Alternative Medicine therapies, lists, types, information
What works and what does not, an honest review
Complementary and Alternative Medicine CAM research studies and review
Separating fact from fiction and scam, a review of herbs, nutrients, amino acids, hormones, and dietary supplements in the treatment of disease conditions

February 1 2018
by Ray Sahelian, M.D.

Also called complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). According to a government survey, more than a third of American adults have tried alternative therapies such as yoga, meditation, massage therapy, acupuncture, herbal supplements, and specific diets. Alternative medicine is popular in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Dallas, Chicago, Portland, Houston, New York, and Orange County. This page is still in the development phase and much more info will be added over time.

The list below includes several forms commonly practiced in the United States and other countries:

Acupressure benefit
Long used in traditional Chinese medicine, acupressure is based on the same principles as acupuncture, but employs touch rather than needles. According to traditional theory, stimulating particular points on the skin helps balance the flow of energy, or "chi," throughout the body. With acupressure, practitioners use their fingers to stimulate these "acupoints," making it a form of massage.
   The ancient practice of acupressure may be able to calm the aggressive behavior that often results from dementia. Taiwanese researchers looked at whether acupressure could offer a relatively simple way to address the problem. Various forms of touch therapy, such as gentle massage, can calm dementia patients' anxiety and agitation. The simple act of human contact that might explain the benefit; for people whose ability to communicate has been taken away by dementia, physical touch may be the easiest or only way for them to connect with other people. Journal of Clinical Nursing, February 2007.

Acupuncture can treat a number of different conditions in skilled hands. Fibromyalgia patients treated with six sessions of acupuncture experienced significant symptomatic improvement compared to a group given simulated acupuncture sessions. It can help reduce migraine headache discomfort in some people.

Aromatherapy appeals to women much more than men. It is a form of therapy that uses volatile plant materials, known as essential oils, and other aromatic compounds for the purpose of altering a person's mind, mood, cognitive function or health.

Biofeedback is the process of becoming aware of various physiological functions using instruments that provide information on the activity of those same systems, with a goal of being able to manipulate them at will. Processes that can be controlled include brainwaves, muscle tone, skin conductance, heart rate and pain perception.

Chelation therapy is a form which I have not studied well. It is quite controversial.

Chiropractic - Among alternative medicine users, chiropractors are visited most frequently, followed by naturopathic doctors.

Herbal alternative medicine - use of vitamins and herbs has hit an all-time high, with middle-aged women identified as the biggest users of these and other forms of alternative medicine. Herbal alternative medicine is one of the fields that I feel I have accumulated a great deal of knowledge.

Homeopathy is a form of alternative medicine in which practitioners use highly diluted preparations. Homeopathy was first proposed by German physician Samuel Hahnemann in 1796, which he called the law of similars, preparations which cause certain symptoms in healthy individuals are given in diluted form to patients who already exhibit similar symptoms.

Homeopathy is not effective for treating any health condition, Australia’s top body for medical research concluded in 2015, after undertaking an extensive review of existing studies. Homeopaths believe that illness-causing substances can, in minute doses, treat people who are unwell.

I'm a natural health consultant and I often feel like I'm the only person in the holistic-healing community who doesn't buy into homeopathy or other magical-thinking-based techniques. Many people think I'm a hypocrite for supporting color-therapy, acupuncture, and herbalism, but not homeopathy. I've been reading and following Dr. Sahelian for several years and I've always been tremendously relieved by his evidence-based approach to naturopathic medicine. There are so many quacks in both allopathy and naturopathy that I really view Dr. Sahelian as one of the few voices of reason. (By the way, his take on Stephen Barrett was right
on.) Anyway, I was wondering what the doctor's view is regarding homeopathy. In general, does he approve or disapprove of the use of homeopathic remedies? I've never seen him refer to homeopathy at all.
     As a medical doctor who practices alternative medicine, I have always had difficulty understanding the theory behind homeopathy. It just does not make too much sense to me, however since I have not studied homeopathy in great detail, I cannot say for certain it does not work.

Q. What is your opinion of Liddell, BpS, Back Pain + Sciatica, Oral Sprays, 1.0 fl oz (30 ml)?
   A. I am not familiar with this product.

Hypnosis - People with chest pain that's not caused by a heart condition or heartburn may find hypnosis provides significant pain relief and improves their sense of general well-being. The causes of non-cardiac chest pain, as it's termed, are unknown. It can create so much anxiety that many people with the condition actually seek more care than patients with bona fide heart disease.

Iridology is a practice where a diagnosis is attempted by looking at someone's iris.

Magnetic Therapy or magnotherapy is a practice involving the use of static magnetic fields. Practitioners claim that subjecting certain parts of the body to magnets has beneficial health effects.

Massage therapy - massage alters neurotransmitter and hormone levels.

Music Therapy - I was skeptical of the effectiveness of music therapy until I saw the movie The Story of the Weeping Camel. This movie changed my viewpoint on how music can influence animals. I highly recommend everyone to see The Story of the Weeping Camel. It was filmed in the Gobi desert of Mongolia in the year 2002.
     Heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate fluctuate in respond to music, with an arousal effect seen with increasing tempo, while slow, meditative music induces a relaxing effect, especially during the pauses.

Naprapathy is a manipulative therapy, that focuses on the evaluation and treatment of neuro-musculoskeletal conditions. It is a derivative of osteopathy and chiropractic types of practices.

Naturopathy - Naturopathic medicine, or naturopathy, is centuries old. It was widely practiced in the United States in the 19th and early 20th centuries but declined after World War II. In the last twenty years there's been somewhat of a resurgence in interest in naturopathic medicine.

What are your thoughts on orthomolecular medicine?
   Orthomolecular medicine practitioners use megavitamin therapy in order to prevent or treat diseases. Practitioners use megavitamin doses in very large dosages. There are certain cases and patients where this approach could be useful but it has to be a case by case approach. I prefer not to make a generalized statement that overall OM is a good practice or a bad practice. My main focus is the natural treatment of common chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis, dementia, etc. In most cases I prefer using lower dosages of several supplements rather than a very high amount of just one. However, there are medical or psychiatric conditions where it is possible that massive amounts of one or more nutrients could be of benefit and as new research gives us more clues it will be easier to know when to use such therapy.

Reiki is a spiritual practice developed in 1922 by Japanese Buddhist Mikao Usui. It uses a technique commonly called palm healing. Through the use of this technique, practitioners claim to transfer healing energy in the form of ki through the palms.

Prayer Therapy
A study of more than 1,800 patients who underwent heart bypass surgery has failed to show that prayers specially organized for their recovery had any impact. The patients in the study at six U.S. hospitals included 604 who were prayed for after being told they may or may not be; another 597 patients who were not prayed for after being told they might or might not be; and 601 who were prayed for and told they would be the subject of prayer. The praying was done by members of three Christian groups in monasteries and elsewhere -- two Catholic and one Protestant -- who were given written prayers and the first name and initial of the last name of the prayer subjects. The prayers started on the eve of or day of surgery and lasted for two weeks. Among those who were prayed for but only told they might be -- 52 percent had post-surgical complications compared with 51 percent in the patients who were not prayed for but told they might be. After 30 days, the death rates and incidence of major complications were about the same in all three groups, according to the study published in the March, 2006 issue of American Heart Journal.

Reflexology is a method of treatment involving the physical act of applying pressure to the feet and hand with specific thumb, finger and hand techniques without the use of oil or lotion.

Yoga is an amazing form of physical and mental practice. I am amazed that Western culture did not develop such a form of movement therapy.

Alternative medicine and cancer
There are many natural herbs and supplements that can be helpful in cancer treatment or prevention. Alternative medicine and cancer research is at the earliest stages and hardly any funds have been devoted to alternative medicine approach to cancer treatment compared to chemotherapy research. See cancer for more information on alternatives.

Integr Cancer Ther. 2014. Efficacy of Antioxidants as a Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) in Combination With the Chemotherapeutic Agent Doxorubicin. Resveratrol and curcumin have the potential to be clinically applied to prevent cardiac toxicity and hand-foot syndrome and enhance the anticancer efficiency of Doxorubicin.

Cordyceps famous fungus.

Cancer patients under age 65 are much more likely than older people to explore alternative and complementary medicine for easing their symptoms and side effects of treatment.

Alternative Medicine and Diabetes
Results of a study do not support the notion that people who use complementary or alternative medicine are less apt to use conventional "evidence-based" medical and preventive care services. On the contrary, it seems they are more apt to use conventional medical services. In a survey of 2,474 adult diabetics, researchers found that nearly half reported using some form of complementary and alternative medicine therapy such as acupuncture, chiropractic care, dietary or herbal therapy, or massage and relaxation therapy. Given that there were roughly 15 million US adults with diabetes at the time of the survey, that means that roughly 7 million were using complementary and alternative medicine therapies, the authors note in the January 2006 issue of the journal Diabetes Care. There has been a dramatic increase in the use of complementary and alternative medicine among individuals with diabetes in recent years.

Alternative medicine magazine
Dozens of alternative medicine magazines are available. However, one must be careful when reading the information in these magazines since some of the articles may not provide reliable information.

Alternative medicine for high blood pressure
There are many options through diet and supplements that could potentially be helpful as alternative medicine for high blood pressure.

Depression and mood disorders
Q. Is 5-HTP a good alternative medicine for Prozac?
   A. Some people may respond well to 5-HTP for mood disorders or for anxiety, but there may be others who respond better to Prozac or SSRIs. It's difficult to predict.

Arthritis and osteoarthritis
There are many options through diet and supplements that could potentially be helpful as alternative medicine for arthritis.

Menopause and hot flashes
There are many natural remedies through diet and supplements that could potentially be helpful as alternative medicine for menopause, however research is this area has provided with conflicting and uncertain answers. Lots more studies are still needed.

Alternative Medicine and Sleep
One in six Americans frequently have difficulty falling asleep, and 5 percent of them use some type of alternative medicine to treat their sleeping problems. "Most respondents who used herbal therapies or relaxation techniques found these therapies helpful for managing their insomnia or trouble sleeping," Dr. Nancy J. Pearson and colleagues from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland report in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Herbs and relaxation exercises were the remedies most commonly used. About 60 percent of those who used alternative medicine for insomnia said they told their doctor they had done so. Alternative medicine use was more common among younger people, and among more educated individuals. Sleeping troubles peaked among 45- to 54-year-olds, declined somewhat for older people, and then increased again among those 85 and older. This contradicts past research that has suggested insomnia is most common among the elderly. "Taken together, our data justify further research on the efficacy of these complementary and alternative medicine therapies to treat sleeping disorders such as insomnia and trouble sleeping," the researchers conclude. Archives of Internal Medicine, September 18, 2006.

Alternative medicine doctor
2006 - Alternative medicine doctors who use treatments such as acupuncture and herbal supplements are making a controversial bid to expand their turf in Illinois. A bill pending in the Legislature would make Illinois the 15th state to license naturopathic doctors, or N.D.s, who favor natural treatments and shun most synthetic drugs. And for the first time in 54 years, a Chicago area school is offering a graduate program in naturopathic medicine. National University of Health Sciences in Lombard will start the four-year N.D. program in September.

Q. In the same way we are asking those in the medical and pharmaceutical field to be honest about the value of a natural approach and of supplements, so should those of us that support a natural approach and supplements in recognizing the fact that not all supplements and not all so called natural approaches are everything that are cracked up to be.
   A. We couldn't agree with you more. There is dishonesty on both ends, the alternative medicine field and the traditional medical field, and practically everywhere it seems, not just in the health field.

Q. Just to send a note, in response to the latest newsletter, that I very much respect and concur with Dr. Sahelian's stance on suspecting current "medical knowledge and research" and the current "medical establishment". I'm not necessarily sure if there's a money thing involved with the drug companies, but there is something and I am wary of it. I honestly do think that modern-day medical practice is less about health and more about "drug-pushing" in the guise of health. I don't like current medical practice and the research that goes toward it, especially when they go against good healthy supplements/nutrients that have been shown to be effective and safe, and also to have other health-giving benefits besides what they're "usually" known for (meds don't do that generally, certainly at least not without side-effects). So just to let Dr. Sahelian know that I (and many others doubtless) very much agree with this wariness of current conventional medical practice.

Q. What is the scientific reliability behind NAET testing? Have you written or know of any quality articles regarding this NAET diagnosing procedure?
   A. To the best of our understanding, Nambudripad's Allergy Elimination Technique ( NAET ) is a method of diagnosis and treatment based on the idea that allergies can be diagnosed with muscle-testing. I have not studied this topic in any detail, but, based on my understanding of the human body, NAET is not consistent with my medical knowledge of how the body works.