More and more people are becoming interested in alternative health. It’s a broad term that encompasses a number of therapies, typically anything that isn’t part of traditional Western medicine. Some of the unifying themes that connect most alternative health modalities are that the mind/body connection is critical to good health and that treating disease can’t be separated from our larger state of health and lifestyle.
Most importantly, they all hold that actively engaging in alternative therapies while healthy helps slow aging, prevent disease, and speed up healing if and when you do get sick.
Chinese culture has been a rich source of alternative health therapies. Herbs have long been a part of Chinese healing. Because herbs have been used by Chinese practitioners for thousands of years, there is a good store of knowledge as to which herbs are good for preventing certain ailments and which are good for treating an ailment already present. A number of herbs have been especially helpful treating respiratory and gastronomic diseases, as well as treating different viruses and bacterial infections.
Acupuncture or acupressure is also a popular Chinese therapy. These alternative health options are based on the idea that disease is caused by blockages of energy, or “chi.” According to this school, our bodies have channels through which energy flows, just like blood flows through our veins. That energy can get blocked, which then causes disease. Acupuncture uses needles and acupressure uses massage to unblock this energy. Acupuncture has been used to treat allergies, general muscle pain, menstrual cramps, and headaches.
India is another country with a long history of alternative health therapies from its life science, called Ayurveda. Ayurveda encompasses a broad range of approaches to promote and restore health. Yoga is actually an Ayurvedic therapy. There are numerous schools of yoga, but they all combine body and breath work. Yoga can be used to ease back pain, build bone strength to fight osteoporosis, and relieve stress. Ayurveda also includes a very specific nutritional approach and considers food the most important medicine. It also relies a lot on essential oils, both in aromatherapy or applied at pressure points on the body, like the temples or sole of the foot.
A number of cultures, both Eastern and Western, also promote quieting of the mind to promote good health. Stress is widely known to have highly adverse effects on the body. Both meditation and prayer have been found to bring people into trance-like states that induces calm, not just during the practice itself, but throughout the day as well.