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Benefits of Alternative Medicine and Conventional Medicine

This photo shows my daughter, with IV drips, monitor wires and a CPAP tube to help her breathe, being held by my husband in Kangaroo Care.

This photo shows my daughter, with IV drips, monitor wires and a CPAP tube to help her breathe, being held by my husband in Kangaroo Care.

The photo on the right shows my second daughter aged 3 days old. I have little doubt that conventional medicine saved her life, and equally little doubt that alternative techniques enhanced the quality of her life and mine. Her story is a perfect example of the miracles that happen when the differing professions work together instead of being at odds.

Alternative Medicine versus Conventional Medicine?

There is a tendency to assume that conventional and alternative medical practitioners are against each other. While this was prevalent several decades ago and may still be so in some cases, overall there has been some meeting of minds. The first time I went to an alternative practitioner it was on the advice of a medical doctor. I had back and leg pain for which rheumatologists could find no cause, and my doctor suggested I try an osteopath. This was over 20 years ago and at that time in the UK, osteopaths were definitely considered alternative. Now both they and chiropractors are now subject to statutory regulation – which means it is possible to be referred to them on the National Health Service, although it is considerably more common to be referred to a physiotherapist.

Herbs are a source of Conventional and Alternative Medicines

Lemon Balm, also known as Melissa is considered to have a calming effect.

Lemon Balm, also known as Melissa is considered to have a calming effect.

Complementary or alternative medicine is no longer regarded with the suspicion they once were. Which alterative therapies are incorporated into mainstream health care varies from country to country. For instance, while in the USA a Doctor of Osteopathy could be your primary care provider; that is not the case in the UK.

Examples of complementary therapies that may be provided by the NHS in the UK are:




Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD)

Herbal Medicine


Counselling, CBT (Cognitive Behavourial Therapy) and Hypnotherapy

Medical Doctors train in complementary techniques to provide Integrated Health Care

Some doctors take additional training in homeopathy or acupuncture, and some hospitals have alternative practitioners providing additional care options, or nurses may have trained in complementary techniques. Some therapies are available in some areas and not in others, and often therapies are available to cancer patients but not to others. Reiki is one example of this; aromatherapy is another. Hospitals in the USA, the UK and several other countries worldwide offer Reiki to patients. While in particular it has been used with cancer patients alongside conventional treatments, it is also given to cope with stress, to complement other treatments for endometriosis, and in drug addiction clinics.

The Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine is Europe’s largest public-sector provider of integrated medicine. Staff members there are registered doctors or other professionals who have also trained in complementary medicine.

Acupuncture needle

Acupuncture in Mainstream Medicine

In the UK, acupuncture is probably the alternative practice that has been adopted most widely in mainstream medicine, being used in many hospitals and GP practices around the UK. Around the world, there are also several on-going clinical trials taking place to determine its effectiveness. As yet there is no consensus of opinion on its effectiveness, but NHS choices say that there is “reasonably good evidence” it is effective for several types of pain, including from arthritis in the knee, chronic back pain and headaches.

I was interested to see that some randomized control studies suggest that acupuncture could improve rates of pregnancy and live births in women who have IVF treatment. While I did not have IVF, several years ago when I turned to acupuncture it was because of fertility problems. The effects were rapid: within two months I was pregnant. That first pregnancy ended in miscarriage, but I felt confident that acupuncture could help me again. We had moved to a new city, and my new acupuncturist was also trained in Chinese Herbalism, so he prescribed herbs as well.

Moxibustion heat being applied to acupuncture point

Chinese Herbs an Moxibustion

Chinese medicine approaches healing in a different way to Western medicine, and my acupuncturist/herbalist explained that in Chinese medicine infertility and miscarriage were seen as being linked. It made sense to me.

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He also explained that I had deficiency in Spleen energy. In Chinese medicine the body is considered to have meridians – channels of “Qi” or energy. So deficiency of spleen does not relate to the physical organ but to the meridian, and means the “life force” of the spleen is depleted. Symptoms include tiredness and digestive problems, and it can be a cause of miscarriage. It can be aggravated by moving house: we had done that twice in the few months previously.

Chinese herbs do not taste very nice, at least not the ones I took. But as far as I am concerned they worked. My second pregnancy also threatened to end in miscarriage, and in the early days I was a regular in both the doctor’s surgery and at the herbalist’s. As well as herbs he prescribed moxibustion. You can see an example of moxibustion in use in the photograph above right. The white stick is made up of dried herbs called moxa or mugwort herb. It is lit and held over an acupuncture point for a certain length of time.

Chinese medical practitioners refer to the body as having excess or deficient heat, and moxibustion warms the meridian that is deficient. My husband found it very strange, and if you feel the same way you might be interested to know that moxibustion has been used very successfully in mainstream hospitals to turn breech babies! I didn’t care how strange it seemed, because I stopped bleeding, the rest of my pregnancy went well.

Conventional Medicine Saves A Life

If feel fairly certain that my first daughter is here because of Chinese medicine; I am sure my second daughter survived her premature birth because of conventional medicine. By the time of that pregnancy we had moved to yet another city and so didn’t have the support of the herbalist. Whether it would have made any difference is hard to guess: my toddler had been ill for weeks and eventually, at 26 weeks pregnant, I caught the same virus.

At the hospital, first doctors thought I had a bladder infection, but it soon became clear that I was in labor. Doctors gave me a shot of steroids to boost the baby’s lungs. They also gave me a drug to stop my labor. Because this doubles the mother’s heartbeat it can only be given for 24 hours and in that time I was transferred to a hospital with intensive care facilities for newborn babies.

Within seconds of my daughter’s birth she was whisked away. She had IV drips inserted, her lungs sprayed with a surfactant to aid breathing and she was put on a ventilator. Within a few hours she was able to breathe with the CPAP machine that you can see in the photograph at the top of this article. CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airways Pressure and the machine delivers air under pressure, but unlike the ventilator does not breathe for you.

However, our daughter wasn’t done with ventilators: she became seriously ill with a lung infection at one week old and again shortly after her due date. Both times, without the ventilator she would have died.

Imagine what it must be like to start your life that way: to leave the comfort of the womb and be instantly bombarded by needles and tubes. While in the photograph you can see all the tubes and wires trailing from her, what you can’t see are the IV drip needles in her arms and feet. Not surprisingly, this caused her some distress.

My daughter in her incubator

The blue U shape around her legs is a rolled up blanket that helped her to feel contained and safer. She cried less with it there than without.

The blue U shape around her legs is a rolled up blanket that helped her to feel contained and safer. She cried less with it there than without.

Alternative Medical Care enhances life

Fortunately being tucked inside her father’s shirt helped relieve that distress. (More often it was me who held her this way.) The name for this type of holding is Kangaroo Care. It was developed in Columbia by Doctors Martinez and Rey in an attempt to cope with lack of incubators and to encourage mothers to care for their premature babies. (Previously many mothers abandoned their babies.) Kangaroo Care was so successful that the technique spread around the world and is now used in conjunction with conventional care, even when there are plenty of incubators. The first time I held my daughter in Kangaroo Care she was 39 hours old. I do not know how I would have got through the months that followed without it.

This is the real beauty of alternative health care: practitioners see beyond symptoms to the whole person, to the emotional as well as physical needs. The nurse who introduced me to Kangaroo Care explained that in the past premature babies had their physical needs met, but often had emotional difficulties. She also taught me how to massage my baby and how to read her signals. All of this helped us both relax and bond. There are very easy ways to see the effect these treatments have on babies. For instance, when my daughter was relaxed in Kangaroo Care the monitor showed raised oxygen levels.

Conventional medicine’s strength is in its ability to respond to emergency situations. It saves lives.

Complementary or alternative medicine, can, as it did for my daughter, make that life, once saved, worth living.

When the two modes work together miracles occur.

References and further reading

The BMJ report on: Acupuncture treatment for pain: systematic review of randomised clinical trials with acupuncture, placebo acupuncture, and no acupuncture groups


Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on February 24, 2016:

Thanks Debra. Glad you enjoyed the hub. I agree alternative medicine is good for peace of mind. One of its main strengths in fact, and the mind and body are so connected!

Debra Hargrove from North Carolina on February 17, 2016:

Very good information about the many benefits to alternative medical treatment. To me, it is so much better to try to introduce into a person's life. It also helps you keep a peace of mind.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on September 12, 2012:

Carol, I agree that too often drugs are prescribed when what's needed is lifestyle change or perhaps a little self-love. Things have changed a bit in the UK recently - as well as the complementary therapies I listed being available, doctors are less inclined to give antibiotics and some other drugs. I feel encouraged and hope the merging of ways continues. Thanks for your comment.

carol stanley from Arizona on September 09, 2012:

Good balance between the two forms of medicine today and you justly compared them. Unfortunately today so many MDs are prescription happy and eager to prescribe at the slightest provocation. However, as you said traditional medicine saved your daughter's life. If people would exercise, healthfully and manage stress the medical field would not be in crisis. Great hub and voted UP..and shared.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on August 19, 2012:

tillsontitan, thank you so much. And thank you for being you. You are such a loyal reader of my work, I truly do appreciate it!

I'd love to know more about your premie, have you written about him? Do let me know the link if you have.

Mary Craig from New York on August 18, 2012:

You've tied alternative and convential medicine together nicely. Its about time we realize we need them both and they can both help us. God bless you and your daughters for what you went through! I had a premie though he had less issues, so I know I have a small idea...all I can say is God Bless!

Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on August 17, 2012:

Turtlewoman, thanks for your very kind comment.

Kim Lam from California on August 17, 2012:

This is such a touching article! I love how you incorporated your personal experiences to differentiate between the two types of medicine. I also love the first picture of your husband holding your child. So precious!

Thank you for sharing!

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on August 09, 2012:

Thanks summerberrie. It's funny because Kangaroo Care is so much part of our family's history now that I forget how unusual it is.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on August 09, 2012:

Cocopreme, it has always struck me as strange too, but I guess people who are against alternative methods are afraid. To me it makes sense to get the best out everyone's knowledge, wherever it comes from. And it's interesting to think that what is considered alternative today might not be in 10 years time. Once a process has had several clinical trials it seems to become accepted into the norm.

Thanks for your comment.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on August 09, 2012:

Thanks Cre8tor. I agree with you there is a connection between emotional and physical health, though it's not always obvious. (It has been very clear in my kids though.)

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on August 09, 2012:

Margie, thanks for your comment. I useful to know you felt the personal experience added to the hub, it's sometimes a challenge to get the balance. Thanks for the vote up.

summerberrie on August 08, 2012:

Completely precious. I found the information about Kangaroo Care very interesting. Thanks for sharing. Voted up and shared.

Candace Bacon from Far, far away on August 08, 2012:

This is great information! I've never understood why conventional medicine should be at odds with alternative methods. They both have their place and when they are used in harmony, everybody benefits. The personal stories are a great touch.

Dan Reed on August 08, 2012:

This is beautiful, interesting and awesome. I definitely believe there is a connection between our emotional and physical health as well. Great hub!

Mmargie1966 from Gainesville, GA on August 07, 2012:

Oh my. That was quite a personal and touching story, Melovy. I loved the way you incorporated your personal experience to give more credibility to your hub. Great job!! I voted up and awesome!

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on August 07, 2012:

Ruchira, thanks. It's all a while ago now as my daughter is nearly 13! We we very fortunate because not all hospitals were so good with KC and baby massage when she was born. I think it's so good when the medical staff are open minded. Reiki in hospitals is great. I have a friend who practices it and gets some good results for people.

Thanks very much for your comment.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on August 07, 2012:

Hi Healthylife2,

I am sorry to see that you have needed chemotherapy, but it sounds as if you are doing well, so glad to hear that. My view is that whatever we put our trust in is what will help us best. I wish you well in building your immune system up. Thanks for your comment.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on August 07, 2012:


So your girls came early too!

I am not sure if we were told about centimetres of pressure and I don't recall bipap being mentioned, only CPAP. (Much of it was a blur to me though.) They usually talked about the amount of oxygen she was in, and when she came off CPAP and moved to our local hospital that changed from percentages to liters which confused me for a while. When she was very ill just after her due date she was on a ventilator in 80% oxygen and I knew that was serious. But she survived. She's always been a little fighter I think. Some nights when I'd phone up to see how she was they'd say she'd pulled the CPAP tubes off - the nurse once said, "She wearing it on her forehead."

I have tried to use natural alternatives whenever possible and it's good to have options. Thanks very much for your comment!

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on August 07, 2012:

Susan, it was a stressful time yet. Yet we all have our stresses in life and I know you've had plenty too. For us, the good thing was it was only for a short time, we had so much support, and our daughter thrived. I'm glad you found this interesting, and thanks for your comment.

Ruchira from United States on August 07, 2012:

hi melovy,

sorry to hear about your daughter and I am hoping that she is in the best of health.

I agree that conventional medicine can work double its strength when accompanied by alternative medicine. Reiki practitoners are sent to cancer patients so that they can fight against that bug. many votes indeed!

healthylife2 on August 06, 2012:

What a great article. I love that you showed that there is a time and place for both alternative and conventional medicine. I went the conventional route and decided to use chemotherapy after much research and am now focusing strongly on alternative medicine to build my immune system stronger then ever! Voted up!

Kelly Umphenour from St. Louis, MO on August 06, 2012:

Yeah Melovy - wild! Your baby was so tiny!

And CPAP - oh wow - I didn't even know they made CPAP masks that small. I did do pediatrics but not babies that were special needs like that. I am so glad they had that to help her breathe!! I can't help wondering how many centimeters of pressure they had her on - and was it bipap? Like one pressure going in and another out? Like they might have said she is on 5/ 8 .....and I am just so curious! The youngest child I ever had was 18 mos old...and I was just observing and taking notes - no cpap! lol

I am so glad things went so well and this was incrediby interesting to me!! Love it! I am a firm believer in alternative medicines and natural things. I wish I would have read this before I had my girls - I never had a pregnancy that lasted more than 36 weeks but they were all very healthy weights.

Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on August 06, 2012:

Wow, this was very interesting to read. You went through so much. I can't imagine all the stress and worry this must have caused both of your daughters, you and your husband. As you say miracles can occur using both conventional and alternative.

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