Alternative Therapies: Are They Just Quackery?
Everyone wants to be healthy and, it seems, nearly everybody has an opinion on the best way to achieve optimum health. More and more today people are turning away from prescribed medicines in favor of alternative or complementary medicines. In fact, a recent report showed that a whopping 49% of Americans annually use alternative or complementary treatments. Many medical practitioners are embracing these alternative therapies. Thus, Consumer Reports recently stated that “ the Berlin Wall that has long divided alternative therapies from mainstream medicine appears to be crumbling.” Today, medical practitioners, in general, no longer insist that the patient exclusively use prescribed medicine. A more holistic approach is preferred, in which patients are encouraged to take advantage of all available therapies. So, just what types of alternative therapies are available––and how effective are they, really?
NaturopathyNaturopathy is an umbrella term that relates to the use of natural agents or physical manipulation to treat the body. Many such treatments have been used for centuries, but have fallen out of favor in conventional medical circles. Generally, alternative therapies take longer to work than conventional ones. The Naturopathy approach emphasizes a holistic approach to treatment which takes into account the lifestyle of the patient rather than focusing on treatment for the specific complaint. Many people feel that this approach is gentler and less damaging to one’s overall well-being than conventional treatments. The following 7 principles form the basis of naturopathy
- The healing power of nature
- Do no harm
- Find the cause
- Treat the whole person
- Prevent disease
- Doctor as teacher
- Maintain wellness
Herbal TherapiesHerbal therapy is perhaps the oldest form of medical treatment. Despite this, the number of plant species that have been studied by science is relatively small. The safety and efficacy of many herbal remedies, then, cannot be empirically stated. Over the past decade, however, there have been a number of studies on certain remedies, allowing for medical practitioners and lay-people alike to confidently recommend these herbal treatments. The results of these studies show that herbal remedies are most effective when used to treat such conditions as mild depression, memory loss, prostate and menopausal complications, and weight loss. It should be noted that some herbal remedies are associated with side effects. These are often exacerbated if the herb is used in conjunction with a prescribed medication. Side effects may include increased blood pressure and heart rate, and an increased rate of bleeding. Another issue with herbal concoctions is the inability to assure quality production. Buying herbal remedies from established, reputable sources is vital to protect oneself from contaminants. Herbal remedies have proven extremely beneficial in treating inflammation of the stomach. A great vegetarian option is Meriva-500 by Thorne Research.
HomeopathyHomeopathic medicine involves treating a patient with a highly diluted substance in order to trigger the body’s natural healing processes. Such treatments have been found to be effective in treatment of such conditions as asthma, allergies, and diarrhea. Due to the heavy dilution of administered treatments, homeopathy is generally considered to be a safe form of alternative medicine.
Insurance and Alternative TreatmentsPrivate health insurance providers are beginning to recognize the importance of alternative health care. Still,many providers do not include coverage for alternative treatments. Treatments that are covered by the majority of insurers include acupuncture, massage therapy, and chiropractic treatment. To find insurers that will cover naturopathic therapies requires a little more digging. When comparing the treatment coverage that providers offer, ask yourself the following questions:
- Which alternative medicines are included in the policy?
- What limits are there on the alternative treatment costs?
- Do alternative treatment practitioners have to be approved by the insurer?