The History of Alternative Medicine

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A New Fad or Steeped in Ancient History?

You may be new to using  alternative   medicine  or perhaps you have already seen the amazing benefits  alternative   medicine  and  alternative  therapies can bring to your life. But do you know how long its been practiced and where it originated? Well let me take you on a journey into the fascinating history of  alternative   medicine .

The history of  Alternative   Medicine  is an interesting one and has links with many different cultures. However it’s difficult to say exactly when  Alternative   Medicine  began, in part because up until recently the practices that fall under this term were the conventional medical practices of their time. But if we go back in history and trace several of the forms of healing that are now labelled as alternative we find that their origins go back as much as 5000 years.

From Eastern Philosophy to Widely used Western Alternatives

One of the oldest forms of  alternative   medicine  can be traced back through Chinese history. The ancient Chinese, in much the same way as  alternative   medicine  is used today, based their healing on the importance of the body and spirit being in balance. Much of the philosophy of Chinese Medicine is based on Taoist and Buddhist principals and the belief that a person and their environment are closely interlinked. The widely known principles of Yin and Yang come from Chinese Medicine and are integral to its practice. Yin and Yang explains how opposing forces are integral to each other and how for harmony within the body to take place, these must be in balance. When these are out of balance, disease occurs.

Chinese Medicine works at restoring balance in various ways including herbal medicine, acupuncture, breathing and movement (Tai Chi and Qigong) and also through diet. The practitioner looked at the patient’s health and life in detail to ascertain where their life force or Qi (pronounced Chi) was out of balance. Various methods would then be used to restore the patient back to health. Such was the effectiveness of Chinese Traditional Medicine that it still forms a large part of modern health care in the East. It’s not unusual for these “ alternative ” practices to be used in hospitals alongside western  medicine .

The other Eastern Culture that has a long history of  alternative   medicine  is India. Ayurvedic medicine dates back as far as 6000 years ago and like Chinese Medicine also has links with Buddhism. Ayurveda comes from 2 Sanskrit words – Ayu meaning life and veda meaning knowledge of. It is a system of medicine that keeps a persons body, mind and spirit in tune with nature in order to maintain good health.

When in Rome …..

In the West, the History of  Alternative   Medicine  goes back around 3000 years. Treatments such as hydrotherapy were popular with the Romans and Greeks. The Ancient Greeks who were greatly influenced by the Babylonians and to a lesser extent by India and China brought herbalism into the West. Hippocrates (c. 460-377 BC), a Greek physician commonly referred to as the Father of Medicine, practiced herbal medicine.

During the Middle Ages, Monks in Europe studied and grew medicinal plants and translated many works on the subject from Arabic. Folk Healers also passed on their knowledge of healing through word of mouth, from Master to Apprentice. The understanding of the power different plants have is ingrained in many native civilisations and has allowed man to understand and thrive in often challenging environments. When the Europeans settled in America they found that the Native Americans had an extensive knowledge of the healing power of their indigenous herbs. Likewise the Aborigines in Australia understood the power of plants found in their environment.

Moving forward in time towards the 19th Century, before the rise of Western Medicine, as we now know it, medical practitioners were more like today’s naturopaths. They would take a detailed medical history paying particular attention to the patient’s lifestyle. They would then suggest ways to improve this by changes in diet, environment and would also prescribe herbal remedies.

How a Bit of Mould Turned the Tables on  Alternative   Medicine 

The widespread use of  alternative   medicine  in its various forms decreased during the 20th Century. Treatment of patients became more focused on the use of hospitals, and developments in modern medicine lead to the widespread use of Pharmaceutical Drugs to treat disease. The discovery of Penicillin and its development into a drug that could treat bacterial infections in the 1940’s revolutionised health care and  alternative   medicine  lost favour with most medical practitioners.

Although many Doctors let go of what they considered to be outdated treatments such as homeopathy, herbalism and traditional Chinese Medicine many patients still sort them out, especially when conventional medicine didn’t appear to be working for them.

No Longer An Alternative, Now Another Choice for Achieving Better Health

The result now is that  Alternative   Medicine  is on the increase. Practices such as acupuncture, herbal  medicine , aromatherapy and healing are kept alive by practitioners who specialise in one of more  alternative  form of treatment. Frequently  alternatives  are used alongside modern medical treatments, which have led to  alternatives  being given the term complimentary  medicine .

This brief history of  alternative   medicine  shows that many of the practices used today have been with us for thousands of years. Given the rising popularity of using  alternative   medicine  to deal with health issues today, it’s likely that these practices will be around for many more.

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Source by Kellie Coton