What’s the deal with “alternative medicine”?

Alternative medicine, as opposed to western medicine, is any practice that claims the healing effects of medicine, but it’s often not proven or based on scientific research and results Minecraft 1.14.4 Shader. Popular examples of alternative medicine include: homeopathy, herbal medicine, hypnosis, acupuncture and chiropractic.

Here, we take a closer look at these, and ask Hello Doctor’s Dr Lynelle Hoeks how she sees alternative medicine best serving us.

Homeopathy: This is based on the idea that “like cures like,” meaning that the things which make you sick can also help you stay healthy. After assessing a patient, a homeopathic practitioner will prescribe plant and herb based pills to bring the body back into balance and cure disease. The most common ailments treated with homeopathy are vertigo, allergies, diarrhoea and asthma.

Herbal Medicine: There are some scientific studies which support the use of certain supplements (for example the link between fish oil and heart health), however many have never been tested. In spite of this, natural supplements are still widely used. It’s important to remember though: supplements can interfere with prescription and over the counter medication, so always speak to your doctor first before taking anything new.

Hypnosis: Hypnosis claims to help people better manage pain, and it’s widely used to help patients quit smoking, lose weight, overcome phobias and provide relief from headaches and migraines. And while studies have shown that hypnosis can stimulate the nervous system, it doesn’t work for everyone.

Acupuncture: Practitioners manipulate the body’s natural energy flow (chi) by inserting very thin needles into one or more of the 400 specific points on the body which can prevent or cure certain medical conditions. And for patients who don’t like needles, pressure or massage can be used instead. Acupuncture is often used to treat digestive and respiratory problems, and the WHO actually supports the use of it to treat around 30 other medical conditions.

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Chiropractic (spinal manipulation): Chiropractors align joints, muscles, bones and the spine to relieve neck and back pain and improve general health. And although spinal manipulation is safe for most people, there are a lot of conditions it can’t treat, and it poses a serious risk for patients with stroke, artery or nerve damage. It’s always best to get the go-ahead from your GP before you get treated by a chiropractor.

We asked Dr Lynelle to give us her opinion on alternative medicine, and here’s what she had to say:

“The WHO defines health as: “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
“With that in mind, neither alternative nor western medicine can achieve this completely. So the important thing to realise is that there is place for both of them:

  • Antibiotics, medication for diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes and HIV, life-saving operations and vaccines are all examples of treatments which can’t be replaced with alternative medicine.
  • When it comes to maintaining mental and physical health, alternative therapies can be just as effective, and if they’re used as complementary therapy for a medical condition then they can offer a valuable new dimension.

So what are the concerns with alternative medicine?

  1. The practitioner isn’t qualified: Until recently, there’s been no way of governing who practices what, so in theory anyone could claim to be a homeopath (for example), but have no formal training
  2. Some natural therapies can be harmful or clash with medication which you’re already taking
  3. It could prevent you from getting proper medical advice when you have a serious condition

If you have questions about whether your prescription medication and alternative treatments may have a bad reaction to each other, speak to your doctor or pharmacist.