It is becoming more and more apparent and obvious to anyone working in Public Health that the current model chosen to provide healthcare for the mass population is (a) in crisis and (b) doomed to failure if it continues unchanged. It is popular to think that this is all about funding – or the lack of it – it is not! The numbers of people with multiple chronic health issues are growing at an alarming rate and already if you do the maths and look at projections there is simply no way that the majority of international public health systems will be able to keep up. I am not going to even go into why on earth this is the case despite all the ‘incredible life-saving pharmaceuticals’ available, that’s food for another Blog! Suffice to say that if we are to have any chance of grabbing hold of our healthcare and actually getting results without becoming paupers in the process a BIG sea-change in both our approach to Healthcare and what we use as ‘medicine’ has to happen.
There is already a steady increase in Pharmaceutically trained Health professionals adding to their knowledge by training in various Alternative therapies like Herbalism, Naturopathy, Homeopathy and others. Doctors like Dr Chatterjee in the UK and many ‘Functional Medicine’ Doctors in the USA are starting to understand the importance of healthy food, hydration and lifestyle choices and do not always prescribe drugs for everything. They are beginning to expand their previously very limited toolboxes of medicines and most importantly of all, they are beginning to work with their patients as individuals. Any Health modality that adopts a ‘one size fits all’ mentality has been proven not to work (except ofcourse for the manufacturers of the one size products!). The emphasis on all of us as patients in becoming more active participants in our own Health maintenance has never been more key. We simply cannot afford to continue to abuse ourselves physically and emotionally by eating toxic ‘food’ and ignoring all the elements of living that give us sustinance and health. We cannot afford to be ignorant and hand ourselves over to ‘the experts’ to ‘fix us’ so we can just climb back on the saddle and do it all over again. We have to take responsibility – no one else can ‘fix us’, they can only guide us in how to fix ourselves or not, depending on their skills and tools and depending on the relevance of their chosen approach to healthcare to us individually. Soon there won’t be automatic access to pharmaceutical drug based medicine, it is and will become more and more expensive and therefore exclusive – in many cases it already is. This is not necessarily a bad thing as it levels the playing field a bit and can make other, just as viable Healthcare options, become valid choices for more people. More and more of us are managing our own health with the help of professionals in lots of other areas other than drug based medicine and there are so many choices!
Although many of you have an excellent grasp of what different Health Therapies have to offer and how they work, many people don’t and find the whole arena confusing. This was highlighted to me recently when I got stuck on a train for 2 long, cold hours with a young Student who hadn’t come across Homeopathy before, was unclear about Herbalism but had experienced the benefits of Reflexology so was interested to find out more. It was an interesting discussion and certainly made the wait go by much faster! I thought it would be useful to try and provide a simple guide to the more well known alternative methods available.
I should add that whatever you choose as your method of Healthcare, it is vital that you do not regard it as a one-off treatment. Most alternative therapies involve a strategic & individually applied approach to release/undo/eliminate toxins/imbalances/restrictions etc and in order to effect real and lasting change there needs to be a committment to more than just a couple of visits when you hit a crisis. They are almost all most effective when we, the patients, take responsability and are willing to alter or stop the things that are not serving us or are making us unwell. If we want to be healthy and well and happy for any sustained period we have to be prepared to stop the things that don’t achieve that for us. I have been reminded of this recently after an injury led me to an intensive course of Chiropractic treatment rather than 2 or 3 visits. The results for me have been outstanding and many very longstanding issues have been resolved and I have reviewed all sorts of daily practises that were contributing to my misalignment eg. I now have a laptop stand that raises the height of my computor thus putting less strain on my neck and back.
I will not attempt to cover anything in great depth or to cover each and every Health Model out there, but if I manage to clear up some misunderstandings or give clarity to some of the more commonly known Therapies on offer, then that’s a start!
Obviously I will start with Homeopathy and for more info – please read all through my website including my Blogs eg https://homeopathygiveswings.com/the-homeopathic-relationship/ and my Blog series ‘Dispelling myths about Homeopathy” and https://homeopathygiveswings.com/homeopathy-faqs/
In essence Homeopathy uses heavily diluted medicines or remedies that are selected on the basis of the ability of the original substance being able to produce a similar set of symptoms to those being exhibited by the sick person, eg Arsenic is well known to produce restlessness, sweating, anxiety, and gastric pains with vomiting and diarhhoea if you ingest it in a toxic. material dose. Arsen-alb the homeopathic remedy made from arsenic is superb at settling all these symptoms in gasterenteritis or food poisoning cases because the symptoms are similar. The remedies act as a prompt for the persons whole system to engage and start using it’s own natural inbuilt processes to overcome any illness and work towards health. Since Homeopathy supports the persons natural processes rather than stopping or inhibiting them it also contributes to the person becoming stronger and better able to fight off illnesses in the future. Although Homeopathic remedies can be made from almost anything – plants, minerals, animals, even drugs – the majority would be plant based and this often leads to confusion with Herbal medicine. The most important difference is that Homeopathic remedies are very heavily diluted and given in minimal or energetic doses. They therefore do not interfere with any other medicines being taken. Homeopathy has the capacity to alter patterns of behaviour and patterns of physical disease that may have been passed on through many generations. It can be used both acutely with sudden short-lived illnesses and with long term chronic illnesses. Time and time again people come to Homeopathy as a last resort after other therapies have failed to help and fantastic results are achieved. Many Homeopaths are knowledgeable in other holistic healthcare models and part of the approach is to look at diet and nutrition, emotional, physical and spiritual health. Homeopaths do not diagnose or prescribe for ‘a condition’. They always look at the whole person and each prescription is tailor-made for the individual person. There are lots of different ways to prescribe Homeopathic remedies, some Practitioners are limited to just one way and others (like me), will choose whatever way is most appropriate to each individual Client.
Herbalism is actually the most used form of medicine in the world and probably the most ancient. Herbal medicine is plant based and takes the form of tinctures, teas or powders as well as being used in topical applications – creams, ointments and salves. Herbalists are skilled practitioners of plant medicine, with the knowledge to use the undoubted power of plants to enhance the body’s ability to work to full capacity. Doseage is extremely important both in the choice of plant being used and it’s preparation which is obviously particularly key when working with potentially toxic plant materials. Many herbs are contraindicated with other herbs and with pharmaceutical drugs because they are given in material doses. Sometimes simple herbal tinctures or teas may be prescribed by other natural health practitioners to compliment a prescription and many herbal remedies are available over the counter eg MilkThistle which is used as a liver tonic by many. There are also products like Arnica creams and gels which many people think are homeopathic but they aren’t they are herbal because they are (a) not being prescribed based on individual symptoms and (b) they are made from herbal tinctures. Herbalists and Homeopaths have many plants in common in their toolkits but they are not always prescribed for the same reasons.
TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) including the Practise of Qi gong and/or Tai Qi. TCM is also one of the most ancient and comprehensive systems of healthcare in the world, taking account of every aspect of health including diet, body type, exercise, meditation, the understanding of channels of energy in our bodies and how they are all connected. The ‘reading’ of the outward signs of disease in various parts of the body eg the tongue, eyes, hands, feet, the way we hold our bodies etc. Medicine could include Acupuncture, Tai Qi or Qi gong exercises, chinese herbal medicine, moxibustion or cupping as well as advice on what foods to eat and drink. The inside of the body is divided into regions according to the concentration of energy patterns and their physical function and the aim is to achieve everything working in harmony. Some practitioners would offer selected parts of TCM eg Acupuncture and others would offer TCM in its whole comprehensive entirety depending on their training. Similarly to Herbal medicine, TCM can work very well with Homeopathy in some cases. Again many Holistic health practitioners, including me, may use some aspects of TCM to help determine what is in need of help eg observing the tongue or taking a pulse.
Ayurvedic Medicine is another very ancient and comprehensive system of healthcare originating in India and includes all aspects of a persons health – diet according to body type, a huge array of Indian herbal medicines, the practice of Yoga in it’s many forms, meditation and massage. Spiritual and emotional health are key and the mind body connection at the root of everything – this is much more pronounced in Ayurvidic medicine and Homeopathy than it is in most Western Herbal medicine practises. Homeopathy is often used with Ayurvedic medicine in India and more recently in the West. For a full explanation click here
Reflexology has been around since the 1920’s/30’s and works on the principle of applying pressure to various points in the feet in order to stimulate a healing response. Broadly speaking it taps into the TCM understanding of ‘meridians’ or channels of energy. Many of these channels are connected to other areas or organs in the body so by working on the feet , which are regarded as maps to the whole body, a Reflexologist can affect deep healing and re-balancing. There is evidence of many ancient civilisations working on their feet in some way but the therapy was only formalised in the 1920’s. For more details click here
Cranio sacral Therapy is a branch of Oesteopathy that uses light touch to listen to the cerebal fluid that runs between the sacrum and the cranium, determine how it’s responding and whether any of the skeleton is mis-aligned and causing blockages in it’s healthy flow. By following the individuals body and stimulating it to relax and re-balance from both physical and emotional stress or injury, the whole body can re-align and natural energy can once more flow unimpeded, allowing us to work at full capacity. Many people respond very deeply to this gentle and non-invasive body work and it is brilliant with babies and women after childbirth, particularly if there has been any kind of trauma eg Ventose or Forceps delivery or a C-section. It is also very effective at addressing any mechanical/skeletal problems alongside dental work or the wearing of dental braces. It is a lovely gentle but powerful compliment to Homeopathic treatment. CST practitioners advocate a holistic approach to health and sometimes combine CST with something like Homeopathy. They do not prescribe drugs. For more details click here
Oesteopathy is like the Tree that Cranio-sacral therapy stems from and relies on the skilled identification of blockages or mis-alignments in the spine or skeleton. The Oesteopath will then apply pressure or manipulations to the area to push or encourage the skeleton and surrounding tissue, to re-align and re-establish healthy blood flow and nerve pathways. It involves more forceful but gentle manipulation than Cranio-sacral therapy but the aim is the same – to ensure the smooth flow of energy, blood, nerves etc thereby alleviating and eliminating pain, inflammation and decay of tissues and allowing greater mobility and flexability. Most Oesteopaths are also knowledgeable about exercise and diet and would advocate a holistic approach to health. They do not prescribe drugs. For more details click here
Chiropractic is similar to Oesteopathy focusing on the spine and the nervous system and began around 100 years ago in a formal way. However ‘Bone setters’ were around in communities before this. The aim is to restore healthy balance – or Homeostasis – by means of gentle mechanical manipulation. Chiropracters are skilled at recognising and locating areas of the spine & central nervous system which have become compressed or misaligned and are therefore restricting or blocking blood flow and/or nerve pathways to surrounding organs or body systems. It uses this manipulation of the vertebrae of the spine to release any compression, encourage re-alignment and mobility, thereby enabling a healthy nervous system that can communicate fully with the brain. By freeing up these pathways, there is pain relief, less or no more inflammation, greater mobility and flexibility. But often much more than physical well being, often emotional issues or moods are improved. Most Chiropractic practitioners are also knowledgeable about other natural health approaches eg diet & nutrition, homeopathy, herbs, exercises. They do not prescribe drugs. Both Oesteopaths and Chiropractics – (as well as most other Holistic health practitioners) – go through rigerous Anatomy and Physiology training in order to qualify. For more details click here
Physiotherapy also aims to restore mobility and pain free movement after injury or illness in muscular skeletal conditions. Therapists work using massage techniques, manipulation, exercises and repeated stretching movements. Like all disciplines there can be a big difference in the experience and training of Physiotherapists – some would incorperate other modalities eg oesteopathy or chiropractic and have completed many years of training, others have done comparitively short courses and may not fully understand the less obviously physical aspects of how we work. Some practitioners may prescribe the use of anti-inflammatory drugs. For more info click here
Life coaching can be a very useful springboard to adopting more healthy ways of living your life and helping you to identify patterns of behaviour or beliefs that are hindering you or harming you. How each practitioner works will be highly individual and will vary according to their training and their life experience. Life coaching can encompass many different skill sets eg Cognitive Behaviourial therapy (CBT), NLP (Neuro-linguistic programming) or other techniques for identifying self-limiting behaviour or beliefs and enabling a release and re-programming of that limiting behaviour. Skilled practitioners can effect major changes in our behavioural patterns and enable far more healthy emotional responses in just a few hours. It can also simply concentrate on helping with problems like de-cluttering, procrastination, overwhelm etc and offer practical advise for you to adopt to achieve more of what you want from Life. There are many different ways to become a life coach and it is a relatively recent modality. But it’s growing in popularity and can be accessed more and more online as well as in person with many internationally renowned practitioners offering courses and coaching sessions online. For more details click here
Naturapath is trained to diagnose and treat illnesses by the use of food and supplements predominently but they may well incorperate other natural therapies that complement their goal which is to identify the underlying causes of illness and enable the person to gain enough energy to employ their own natural healing responses. Naturapaths believe that all illnesses are caused either by not enough of the right nutrients, too much of the wrong foods or an inability to use foods successfully. Their training includes an understanding of what processes the body goes through at a cellular level to harness and process our foods and nutrients and therefore why certain foods may aggravate and others benefit. Like Homeopaths some – but not all – will address all 3 aspects of health – the physical, emotional and spiritual and seek to remove any potential obstacles to cure for each individual. For info click here
Functional Medicine Doctor as I stated at the beginning of this Blog, is a growing field of practise and in some ways a return to how many GPs used to practise. My own family GP when I was a child, was pharmacetically & anatomically trained, but also would use some herbal medicines, a bit of homeopathy, and aspects of physical examination from TCM eg examining the tongue and taking a pulse etc. Functional Medicine Doctors would consider food & diet, would use supplements and other approaches as well as pharmaceuticals if there was no other suitable tool. Again their field of expertise varies according to the scope of their training and their individual interest, perhaps one of the most well known would be Dr Mercola in the US.
I hope that you find this introductory guide useful and would love to hear any comments or additions to this – by no means exhaustive – list. There are many different doors to choose from and as always, the choice is yours as to which one you open and walk through.