this alternative therapy? • What additional benefits or synergistic effects can be expected from this alternative therapy? • Will this alternative therapy interfere with, or will it compliment, my conventional/traditional treatment? • Are there any risks associated with this alternative therapy? • Do the known benefits outweigh the risks? • What side effects, if any, can be expected? • Is the practitioner, if any, qualified for this alternative therapy? • Will the therapy be covered by your health insurance?

Assuredly, there are potentially scientific and efficacious alternative therapies and arts that can be used concurrently and synergistically with are traditional forms of western medicine. Just as certainly, there are also worthless and unscientific therapies and practices that will add little to your overall health and well-being. Whatever alternative therapy that you select, do your homework and select well trained certified practitioners.
Copyright 2003 J Klemens


Tag der Veröffentlichung: 31.03.2010

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