There is evidence of alternative medicine

Alternative Medicine: Heal Naturally

Hardly any patient wants to be without the achievements of conventional medicine. But especially with minor illnesses or chronic illnesses, many people - often additionally - rely on alternative methods. These can complement classical medicine, sometimes even replace it, provided that there is nothing to prevent it from a medical perspective.

Alternative medicine - often a supplement

Alternative medicine is also called complementary medicine (complementary = Latin for supplement). This term is more appropriate because in many cases the procedures are not a pure alternative, but a useful addition to conventional medicine or can be integrated into traditional therapies. In this case one can also speak of integrative medicine.

Germany is one of the countries in which complementary medicine has a long tradition and is used very frequently. Around 60 percent of the population use complementary medicine in addition to conventional medicine, according to Claudia Witt, doctor and professor for complementary medicine at the University of Zurich. The expert says: "A meaningful treatment requires good conventional medical diagnostics. For the treatment, conventional medicine and complementary medicine can be combined, provided that their effectiveness has been proven."

An example from herbal medicine: St. John's wort has been proven to be effective in mild to moderate depression. An example of acupuncture: The therapeutic successes in chronic pain such as knee joint osteoarthritis, back pain and headache have already been confirmed in studies, in some cases with better results than with conventional treatment. As initial studies show, yoga can also provide significant relief for back pain.

Evidence of the effectiveness of alternative therapies

Studies are necessary to assess the benefits and safety of a therapy method. The effectiveness of many alternative therapies has not yet been adequately researched - which does not necessarily mean that they are not effective. There are different types of studies in order to be able to prove their benefits and their safe use.

For example, comparative studies - for example between Chinese medicine and conventional medicine - enable a comparison of the effectiveness of both therapies. For this purpose, patients with the same symptoms (such as knee joint osteoarthritis or back pain) are divided into two groups. One group is treated with methods of Chinese medicine, the other, the control group, is treated with conventional medicine. However, it cannot be completely ruled out that patients with certain characteristics appear more frequently in one of the two groups. For example, it could be that the patients in the Chinese medicine group have generally better health behavior. That would influence the therapy result. This effect is avoided if the patients are randomly divided into groups. These studies are called randomized. It is the safest way to establish a causal connection between the therapy and the treatment result.

The right address: doctor or alternative practitioner?

How do I find the right therapist for alternative healing methods? A basic distinction is made between the two professions - doctor and alternative practitioner - who use complementary therapies. Doctors have studied medicine and have proven their knowledge in a variety of exams and state exams. Non-medical practitioners are allowed to name who has passed a corresponding examination, in which, among other things, the basics of conventional medicine such as anatomy and infection theory are examined. "In the case of alternative practitioners, however, it is not exactly regulated how extensive the training in a therapy must be in order for the alternative practitioner to be allowed to practice this therapy," says Witt.

The regulations for doctors are more specific: The medical associations offer further training courses in the three most widespread areas of naturopathy, acupuncture and homeopathy. Only doctors who have undergone further training for around 200 hours and have trained as a specialist are allowed to use the additional designations.

Claudia Witt warns against promises of salvation: "I consider providers who promise a cure for patients with severe diseases that cannot be cured by conventional medicine anyway." With all the understandable desperation of those affected: It is better to find a doctor or alternative practitioner who will honestly inform you about the advantages and disadvantages of the respective therapy. Basically, the following applies: Even with complementary medical methods, it makes sense to consult a doctor. Because herbal medicines or traditional applications can also have side effects or interact with other medicines.

The most common alternative medicine methods

Classic naturopathic treatments take a holistic approach. The treatment can be varied and, in addition to herbal medicine, includes elements of nutritional therapy, exercise therapy, hydrotherapy (use of cold and warm water, for example according to Kneipp) and order therapy.

Acupuncture is a treatment method that was developed in China more than 2000 years ago. It is an integral part of the so-called "Chinese Medicine", in addition to acupuncture, moxibustion (heating of special points), nutritional therapy, massage (Tuina), therapeutic gymnastics (Tai-Chi and Qigong) and the use of herbal, animal and mineral origin.

With classical homeopathy the practitioner can explain the patient's medical history, he analyzes the symptoms and usually gives a homeopathic medicine.

Important NOTE:
This article contains general information only and should not be used for self-diagnosis or self-treatment. He can not substitute a visit at the doctor. Unfortunately, our experts cannot answer individual questions.