Alternative Therapies

In Blog // on November 26th, 2012 // by // No comment

Westcoast Medicann Society will soon be introducing a doctor of Chinese Medicine as part of staff in our Cambie St. clinic.

There are several types of alternative medical practices that are being used all over the world.  Their ideals are similar, and rather than the ‘take a pill, feel better’ approach I believe most conventional medical practices take advantage of, alternative therapies present concepts that say, with a little help from an expert, and commitment, healing is capable from within the patients themselves.

Here are brief summaries outlining the basic principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Naturopathy, Acupuncture, Ayurveda, spinal manipulation, and reflexology.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (or TCM) holds the view that the healthy body is a harmonious function of entities, including digestion, breath, age, etc.  Disease, then, is interpreted as disharmony between entities.

The balance, or harmony in the body one hopes to achieve is called qi, pronounced “chi”. In order to maintain good health, body qi must also be harmonious with the energies found in the environment.

TCM therapy is based on “patterns of disharmony”, and examinations include things like the color and shape of the tongue, the relative strength of pulse-points, the smell of the breath, the quality of breathing or the sound of the voice.

Blocked qi is said to be characterized by pale complexion, low spirit, lack of strength, spontaneous sweating, laziness to speak, non-digestion of food, shortness of breath (especially on exertion), and a pale and enlarged tongue.

Qi is believed to be partially generated from food and drink, and partially from air (or by how one breathes).  Another considerable part could be inherited from parents.

The general theory of acupuncture is also based on the regulation, or harmony, of qi; and that disruptions of this flow are believed to be responsible for disease.  Acupuncture aims to correct imbalances in qi by stimulating anatomical locations on or under the skin, most commonly by thin metal needles, which are manipulated manually or by electrical stimulation.

Naturopathy, or Naturopathic Medicine, is a type of alternative medicine rooted in enhancing vitality.  Naturopaths believe that a vital energy runs our metabolism, reproductive abilities, growth and adaptation, which can be improved through non-invasive treatments.

Naturopathic practitioners are split into two groups: traditional naturopaths and naturopathic physicians, the latter who use the principles of their practice and conventional medical practices.

Naturopathy is made of many different types of treatment ideologies, and is accepted on varying scales by many medical communities.  Not unlike the use of cannabis, naturopathy has helped millions, but doesn’t have a fully recognized status – yet.

Ayurveda the knowledge for long life“, is a Hindu system of traditional medicine native to India, and another form of alternative medicine

Hinduism and Buddhism have influenced many of ayurveda’s central ideas, especially the idea of balance (not unlike the idea of qi in TCM).  Ayurveda basically supports everything in moderation.

Ayurvedic doctors regard physical and mental existence together, including personality as a unit, and this unit having the capacity to influence others. It is fundamental, during Ayurvedic therapy, to take this idea into account.

Hygiene is essential to Ayurveda therapies, as is plant-based medicines including spices such as cardamom and cinnamon, as are fats (eaten and used topically).  Ayurvedic medicines may include heavy minerals like sulfur, arsenic and lead – which adds some concern to their use.  This particular practice of minerals is called rasa shastra.

Chiropractors use spinal manipulation to align bones, joints, and muscles to improve health and relieve pain.

Osteopaths use spinal manipulation combined with traditional chiropractic techniques, adding mind-body techniques to treat the whole unit.

Although spinal manipulation (chiropractic or osteopathic) is generally safe, it is seen as complimentary medical treatments that is meant to be combined with other types of therapy and rehabilitation.

*Spinal manipulation may also pose a serious risk for stroke patients, or those with artery and nerve-related damage.  “Some doctors even warn that choosing spinal manipulation for pain could cause patients to miss signs of serious diseases, such as cancer [source: Mayo Clinic Book of Alternative Medicine].

The Reflexology Association of Canada defines reflexology as:

A natural healing art based on the principle that there are reflexes in the feet, hands and ears and their referral areas within zone related areas, which correspond to every part, gland and organ of the body. Through application of pressure on these reflexes without the use of tools, crèmes or lotions, the feet being the primary area of application, reflexology relieves tension, improves circulation and helps promote the natural function of the related areas of the body.

Reflexologists divide the body into ten equal vertical zones, five on the right and five on the left.

Concerns have been raised by conventional medical professionals that “treating potentially serious illnesses with reflexology, [or other alternative medicines], could delay appropriate medical treatment”.

This type of attitude towards alternative medicines is popular, and unfortunately makes those held captive by harsh medications and invasive ‘scientific’ treatments wary of pursuing them.

The British Medical Journal published this definition: “Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is a broad domain of healing resources that encompasses all health systems, modalities, and practices and their accompanying theories and beliefs, other than those intrinsic to the politically dominant health system of a particular society or culture in a given historical period.

Nowhere in this statement does it say CAMs are not worthwhile pursuing or don’t have beneficial results,  and that is important to note.

Disease happens for many reasons, and sometimes it’s clear and sometimes it’s not, why we become afflicted.  When there is pain, there is fear, depression and more debilitation.  If there are avenues that can lead one towards health or improve quality of life, why should they not be explored?

Relaxation, release, synergy, peace of mind, decrease in anxiety and/or depression are words and actions associated with alternative medicines – including medicinal marijuana!

I do believe, and it is believed in many of these alternative practices, if not all – that stress or disharmony is a leading cause of disease.  When one can be liberated of that stress, along with the physical toxins it creates, the chance of overcoming illness are most definitely improved.  And this will optimize recovery and get one back to natural health.


“Ayurveda”. New Delhi, India: Department of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India.

Kunz, Kevin; Kunz, Barbara (1993). The Complete Guide to Foot Reflexology. Reflexology Research Project.

NIH Consensus Development Program (3–5 November 1997). “Acupuncture –Consensus Development Conference Statement”. National Institutes of Health. Archived from the original on 14 July 2007. 24 Nov. 2012

Sarris, J., and Wardle, J. 2010. Clinical naturopathy: an evidence-based guide to practice. Elsevier Australia. Chatswood, NSW.

Staff, Mayo Clinic. “Definition.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 10 Oct. 2012. Web. 24 Nov. 2012. MY01107.

“Standards of Practice, Code of Ethics & Code of Conduct” (doc). Reflexology Association of Canada. 2005. 24 Nov. 2012

“Traditional Chinese Medicine: An Introduction.” Home Page. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 01 Mar. 2009. Web. 24 Nov. 2012. chinesemed.htm.


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