Over the past century, billions of people across the world have benefitted from improved medicines, better drugs, specialized treatments, and vaccinations. Infant mortality and dangerous diseases have been effectively reduced as medicine has improved over the decades.
However, modern medicine and traditional science can’t solve everything. From certain forms of cancer to lesser understood mental diseases, modern medicine has been unable to cure some of the most painful and devastating illnesses.
It can be too expensive or too complicated to get a new drug on the market. Every medical advance needs to meet the stringent standards of authorities like the Food and Drug Administration. By some estimates, it could cost nearly $1 billion and multiple years of effort to get a new drug on the market. That means there are millions of therapies and drugs that never get studied or brought to mainstream attention.
There are also alternatives, such as yoga, Ayurveda, and acupressure, that fail to get attention from the medical and scientific community, despite centuries of history behind them. There is much anecdotal evidence that these therapies have the potential to alleviate pain and suffering. However, most people simply don’t get the right information because of the lack of a formal scientific consensus.
So, here’s a closer look at some lesser known alternative therapies that are becoming increasingly popular.
A naturally occurring psychoactive substance, ibogaine is now gaining traction as an effective treatment for various forms of addiction.
It is widely accepted as a quick but complex treatment for opioid addictions, such as heroin, OxyContin, and methadone. Ibogaine can also be used for treating addictions to stimulants and alcohol.
Ibogaine is being closely studied for its impact on the body and the way it helps victims wean themselves off dangerous and addictive drugs. Serious formal research was first conducted in the 1990’s, where the drug was shown to have a positive impact on treating heroin addicts when taken over a period of time in small doses.
With America’s opioid epidemic, this drug could have great implications for helping millions of people.
Every year, millions of people across the world turn to this traditional Chinese form of healing. It’s reported to help people deal with a variety of ailments, from chronic pain to serious depression. The treatment is based on ancient Chinese philosophy that the life force (chi) flows through certain meridians in our bodies. Pressure applied at specific points on the hands and feet can trigger the right meridian and help solve the medical issue.
Scientific evidence on this is mixed, as is the opinion of the scientific community, despite the evidence suggesting that acupressure is highly effective at pain relief and treating anxiety. However, it may not be the best treatment for other forms of illnesses.
The sister therapy to acupressure, acupuncture goes one step further to help tap into the chi-carrying meridians in the body. The theory states that by pricking and activating nerve endings with a special needle, the meridians are jolted into action and physical ailments are mitigated much faster.
The treatments have been found to be effective in treating depression and postoperative nausea and vomiting. However, many experts question the validity of these results and believe that the impact of acupuncture is not statistically different from the impact of the placebo.
Using essential oils is seen as a natural remedy for a number of ailments. Although there is no doubt that pleasant smells can help with memory retention and mood alterations, there is no evidence to suggest that aromas alone can cure any serious diseases. However, the use of aromas as a complementary therapy to treat depression and cancer is well documented.
This treatment often overlaps with hydrotherapy since they both center on the use of water to treat ailments. It is probably the oldest form of alternative therapy around, dating back to approximately 1700 BCE. Hot saunas, hot water springs, and mud therapy are all offshoots of this traditional alternative medical practice.
There is some evidence to suggest that this therapy works. Although it is used to treat many illnesses, from Parkinson’s disease to cancer, data suggests that the only two illnesses balneotherapy can have a noticeable effect on are rheumatological diseases and chronic low back pain.
Like the country it originates from, Ayurvedic medicine has been around for thousands of years. Western medicine hasn’t spent much time studying the impact of Ayurveda, hence the limited data suggesting the system is effective.
Ayurveda is rich and diverse, with a wide variety of treatments from herbs to specialized diets. The fact that it has survived thousands of years suggests it’s probably effective for at least some people.
Doctors generally accept chiropractic care as a form of alternative therapy. It has been known to have an impact on the musculoskeletal and nervous systems and relieves pain in the back, neck, legs, and head.
The theory behind chiropractic adjustments is the way our muscles interact with the bones. By manipulating the spine, the chiropractor loosens muscles to help them become more mobile. This eventually leads to better and quicker healing.
The fundamental basis of biofeedback is the attempt to control bodily processes that usually happen automatically. Things like the heartbeat, muscle movements, blood pressure, and skin temperature can all be controlled with practice and professional training. Scientists are unsure how the treatment works, but there is evidence to suggest it has a noticeable impact on people’s health.
Homeopathy is the practice of fighting fire with fire in the field of medicine. Essentially, illnesses and physical issues are treated with a highly diluted concentration of the substance that causes the problem.
There is some evidence to suggest that these medicines have a marginally better effect than placebos. However, much research is still needed to obtain more relevant results.
Homeopathy can be traced back to ancient Greece, where Hippocrates first laid the foundations for this philosophy. It first became popular after a German doctor, Samuel Hahnemann, studied and advocated it in the 1790s. Ever since the field has grown far and wide.
People use this treatment for a variety of ailments. These include asthma, ear infections, allergies, dermatitis arthritis, mental health conditions, and high blood pressure.
However, a House of Commons report from 2010 found that homeopathy medicines performed no better than placebos when under trial. While some people might see benefits, the evidence is still anecdotal and doctors are encouraged to be honest with their patients about the limitations. In some countries, such as the UK, GPs can prescribe homeopathy medicines independently.
Naturopathy is not so much a standalone treatment, but an umbrella term for any form of natural treatment. Alternative medicines such as nutrition, behavioral changes, herbal medicine, homeopathy, and acupuncture can be included in this category because they rely on the healing power of nature. Due to the term being so vague and diverse, it’s hard to find concrete evidence for the effectiveness of natural medicines.
Often confused with acupressure, the underlying principles of reflexology are somewhat different. This therapy relies on the connections between nerves in different parts of the body. Nerve endings in the hands and feet are often found to be connected to specific areas of the body. Repeated and consistent pressure on these points could lead to faster healing.
While the results of studies are still inconclusive, many people attempt this relatively easy form of care every year.
Millions of people across the world turn to alternative forms of therapy every year. Many of the treatments suggested here have been around for centuries. Different cultures have experimented and combined their knowledge of the human body with what they’ve observed in nature.
These natural remedies tend to have significantly fewer side effects, but their efficacy is sometimes questioned. This is because the treatments haven’t been studied closely by the scientific community and haven’t had much research invested in them, leading to a lack of concrete evidence.
However, many people find these natural treatments to be highly beneficial – hence their prevalence across centuries. Furthermore, some people see natural medicines as treating the root of the problem, as opposed to just staving it off.
For most, the choice between modern medicine and natural alternatives is personal. If you find that a certain treatment offers the potential to help you, and with minimum repercussion, it may be worth giving it a try.