Many alternative therapies use natural plants and essences to treat problems. In most cases, these treatments are specific to the individual and can offer fewer side effects than conventional medicine, if prescribed by a qualified professional.
We all know prevention is better than cure and this is another appeal of many of these therapies. Some look to identify ‘weaknesses' that may become an illness if left untreated in the long-term.
The difference between a holistic doctor and your local GP is that a holistic doctor looks at the issues of health and disease from a holistic or "whole body" philosophy.
They treat the body, not just the symptoms that you present with, looking at diet, exercise, nutrition and lifestyle. They may also discuss other alternative treatments. They are fully qualified and possess a medical degree, just like your local GP, but also have training in one or more areas of alternative medicine.
Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine
A popular natural therapy, acupuncture works by inserting fine needles at specific points of the body in order to clear blocked energy so it can flow freely through the body.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a complete medical system that encompasses a range of treatments, including acupuncture, massage, and movement. Treatments aim to bring yin and yang into harmony within the body by regulating the flow of qi (energy) in the body.
Herbal Medicine and homoeopathy
Herbal remedies contain natural chemicals and compounds that are biologically active and can be prescribed as teas, capsules, tablets, extracts or tinctures.
Herbalists prepare a treatment based on an in-depth consultation and can treat a wide range of conditions, from the common cold to digestive complaints. The herbs used are generally plant-derived, although some may also use animal or mineral products and this is something you should discuss with your herbalist.
Homoeopathy is designed to help the body heal itself and takes into account both the individual's physical and emotional condition. The theory is that symptoms of ill health are caused by disharmony within the person. So it's the person that needs the treatment, not the illness itself. Homoeopathic treatments contain plant, mineral and animal extracts.
Women's health covers a multitude of issues, such as menstrual problems, menopause, infertility, pregnancy care and breast health. Certain natural therapies have been particularly successful in this field, including nutritional therapy, herbal medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupuncture and Bowen therapy.
Kinesiology means ‘the study of movement'. When we cannot adapt efficiently, the muscles reflect the stress in the central nervous system. This stress creates specific muscle patterns that kinesiologists can assess using ‘muscle monitoring' techniques.
Muscle monitoring (biofeedback) looks at what may be causing imbalances in the body and examines unresolved stress reactions in a person. A number of techniques can be used to assist the body's natural healing process, including acupressure, lymphatic massage, hypertonic muscle release and nutritional advice.
While kinesiology is not used to diagnose disorders, practitioners may be able to help treat a wide range of health problems including:
- Muscular disorders
- Nervous disorders
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Emotional problems
- Learning and behavioural difficulties
Any substance is capable of causing an allergic reaction, which can be minor or potentially life threatening. Some common allergens include milk, egg, nuts, wheat, shellfish, animal dander and dust.
There are many ways to test if you have an allergy, including blood tests and skin prick tests.
This ancient Indian medical practice believes that each person contains parts of the universe's basic elements and these elements combine to create one of three body types known as vata, pitta and kapha.
The theory behind Ayurveda is that illness occurs when one or more of the body types become imbalanced. Treatments prescribed include herbal medicine, diet, meditation, massage and yoga to maintain or restore health.
Used by the Egyptians, Chinese, Greeks and Hopi Indians of America, ear candling is a painless treatment that uses a special hollow candle in your ear as a vacuum. It draws out old wax, residues of past infections and funguses. It's also believed to help stimulate the immune system and peripheral blood circulation.
Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils for psychological and physical wellbeing.
The theory behind aromatherapy is that the different scents and chemical constituents of oils can produce different emotional and physiological reactions. As the nasal cavity sits directly beneath the brain, it's thought that an odour is translated into electrical impulses by the olfactory cells and passed onto the brain.
Essential oils can be massaged into the skin, added to bath water or vaporised in an oil burner.
Aromatherapy has not yet undergone as much scientific scrutiny as other complementary therapies, but research has shown that it can be an effective treatment for some complaints.
While anyone can buy essential oils, care should be taken. Some can be toxic when used incorrectly and a number of them should not be used if you're pregnant. If you're not sure, speak to a qualified aromatherapist.
Flower essences are used to treat a range of negative emotions and thoughts, such as anger, anxiety, apprehension, loneliness, despair, uncertainty, self-esteem and creativity. By neutralising these emotions it's thought you can avoid illnesses that can be caused by these emotions.
Flower essences are safe to use, have no side effects and can even be self-prescribed.
A diagnostic took rather than a treatment, iridology works on the basis that by studying the coloured part of the eye, the iris, a practitioner can see changing conditions in every organ of the body.
While iridology cannot detect a specific disease, the idea is that by detecting changes it can be used to diagnose a potential illness before it has a chance to develop into something more serious.
Naturopathy works on the theory that each person has their own healing power and the treatments prescribed allow the body to repair and recover from illness.
Naturopaths treat mental, emotional and physical conditions and will encourage a person to take responsibility for their own health by creating a lifestyle that supports health and wellbeing. They use conventional health sciences, together with a range of natural therapies, including herbal medicine, nutrition, homoeopathy, iridology and massage.
Nutritionists understand the science and relationship of food and health. If you are allergic or intolerant to certain foods, nutritionally deficient, want to manage your weight or just want someone to assess your general health and condition in relation to your diet, speak to an Accredited Practising Dietician or an Accredited Nutritionist.
They’ll help you devise an eating plan that ensures you are eating a balanced diet from all the core food groups, with the ideal amount of carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals, and other nutrients for good health and wellbeing.
Around for centuries and a favourite of sports people and celebrities alike, yoga helps tone, strengthen, stretch, de-stress and lose weight.