Categories
Treatment

Ayurvedic

Ayurvedic medicine (also called Ayurveda) is one of the world’s oldest medical systems. It originated in India and has evolved there over thousands of years. In the United States, Ayurvedic medicine is considered complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)—more specifically, a CAM whole medical system. Many therapies used in Ayurvedic medicine are also used on their own as CAM—for example, herbs, massage, and specialized diets.

Key Points

  • The aim of Ayurvedic medicine is to integrate and balance the body, mind, and spirit. This is believed to help prevent illness and promote wellness.
  • Ayurvedic medicine uses a variety of products and techniques to cleanse the body and restore balance. Some of these products may be harmful if used improperly or without the direction of a trained practitioner. For example, some herbs can cause side effects or interact with conventional medicines.
  • Before using Ayurvedic treatment, ask about the practitioner’s training and experience.
  • Tell your health care providers about any complementary and alternative practices you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.

Background

Ayurvedic medicine, also called Ayurveda, originated in India several thousand years ago. The term “Ayurveda” combines the Sanskrit words ayur (life) and veda (science or knowledge). Thus, Ayurveda means “the science of life.”   In the United States, Ayurvedic medicine is considered a type of CAM and a whole medical system. As with other such systems, it is based on theories of health and illness and on ways to prevent, manage, or treat health problems.   Ayurvedic medicine aims to integrate and balance the body, mind, and spirit; thus, some view it as “holistic.” This balance is believed to lead to happiness and health, and to help prevent illness. Ayurvedic medicine also treats specific physical and mental health problems. A chief aim of Ayurvedic practices is to cleanse the body of substances that can cause disease, thus helping to reestablish harmony and balance.

Ayurvedic Medicine in India

Ayurvedic medicine, as practiced in India, is one of the oldest systems of medicine in the world. Many Ayurvedic practices predate written records and were handed down by word of mouth. Two ancient books, written in Sanskrit more than 2,000 years ago, are considered the main texts on Ayurvedic medicine—Caraka Samhita and Sushruta Samhita. The texts describe eight branches of Ayurvedic medicine:

  • Internal medicine
  • Surgery
  • Treatment of head and neck disease
  • Gynecology, obstetrics, and pediatrics
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry
  • Care of the elderly and rejuvenation
  • Sexual vitality.

Ayurvedic medicine continues to be practiced in India, where nearly 80 percent of the population uses it exclusively or combined with conventional (Western) medicine. It is also practiced in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Pakistan.   Most major cities in India have an Ayurvedic college and hospital. The Indian government began systematic research on Ayurvedic practices in 1969, and that work continues.

 

Use in the United States

According to the 2007 National Health Interview Survey, which included a comprehensive survey of CAM use by Americans, more than 200,000 U.S. adults had used Ayurvedic medicine in the previous year.

Underlying Concepts

Ayurvedic medicine has several key foundations that pertain to health and disease. These concepts have to do with universal interconnectedness, the body’s constitution (prakriti), and life forces (doshas). Interconnectedness. Ideas about the relationships among people, their health, and the universe form the basis for how Ayurvedic practitioners think about problems that affect health. Ayurvedic medicine holds that:

  • All things in the universe (both living and nonliving) are joined together.
  • Every human being contains elements that can be found in the universe.
  • Health will be good if one’s mind and body are in harmony, and one’s interaction with the universe is natural and wholesome.
  • Disease arises when a person is out of harmony with the universe. Disruptions can be physical, emotional, spiritual, or a combination of these.

Constitution (prakriti). Ayurvedic medicine also has specific beliefs about the body’s constitution. Constitution refers to a person’s general health, the likelihood of becoming out of balance, and the ability to resist and recover from disease or other health problems.   The constitution is called the prakriti. The prakriti is a person’s unique combination of physical and psychological characteristics and the way the body functions to maintain health. It is influenced by such factors as digestion and how the body deals with waste products. The prakriti is believed to be unchanged over a person’s lifetime.   Life forces (doshas). Important characteristics of the prakriti are the three life forces or energies called doshas, which control the activities of the body. A person’s chances of developing certain types of diseases are thought to be related to the way doshas are balanced, the state of the physical body, and mental or lifestyle factors.   Ayurvedic medicine holds the following beliefs about the three doshas:

  • Each dosha is made up of two of five basic elements: ether (the upper regions of space), air, fire, water, and earth.
  • Each dosha has a particular relationship to bodily functions and can be upset for different reasons.
  • Each person has a unique combination of the three doshas, although one dosha is usually prominent.Doshas are constantly being formed and reformed by food, activity, and bodily processes.
  • Each dosha has its own physical and psychological characteristics.
  • An imbalance of a dosha will produce symptoms that are unique to that dosha. Imbalances may be caused by a person’s age, unhealthy lifestyle, or diet; too much or too little mental and physical exertion; the seasons; or inadequate protection from the weather, chemicals, or germs.

The doshas are known by their original Sanskrit names: vata, pitta, and kapha.   The vata dosha combines the elements ether and air. It is considered the most powerful dosha because it controls very basic body processes such as cell division, the heart, breathing, discharge of waste, and the mind. Vata can be aggravated by, for example, fear, grief, staying up late at night, eating dry fruit, or eating before the previous meal is digested. People with vata as their main dosha are thought to be especially susceptible to skin and neurological conditions, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, anxiety, and insomnia.   The pitta dosha represents the elements fire and water. Pitta controls hormones and the digestive system. A person with a pitta imbalance may experience negative emotions such as anger and may have physical symptoms such as heartburn within 2 or 3 hours of eating. Pitta is upset by, for example, eating spicy or sour food, fatigue, or spending too much time in the sun. People with a predominantly pittaconstitution are thought to be susceptible to hypertension, heart disease, infectious diseases, and digestive conditions such as Crohn’s disease.   The kapha dosha combines the elements water and earth. Kapha helps to maintain strength and immunity and to control growth. An imbalance of the kapha dosha may cause nausea immediately after eating. Kapha is aggravated by, for example, greed, sleeping during the daytime, eating too many sweet foods, eating after one is full, and eating and drinking foods and beverages with too much salt and water (especially in the springtime). Those with a predominant kapha dosha are thought to be vulnerable to diabetes, cancer, obesity, and respiratory illnesses such as asthma.

Treatment

Ayurvedic treatment is tailored to each person’s constitution. Practitioners expect patients to be active participants because many Ayurvedic treatments require changes in diet, lifestyle, and habits. The patient’s dosha balance. Ayurvedic practitioners first determine the patient’s primary dosha and the balance among the three doshas by:

  • Asking about diet, behavior, lifestyle practices, recent illnesses (including reasons and symptoms), and resilience (ability to recover quickly from illness or setbacks)
  • Observing such physical characteristics as teeth and tongue, skin, eyes, weight, and overall appearance
  • Checking the patient’s urine, stool, speech and voice, and pulse (each dosha is thought to make a particular kind of pulse).

Treatment practices. Ayurvedic treatment goals include eliminating impurities, reducing symptoms, increasing resistance to disease, and reducing worry and increasing harmony in the patient’s life. The practitioner uses a variety of methods to achieve these goals:

  • Eliminating impurities. A process called panchakarma is intended to cleanse the body by eliminatingama. Ama is described as an undigested food that sticks to tissues, interferes with normal functioning of the body, and leads to disease. Panchakarma focuses on eliminating ama through the digestive tract and the respiratory system. Enemas, massage, medical oils administered in a nasal spray, and other methods may be used.
  • Reducing symptoms. The practitioner may suggest various options, including physical exercises, stretching, breathing exercises, meditation, massage, lying in the sun, and changing the diet. The patient may take certain herbs—often with honey, to make them easier to digest. Sometimes diets are restricted to certain foods. Very small amounts of metal and mineral preparations, such as gold or iron, also may be given.
  • Increasing resistance to disease. The practitioner may combine several herbs, proteins, minerals, and vitamins in tonics to improve digestion and increase appetite and immunity. These tonics are based on formulas from ancient texts.
  • Reducing worry and increasing harmony. Ayurvedic medicine emphasizes mental nurturing and spiritual healing. Practitioners may recommend avoiding situations that cause worry and using techniques that promote release of negative emotions.

Use of plants. Ayurvedic treatments rely heavily on herbs and other plants—including oils and common spices. Currently, more than 600 herbal formulas and 250 single plant drugs are included in the “pharmacy” of Ayurvedic treatments. Historically, Ayurvedic medicine has grouped plant compounds into categories according to their effects (for example, healing, promoting vitality, or relieving pain). The compounds are described in texts issued by national medical agencies in India. Sometimes, botanicals are mixed with metals or other naturally occurring substances to make formulas prepared according to specific Ayurvedic text procedures; such preparations involve several herbs and herbal extracts and precise heat treatment.

 

Practitioner Training and Certification

Many practitioners study in India, where there are more than 150 undergraduate and 30 postgraduate colleges for Ayurvedic medicine. Training can take 5 years or longer. Students who receive their Ayurvedic training in India can earn either a bachelor’s degree (Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery, BAMS) or doctoral degree (Doctor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery, DAMS) there. After graduation, some Ayurvedic practitioners choose to provide services in the United States or other countries.   The United States has no national standard for training or certifying Ayurvedic practitioners, although a few states have approved Ayurvedic schools as educational institutions.

Concerns About Ayurvedic Medications

Ayurvedic practice involves the use of medications that typically contain herbs, metals, minerals, or other materials. Health officials in India and other countries have taken steps to address some concerns about these medications. Concerns relate to toxicity, formulations, interactions, and scientific evidence.   Toxicity. Ayurvedic medications have the potential to be toxic. Many materials used in them have not been thoroughly studied in either Western or Indian research. In the United States, Ayurvedic medications are regulated as dietary supplements. As such, they are not required to meet the safety and efficacy standards for conventional medicines. An NCCAM-funded study published in 2004 found that of 70 Ayurvedic remedies purchased over-the-counter (all manufactured in South Asia), 14 contained lead, mercury, and/or arsenic at levels that could be harmful. Also in 2004, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 12 cases of lead poisoning occurring over a recent 3-year period were linked to the use of Ayurvedic medications.   Formulations. Most Ayurvedic medications consist of combinations of herbs and other medicines. It can be challenging to know which components are having an effect and why.   Interactions. Whenever two or more medications are used, there is the potential for them to interact with each other. As a result, the effectiveness of at least one may increase or decrease in the body.   Scientific evidence. Most clinical trials (i.e., studies in people) of Ayurvedic approaches have been small, had problems with research designs, lacked appropriate control groups, or had other issues that affected how meaningful the results were. Therefore, scientific evidence for the effectiveness of Ayurvedic practices varies, and more rigorous research is needed to determine which practices are safe and effective.

Other Points To Consider About Using Ayurvedic Medicine

  • Tell your health care providers about any complementary and alternative practices you use, including Ayurvedic medicine. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help to ensure coordinated and safe care.
  • Women who are pregnant or nursing, or people who are thinking of using Ayurvedic therapy to treat a child, should be especially sure to consult their health care provider.
  • It is important to make sure that any diagnosis of a disease or condition has been made by a provider who has substantial conventional medical training and experience with managing that disease or condition.
  • Proven conventional treatments should not be replaced with an unproven CAM treatment.
  • It is better to use Ayurvedic remedies under the supervision of an Ayurvedic medicine practitioner than to try to treat yourself.
  • Before using Ayurvedic treatment, ask about the practitioner’s training and experience.
  • Find out whether any rigorous scientific studies have been done on the therapies in which you are interested.

 

References

  • Barnes PM, Bloom B, Nahin R. Complementary and alternative medicine use among adults and children: United States, 2007. CDC National Health Statistics Report #12. 2008.
  • Chopra A, Doiphode VV. Ayurvedic medicine-core concept, therapeutic principles, and current relevance. Medical Clinics of North America. 2002;86(1):75–88.
  • Courson WA. State licensure and Ayurvedic practice: planning for the future, managing the present.Newsletter of the National Ayurvedic Medical Association [online journal]. Autumn 2003. Accessed on February 14, 2008.
  • Dodds JA. Know your CAM provider. Bulletin of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons/American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons [online journal]. December 2002. Accessed on February 14, 2008.
  • Gogtay NJ, Bhatt HA, Dalvi SS, et al. The use and safety of non-allopathic Indian medicines. Drug Safety. 2002;25(14):1005–1019.
  • Lead poisoning associated with Ayurvedic medications—five states, 2000–2003. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site. Accessed on February 14, 2008.
  • Lodha R, Bagga A. Traditional Indian systems of medicine. Annals of the Academy of Medicine, Singapore. 2000;29(1):37–41.
  • Mishra L, Singh BB, Dagenais S. Ayurveda: A historical perspective and principles of the traditional healthcare system in India. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. 2001;7(2):36–42.
  • Mishra L, Singh BB, Dagenais S. Healthcare and disease management in Ayurveda. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. 2001;7(2):44–50.
  • Saper RB, Kales SN, Paquin J, et al. Heavy metal content of Ayurvedic herbal medicine products.Journal of the American Medical Association. 2004;292(23):2868–2873.
  • Shankar K, Liao LP. Traditional systems of medicine. Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America. 2004;15(4):725–747.
  • Singh BB, Vinjamury SP, Der-Martirosian C, et al. Ayurvedic and collateral herbal treatments for hyperlipidemia: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials and quasi-experimental designs. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. 2007;13(4):22–28.
  • Subbarayappa BV. The roots of ancient medicine: an historical outline. Journal of Bioscience. 2001;26(2):135–144.
Categories
Treatment

Aromatherapy

Whether you choose to breathe them in, rub them on, or gargle with them, essential oils have been used to treat a host of physical and emotional ailments for at least 6,000 years. From Egyptian to Roman to Native American societies, there is a host of recorded data that documents how ancient societies utilized the powerful healing processes found naturally in essential oils. This practice is known today as aromatherapy.

The method of extracting essential oils from various plants, flowers, and seeds comprises a unique sect of herbal medicine that is recognized for its incredible healing properties. From skin diseases to respiratory infections to gastrointestinal health, aromatherapy is a versatile form of treatment since it can be used for a variety of conditions. The secret to its effectiveness lies in the powerful antiseptic, antibacterial, and antifungal properties found naturally in almost all essential oils.

Most essential oils contain the germ-fighting agents necessary to knock out bacteria, fungi, yeast, parasites, and viruses. And unlike pharmaceutical drugs, essential oils interact with multiple body systems at once, making aromatherapy a broad-spectrum form of treatment. The reason behind this rapid absorption of essential oils in our bodies is due to the fact that our bodies and essential oils contain many of the same naturally occurring chemicals. Because of this similar composition, our systems very easily absorb and employ the complex chemical treatments found in essential oils.

How To Use

The best way to determine how to use aromatherapy is to consider the ailment you are treating. Almost every essential oil can be inhaled, making inhalation through various methods a popular form of treatment. This method is best used when treating respiratory conditions, colds, flu, and addressing emotional and mental disturbances. For a skin condition, wound, or burn, a topical application would be the most effective. Ingestion is a popular method throughout the world, but few essential oils can be consumed. Before taking any essential oils by mouth, it is imperative to consult with your physician as certain essential oils pose a toxic threat when ingested. There are several different ways to unlock the antiseptic properties present in essential oils.

Inhalation

The first and fastest form of treatment is inhalation. Inhalation is an ideal aromatherapy technique as it safe on the system and employs our sense of smell, the most powerful of senses. Through sense of smell, the healing properties of essential oil rapidly interact with body systems connected to emotion, nervous system, body temperature, and appetite.

Steam Tent

Creating a steam tent is most beneficial when treating cold and flu symptoms. To do so, simply boil a pot of water, remove from heat, and add in about three drops of your essential oil of choice. Create a tent around your face by standing a few inches over the pot, covering your head with a towel, and trapping the steam around you. You will want to inhale the steam deeply for a few minutes, or until your nasal passages clear and your cough subsides. Be sure to stay far enough from the pot to avoid burning your face.

Diffusion

Another inhalation method is with the use of an essential oil diffuser. As with a steam tent, you will want to add three drops of essential oil to the water-filled diffuser. Diffusers come in different forms; some are candle-lit and others are electric. As the diffuser is activated and heats up, the water will steam and release the essential oil into the air. You will want to breath deeply and slowly to take in the essential oil molecules that are released through the diffuser.

External Application

Another common method is through external application.  Utilizing essential oils in a bath is the preferred method of treatment as the warm water assists in the absorption of essential oils into the skin. As Hippocrates taught, “a perfumed bath and a scented massage everyday is the way to good health.” A recommended dosage for a full bath is 3-15 drops per tub. This form of application is effective as it is one of the few therapies that can rapidly penetrate body tissues.

Massage

An essential oil massage is an excellent form of therapy that will also alleviate the pain and itching associated with viral and fungal skin infections. To create aromatherapy massage oil, combine 10 drops essential oil for every ounce of vegetable oil or lotion. To treat physical injuries using aromatherapy, a compress soaked in essential oils will provide a soothing effect and reduce swelling of the injured area. To create the compress, utilize 5 drops of your chosen essential oil in 1 cup of water and soak the compress in the solution.

Spray

In some cases of illness, a throat spray or gargle made of essential oils may be the most effective form of treatment. This can be easily created by combining two drops of essential oil into a teaspoon of honey and taking by mouth, or by adding 1-2 drops of essential oil to 1/4 cup of water and using as a gargle to treat throat infections. It is common practice in European countries such as France to ingest essential oils to treat certain forms of organ dysfunction. However, it is vital to consult a physician before taking any oils internally, especially if you are pregnant as a few varieties of essential oils can cause a toxic reaction when ingested.

Types of Essential Oils and Their Uses

There are over fifty kinds of essential oil that are used therapeutically. Here is a complete list of those most commonly used. As always, be sure to consult your physician before use.

  • Angelica: The seed and root oils from this plant contain properties that effectively manage menstruation, digestion, and coughing. However, this essential oil can over-stimulate the central nervous system, making it important to use sparingly and with caution.
  • Anise: This delicious tasting (and smelling!) essential oil is useful as a lactation stimulant while breastfeeding, and can soothe muscle spasms, indigestion, and insomnia. It is vital to control the amount of anise essential oil used due to the fact that large doses can cause skin rashes and retard proper circulation.
  • Basil: Basil is used to treat the herpes and shingles viruses, headaches, and indigestion issues. It also acts as a lactation stimulant and aids in the treatment of mental and emotional disorders.
  • Bay: The essential oil derived from the leaf of the bay tree relieves sinus and chest congestion and is used to improve memory and lymphatic circulation throughout the body.
  • Benzoin: This antiseptic and antifungal essential oil also alleviates dry skin and provides emotional support.
  • Bergamot: This refreshing essential oil can be used to battle the viruses responsible for flu, herpes, shingles, and chickenpox, ease digestion, and act as an anti-inflammatory for the urinary tract system, mouth, throat, and skin.
  • Birch: Often made available for purchase under the moniker “wintergreen” essential oil, birch is useful in treating psoriasis and relieving arthritis and muscle pain. However, large amounts of birch are toxic to the system, so use with caution.
  • Carrot Seed: No, this essential oil is not distilled from the carrots in your refrigerator. Carrot seed actually comes from the seeds of the plant Queen Anne’s lace, a distant ancestor of today’s carrot. This oil can be used to treat skin disorders such as eczema, rashes and certain precancerous skin conditions.
  • Cedarwood: Cedarwood is most useful in treating respiratory and urinary infections, and can also be used to fight off acne, dandruff, and chronic itching. Avoid all cedar oils while pregnant.
  • Chamomile: This versatile essential oil is used to treat a host of conditions. Chamomile acts as an anti-inflammatory agent, pain reducer, and addresses indigestion, ulcers, and liver damage. This essential oil is also commonly used to treat insomnia and acts as a powerful antidepressant.
  • Cinnamon: Cinnamon can be used to treat urinary tract infections, diarrhea, and is helpful to relieve tension. However, you will want to dilute cinnamon essential oil with a less potent essential oil, as cinnamon is a potential skin irritant.
  • Citronella: While this essential oil is more commonly known as an insect repellant, citronella is also useful in treating colds and infections. Be cautious with topical applications as it can cause skin irritation.
  • Clary sage: Clary sage is used throughout Europe as a sore throat remedy and also can be used to alleviate pain and menopause symptoms. Clary sage should not be combined with alcohol.
  • Clove bud: This essential oil is used to fight infections such as colds, flu, and chest congestion. It can also act as a stress reliever and memory stimulant.
  • Coriander: Coriander is an antiseptic essential oil that eases pain and inflammation associated with arthritis and acts as an antiseptic in treating flu, cystitis, and diarrhea.
  • Cypress: Use this essential oil to treat sinus and lung congestion or to ease symptoms associated with low blood pressure, hemorrhoids, and varicose veins.
  • Dill: Dill is useful in treating indigestion and can also be helpful as an appetite suppressant.
  • Eucalyptus: The essential oil derived from the eucalyptus tree is a powerful antiviral agent. It is useful in treating throat infections, fever, flu, chest congestion, and herpes.
  • Fennel: Fennel is commonly used as a lactation stimulant, but can also be helpful in treating indigestion, urinary tract disorders, and to quickly heal bruises. Do not use if you have epilepsy as fennel can over-stimulate the central nervous system.
  • Fir: Use this essential oil to treat asthma, chronic cough, and to soothe muscle pain.
  • Frankincense: This valuable essential oil treats fungal infections, ulcers, lung sensitivity, and chronic diarrhea. Additionally, frankincense has been used throughout the ancient world to increase consciousness and relaxation.
  • Geranium: Geranium possesses both antiviral and antifungal properties, making it an important treatment for shingles, herpes, and ringworm. This essential oil can also be used to treat menopausal symptoms and regulate blood pressure.
  • Ginger: Ginger can be used internally to alleviate digestion issues such as nausea, diarrhea, gas, and loss of appetite. It can also address infections of the lungs and urinary system.
  • Helichrysum: Use Helichrysum to treat bronchitis, asthma, and pain and inflammation associated with arthritis.
  • Inula: Inula is mostly used to treat skin infections and herpes, but can also relieve sinus, chest congestion, muscle pain, and inflammation.
  • Jasmine: This essential oil is sometimes used to treat complications with the prostate. It also acts to soothe headaches.
  • Juniper: Bronchial infections, eczema, and hemorrhoids are all treated with this essential oil. Use with caution as overuse can over stimulate the kidneys.
  • Labdanum: This antiseptic essential oil is used to treat colds, coughs, wounds, and hemorrhoids.
  • Lavender: This quintessential aromatherapy oil contains the broadest reaching of benefits. From treating burns and eczema to lung and sinus infections, indigestion, and skin infections, lavender is a go-to ingredient in aromatherapy treatment.
  • Lemon: The essential oil derived from the lemon peel is antiseptic and antioxidant. Use it to treat viral and bacterial infections, aid with digestion issues, and boost immunity.
  • Lemongrass: This antiseptic essential oil can be used to ward off scabies and ringworm and to treat headache and indigestion pain.
  • Marjoram: Use Marjoram in treating colds, flu, migraines, and high blood pressure. It is also useful as a topical skin application in treating bruises, burns, bacterial and fungal infections.
  • Melissa: This essential oil contains both antiseptic and antiviral properties and is an appropriate treatment for strep, herpes, chickenpox, chest congestion, and high blood pressure.
  • Myrrh: Use myrrh as an external application on yeast infections, eczema, skin infections, ringworm, and wounds. It can also be used to boost immunity and aid with digestion, coughs, and diarrhea.
  • Myrtle: Used throughout the ages to treat the complexion, myrtle is also helpful in treating respiratory infections, muscle spasms, and varicose veins.
  • Neroli: Neroli is particularly useful in treating symptoms of menopause. It also addresses circulation problems like high blood pressure and hemorrhoids.
  • Niaouli: Use this essential oil on bacterial and fungal infections as well as in treating respiratory allergies.
  • Palmarosa: Palmarosa contains wonderful antiseptic and antiviral properties that are useful in treating acne, skin infections, and herpes.
  • Patchouli: Patchouli holds antiseptic abilities and is used to treat eczema, athlete’s foot, and skin inflammation.
  • Pepper, black: Pepper can be helpful in caring for colds, flu, urinary tract infections, and food poisoning. It is important to be cautious when using topically as pepper can be a skin irritant.
  • Peppermint: Peppermint is a powerful antiseptic essential oil and is used to destroy bacteria, viruses, and parasites found in the digestive tract. It also helps to alleviate sinus and lung congestion, irritable-bowel syndrome and the itching associated with ringworm, herpes, scabies, and poison ivy.
  • Ravensare: This essential oil is an important antiseptic treatment against flu, bronchitis, viral infections, and sinus congestion.
  • Rose: Rose oil is a strong antiseptic that fights infection and can also treat asthma, liver dysfunction, and depression.
  • Rosemary: This essential oil stimulates the nervous system, lowers cholesterol and alleviates chest congestion, sore throat and sore muscles.
  • Rosewood: Rosewood is a sweet-smelling essential oil that treats infections, colds, headaches, and nausea.
  • Sage: This antiseptic essential oil is used to fight throat and mouth infections. It should be used with caution as it contains a potential neurotoxin that is especially harmful to individuals prone to seizures.
  • Sandalwood: Sandalwood is primarily used to treat genital and urinary tract infections and can also be helpful with nerve pain, inflammation, and persistent coughs.
  • Tangerine: This gentle essential oil taken from the peel of a tangerine combats sleep and digestive disorders. It is a wonderful essential oil to use on children and pregnant women due to its extremely safe and mild composition.
  • Tea Tree: Similar to eucalyptus essential oil, tea tree oil contains strong antiseptic properties. It is useful in fighting vaginal, sinus, fungal, and viral infections. Like lavender, this is a popular essential oil for use in aromatherapy due to its extremely powerful and versatile nature in treating a host of conditions.
  • Thyme: This antibacterial essential oil eliminates intestinal worms, chest congestion, and indigestion. In the past, Thyme was actually used to treat whooping cough. Due to its powerful antibiotic nature, it is not recommended for daily use.
  • Vetiver: Use vetiver to increase circulation, treat muscle pain and sprains, and improve liver function.
  • Ylang-ylang: This sweet-smelling essential oil lowers blood pressure, relaxes muscle spasms, and acts as a strong sedative. Be wary to limit dosage, as high concentrations have been known to cause headaches.

Precautions

It is vital to be aware of the potentially toxic effect of some essential oils, especially for children and pregnant women. A few essential oils that are potentially toxic when ingested include bitter almond, hyssop, mugwart, oregano, pennyroyal, sassafras, savory, and thuja. Additionally, essential oils in their natural state are extremely concentrated and have the potential to burn or irritate skin and other sensitive tissues. It is important to dilute essential oils that pose a potential irritation to the skin with less irritating oils before topical application. The following essential oils should be diluted before use:

  • Bay rum
  • Birch
  • Black pepper
  • Cinnamon
  • Citronella
  • Clove
  • Cumin
  • Thyme

For elderly, allergenic individuals, or someone who has a serious health condition such as asthma, epilepsy, or heart disease, consult with your physician before the use of any essential oils. For continual use, be sure to vary the essential oils that you employ in your treatment, as overexposure of one kind of essential oil may be harmful to your liver and kidney functions over time.

Summary

From anise to cypress to lavender, there is a bounty of useful and medicinal essential oils that will banish viral, fungal, and bacterial infections all the while improving sleep, mood, and emotional health. From Egyptian civilization through today, aromatherapy has played a major role in addressing common illnesses and ailments.

By following sage medical advice and adherence to the recommendations provided here, you can employ and benefit from the antiviral and antibiotic properties drawn from the beautiful flowers, trees, and plants that surround us everyday.

As Kurt Schnaubelt, Ph.D and Director of the Pacific Institute of Aromatherapy in San Rafael, California, puts it, “for many common infectious diseases, aromatherapy offers more effective and more wholesome solutions than conventional medicine.”

  • Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide. New York: Celestial Arts.
  • Natural Healing Wisdom & Know-How. New York: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, Inc.
  • Essential Oils for Beginners. California: Althea Press

 



Categories
Treatment

Acupuncture

When most people hear the word acupuncture they immediately think of the insertion of needles in various parts of the body. While this is the most common type of treatment, acupuncture can refer to a variety of different stimulation techniques.

It has had a long history as part of traditional Chinese and Asian medicine before growing in popularity in the United States in the early 1970s. Frequently used for pain relief, the Chinese philosophy believes by putting needles in certain locations the body’s energy flow or qi can be rebalanced and provide relief. Many Westerners think the stimulation of certain nerves, muscles and connective tissues increases the body’s blood flow and release of endorphins which can lessen discomfort.

How It Works

An initial evaluation can take about an hour. Exact details depend on the practitioner and his or her approach but it may include examinations of the area in pain along with the tongue, face color and wrist pulse. Discussion of general health, lifestyle and behavior factors may also occur. After the first meeting, treatments generally last about 30 minutes. Depending on the problem 6 to 12 appointments over several months is often typical. Between 5 and 20 very thin needles are inserted in various locations of the body (sometimes some are nowhere near the area in pain). Discomfort should be very minimal or nonexistent. Once the needles are in the practitioner has a variety of options from twirling them to heating them to applying light electrical pulses to them. After 10 to 20 minutes the needles are removed.

Benefits

Acupuncture can by tried for a number of painful ailments ranging from headaches, back pain and dental pain to fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis and even labor pain.

Accupuncture is beginning to emerge as a combination therapy across western medicine that has been shown to show relief for patients after surgery.

When approaching menopause, accupuncture has been shown to significantly reduce the duration and intensity of hot flashes and other symptoms associated with that phase of life.

Precautions

Acupuncture is generally considered pretty safe but there are a few things to keep in mind. First and foremost, practitioners should always use sterile, disposable needles to prevent infections and exposure to serious diseases. A little bit of soreness or even small amounts of bleeding or bruising where the needles were inserted is possible. In rare cases needles can puncture organs if they are pushed in too far. Individuals with bleeding disorders or who take a blood thinner may not be good candidates for acupuncture. Similarly anyone with a pacemaker should likely avoid this treatment as the electrical impulses to the needle could affect the pacemaker. Finally, acupuncture in some forms may trigger labor so pregnant women may need to avoid it.

Summary

Acupuncture is an ancient Asian treatment that involves very thin needles inserted in certain locations to help relieve pain.

References

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine nccam.nih.gov/health/acupuncture/introduction.htm

Mayo Clinic mayoclinic.com/health/acupuncture/MY00946

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Treatment

Yoga

Yoga is a mind-body practice with origins in ancient Indian philosophy. The various styles of yoga that people use for health purposes typically combine physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation or relaxation.

It can be highly individualized as there are many different types of yoga such as Ashtanga, Bikram, Iyengar, Anusara, Vinyasa and Kundalini and each one utilizes a different focus to assist in bringing the mind, body and soul together.

How it Works

It works by assuming different postures specific to that practice and then releasing the posture. Some practices incorporate meditation as a part of the class.

Yoga works subtly on the energetic level to clear out stuck energy while at the same time conditioning the body to bring in fresh energy through certain postures, and training the mind to be in present moment awareness.

Benefits

A regular yoga practice will assist one in sleeping more soundly, feeling more grounded, having less pain and achieving more focus. There are huge, emotional, physical and psychological benefits from engaging in regular yoga practice.

Precautions

Be mindful when trying different types of yoga, and go with what feels best for you since there are so many different styles. Do not push your body any further than it wants to go, as yoga has no connection to force.

Summary

Carl G. Jung, a famous Swiss psychologist, described yoga as “one of the greatest things the human mind has ever created.” The Yoga sutra, when translated, defines yoga defines it as, “Yoga is the cessation of agitation of the consciousness.”

The practice of whatever type of yoga you find beneficial for you will assist greatly in transcending the mind and allowing for more present moment awareness.

References

  • Introduction to Yoga by Annie Besant
  • Yoga for Beginners DVD
  • The Way of the Happy Woman: Living the Best Year of Your Life by Sara Avant Stover

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Treatment

Tai Chi

Sometimes described as “moving meditation,” tai chi began long ago in China as a type of martial art. Today it is an exercise-with-meditation combination used to improve health and decrease stress. Tai chi employs the idea of yin and yang along with qi or life force. Some of the movement names are nature-centric and often groups of people gather in parks to practice.

How It Works

A number of styles of tai chi exist but generally the focus is on a series of flowing movements accompanied with deep breathing. One pose runs into the next gently and gracefully which allows for exercise and increased flexibility. Tai chi is considered a kind of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and boasted approximately 2.3 million practitioners in a 2007 survey according to the National Institutes of Health.

Benefits

Tai chi offers a number of benefits. It is weight-bearing which can help bone health while still being low impact and easy on the joints. Muscle strength and flexibility can also increase from regular practice. The focused, meditative aspect can promote decreased stress and anxiety. It may also aid existing problems. Balance and coordination can improve which may lessen the risk of falls while the gentle stretching movements can ease stiffness and pain. More research needs to be done but initial reports indicate tai chi may also boost the immune system, reduce blood pressure and increase overall well-being in the elderly.

Precautions

Tai chi is generally considered quite safe though it is important to make sure moves are being done correctly. (While it can be done at home with a DVD, experts recommend beginning with a live instructor to provide feedback and lessen risk of injury.) Individuals who are pregnant, have a hernia or suffer from any joint or back issues should check with their doctor before beginning tai chi to ensure which movements are safe for them.

Summary

Tai chi is a gentle flowing form of physical exercise coupled with mental focus and meditation. It is generally safe for most people and can offer benefits from reduced stress to increased strength, flexibility and balance.

References

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine nccam.nih.gov/health/taichi/introduction.htm

Mayo Clinic mayoclinic.com/health/tai-chi/SA00087

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Treatment

Meditation

There are many different types of meditation, from mindfulness meditation to walking meditation but the goal is usually the same: to cultivate a quietness of mind enough so as to hear the still small voice of the soul.

It helps one to bring focus to the present moment, to let go of all attachments, to push the pause button on fear and worry and learn to trust that life will provide for you. With regular practice of meditation, one will cultivate an inner peace that will remain in moments of any stress.

How it Works

It works by stilling the thoughts in the mind through the practice of several techniques such as focusing on the breath, chanting, and practicing detachment from all outside influences with non-resistance, while sitting in a relaxed comfortable position for a period of time that one feels is sufficient.

Benefits

The benefits of meditation are reduced stress, more present moment awareness, feelings of calm, and a greater flow of energy.

In a study that was initiated by Jon Kabatt-Zin it was found that the group of meditators that were studied had an increase in the frontal lobe areas associated with greater happiness and calmness than before they began to meditate.

Summary

Meditation is a wonderful healing modality that can be done at home for free, or you can choose to join a group meditation as found at some yoga centers.

It is highly known to reduce stress and enhance more mindfulness of the importance of present moment awareness. Regular practice of meditation is wonderful for healing.

References

  • Real Happiness by Sharon Salzburg
  • Awakening to Joy 10 Steps that Will Put you on the Road to Happiness by James Baraz and Shoshanna Alexander
  • Quiet Mind a Beginner’s Mind to Meditation by Sharon Salzburg
  • Getting into the Vortex by Esther Hicks

 


Categories
Treatment

Massage

There are many different forms of massage therapy such as deep tissue, Swedish, Shiatsu and Thai yoga massage are just a few. Some are done fully clothed, while others require the removal of clothes to the comfort level of the client.

The benefits of massage are wonderful especially in stress reduction and relaxation.

How it Works

Massage therapy is a licensed profession, so your therapist will be highly trained in knowledge on the working of the body and its muscles.

You should arrive at your appointment about 15 minutes in advance in so you have time to sign any necessary forms. You will then be led back to your personal, quiet, dimly lit room and usually calming music is being played. Your massage therapist will come in and depending on the type of massage you have decided on, the session may run as long as an hour and a half.

Benefits

The benefits of massage are bountiful. Enhanced lymphatic drainage associated with the increased excretion of toxins is a major benefit as are stress relief, muscular release, and endorphin production (your happy, feel good, natural pain reducing neurotransmitters) is also greatly augmented.

Precautions

Massage is not for everyone. If you are pregnant, have certain pain conditions, are unable to lay flat for a certain period of time, have low blood pressure, or have any open wounds you should consult with your physician prior to this treatment. Also, if you have sensitivities to some lotions or oils, you may want to bring your own so as to avoid any allergic response.

Summary

Massage therapy is a great holistic modality to add to your health care regimen. It moves the lymphatic fluid which is wonderful in assisting in the elimination of toxins, relaxes tense, tight muscles and relaxes the mind.

It is important to consider drinking a sufficient amount of water after your massage.

References

  • Edgar Cayce’s Massage, Hydrotherapy & Healing Oils: by Joseph and Sandra Duggan
  • Deep Tissue Massage Revised Edition by Art Riggs
Categories
Treatment

Acupressure

Acupressure is a traditional technique of Chinese origin, acupressure is used to treat various types of diseases. Acupressure therapy is widely used in Asian countries like Japan, China, Bhutan, Tibet, Nepal, India and others.

Acupressure has been practiced for several centuries and has proven its benefits and is based on the concept of life force and energy. It is the science and art that restore the balance of natural energy, and is often included in massage therapy trainings.

How it Works

During an acupressure session by a trained practitioner, they will press specific points on the body with the help of special devices, elbows, palms, knuckles, fingers, hands, and even feet. The pressure is usually held for several seconds to several minutes and may be applied in pushing or circular movements, or a combination.

It can be done every other day or several times a day depending on the condition of a patient. The aim of this procedure is to improve the circulation of energy in the body — at the same time alleviating pain. During a procedure the person should be relaxed and happy.

Benefits

Acupressure therapy has proven to have many benefits as it is used to alleviate a variety of conditions and disorders. It helps in coping with stress, get a physical relief, and avoid arthritic spasms and muscular distress.

Practitioners in Asian countries use it to control pain, especially in cases when patients suffer from a slipped disc, disorders of bones, muscles or tissue, osteoarthritis, pain in the neck and arms, and backaches. Acupressure is widely used to relieve pain caused by athletics and sports.

Recent studies have shown it is very useful when treating people with neurological disorders as it eases stressed and stiff limbs among partially disables patients. Also, recent studies have shown that acupressure therapy may bring temporary relief of headache pain and nausea. It is explained by the fact that applying pressure to specific points may cause the release of a greater number of endorphins in the brain which act as natural painkillers.

One of the most positive sides of this therapy is that it may be used to treat different age and gender groups. It may be used to treat children if they suffer from stress, constipation, bed wetting, sleeplessness, and congestion of the chest caused by cold.

Precautions

In order to avoid unexpected or negative results, the practitioner should not press any area in a forceful and abrupt way. Abdominal points should also be applied very carefully, and especially if you are ill, suffer from tuberculosis, leukemia, intestinal cancer, or have cardiac conditions.

Be especially careful during pregnancy. Pregnant women should be especially careful with the most points on the legs and between the index finger and the thumb.

Acupressure points that are situated near or on the person’s eye need to be treated only with a finger or thumb when the eyes are closed. As the area of the throat, outer breast and groin are very sensitive, they can be touched only very gently or not pressed at all.

It is forbidden to press on infected areas, serious burns, ulcerous conditions, recently formed scars a month after an operation or injury. If your body has a wound or bruises, the practitioner should work around them using only gentle pressure. Acupressure must be avoided on the areas of the skin which are inflamed, sprained or broken.

Drug and alcohol addicted people should not be treated with acupressure.

There are cases when acupressure elicits a sexual response. It means that the treatment is performed incorrectly and is considered to be not therapeutic.

Summary

When acupressure points are stimulated, they release muscular tension, promote blood circulation, and assists in activating a body's innate healing ability. The goal of an acupressure treatment is a state of balance and wellness of physical, emotional, mental and spiritual states.

References

The Official Website for Acupressure acupressure.com/articles/acupressure_precautions_guidelines.htm

How acupuncture works compassionateacupuncture.com/How%20Acupuncture%20Works.htm

Precautions in acupressure
livestrong.com/news-articles/113338-precautions-acupressure/

Acupressure: a safe alternative therapy spineuniverse.com/treatment/alternative/acupressure-safe-alternative-therapy

 

Categories
Treatment

Juicing

Juicing is the process that includes extracting juices and vital nutrients from vegetable, fruit, and plant sources.  The process results in a nutrient-rich drink that is easily consumed and digested for optimum use of vitamins and food performance.

How It Works

Juicing requires the use of a quality juicer that is designed to extract only the juice from its source.  It is generally a mechanical operation that will result in a complete separation of juice from pulp, skin, flesh, and seed.  Different combinations of vegetable, fruit, and plant juice are combined to create high-energy health drinks that are free of preservatives, colors, and additives.

Benefits

One of the many benefits of juicing is the ease of digestion into the system.  While the body can utilize vegetables, fruits, and plants efficiently in their whole form, eliminating the extra bulk from the source ensures that the body can use the nutrient rich juice to its highest capacity.

It also has a convenience factor when produced in advance for busy schedules.   Preparing juice mixes is easy and can provide quick on-the-go nutrition and energy for busy lifestyles.

Juicing can make getting nutrition more palatable for those that are prone to food sensitivities by eliminating the texture, flesh, and skin components of the source.  These are often the components responsible for digestion issues or distaste.  Juice mixes can be combined with nutritional powerhouses such spinach and kale while being made more palatable by adding flavorful components such as apple, banana, and strawberry.

Precautions

While juicing can provide quick delivery of nutrients and vitamins, it can also provide large quantities of natural sugar.  It is important that those with diabetes or other sugar-based conditions use discretion when introducing juicing into a diet.

Juicing can give a quick natural energy boost to aid in workouts and daily routines, however as with any quick delivery method of energy there can be a “crash” associated with it as well.  Without the pulp and body of the juice source, the body can digest the energy source much quicker resulting in a natural depletion of energy.

Juicing can treat an array of illnesses, diseases, and common ailments.

Summary

Juicing can be a healthy alternative to sports drinks, nutrition supplements, and artificial energy sources.  Juicing combinations can treat an array of illnesses, diseases, and common ailments.  It can also be used to increase the nutritional value of diet and provide supplementation for those who may otherwise forgo eating healthy fruits, vegetables, and plants.

 

 

 

 

References

  • How it Works
    thegonzolution.com/2012/07/what-is-juicing/
  • Precaution
    wiki.answers.com/What_are_the_precaution_associated_with_juicing
Categories
Treatment

Detoxification

No matter how careful we try to be, exposure to chemicals is inevitable. From the preservatives and pesticides in the food we eat to the fumes we breathe on the freeway, we are surrounded by unhealthy substances that invade our bodies.

Fortunately, we have multiple lines of defense—namely our liver, kidneys, colon and lungs–each with its own biological mechanism for keeping us healthy. Many alternative medicine practitioners believe cleansing (also known as detoxification) can aid these vital organs in their work.

How It Works

There are two main types of cleanses that have gained popularity in recent years—colon cleanses and diet-related cleanses. Both have options available for purchase or for doing it yourself.

With colon cleanses the idea is to rid the body of any food that may remain rotting in the intestines. This can be done using an enema or a specially designed mixture that is ingested. One example can be made with 1 tablespoon of bentonite clay, 1 tablespoon chia seeds, 1 tablespoon psyllium seeds and 8 ounces of water.

Diet-related cleanses focus on changing the way one eats for varying lengths of time. Examples of these include The Master Cleanse (or The Lemonade Diet), The Elimination Diet and Juice/Soup Fasting.

Benefits

Proponents of cleanses believe they offer a number of health benefits. By ridding the body of toxins they feel people will experience optimal functionality and performance with improvements ranging from increased energy, stronger immunity and better processing of nutrients to better colon functioning.

Precautions

Cleanses of any sort should not be undertaken lightly. They can interfere with medications and anyone with health concerns should always check with their doctor before beginning one.

Even completely healthy people should be careful and do their homework to make sure they choose a cleanse that is safe. While The Master Cleanse may be all the rage in Hollywood to lose weight, it is not a good option due to its very limited calories (it recommends drinking two quarts of water, one-half teaspoon of cayenne pepper, 14 tablespoons of lemon juice and 14 tablespoons of maple syrup a day for 7 to 10 days).

The Elimination Diet which centers around removing certain foods including but not limited to dairy, red meats, gluten-containing foods, all processed foods, etc is another choice that is less restrictive as it is less restrictive of calories and allows some kinds of protein, vegetables and limited servings of fruit and gluten-free grain.

Juice fasting is another possibility which focuses on fruit smoothies and soup with vegetables. While lacking in some food groups it does contain more calories than The Master Cleanse and can help give the digestive system a break.

Other cleanses exist for purchase that may include everything from vitamins and supplements to ingredients for shakes.

Summary

Practitioners of alternative medicine believe cleanses can help purify the body from the toxins we are exposed to every day. However, it is important to select the right type of cleanse, use common sense and check with a healthcare provider if there are any doubts.

References

  • Super Cleanse by Adina Niemerow
  • Clean by Alejandro Junger
Categories
Treatment

Craniosacral

Craniosacral therapy was developed by Dr. John Upledger which is based on the earlier work of Dr. William Sutherland, and is an alternative form of non-invasive energy healing using gentle pressure and tuning into subtle rhythms that many have found to be of great benefit in their return to wellness.

How it Works

The craniosacral therapist places their hands on the body, usually at the head and base of the spine to tune into what is termed the craniosacral rhythm using extremely soft touch to release any restrictions found in the system.

Benefits

Therapists feel that this therapy can be beneficial for stress, neck, attention deficit disorder, back and TMJ pain, and fibromyalgia. It is thought to be beneficial in enhancing the immune function. When the craniosacral work releases the blockage, energy is then free to flow and heal.

Precautions

If you find it difficult laying supine for a period of time, you may want to reconsider a different healing technique. Summary Craniosacral therapy is very effective at reducing the stress response and pain. It is non invasive and a treatment is usually complete in about an hour and one is usually very relaxed afterwards. It can benefit children, adults, the elderly, and those that are pregnant.

References

  • Your Inner Physician and You: Craniosacral Therapy and Somatoemotional Release by Dr. John Upledger
  • Somatoemotional Release by Dr. John Upledger

 

Categories
Treatment

Light Therapy

The importance of light therapy to our good health is greatly underestimated. The very fact that many suffer from vitamin D deficiency, which is easily resolved by the regular skin exposure to adequate sunlight, is one of many reasons that we need to make the most of it.

How it Works

Light therapy works on a variety of levels for our health. Our skin can absorb the energy of the ultraviolet B rays from sunlight and in turn create vitamin D. The light filtering in through our eyes is actually contributing to a whole host of chemical processes that will lead to hormone production and greater feelings of well being.

Benefits

Light therapy is well known in relieving seasonal affective disorder which is substantially related to the lack of sunlight in the winter. However, it has many other benefits such as increasing serotonin levels which is a feel good neurotransmitter produced in the brain that is associated with happiness and tranquility.

It is known that after just 20 minutes of walking in the sunlight serotonin levels will be higher than when you started! When our skin is exposed to sunlight we can make vitamin D, which has a wide variety of purpose in our well being, from enhancing our outlook on life, decreasing inflammation to enhancing the absorption of calcium.

Precautions

It is wise to be mindful not to be out in the sun for too long a period of time. Utilize a good natural sunscreen after you have done your daily “sun bath” so that your skin doesn’t get a burn. If one were to spend a lot of time in the sun it would be wise to ensure adequate hydration with water.

Summary

There are many forms of light therapy, but the most economical is 100% free sunlight! If getting outside in the winter is too much for you, consider purchasing a high quality sun lamps so that you can continue to feel the positive effects from light.

References

  • Dark Deception Discover the Truths about the Benefits of Sunlight Exposure by Dr. Joseph Mercola
  • Heal Yourself with Sunlight by Andres Moritz