Long before medicine was thought of as something only careful trained practitioners could administer, people used a large range of methods and techniques to heal themselves and each other. Much of this knowledge was passed down through families and from teacher to student. These teachings complemented our innate ability to know and understand our bodies and what they need.
Many traditional healing methods have been handed down through the generations over thousands of years. Though these methods and beliefs may evolve and change over time, the basic principles remain the same. Some of healing methods have grown and become the alternative therapies that are used worldwide today to help and treat millions of people.
Many people consider the ancient Indian philosophy of Ayurveda to be the root of all healing traditions. This holistic system recognises that we are all unique and focuses on using food, massage, herbal remedies, yoga and lifestyle changes to guide a person towards a healthier and more balanced life. Ayurvedas holistic beliefs and practices spread and influenced other eastern philosophies such as Chinese herbalism.
Since those early days healing traditions have evolved into a diverse collection of therapies. When you look closely at these it is possible to see that many share concepts, methods and beliefs even if they are practised in a different way or called by a different name. Generally, it is considered that there are four basic categories of healing:
- energy therapies
- physical therapies
- herbal therapies
- spiritual therapies.
Energy therapies are based on the idea of a universal energy and that this must be kept in balance to maintain health. When this energy becomes imbalanced or out of sync with the universe, illness and disease can be experienced.
Some energy therapies include acupressure, acupuncture, reflexology, reiki and meditation.
Acupressure is the art of utilising pressure points that are located all over the body. This stimulates the body’s natural self-curative abilities. Acupressure is thought to be over 5000 years old and is ideal for self-treatment of stress and tension relief and to boost the immune system. The pressure points used are the same as those used in acupuncture.
Acupuncture works on the same principles as acupressure but uses needles to stimulate the body. Acupuncture has many health benefits including pain relief and helping people to stop smoking.
Reflexology is a therapy that again uses finger pressure on various points of the body to help it heal or to remove pain and discomfort. Reflexologists believe that each pressure point is connected to parts of the body and that illness, pain or disease can be healed by stimulating the relevant pressure point.
Reiki can be used to heal or help aliments of a spiritual, mental, emotional or physical nature. Reiki healing can be used on others or for self-healing. It can also be sent as a distance healing to people all over the world as well as into the past and future. The healer channels the reiki energy into the recipient where it will flow to the areas where it is needed.
Meditation refers to a range of techniques that are used to promote relaxation and other practices such as contacting spirit guides, astral travel and obtaining inner peace. Meditation is used throughout the world and in many religions and groups. It can be of great benefit in helping stress, depression and anxiety without the need for medications. Meditation can be practised anywhere using your breathing, visualization or chanting in your head as a focus. Many people also choose to use candles, music or other items to aid concentrate during meditation.
Herbal remedies can help us stay healthy and to heal and prevent illness. They are available in a variety of forms including teas, creams, inhalations and capsules. Some examples of herbal therapies include aromatherapy, flower remedies and homeopathy.
Aromatherapy uses essential oils extracted from various parts of plants including leaves, flowers and roots. These can be used during massage, as room fragrances or inhalations to promote good health, heal illness and relieve stress. Aromatherapy oils and equipment such as oil burners can be bought quite freely so that anyone is able to use this method at home for enhancing their health.
Flower remedies are diluted extracts from various flowers that have been mixed in a solution of brandy and water. They are considered a vibrational medicine similar to homoeopathy and rely on the concept of water memory. The remedies can each be used on their own, or they can be combined depending on what they are being used to treat. The most well-known flower remedy is probably rescue remedy, which is used to treat stress, anxiety and panic attacks. This remedy is especially useful in emergencies as it is taken by simply placing a few drops from the bottle on your tongue.
Homeopathy is based on the idea that if a substance causes a disease (or similar symptoms) then it can be used to cure that disease. This principle known as 'like with like' dates back to Hippocrates (460-377BC). Homeopathic remedies are greatly diluted natural materials in alcohol or water. Homeopathy aims to treat the whole person and can be used safely for almost any ailment.
Physical manipulation of our bodies can help to relief pain, by stimulating the release of endorphins and also promote healing. Physical therapies can be combined with other types of conventional or alternative therapies.
Some examples of physical therapy include yoga, hydrotherapy, massage and chiropractic therapies.
Yoga is based on an ancient system of harmonising the mind, body and spirit. It enables you to balance your body and also gain strength and flexibility. Yoga can help the physical and mental aspects of life. Concentration, memory and mood can be improved and depression decreased or even eliminated. Physically yoga can improve sleep, posture and hand-eye coordination among many more benefits in all areas of health and wellness.
Hydrotherapy is often used combined with occupational or physiotherapy. It is often used for pain relief and to improve circulation. When there is a physical injury the water can help support a patient and allow them to remain active and receive physiotherapy. Water jets, underwater massage and mineral baths can also be used.
Massage manipulates muscle and tissue to aid healing and also relax, improve circulation and promote well being. There are many types of massage including acupressure massage, reflexology massage, shiatsu and Chinese massage.
Chiropractic is a system of health care that is concerned with disorders of the neuromusculoskeletal system. It is good for treating issues with joints, ligaments, tendons and nerves, especially related to the spine. This therapy mainly consists of safe and gentle manipulation of the spine.
Spiritual healing therapies believe that there is a life force or energy that runs through our bodies and all of nature and the universe. They believe that we all have the ability to heal ourselves if we are given the appropriate tools or knowledge.
Some examples of spiritual healing therapies are colour therapy and crystal healing.
Colour therapy is believed to have been in use for thousands of years. Colour affects all living cells and as colour is light of differing wavelengths, the different colours each have different effects. Colour therapy can be used for spiritual, mental, emotional or physical ailments and can safely be used alongside any other medicine or therapies.
Crystal healing uses naturally formed crystals as healing tools. Each type of crystal has a unique structure and vibration that interacts with our own. It is this that allows them to be used to stimulate the body’s natural healing mechanisms. Each crystal is associated with parts of the body, mental/emotional issues and illnesses. They are often used in working with the chakras to achieve balance. Crystals can be used in a specific healing situation such as a pendulum treatment or a healing layout but can also be worn or carried by a person. A wide variety of stones are available to buy and also ready made into jewellery, which can make them a practical choice for many people.
© 2012 Claire
Claire (author) from Lincolnshire, UK on November 22, 2012:
Thank you :D
Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on November 21, 2012:
Claire, a very useful and clear explanation of the various therapies used to heal the body. Great job.
Voted up, useful and shared.
Claire (author) from Lincolnshire, UK on November 14, 2012:
You're welcome. I have written some others as well if you'd like to take a look? :)
Healing Herbalist from The Hamlet of Effingham on November 14, 2012:
Great hub. As a medical herbalist, I love seeing articles about alternative healing. Thanks for sharing.
Claire (author) from Lincolnshire, UK on November 03, 2012:
Thank you and you are welcome.
Peter Geekie from Sittingbourne on November 03, 2012:
Thank you for a well written and researched article. You are covering areas I tend to gloss over in my research and I will spend some time reading up on them.
kind regards Peter