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Top 10 Complementary and Alternative Medicine Therapies that work

Anamika S Jain is a Social Media Consultant and Blogger. She is passionate about topics like Alternative Health Therapies and Hindu Mantras.

What is Complementary Alternative Medicine?

More and more people are turning to alternative medicines and therapy these days because of its popularity and numerous health benefits. Many conditions and diseases which are not easily treated with conventional medicine or are too costly have better and cheaper alternatives. Also many people believe that natural is healthy and turn to practices like yoga therapy and acupuncture for treating the diseases than opting to use chemical based drugs.

What is Complementary Alternative Medicine? Complementary and alternative medicine is a category of medicine that includes a variety of treatment methods that fall outside the realm of conventional medicine. Mostly Alternative Medicine and Complimentary medicine are seen grouped together under the umbrella term complementary and alternative medicine (also known as CAM). However, these terms have different meanings. While the term 'Complementary medicine' refers to the practices or products that work in conjunction with traditional medicine, 'Alternative medicine' is used by itself as a substitute or replacement for traditional therapy. In other words, if a treatment method is used along with conventional medicine as a supplement, it is complementary medicine. If a treatment method is used to replace conventional medicine therapy, then it is an alternative medicine therapy. Often people are seen using Complementary and alternative medicine along with Western medical treatment programs in treating diseases for getting better results.

Given below is a list of the ten most common complementary and alternative medicine therapies.

Complementary and Alternative Medicine Therapies (CAM)

Complementary and Alternative Medicine Therapies (CAM)

CAM - Categories

Complementary and Alternative Medicine Therapies can be widely classified into five categories:-

  • Mind Body Medicine (example : meditation)
  • Manipulative Body based Practices (example : osteopathy)
  • Whole Medical Systems (example : homeopathy)
  • Biologically based practices (example : Diet Therapy)
  • Energy Healing Therapy (example : Reiki)

Top 10 Common Complementary and Alternative Medicine Therapies

There are more than 100 varieties of Alternative Therapies. Given below is my list of ten Best Complementary and Alternative Medicine Therapies.

  1. Yoga Therapy: Yoga is a mind and body practice which is more than 5000 years old. Yoga consists of various postures and breathing exercises which helps in improving flexibility and promote relaxation. Practicing yoga can help in reducing stress, lowering blood pressure, controlling diabetes, regulating the heart rate and treating innumerable diseases and health conditions. It can be used as a complimentary therapy for treating migraine, arthritis, insomnia, high blood pressure, depression, menstrual disorders etc. Often women are advised to do prenatal yoga for having an easy child birth. Yoga is also known to be very effective in treating alcohol addiction and smoking. However, it is best done under guidance and only after consulting the Doctor.
  2. Acupuncture : Acupuncture is a part of mind and body medicine. It is also a component of energy medicine, manipulative and body-based practices, and traditional Chinese medicine. Acupuncture can be used to cure or prevent several medical conditions. Acupuncture involves the insertion of very fine and thin needles into the skin at specific points (meridians) along a person's body. These needles are then manipulated by hand or by electrical stimulation to remove the blocked energy flow and re-achieving the person's qi (also known as chi) balance. The pain caused in this method of treatment is not more than that of a mosquito bite. One session could take 20 minutes to one hour. This treatment method originated in China more than 2500 years ago. It is known to be very effective in treating pain. It is often recommended as a complimentary therapy after chemotherapy. It is also known to be helpful in the treatment of addictions, headache, menstrual cramps, back pain, morning sickness and asthma. Acupuncture should be done by a skilled and reputable practitioner as careless application of needles can cause bleeding or injury.
  3. Ayurveda Medicine: Ayurveda is a part of ancient whole medical systems. The meaning of the word ‘Ayurveda’ is ‘science of life’. It is the traditional Hindu system of medicine practiced in India for more than 5,000 years. Ayurvedic Practitioners use a whole lot of techniques like herbal remedies, diet therapy, massage therapy, breathing exercises and meditation to restore the imbalance in the body’s system (three doshas) which are responsible for illness and maintain a healthy prana or life energy. They use procedures like reading the pulse and observing the tongue as ways of diagnosis. Ayurveda is known to be successful in treating several diseases and conditions like diabetes, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal disorders, neurological disorders and musculo skeletal pain. Ayurveda is considered as a relatively safe method of treatment in preventing diseases and promoting wellness. However, it is advisable to consult a physician before starting as there could be certain health risks of this therapy interfering with other medications used.
  4. Homoeopathy: Homeopathy is a modern whole medical system. This system of medicine is based upon the use of the ‘law of similars’ which dates back to the time of Hippocrates. According to this law, a substance that causes disease symptoms in an average person may, when administered in homeopathic dilutions to a person who is ill, promote the same set of symptoms and initiate a healing response. In other words, the substances that make you ill can also help you to stay well. This method of healing was founded by Samuel Hahnemann of Germany in 1796. It is important to consult a doctor before pursuing homeopathic medicines as the treatment is individualized and based on the medical history of the patient, lifestyle, diet and emotional state. The Homeopathy system of healing is found effective in treating arthritis childhood diseases, infections, fatigue, diarrhea, asthma and allergies. Though this method of treatment is quite harmless, wrong medication and overdose can cause problems.
  5. Hypnosis: Hypnotherapy or Hypnosis is a mind and body practice which puts a person in an altered state of consciousness to facilitate behavioral or emotional changes in the person. This is a method of bypassing the conscious mind and accessing the subconscious mind. In other words, hypnotherapy can take a person to a trance like state. The suggestions or encouragement made by the hypnotherapist while a person is in that state can help him/her to make changes in behavior. Hypnosis is known to be very effective in smoking cessation, weight loss, alcoholic addition and treatment of phobias. It is also helpful in treating conditions like insomnia, pain, depression and stress. Hypnosis is considered a safe therapy and the treatment time for one session could take one hour to 90 minutes.
  6. Massage Therapy: Therapeutic Massages fall into the category of Manipulative Body based Practices. During a massage, therapists manipulate a person's muscles and other soft tissues by rubbing and kneading muscles and joints in the body to promote health and wellness. Massages can help in improving flexibility, muscle strength and immunity. Massage Therapy is known to be effective in the treatment of obesity, insomnia, depression, stress, digestive disorders and pain. There are many popular massage techniques which are in use. Some of them are Reflexology, Rolfing, Shiatsu and Heller work. A normal massage session may last from 30 minutes to one hour. However, this method of therapy is not advisable for those with infectious skin diseases, nerve injuries and unhealed wounds or rashes. Massage should be avoided immediately after surgery and during the first three months of pregnancy. Also it should be avoided by women during menstruation. It is best to consult your physician before opting for massage therapy.
  7. Meditation: Meditation is a mind body practice used to relieve stress and promote relaxation. This method of treatment helps in balancing a person’s physical, mental and emotional states. It is used in many religions to enhance spiritual growth and promote wellness. This technique is known to be very effective in improving concentration, reducing blood pressure, improving blood circulation and relieve stress. Meditation is also helpful in treating headaches, respiratory problems, anxiety, depression, migraine, insomnia, premenstrual syndrome, heart problems and chronic pain. Meditation can be classified into 3 major categories – Transcendental Meditation, Mindfulness Meditation and Breath Meditation. Meditation and Yoga are often combined together for better physical and mental health benefits. It is advisable to do meditation twice a day for 15-20 minutes, preferably in the morning and evening.
  8. Reiki: Reiki is an Energy Healing Therapy used to restore physical, emotional, mental and spiritual balance. This technique helps in reducing stress and promotes relaxation. This therapy was discovered in 1922 by Mikao Usui of Japan. This ancient Tibetan healing system uses light hand placements to channel healing energies to the recipient. Reiki is known to be effective in reducing chemotherapy side effects and making child birth easy. It is also used in treating anxiety, sleep disorders, headaches, asthma, diabetes, migraine and eating disorders. Reiki is considered as a safe practice and often used as a complimentary method of treatment.
  9. Diet Therapy: Diet plays an important role in the overall health of an individual. Diet-based therapy is a biological based practice which uses a variety of diets to improve health and treat certain health conditions. Diets are known to be very effecting in controlling diabetes, high cholesterol and obesity. Some of the popular Diet-based therapies include Atkins diet, Macrobiotic diet, Ornish diet, Pritikin diet, South Beach diet, Vegetarian diet and Zone diet. Diet based therapies are better done only as per the advice of an expert
  10. Aromatherapy : Aromatherapy is a healing method which uses aromatic plant extracts and essential oils. This method of treatment is often used along with other treatment methods like massage therapy, reflexology, acupuncture and chiropractic to promote wellness. Aromatherapy is known to be very effective in reducing stress, relieving anxiety and enhancing relaxation. Aromatherapy is used in treating a wide variety of diseases and disorders including insomnia, obesity, sunburn, allergies, depression, headaches, and inflammation to name a few. Some of the widely used essential oils in aromatherapy are lavender, peppermint, eucalyptus, tea tree, rosemary, chamomile, thyme, tarragon and everlasting. However, Aromatherapy is not advisable for those having asthma or skin allergies.

There has been a considerable increase in the number of people using these complementary and alternative medicine therapies lately because of their popularity. Many people turn to CAM because of adverse effects of pharmaceutical drugs. Most of the Complementary and Alternative Medicine Therapies can be done along with conventional medical treatments. CAM is also mostly a cheaper in cost when compared to allopathic medicines. However, remember that though CAM Therapies work it may take some time to give results.

Have you used CAM? Feel free to share your experiences and beliefs on complementary and alternative practices.

What is complementary and alternative medicine?


Jared Ballard from Spanish Fork on April 13, 2018:

It is time that we reach for natural health than the pharma drugs that are killing the world. Thanks for sharing this article. Keep spreading the word.

suziecat7 from Asheville, NC on March 30, 2014:

What a great Hub. I believe the world should embrace all of these alternative methods of healing. Voted up!

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on October 27, 2013:

Top 10 Complementary and Alternative Medicine Therapies that work, a brilliantly written hub and this is new to me, voted up and useful

justmesuzanne from Texas on July 19, 2013:

Excellent, detailed information! Voted up and useful! :)

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yssubramanyam from india, nellore. andhrapradesh on December 15, 2012:

excellent topic. really solves the purpose of all people seeking for good health and happy life. natural way of helping hub..

Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on December 14, 2012:

I've tried most of the therapies you mention here at one time or another. A dear friend who is battling cancer stopped chemotherapy and began alternative therapies. She feels better and the tumors are shrinking. Of course every person is unique and responds differently to each therapy, but it's definitely worth it to try. Thanks!

Aloe Kim on September 15, 2012:

I've never heard of a couple of these ^_^ Thank you. Wonderful information. These are all great ways to treat and prevent illness ^_^ voted up!

Priscill Anne Alvik from Schaumburg, IL on September 05, 2012:

I learned so much from your hub....thank you for sharing! My next class for spring semester is going to be Reiki..I so wrap my spriit around all of this! xo

Ruchira from United States on September 04, 2012:

Great and interesting read, Anamika.

Totally agree on most of them...cheers!

JR Krishna from India on August 19, 2012:

Very good compilation of alternative and complementary medicine techniques

Thanks for sharing this hub

Marlene Bertrand from USA on August 10, 2012:

I have not heard of Ayurveda Medicine before reading your hub. I am glad to have learned about another form of alternative treatments. I prefer natural treatments, or at least things that I can be taught to do on my own where harmful chemicals are not involved. This is a wonderfully written hub on the subject of complementary and alternative treatments.

Susette Horspool from Pasadena CA on August 10, 2012:

Good job, good hub Anamika. I've done a simple hatha yoga program for forty years, off and on. I swear by it. I had an off period recently and when I started again, my body immediately felt cleaner and lighter. I'm just as flexible as I was when young, though not as strong . . . that's coming.

Have you considered the impact of colon hydrotherapy on physical health? I wrote a hub recently on that topic and have experienced it myself. So many of our diseases start with a clogged colon, then with a clogged liver, that clearing out just those two things alone could heal 98% of them . . . that is, if your readers even let themselves get that far ;-)

Lightshare on August 07, 2012:

Great information Anamika. Allopathy would b fast curing, but it has many unseen demerits for the future. Thank you

Redberry Sky on August 07, 2012:

I love yoga and meditation, they go hand in hand, and you're so right, they really do have so many benefits to health, and helps to get rid of stress completely. Good insight into some of the alternative ways to improve health, Anamikas, you've piqued my interest into learning more about some of these.

Mellonyy on August 06, 2012:

A daily meditation practice changed my life. I feel better now - happier and more positive.Great hub, thanks! Voted up and shared!

Anamika S Jain (author) from Mumbai - Maharashtra, India on August 05, 2012:

Thanks for the visit and appreciation dilipchandra12, KT Banks and kashmir56.

@cloverleaffarm, @rajan jolly Thanks for the appreciation and vouching on the effectiveness of CAM therapies.

Thomas Silvia from Massachusetts on August 05, 2012:

Very interesting and useful information to use has alternative medicine, it is always good to have a second option .

Well done and vote up and more !!!

KT Banks from Texas on August 05, 2012:

Thank you for sharing this information. Living in the fast pace world of Dallas, TX can be hectic, so I am always looking for different ways to relax and lower stress levels. I try to avoid pharmaceuticals because I think they are poisonous.

yssubramanyam from india, nellore. andhrapradesh on August 05, 2012:

i too trust and have faith in above mentioned remedies. good hub. useful to very common man..

Dilip Chandra from India on August 05, 2012:

Very useful article. Complementary medicine, i am first time going though such issue. Thanks for sharing.

Healing Herbalist from The Hamlet of Effingham on August 05, 2012:

Wonderful hub. As an herbalist, I love to see someone promoting alternative ways of healing. Voted up!

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on August 05, 2012:

Anamika, a lot of people club the complementary and alternative therapies together. You have rightly made the distinction between the two very clear.

I have been using alternative therapies like hand postures and acupressure since many years and can vouch for their efficacy. Yoga and pranayama are also worthy of practicing, because they are effective if done the right way.

I've used biochemic medicines to good effect as well as natural remedies and Ayurvedic medicines.

I'm very much inclined to these natural remedies and practices as I've seen them work on occasion after occasion.

This is a fine list of complementary and alternative therapies.

Voted up all the way and shared.

Anamika S Jain (author) from Mumbai - Maharashtra, India on August 04, 2012:

Thanks for the appreciation Sharyn's Slant and sholland10. I have used all of these and more and am knowledgeable about most of them. Thanks for the share, I appreciate it.

Susan Holland from Southwest Missouri on August 04, 2012:

I have used several of these: meditation/prayer, massage therapy, aromatherapy, diet therapy, acupuncture, and yoga. They do work and are helpful for the mind and spirit. I have never been hypnotized, but I find it fascinating. Ayurveda Medicine and Reiki are new to me. I find them very interesting. I think the ancients had much more wisdom than we give them credit for. Many doctors will not even recognize these CAM's as medicine or worthy.

Very interesting. Votes and shared. :-)

Sharon Smith from Northeast Ohio USA on August 04, 2012:

I've never really heard of the term "complementary medicine" or CAM. Very interesting. I learned a lot here. Excellent!

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