What are the 5 Most Popular Forms of Alternative Medicine? Justin Nolan Provides His Expert Insight

Justin Nolan
Sep 9, 2019 · 4 min read

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), sometimes referred to as holistic medicine, comes in many forms and is quickly rising in popularity. Currently, CAM is used by 38% of adults and 12% of children in the United States. Categories of alternative medicine range from the traditional, which includes the more mainstream fields of acupuncture, naturopathy, and homeopathy, to dietary forms of medicine, like herbal supplements. CAM also comprises external energy therapy (Reiki, qigong, electromagnetic therapy), mind therapy (meditation, hypnosis, biofeedback), and body therapy (massage, tai chi, yoga, and chiropractic medicine). Each form of CAM works in its own way but all have the same goal: to heal.

Justin Nolan is a researcher, author, and Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Arkansas. His research in social ecology and ethnobiology encompasses traditional medicine, so he has explored all varieties of the phenomenon. Continue reading for Justin Nolan’s insight into the top five most popular forms of alternative medicine today.

1. Meditation

According to Justin Nolan, even conventional medicine acknowledges the powerful connection between the body and the mind, and meditation is one of the most popular forms of mind therapy that exists today. Studies have shown that people heal more effectively when they are mentally and

emotionally healthy, and meditation helps aid this process. Meditation is an ancient practice that has long been used as a way of calming the mind, relaxing the body, and improving psychological well-being. Meditation comes in many variations, but the most common type involves a quiet location with as few distractions as possible, a comfortable posture, a strong focus on a chosen word (known as a mantra), object, or the feeling of breath, and an open, judgment-free attitude. Though the research isn’t conclusive, many studies have indicated that practicing meditation can be effective for a multitude of conditions, including anxiety, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, and high blood pressure.

2. Massage Therapy

Massage therapy is perhaps the most well-known form of alternative medicine in the world today, claims Justin Nolan. Massage is the practice of kneading the body’s muscles and joints in order to alleviate tension and pain. It has been used around the world for centuries and consists of many different techniques. You’ve probably heard of Swedish massage therapy, which is the most popular form of massage in the West. In Eastern cultures, Shiatsu and Tuina are the dominant styles. Overall, the efficacy of massage therapy varies depending on the person’s condition and which area of their body is suffering. However, most studies conclude that massage as a method of pain relief is effective, at least in the short-term.

3. Acupuncture

Acupuncture, the practice of pricking the skin with needles to relieve pain and stress, originated in China, but today has entered the mainstream in the United States. Acupuncture is the most well-known form of traditional Chinese medicine, with research indicating that it can be an effective method of pain management. Justin Nolan claims that acupuncture is specifically believed to help those with chronic lower back pain, neck pain, and osteoarthritis.

4. Naturopathy

Justin Nolan asserts that naturopathic medicine has never been as popular in the United States as it is right now. Naturopathy is a system of alternative medicine based on the idea that diseases can be treated through “natural” techniques, such as diet or exercise. Naturopathic practitioners may prescribe treatments ranging from herbal and dietary supplements to psychotherapy and counseling.

5. Yoga

Chances are, you or someone you know practices yoga, yet you may never have realized that it is actually a form of alternative medicine. Yoga is an ancient Indian practice that promotes spirituality, along with both physical and mental health. It has been proven to help with stress management and to promote healthy habits relating to sleep and food consumption. According to Justin Nolan, some research even suggests that yoga can relieve menopause symptoms, back pain, and neck pain, and help people lose weight, quit smoking, and deal with depression.

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