In this first issue we will try to give you a brief overview of Alternative Therapies.

    Few of the so-called natural therapies you will read about are new developments. The majority of the treatments involved, from massage to the use of herbs and water are probably as old as the human race itself. Others, such as traditional Chinese medicine and Ayrveda (traditional Indian medicine) go back thousands of years into the mists of time.



    The rise of modern scientific medicine in the last 200 years resulted in many of these ancient practices being pushed aside, sometimes even suppressed.

    However, in recent years that trend has been dramatically reversed, and natural therapies are becoming as popular and widespread as they ever were.

    Today's natural therapists usually see themselves as the latest in a long tradition - including the modern-day shamans (witch doctors) of Africa, the United States, and Australia.

    This trend seems as much to do with many people's growing disillusionment and even distrust of conventional medicine, with its reliance on powerful drugs and impersonal "high tech" equipment, as a general movement toward more natural and less harmful ways of living.

    After all, why should we suffer the nasty side effects of modern toxic drugs when we can use the less harmful and more natural remedies that have been tried and test over thousands of years, and found to be very successful...

    The return of traditional medicine (conventional medicine is new medicine, not traditional) has brought with it a host of new ideas to add to those from ancient times. From homeopathy, founded at the start of the 19 th century - including radionics, Aromatherapy, Reflexology, a mass of psychological and manipulative therapies, nutritional medicine and the more recently popular "energy " therapies such as crystal, colour therapy, Reiki, the list increases almost daily as new approaches are developed.

    There is varying opinion as to whether or not all alternative therapies operate under one common idea or principle. In separate reports published in the early 1990s both American and British medical authorities have stated that alternative therapies are a mixture of different beliefs and techniques with nothing in common at all. But this is untrue.
    The natural approaches more or less all understand, accept, and operate under the principles outlined below.

    The body has a natural ability to heal itself and remain stable (this is known also in medicine as homeostasis). The human being is not simply a physical machine, like a car, but a subtle and complex blend of body, mind, and emotions (or spirit or soul as some prefer to call it) and that all or any of these factors may cause or contribute to problems of health.
    In other words, that every individual is not a random collection of moving parts but a fully integrated "whole". The term "holistic medicine" has been coined to describe treating the individual as a "whole being" composed of body, mind, and emotions, as opposed to the allopathic principle where physical symptoms are treated in isolation, using the same textbook solutions for everyone.

    Environmental and social conditions are just as important as an individual's physical and psychological makeup and may have just as big an impact on his or her health. Treating the root cause or causes of a problem is more important than treating the obvious immediate symptoms. Treating symptoms may only simply cover up the real underlying problem.

    Each person is an entirely original individual and cannot be treated in exactly the same way as every other person. Healing is quicker and more effective if the person takes central responsibility for his or her own health and has an active involvement in the healing process. (However a good therapist should also recognise when someone needs to "let go" and place themselves in the hands of another.)

    Good health is a state of emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical balance. (Balance is fundamental to the basic notion of health in natural therapy.
    Ill-health, say its exponents, is the result of being in a state of imbalance, or "disease" (The Chinese express this as the principle of yin and yang.)

    There is a natural healing "force" in the universe (The Chinese call this chi or qi _ pronounced "chee" - the Japanese ki, and in India it is prana.
    In the West it used to be called by its Latin description vis medicatrix naturae, meaning "natural healing force", shortened today to "life force". Anyone can "tap into" or make use of this force, and it is a natural health practitioner's job to activate it in the client or help the client activate it in him or herself.

    It is natural therapists belief in the Oriental ideas expressed particularly in the last two principles - and also often their use of those terms - that has caused so much controversy among so many doctors trained in the Western scientific method. But many doctors now feel that the essence of the natural therapies is, or should be, at the core of what makes good medicine in a return to the earliest principles followed, practised, and preached by the ancient healers of Greece, Asia Minor, and China.

    To summarise: the best approach is the one that is the softest and gentlest, that avoids dangerous and traumatic procedures, that treats the client as a "whole" individual, that encourages the body's natural healing processes to do their job, and in which the client takes a positive and active part in his or her own recovery and health maintenance.

    Most natural health practitioners will treat you for the precise way you are feeling at the time you see them. If, for example, you are suffering from a cold or influenza at the time of your appointment, your practitioner will want to treat that as well as the back pain or the depression you made the appointment for in the first place.
    The principle here is that there is a reason for the infection and it should be cleared first since it may be linked to the basic problem. You are likely to find this common approach whether you are seeing an osteopath for a back problem, a reflexologist for your energy levels, or an Aromatherapist for relaxation. They will all adjust your treatment for that visit, to encourage your body to heal itself in the best way possible.

    Most therapists will encourage you to "take control" of the problem, using terms such as "taking responsibility for yourself".

    Research shows conclusively that actively participating in your own healing is an important factor in the success of most alternative therapies - whether the problem is one as commonplace as influenza or as serious as heart disease.
    A good practitioner will always encourage you to take on a positive role, even if it is a matter of just recommending a simple change in lifestyle.
    The realisation that even small changes in lifestyle can contribute to an individual's health can come as a total revelation to many people who have struggled for years with a persistent problem

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