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Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)

Updated on May 26, 2009

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is a group of di­verse medical and health care sys­tems, practices, and products that are not presently considered to be part of conventional medicine. While some scientific evidence exists regarding some CAM therapies, for most there are key questions that are yet to be answered through well-designed scientific studies questions such as whether these therapies are sale and whether they work for the diseases or medical conditions for which they are used.

•   Complementary medicine is used together with conventional medicine. An example of a com­plementary therapy is using aro­matherapy to help lessen a pa­tient's discomfort following surgery.

•   Alternative medicine is used in place of conventional medicine. An example of an alternative therapy is using a special diet to treat cancer instead of undergoing surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy that has been recommended by a conventional doctor.



Acupuncture is a family of proce­dures involving stimulation of anatomical points on the body by a variety of techniques. The acupuncture tech­nique that has been most stu­died scientifically involves penetrating the skin with thin, solid, metallic needles that arc manipulated by the hands or by electrical stimulation.



Essential oils form the basis of aromatherapy These oils are extracted by the means of steam distillation, cold ex­pression, or fixed oil or alcohol extraction. These oils can be inhaled, massaged onto the body, added to the bath or shower or sprayed in the room.

Essential oils work on the brain and nervous system through stimulation of the olfactory nerves. There are about 150 essential oils. Most of these oils have antiseptic, antiviral, anti inflammatory, pain-relieving, anti­depressant and expectorant properties.



Ayurveda is a  wholistic sys tem of medicine from India. In Ayurveda, a person is seen as a unique individual made up of live primary elements. The elements are ether, air, fire, water, and earth. Ether and air combine to form what is known in Ayurveda as the Vata dosha. F ire and water are the elements that combine to form the Pitta dosha. Finally, water and earth combine to form the Kapha dosha. Ayurveda design treatment protocols that specifically address a persons health challenges. When any of the doshas (Vata, Pitta or Kapha) become accumulated, Ayurveda will suggest specific lifestyle and nutritional guidelines to assist the individual in reducing the dosha that has become excessive.



The word chiropractic came from the (Greek words cheiro (hand) and prakrikos (done by hand). The chiro practor manipulates the backbone with his hands to bring back into a alignment the vertebrae that are misaligned or misplaced. This restores the normal flow of neuro-hormonal secretions in the spinal cord and the attached nerves, so that the body recovers from pain and the diseases causing that pain.


Herbal Medicine

herbal medicine is a complementary

therapy that uses plants or plant ex­tracts to treat illness. Herbal practitioners believe that the delicate chemical balance of the whole herb is need ed for greatest effect and to reduce

potential side effects. Different parts of the same plant, such as the flowers or seeds, can have very different actions. Herbal medicine is not about isolating the active ingredients from a plant which is the way that conventional medicines are often derived.






Homeopathy is based on the principle that substances that are poisonous in large doses canbe very beneficial in small doses. The name homeo­pathy comes from the Greek word "homios" which means "like" and the word "pathos" meaning "suffering".

Homeopathic remedies are derived from such exotic sources as bee slings, snake venoms, arsenic, gold and silica. Homeopathic remedies arc diluted to such an extent that there can be no possible side effects from e\ en the most toxic substances. The dilution process is known as 'potentation' Taken in this ultra diluted form, homeopathic remedies have no side effects and arc perfectly safe, non-toxic and non-addictive.

Massage Therapy

Massage is one of the oldest, sim­plest forms of therapy and is a sys tem of stro king, pressing and kneading different arc as of the bo dy to relieve pain, relax, stimulate, and tone the body. The effects of massage are cumulative and a course of massage treatments will bring the most benefits. Regular massage can have the effect of strengthening and toning the entire body mechanism, and so help to prevent unnecessary Strains and injuries that might otherwise occur due to excess tension and any resulting structural weaknes­ses. Massage can stimulate or calm the nervous system, and thus help reduce fatigue, leaving the receiver with a feeling of replenished energy.


Naturopathy is based on the belief that the body is self-healing. The body will repair itself and recover from illness spontaneously if  it is in a heal thy environment, Naturopaths have many remedies and recommendations for creating a healthy environment so the body can spontaneously heal itself.

to restore balance in bodily function by. encouraging proper nutrition that

will sustain healthy body chemistry. Naturopathy believes that fevers,

colds, and discharges are the body's way of recovering from illness

Naturopaths treat illnesses and ailments with special diets, fasting, hydrotherapy, and vitamins and herbs. They advocate the "ounce of preven tion" way of life.



Reflexology is based on the principle that there are reflexes in the feet and hands which correspond to every part of the body. By stimulating and applying pressure to the feet or hands, circulation is increased and specific bodily and muscular functions are promoted.



Shiatsu   is   a Japanese word     made up of two written characters meaning finger (shi) and pressure (atsu). The application of pressure is the underlying principle of Shiatsu. The practitioners use fingers and thumb for applying incisures precisely at localized points,, Shiatsu also involves guide stretch and manipulation techniques.




Yoga is a set of physical practices that include stretches,

breathing practices, and progressive deep relaxation.

The main concern of yoga is

the interaction of body arid mind. As (he body and mind are brought into balance and health, the individual will be able to perceive his true nature; this will allow life to be lived through him more freely and spontaneously. Yoga therapy em­ploys asanas (poslures),pranayama (breathing exercises) and meditation and/or visualization.


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