Representatives of alternative medicine also emphasize the good tolerability and naturalness of the methods of treatment. Although scientific studies often cannot guarantee the effectiveness of alternative procedures, numerous experience reports point to convincing healing effects – whether in isolation or in combination with conventional medical treatment. It depends on the process under consideration which applications are possible and promising.

What is Alternative Medicine?

Alternative medicine, also alternative medicine or complementary medicine, is a collective name for a wide variety of diagnostic concepts and treatment methods. They are different from conventional medicine, but they see themselves as a supplement and not as a substitute.

Most often, the terms “alternative medicine” and “complementary medicine” are used interchangeably. In the narrower sense, however, the term “alternative” for a procedure indicates that it is intended to replace conventional medicine. In this case, alternative medicine is used instead of conventional medicine. This is to be considered critically, especially in the case of serious diseases. Therefore, please always check carefully whether the complete replacement of conventional medicine is in your interest.

In most cases, the presented treatment methods of alternative medicine are used in Germany in addition (i.e. complementary) to conventional medicine. So, strictly speaking, one should speak of complementary medicine. The following overview works with both terms. However, it explicitly includes complementary medicine under the term “alternative medicine”.

What is all Part of Alternative Medicine?

Typically, alternative healing procedures are methods that were known in the past and were forgotten. In addition to naturopathy, this also includes Traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, osteopathy, and homeopathy.

The Following Methods are Most Often Used in Germany:

  • Classical Naturopathic Procedures: Naturopathy was originally understood as the treatment with natural means and methods prescribed by nature. Sebastian Kneipp included physical therapies (e.g. in the Kneipp pool), exercise therapies and nutritional therapies as well as phytotherapies (herbal therapies) and order therapies (e.g. lifestyle change).
  • Extended Naturopathic Procedures: The extended naturopathic procedures include, for example, extractive procedures (e.g. leech therapy). The extended and classical natural healing methods have the best scientific protection within alternative medicine. Often, conventional general practitioners and specialists offer such procedures in addition to various complaints.
  • Homeopathy: Homeopathy is also part of alternative medicine. Extremely low-dose minerals and plant substrates are used here, for example in the form of the known globules. The fields of application of homeopathy are just as diverse as the various globules.
  • TCM: Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is an Asian healing system. The classification of possible healing procedures – similar to Kneipp – is based on four pillars: these include nutrition, exercise, medicinal herbs, and massages or acupuncture. The aim of all procedures is to mobilize the vital energy Qi and thus alleviate physical and psychological complaints.
  • Ayurveda: Ayurveda is an Indian healing art that strives for harmony of body, soul, and spirit. Ayurvedic teas or massages are just a selection of numerous treatment methods.
  • Osteopathy: Just like TCM, osteopathy assumes that the interaction of body, mind, and soul is central to health and illness. The human being has self-healing powers, which can be activated, for example, by manual therapies and restore the balance.

This list is just a Rough Outline. There are Many other Areas of Alternative Medicine

Forms of Alternative Medicine

  • Natural Medicine: Therapy is carried out by means of nature, such as physical therapies, ordination therapies and nutritional therapies.
  • Homeopathic: Therapy is carried out by globules, which consist of extremely low-dose minerals and plant substances.
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine: Therapy is carried out by a Chinese healing system, which includes nutrition, massages, as well as medicinal herbs.
  • Ayurvedic: Therapy is carried out by an Indian art of healing, which combines the harmony of body, mind and soul.
  • Osteopathy: Therapy is carried out by manual therapies that increase the self-healing powers enable.

How do I use Alternative Medicine as a Supplement to Conventional Medicine?

The presented methods of alternative medicine can be used alternately or in parallel with conventional medical forms of treatment. However, it is urgent to discuss the supplement with all treating doctors.

It is important that alternative means do not replace classical therapy. For example, a change in lifestyle habits – especially exercise and nutrition – is considered essential in the treatment of asthma (alternative medicine). But this does not mean that patients, for example, do not use asthma spray (conventional medicine). They simply approach their complaints holistically. But what exactly is the effect of alternative medicine based on now?

What Effect does Alternative Medicine Have?

In contrast to conventional medicine, alternative medicine does not only focus on the visible symptoms, it looks at the interaction of body, mind, and soul. Thus, their effect can be described as holistic.

If a person has complaints – for example in the digestive tract – then alternative medicine is not only a physical cause, but also a mental or spiritual one. The diagnosis therefore includes the entire person. The person being treated is only healthy if there is a harmony of the different levels. Against the background of this holism, it is obvious that alternative medicine is practiced not only by doctors but also by naturopaths or adherents of related specialties.

In addition, methods of alternative medicine can be summarized by their mechanism of action: alternative methods usually aim at activating the self-healing powers of patients. Accordingly, they treat it according to the principle of “help for self-help”. Patients take over a large part of their recovery themselves. This also distinguishes the healing procedures from conventional medicine.

How well are the Effects of Alternative Procedures Secured?

For classical and extended natural healing procedures, the effectiveness has been proven for selected ailments. In addition, studies occasionally disclose treatment successes through homeopathy, Ayurveda, or TCM. However, the evidence is rather poor overall, both in terms of quantity and quality.

The best findings can be found in naturopathic procedures: according to studies, naturopathic procedures can provide a remedy, especially in the prevention of diseases and rehabilitation after illnesses. Therefore, they are finding more and more acceptance in conventional medicine. Services of licensed therapists are increasingly being paid or subsidized by health insurance companies.

There are also Isolated Documents for Homeopathy, TCM, and Ayurveda:

  • Homeopathy, for example, should have a symptom-relieving effect in viral infections on the tonsils (tonsillitis).
  • Traditional Chinese medicine, on the other hand, has been successful in treating migraines and headaches. Acupuncture in particular should provide a remedy for this.
  • Ayurveda provides, among other things, preparations from medicinal plants. In one study, some of them reduced symptoms of painful joint inflammation (osteoarthritis).

Overall, however, the effect of alternative methods is not sufficiently scientifically proven. This is mainly due to the low quality of existing research in the field. You can still benefit from the forms of treatment. It is not without reason that complementary methods have been preserved for centuries. But which areas of application have prevailed?

For which Complaints can Alternative Medicine Provide a Remedy?

Users have been reporting treatment success with alternative medicine for centuries. Acupuncture for migraines, yoga for asthma, meditation for cardiovascular diseases – depending on the specific procedure, other fields of application have established themselves.

Below you will find an overview of common methods and their areas of application. Both studies and field reports provide more detailed information on the effectiveness of the listed indications:

ProceedingsArea of ​​Application(s)Effect
Yoga and Lifestyle changeAsthmaSymptom reduction is possible and a favorable course is more likely
Massages, acupressure, acupuncture, yoga and relaxation proceduresCancer and ChemotherapyReduction of exhaustion / fatigue is possible, occasional relief of pain and partial increase in the quality of life
Phytotherapy, relaxation procedures and acupunctureInflammatory bowel diseasesSymptom reduction is possible and a favorable course is more likely
Exercise therapy, dream trip and other relaxation procedures as well as a change in dietCardiovascular diseasesReduction of high blood pressure is possible
Acupuncture treatmentHeadaches and migrainesPrevention of migraine attacks is possible
Massages, acupuncture as well as Tai Chi and other movement therapiesPain in bones, muscles and jointsReduced risk of progression of painful symptoms and possible pain relief
Homeopathy and phytotherapyAcute flu-like infectionsInhibition of inflammation, liberation of the respiratory tract and relief of expectoration

Alternative medicine is used for a variety of diseases. This overview represents only a section.

Is Alternative Medicine Safe?

If you are open to complementary and alternative healing methods, you should also know about their risks and limitations. Just as with conventional medical forms of therapy, alternative procedures also have side effects, interactions, and contraindications. Because just because they are natural, it does not mean that they are also risk-free.

Interesting: historically, the most effective poisons have always been natural substances, for example, hydrocyanic acid in bitter almonds or the hemlock cup (which Socrates drank). Thus, even natural procedures and preparations can have serious side effects or cause undesirable interactions

Contraindications, Side Effects, and Interactions Vary Depending on the Procedure:

ProcedureContraindications, etc.Side effects, etc.Interactions, etc.
classic natural healing methods, e.g. KneippFever and cardiovascular diseaseCirculatory problems and freezingnone known
advanced natural healing methods e.g. leech therapyWomen during menstruation and pregnancy and persons with serious organ diseasesItching and rednessanticoagulant medications
Homeopathy e.g. Globuli “Belladonna D4”Pregnant women, women who are breastfeeding, as well as children under the age of 12Initial aggravation (signs of illness only get worse after the start of treatment)none known
TCM z.B. MassagenPregnancy, acute skin inflammations as well as acute injuries such as bone fractures and severe osteoporosisslight muscle sorenessnone known
Ayurveda e.g. Guduchi herbal teaPregnancy and lactationmild constipationnone known

Especially Important: Be sure to discuss with your doctor and naturopath which therapies you would like to combine. This makes it possible to foresee and avoid many side effects and interactions. In addition, it is advisable to check the qualifications of therapists before undergoing an alternative form of therapy.

Conclusion: Alternative Medicine – one Name, A Thousand Faces

Alternative medicine or complementary medicine is usually used in Germany as a supplement to conventional medicine. Whether it is acupuncture, massage, or Kneipp therapy – the alternative procedures all share the principles of holism and strive to activate the patient’s self–healing powers.

Even if research does not confirm its effect on all fields of application, more and more people are finding their way into alternative medical treatment. Users report promising effects, which vary greatly depending on the procedure. The centuries–old tradition – whether in Indian Ayurveda, Asian TCM, or European naturopathy – also explains the popularity of complementary healing methods.

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