There seems to be a lot of different terminology used to describe natural medicine and it can get a little confusing, even finding a definition for natural medicine was not straightforward. I consider natural medicine to be treatment, therapies or natural substances that support and assist the body’s natural healing powers to treat or prevent ill health.
Let’s start by trying to clarify some of the different terminology used:
- · Alternative medicine – therapies, products, treatments or practices used instead of conventional medicine.
- · Complementary medicine – therapies, products, treatments or practices used in conjunction with conventional medicine.
- · Traditional medicine - a system of medicine based on cultural beliefs and traditions.
- · Holistic medicine - a system that looks at treating the whole person rather than a symptom or part.
- · Integrative medicine - a client- based approach using conventional medicine and alternative medicine. A GP with additional training in alternative medicine.
- · Integrated medicine - combination of diverse practitioners and their different therapies including conventional medicine. Maybe in one practice.
While there may be other terms, these seem to be the main ones used when discussing natural medicine and are interchangeable depending on the context.
Within natural medicine there are different healing systems, modalities and practices. Some examples of complete healing systems are:
- · Ayurveda - Traditional Indian healing system.
- · TCM - Traditional Chinese medicine.
- · Naturopathy, a wholistic system of healing.
Underlying these healing systems are similar principles and philosophies:
- · Everyone has an inherent natural healing ability within us given the right internal and external environment.
- · Treatment is holistic. It considers connections between mind, body, emotions and spirituality, as well as looking at other aspects such as lifestyle, relationships, social, environmental and cultural.
- · Treating the root cause.
- · Treating the individual.
- · Is healing-oriented medicine and emphasizes the therapeutic relationship between practitioner and patient and makes use of all appropriate therapies.
There are many modalities, treatments and therapies that are practiced as a part of these complete healing systems or as separate treatments or therapies. The list is extensive but includes things like Acupuncture, Aromatherapy, Herbalism, Homeopathy, Massage, Nutrition, Reflexology, Yoga Therapy and many more. Depending on the context of the treatment the terminology to describe this treatment would change. You may see an Ayurvedic practitioner and receive a variety of treatments depending on your circumstances which could include advice on nutrition, recommended herbal products or receive treatment in the form of massage. This treatment could be called Traditional medicine, holistic medicine, maybe alternative medicine if the treatment was instead of conventional medicine.
Practitioners may be qualified as full practitioners of a complete healing system while others are qualified in one modality such as homeopathy or massage.
Natural healing systems and treatments are centred around using our own inherent healing ability to bring us back to a state of health and well-being. If we provide the correct internal and external environments for ourselves then we have the best chance of achieving and maintaining health. Such things as diet, exercise, stress, sleep, lifestyle, relationships and other factors affecting our well-being would be considered.
Disease can manifest in different ways. Natural healing looks at the whole individual to try to determine the cause of illness and treat that rather than the symptom. Sometimes it may be necessary to treat a specific symptom to alleviate suffering while also trying to find and treat the underlying cause. Many times, treatment and therapies are necessary to further enhance or stimulate our inner healing system particularly when the illness has been long term. Most treatments, therapies or medicines will use products that are close to their natural state. The objective is to create a state of well-being and equilibrium within ourselves, a strong vital force to facilitate healing and prevent further disease.
There is however much controversy about natural healing. Interestingly most natural healing modalities have been around longer than conventional medicine. For me it makes sense that we need to look at ourselves holistically, realise everything is linked and try to provide the best environment we can for ourselves to thrive in. This is certainly not easy in such a busy complicated world. Natural healing is about changing the way we choose to live, rather then a quick fix for a symptom that if not addressed at the root cause may manifest again. It is about using therapies or treatments that enhance our natural healing powers and unadulterated natural products as much as possible.
I believe it is important to choose treatment that is right for you whatever that may be, be it conventional, natural or a combination, depending on our individual circumstances and preferences. I think it is important to do your research to find the most appropriate treatment and practitioner for you. The relationship between practitioner and patient can have an influence on the healing process so find someone that you trust and an approach that works for you.