The different forms and range of complementary approaches that are available to service users

Allopathic medicine is the mainstream practise within the NHS. It treats medical conditions by attacking their symptoms, usually with pharmaceutical products or with surgical intervention. The British medical association uses the term ‘non conventional therapies’ to cover treatment and therapies that are not covered by ‘conventional medicine’. These therapies take a holistic approach to illness, treating the whole person rather than just the disease or condition it self.

Complementary approaches will cover both complementary therapies, for example aromatherapy, reflexology, yoga and also alternative therapies such as homeopathy, acupuncture and chiropractic.

Complementary approaches are based around the healing power of nature, sometimes-using herbal medicines and oils, such as aromatherapy and bach flower remedies. Other more ‘non conventional’ approaches look at external powers. These therapies include meditation, Christian Science, Feng shui, yoga and Thai chi.

The words ‘complementary medicine’ covers a wide variety of treatment methods. The place of complementary therapies can take place along side traditional treatments or as a stand-alone treatment. When patients for example suffer from back pain their doctor may recommend a complementary therapy like chiropractic, along side taking Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

As well as having therapies along side traditional treatments a person may choose to have a stand-alone treatment. A stand-alone treatment is when individuals choose to have a therapy for their own choice. This can be a luxury treatment or to treat an illness. You don’t have to be recommended by your doctor to have a therapy; you can choose to have it yourself. Some individuals may choose to indulge in an aromatherapy treatment or a relaxing massage, as well as these being a luxury they are also helpful in treating ailments and illnesses.

Some of them are increasingly well known and accepted by doctors – osteopathy, for instance. While other approaches that doctors are not as aware of such as – hypnotherapy, reiki, crystal healing, medication etc are not. Perhaps this is because some of them have a more spiritual aspect and not based on scientific/common knowledge. It can be said though that therapies such as chiropractic, art therapy, kinesiology, reflexology etc are more recommended though because there are scientific explanation why they work.

There are a variety of different types of therapies and they can be put into one (or more) of the four categories below.

* Eastern therapies

* Manipulative therapies

* Natural therapies

* Therapies involving external powers.

Eastern therapies

Eastern therapies mostly come from the countries India, Thailand, Japan and China. Many complementary therapies have their origins from ancient Asia. Derived from Buddhism and involving enlightenment, they focus on both body and mind as integral components for a healthy body, combining this with balance. Examples include yoga, tai chi, Chinese medicine, Indian head massage, acupuncture and acupressure.

Eastern therapies mostly compromises of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). TCM is an ancient art of healing. Its roots can be traced very far back, so far that much of its origins are undocumented.

Manipulative therapies

Manipulative therapies focuses primarily on the structure and systems of the body including the bones and joints, the soft tissues, and the circulatory and lymphatic systems. They involve the use of physical manipulation or massage therapy and other physical manipulation of the body for healing, such as osteopathy, and chiropratic. Osteopathic and chiropratic maipulation were developed in the last 150 yrs whilst others were derived from traditional medcine and bone setting, such as those from china, india or egypt. Different forms of manipulative therpaies include acupressure, amma therapy, bone setting, chiropratic spinal adjustment, shiatsu, osteopathy, tui na, zheng gu, alexander thechnique and naprapathy.

Natural therapies

Natural therapies use plants or plant exracts to treat illness. ‘Many well-established medicines come from plants. For example morphine comes from poppies, aspirin from willow bark, and digoxin (a treatment for an irregular heart beat) from foxgloves’ (source, Other natural therapies include phytopherapy and Chinese herbal medicine.

The origins of natural therapies are linked to diet. ‘In search for food man noticed that one thing would cause excess heat in the stomach, while another removed it. This information was shared until it became common knowledge’ (source, Guide to Traditional Medicine, Raymond R Bullock).

Western pharmacology contains at least a quarter of herbs and plants – contrary to the belief that all medicines are synthetic.

Natural therapies consist of aromatherapy, homeopathy and herbal medicines. Natural therapies such as aromatherapy uses highly concentrated plant essences. It can be used as a base in oils and creams. When the essences are released into the atmosphere they create an ‘aroma’ that has an affect on the body. Lavender oil has been proven to promote a good nights sleep as successfully as drug medication, and regular aromatherapy has been shown to be of use in relieving depression. You can diffuse the aroma of oils into the air, creating a calming and relaxing atmosphere. Herbal teas include after dinner tea, bunchu and marshmallow tea and lemon and jasmine tea.

Tinctures are from plants in organic alcohol and water. You just add a dose (1ml-3ml) into a small glass of water. They are a traditional way of extracting properties of plants. Herbal remedies can be used to treat and prevent a number of illnesses. They can also boost your immune system. ‘The properties of ginger are stimulating and warming, and also boost the immune system’ (source Neal’s Yard Remedies booklet Autumn/winter 2006).

Therapies involving external powers

Therapies involving external powers are based on the transference of energy and aim to promote a hormonal balance in the body. Medical professionals are sceptical of these therapies, because they are not always based on fact, and generally will not recommend them.

Crystal therapy, Bach Flower Remedies, spiritual healing and meditation come into this category.

Crystal therapies use quartz crystals and other stones and crystals are placed on and around the body to release energy blockages and harmonize vibrational frequencies. Crystals are used to draw and amplify light and colour the body’s aura, raising the vibrational frequency and facilitating healing.

Bach Flower Remedies is a form of energy medicine, and is based on the theory that physical ailments as well as psychological arise from your emotional state. Like homeopathic remedies, flower remedies (or flower essences) are diluted to such a degree as to work on a level other than traditional medicine. Then particular herbs and flowers are given to help people work with their emotions e.g. anger, anxiety, phobias etc.

Spiritual healing is the use of solely spiritual means in treating disease, sometimes accompanied with the refusal of modern medical techniques. Christian healing for example is used in the belief that God health people through the Holy Spirit, often involving the laying of hands on people. In the Catholic Church faith healing is often a result of intercessory prayer to a saint with the gift of healing. An example of a saint with the gift of healing is Blessed Brother Andre Bessette, CSC, and a holy Cross Brother known as the ‘Miracle Man of Montreal’.

Meditation is the ancient art of relaxing the mind and body to allow you to become calm and focused, so that you can think ‘inwards’ to the mind itself. It is most well known for being used in Buddhism to achieve enlightenment. It is also used in Christianity to meditate and contemplate on Gods word and Christ’s sufferings. It is also used in Jainism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism and Taoism.

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