What is alternative therapy?

Alternative therapy refers to any medical treatment that is not traditional medical technology. Alternative therapies can be used with or in place of traditional medicine. This term is often used interchangeably with “complementary medicine.” In the medical field, this practice is called complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) does distinguish between complementary medicine and alternative medicine. According to them, when it is used with traditional medicine, it is complementary, but if it is used in place of traditional medicine, then it is considered a substitute. However, most people may use these therapies along with traditional medicine.

When a licensed healthcare provider uses alternative therapy and traditional medicine at the same time, it is called comprehensive medicine. Doctors or healthcare providers who use integrative medicine will use all treatment methods to ensure the health of their patients.

In this article, you will learn about the most popular forms of alternative therapy and how they are practiced.

Alternative therapies classification

There are many types of alternative therapies. Over the years, many of these therapies have turned to traditional medicine. Alternative therapies can be divided into many categories. The National Center for Complementary and Comprehensive Health categorizes complementary and alternative therapies as:

  • Nutritional methods: This includes any diet, dietary supplements, probiotics and herbs used in alternative and complementary therapies.
  • Physiological methods: This includes alternative therapies such as meditation and hypnosis.
  • Physical methods: This includes practices such as acupuncture and massage.
  • The combination of physiology and body: these are therapies that affect both body and mind. They include yoga, tai chi, dance therapy, etc.

Most forms of replacement therapy fall into one of these categories. Some of the most widely practiced methods are discussed below.


Ayurveda Focus on the use of specific herbal, massage and diet techniques to treat diseases. This is an ancient Indian custom that has been used for thousands of years.

Ayurvedic therapy usually involves purification processes, herbal remedies, special diets, yoga, massage, and meditation. Research shows that Ayurvedic medicine can help treat diseases such as osteoarthritis, type 2 diabetes, and colitis (inflammation of the colon).

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Meditation practice has been used for many centuries. There are many types of meditation, but the main purpose of meditation practice is to help you focus and achieve a state of calm and relaxation. In turn, this can help you cope with certain diseases and improve your overall health.

Meditation can effectively treat symptoms of mental health conditions such as high blood pressure, depression, and anxiety.


Homeopathy involves the use of very diluted substances to treat a range of diseases from asthma to high blood pressure. It is based on the principle that substances that cause symptoms can also treat these symptoms.

Homeopaths, people who practice homeopathy, believe that the more a substance is diluted, the greater its ability to treat the symptoms of a certain disease. There are many doubts about the practice of homeopathy in traditional medicine.

In 2017, the National Health Service (NHS) recommended that healthcare providers stop providing homeopathy because there is no evidence to support the use of homeopathy.


Hypnotherapy uses hypnosis to treat certain diseases. The hypnotic process involves being guided into a state of deep relaxation, in which the hypnotist will visit your subconscious thoughts and beliefs.

When you are in this state, a hypnotherapist will provide you with advice to help encourage behavior changes or relieve your symptoms. For example, hypnotherapy can be used to help treat addiction or stress management.

Contrary to popular belief, under hypnosis, you have complete control over your thoughts and behavior, and you can reject any suggestion from a hypnotherapist.


Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine technique that involves piercing thin-pointed needles into areas of your body called acupuncture points. This practice has traditionally been used as a natural pain relief technique. It is believed that needles stimulate specific nerves and muscles, which in turn release the body’s natural pain-relieving hormones.

In a 2016 study, researchers found that acupuncture has some effects in treating tension and chronic headaches.

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Although some people may think that yoga is just a form of exercise, yoga has been used as a healing technique for centuries. This ancient Indian custom has been proven to improve the physical and mental health of practitioners.

Yoga has also been shown to help relieve stress, relieve anxiety and relieve pain. Yoga is relatively safe; however, if you are a novice, it is recommended that you practice with a certified instructor to avoid any sprains or strains.


You are probably already familiar with massage. You may not just see it as a treatment option. Massage is more focused on helping to treat physical symptoms, such as pain in certain parts of the body. They are done by kneading the soft tissues of your body until you feel relaxed. There are different types of massage, and the type you get usually depends on what you seek to achieve.

Herbal medicine

Using herbs, parts of plants, such as leaves, seeds, or roots, are processed into treatments for chronic pain and allergies. Herbs can come in different forms, from teas to lotions or pills and powders.

There is some controversy regarding the use of herbal medicines, as some of them may be harmful or react dangerously with traditional medicines. Before trying any herbal medicine, be sure to notify your doctor.

Some common herbal treatments include:

  • St. John’s Wort, used to treat mild depressive symptoms
  • Green tea helps to lose weight and lower cholesterol
  • Ginkgo biloba for poor blood circulation
  • Saw Palmetto Treats Enlarged Prostate


Chiropractic is performed by people called chiropractors. This alternative therapy is designed to relieve any pain and improve your physical function. It uses specific techniques to manipulate your spine, joints and skeletal system, and help you adjust your body.

Chiropractic is similar to traditional medicine in that the chiropractor will review your medical history, conduct tests and interviews, and provide a formal diagnosis before making a treatment plan.

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Reiki is an ancient Japanese alternative therapy. It is based on the belief that there is “life force energy” flowing in your body. When this energy is low, you get sick.

Reiki aims to restore this energy by placing hands on different parts of the body. Doing so will help resolve any physical or psychological problems you encounter. This is an energy therapy.

Use of alternative therapies

In the United States, approximately 30% of adults and 12% of children have used complementary and alternative therapies.

Alternative therapies go hand in hand with traditional medicine or replace traditional medicine to treat many diseases that affect you.

Alternative therapies such as yoga, acupuncture, meditation, massage, and herbal medicine have been used to treat depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, and chronic pain.

Before starting alternative therapy, consult your doctor to make sure it will not interfere with any of your current traditional medicine plans.

Are alternative therapies safe and effective?

More research on the safety and effectiveness of alternative therapies is needed. Although some therapies such as meditation, yoga, and massage have been used for many years and are widely accepted by the traditional medical community, other therapies such as homeopathy and reiki are still under suspicion.

Regarding safety, many alternative therapies have been used for centuries, with little or no safety issues.

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Before choosing a specific alternative therapy, it is also important to conduct extensive research on the safety and effectiveness of the specific alternative therapy.

Before choosing a specific alternative therapy, it is also important to conduct extensive research on the safety and effectiveness of the specific alternative therapy. Some alternative therapies such as meditation, yoga and acupuncture have been used for many years and are considered safe and beneficial.

Although your doctor is more likely to recommend traditional medicines for you, it doesn’t hurt to ask them for their opinions on alternative therapies you want to try before you try them.


What is alternative therapy?
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