Ayurveda works on five physical elements—earth, air, fire, water, and ether(sky)—and simplifies them into three basic body and personality types or doshas: vata, pitta, and kapha. Depending on your body type, Ayurveda doctors can customize a treatment plan of herbs, diet and detoxification, yoga, meditation, and massage. This traditional Indian medical system is enjoying immense popularity right now: An NIH survey found that more than 200,000 American adults use ayurvedic medicine every year.
Studies in India suggest Ayurveda works for numerous medical issues; US National Institute of Health researchers are focusing on the use of ginger, boswellia, and turmeric for inflammatory disorders such as arthritis and cardiovascular disease. They’re also studying gotu kola for treating and preventing Alzheimer’s.
Look for solid credentials and extensive education. The International Society for Ayurveda and Health recommends partnering with a practitioner who also holds a doctorate degree (e.g., MD or PhD) and has completed training at a recognized ayurvedic medical school.
Homeopathy might just be the next big British invasion: Favoured by Paul McCartney, Orlando Bloom and other famous Brits, homeopathy is currently enjoying wide acceptance in the UK. It’s is governed by the law of similars, or “like cures like.” Treatments are derived from substances that might induce symptoms, but they’re diluted to the point where almost none of the offending substance remains. For instance, a remedy for insomnia might be made from heavily diluted coffee.
Research suggests homeopathy may ease allergies, colds, flu, anxiety, nervous tension, shock, fatigue, insomnia, headaches, nausea, PMS, and menopause symptoms, skin conditions and long-term chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia and fatigue.
Start with a referral from a national homeopathic society (there are several). During a visit, a homeopath will ask not only about physical symptoms, but also about emotional state, fears and phobias, personality and home life.
Massage seems to work on both a cellular and a hormonal level, healing inflammation and releasing feel-good endorphins. As one of the most thoroughly researched alternative therapies, massage has been shown to do much more than relieve tension and reduce stress. Studies find that massage eases chronic low back pain, reduces the muscle inflammation caused by exercise, and can relieve depression and anxiety, asthma, and fibromyalgia.
Although there are numerous styles—from relaxing Swedish to energetic Japanese shiatsu—all seem to provide similar results. Check with your doctor for recommendations. Each state enforces its own set of licensing and certification requirements, so call a local school to find out what certifications are required in your area.
Hypnotherapy is actually a form of psychotherapy in which the conscious, rational part of the mind is bypassed, leaving the subconscious more susceptible to suggestion. This openness helps patients change their reactions and behaviour.
The NIH recommends it for chronic pain, but clinical studies suggest hypnotherapy can also reduce your need for medication and improve your mental and physical condition before surgery and reduce your recovery time. It seems to be particularly effective for phobias, depression, and anxiety, and it’s showing promise for asthma, allergies, and digestive disorders.
Naturopathy is a multidisciplinary approach to healing that uses natural resources, such as herbs, exercise, meditation, nutrition, and nature therapy. It’s one of the modalities that many experts feel will be integrated into our future health care systems. Naturopathic doctors (NDs) believe that the body strives on its own towards balance, a vital force called “homeostasis,” which can be thrown off by unhealthy lifestyle, stress, poor diet, lack of exercise and sleep, and negative mental attitude. They emphasize prevention and incorporate a variety of therapies, including acupuncture, homeopathy, herbal remedies, diet, massage, hydrotherapy, and therapeutic counselling.
Naturopathy works best for long-term chronic conditions such as asthma and arthritis, colds and flu, depression, PMS, and gastrointestinal issues.
Osteopathy began as a drug-free, non-invasive medicine that manages various disorders by treating and strengthening the muscles, connective tissue, joints, and spine.
Extensive research suggests osteopathy works best for spinal and joint conditions (including arthritis), back and neck pain, allergies and other breathing dysfunction, depression, insomnia, PMS, and digestive disorders.