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What are complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) and where does energy medicine fit?

Several years ago, as a UK medical practitioner and also a senior figure in the pharmaceutical industry in Australia, I was relatively naïve about complementary and alternative medicines. As a matter of fact, I felt that anyone that sought help from a complementary or alternative medicine practitioner was wasting their time and money and it actually made me quite frustrated.

Over the years, my viewpoint has matured significantly, mainly due to my growing understanding of these therapies, the science behind how they work and most importantly, the actual benefit that I have experienced and seen others experience first-hand, particularly when working with the body’s energy system.

As such, it has become my personal mission (and that of my organisation, Energesse) to educate people everywhere on the role of such therapies and how they can heal and transform everyday lives.
Complementary and Alternative Medicines (CAM) are a group of diverse medical and health care systems, methods, and treatments that are generally considered separate from mainstream Western medicine. Complementary therapy is used in combination with mainstream Western medicine, whilst alternative medicine is used instead of conventional medicine.

Energy medicine falls into the category of CAM, and it includes a whole gamut of therapies that work on the body’s energy system – one of the main methods is Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine.
The increasingly used term ‘Integrative medicine’ combines mainstream western medicine and CAM therapies where there is significant evidence of safety and effectiveness.

The World Health Organization estimates that between 65% to 80% of the world’s population (about 3 billion people) rely on CAM as their primary form of health care (Reference 1). Scientific evidence exists regarding some CAM therapies, for many there is a need for more scientific trials.

Organisations such as the National Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicines in the US, the Royal London Hospital for Integrative Medicine in the UK and many others around the world are researching these practices using rigorous scientific methods and building an evidence base for them. It is important work as in the United States alone, approximately 38% of adults (about 4 in 10) and approximately 12% of children (about 1 in 9) are using some form of CAM. (Reference 2)

Most people don’t realise how methods of Complementary and Alternative Medicines there are:

  • Acupuncture
  • Ayurveda
  • Biofeedback
  • Chelation therapy
  • Chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation
  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Diet-based therapies e.g. Atkins diet, Vegetarian diet
  • Energy healing therapy/Reiki
  • Guided imagery
  • Homeopathic treatment
  • Hypnosis
  • Massage
  • Meditation
  • Movement therapies – Alexander technique, Pilates
  • Natural products (nonvitamin and nonmineral e.g. herbs, enzymes)
  • Naturopathy
  • Progressive relaxation
  • Qi gong
  • Tai chi
  • Traditional healers – Botanica, Native American healer/Medicine man, Shaman
  • Yoga

In the past decade we have seen methods like acupuncture, osteopathy and homeopathy move more into mainstream Western medicine and become part of the Integrative Medicine movement. It will be interesting to see how many more complementary practices become absorbed into the Western mainstream in the next decade. This will be an exciting and progressive change.

Have you ever tried a form of Complementary or Alternative medicine? What was your experience like?

References

  1. Alternative Medicine Online http://library.thinkquest.org/24206/facts-stats.html
  2. National Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine – for the National Institutes of Health http://nccam.nih.gov/news/camstats/2007/camsurvey_fs1.htm

About the Author: Dr Avnesh Ratnanesan

Dr Avi is a medical doctor with broad healthcare sector experience including hospitals, biotech, pharmaceuticals and the wellness industry. He is a leading expert who coaches and consults to senior executives, entrepreneurs, practitioners, organisations and governments.