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Herbal Resources: Guide to Alternative Medicine


Herbal MedicineComplementary and alternative medicine, or CAM, is a term used for medical practices and products that are not generally part of standard care. Alternative medicine is treatments, such as herbal remedies and acupuncture, which are used for natural health and well-being. These are based on systems that were used thousands of years ago and are considered to be one of the first traditional forms of medicine. Most alternative medicine treats the patient as a whole, rather then for a specific set of symptoms. These methods help to balance the patients' mental, physical, and emotional levels and promote self-healing.


History of Alternative Medicine

The origin of alternative medicine dates back nearly 6,000 years with traditions in Asian countries, such as India and China. The concepts of alternative medicine have been recognized in ancient scriptures in Egypt, India, and China, as well as other ancient civilizations all over the world. Historical evidence shows that while the names of popular alternative medicines have been changed over the years, the procedure of developing these medicines and treating patients remain the same. In India, alternative medicines were known as Ayurveda or Vedic. Ayruveda has been used for thousands of years and is still in use due to its ability to bring harmony to the soul, body, and mind. In China, alternative medicine has been practiced for centuries and is based on Taoist philosophy. These concepts soon spread to Korea and Japan and are known as the Oriental branch of alternative medicine. Alternative medicine also has a deep history in the west. European alternative medicine has been practiced for nearly 2,000 years with common traditions, such as hydrotherapy, naturopathy, and herbalism. Homeopathy was introduced in the 19th century by a German doctor named Samuel Hahnemann. These were effective in treating various disorders and ailments, such as mental illness. Alternative medicine remains popular today due to studies that prove that these natural remedies bring natural relief to its users.



Medicinal HerbsTypes of Alternative Medicine

More and more people are choosing alternative medicine in conjunction with, or as a replacement for standard medical care that does not always provide desired results. Mind and body techniques are a common type of alternative medicine that focuses on mental and emotional factors that can impact one’s overall health. These techniques treat various ailments, such as panic disorders, anxiety, coronary artery disease, chronic pain, insomnia, depression, headaches, and incontinence. Body and mind techniques are also used to relieve pain and pressure during childbirth and to aid symptoms of cancer. The most common practiced methods include those for relaxation, meditation, hypnosis, guided imagery, and biofeedback. Biological based therapies are those found in nature, such as vitamins, herbs, and natural foods. Each herbal remedy possesses its own healing properties and can be used to treat a wide variety of conditions and symptoms. Chiropractic medicine is based on the idea that musculoskeletal disorders can affect one’s overall health. Chiropractors use their hands to manipulate the spine and surrounding tissues to relieve back pain. Massage therapy combines chiropractic medicine, acupressure, and acupuncture into one treatment. This is used to relieve various types of pain and lessen the severity of stress-induced illnesses. The final type of alternative medicine is known as energy therapy. Energy therapy is used in two different forms, bio-field therapies and bio-electromagnetic-based therapies. Bio-field therapies involves targeting energy fields that surround the human body by manipulating and touching, such as with therapeutic touch. Bio-electromagnetic-based therapies use unconventional electromagnetic fields, such as with magnetic fields, pulsed fields, and direct or alternating current fields.


Modern Alternative Medicine

Today, there are hundreds of different herbs that are used to prevent and treat medical conditions. Black cohosh is a common herbal remedy that is used for menopausal symptoms, irregular menstrual periods, and premenstrual syndrome, among other things. This herb has also been used to induce labor, reduce hot flashes and night sweats, and treat vaginal dryness. Echinacea, also known as coneflower, is used for immune system stimulation and the treatment of infections, acne, boils, and skin wounds. Garlic is not only used as a food enhancer, but has many health benefits. Traditional uses of garlic include the treatment of high blood pressure, reduction of high cholesterol, and prevention of heart disease. Ginger is used by many Asian health practitioners in natural products. This herb has been proven helpful in the treatment of motion sickness, diarrhea, nausea, heartburn, flatulence, bloating, and mild digestive problems. Ginkgo, also known as kew tree and fossil tree, is commonly used to treat ringing in the ears, fatigue, asthma, and upper respiratory infections. Studies have also shown that ginkgo improves memory and reduces the occurrence of Alzheimer’s diseases and dementia. Ginseng is grown in parts of Korea and China and is used by herbal medical professionals for the treatment of erectile dysfunction, to control blood pressure, reduce glucose levels, and improve physical endurance.


Uses of Alternative Medicine

There are many common illnesses that can be treated with alternative medicine. Asthma is the inflammation of the trachea and bronchial tubes. Vitamins B6 and B12 can be used to decrease this inflammation and vitamin C and ginkgo work to fight off infection. Respiratory congestion can be treated using a tea prepared with mullein oil or shuang huang lian, a Chinese herb. Ear infections are another common illness, especially among young children. These can be treated with vitamin C which helps to reduce infection. Aconite can be used as a homeopathic remedy. For flu symptoms, take zinc and vitamin C. Viruses can be controlled using garlic, tea from bayberry bark, cayenne powder, and ginger root. High fevers can be reduced using lobelia tincture and catnip tea.


Benefits of Alternative Medicine

Alternative medicine has been used for the treatment of diseases for thousands of years. However, these herbal supplements and alternative forms of medicine also have many other health benefits. Herbal medicines can be used for the treatment of insomnia, bad breath, heart disease, skin and allergy problems, and circulatory problems. Many herbs have also been known to aid in weight loss, such as alfalfa, chickweed, and burdock. Pain in the joints and muscles can be relieved using acupuncture techniques. Acupuncture has also been known to treat mental illnesses, and treat fatigue, headache, stress, and osteoarthritis. Chiropractic techniques have been proven helpful in treating ailments related to the bones, joints, and muscles. Aromatherapy refers to the plant essence for natural treatment of various disorders and illnesses. This and massage therapy go hand-in-hand to stimulate the circulatory system and helps in the natural detoxification process. Many of these alternative forms of medicine do not have side effects, making them a great natural choice for many patients.





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