Alternative Medicine What Is It?

For as long as one can remember, there has been a division between the type of medicine practiced in the West and that in the East. The last ten years, however, has seen this change.

The use of alternative medicine in western countries has traditionally been very limited. The application of such an approach would have been laughable in the 1940s. Now, it is being used by a sizeable percentage of the population.

When it comes to sweeping terms, alternative medicine is certainly one. It can include everything from massage, herb treatments, meditation and even prayer. This grab bag approach has led to an argument over what exactly alternative medicine means.

Traditional practitioners of western style medicine have one view. It is that any medical procedure not arising from western roots is alternative medicine. There is no element of effectiveness in the classification.

A growing segment of the medical community discounts this approach. Instead, they argue there is no alternative medicine. There is only medicine. If an approach brings health benefits, then it is medicinal in nature. If it does not, it is a scam.

So, who wins the debate? At the moment, there is no answer. What is clear, however, is many eastern medical practices are becoming more popular with Westerners. Consider the following.

Looking at the States, people are becoming very receptive to both the idea of alternative medicine and its use. In fact, roughly fifty percent of all adults use it in one form or another.

A majority of adults do not forgo Western style medicine when using alternative medical approaches. Instead, they use them to compliment each other.

The use of alternative medicinal supplements is focused. Most uses are tailored towards conditions that involve reoccurring pain issues. These can be joint or trauma related.

People prefer to self-medicate with alternative medicinal approaches. Less than twenty percent will consult with a licensed practitioner.

Women are far more likely to use alternative health options than men. No particular reason is known, but the biggest disparity seems to be in treatments that combine a mind-body element.

At the end of the day, the exact nature of alternative medicine is somewhat irrelevant. What is clear is people are becoming more receptive to its use as a mainstream solution. One must wonder if it can really be called alternative any more.

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Understanding Native American Healing

When discussing Native American healing, one must first get a basic understanding about the practitioners of its art and the understanding needed by patients.

Most tribal people have one or more types of healthcare specialists that frequently overlap. Some Native healers use herbs, some heal with songs, and some with spiritual rituals. A midwife or a medicine woman or man might focus on natural medicines such as herbs and hands-on techniques but also use prayer and ceremony. Shamans or holy people emphasize spiritual healing but are often also knowledgeable about natural medicines. Kahunas are people, usually of Hawaiian ancestry, who have developed a level of spirituality that joins them with many of the spirit powers allowing direct communication about the healing process.

To learn, people must be open to the ancient wisdom and understand it in the context of the entire Native American experience. It is not something to be trivialized by simply purchasing medicine objects and trying them out at home. As one Sioux leader said, “First they took our land, now they want our pipes … all the wannabees, these New Agers, come with their crystals and want to buy a medicine bag to carry them around in. If you want to learn our ways, come walk the red road with us, but be silent and listen.”

The Spiritual Foundation of Native American Medicine

Spirituality and medicine are inseparable in Native American tradition. Essentially no distinction is made between religious and medical practices. “Making medicine” is an important part of traditional life. It is how people give thanks to the Spirit who helps, guides, nourishes, and clothes them. Medicine is the constant pipeline to the Creator. In Native American tradition, making medicine is a process for achieving a variety of positive outcomes: a good hunt, plentiful crops, connecting with someone, healing someone, a successful birthing, and so on. Medicine is the way people keep their balance; it provides them with the opportunity to grow in new and healthier ways.

Native Americans believe in a singular living God, but also believe that same God may be contacted in many different ways. In Native languages, God is given such names as Great Spirit, Creator, Great Being, Great Mystery, Above Being, The One Who Oversees All Things, and He Who Gives Life. The missionaries mistakenly thought that Native American people worshiped trees, eagles, the Pipe, and many other things. What was misinterpreted was the use of these objects as gifts from the Creator, put here to help and to serve as conduits to greater understanding of the Creator’s ways. Using these gifts is one way to create an atmosphere conducive to addressing the Creator.

Gratitude is a central aspect of Native American culture. Every day is a spiritual, sacred day. One morning prayer, for example, is, “I thank You for another day. I ask that You give me the strength to walk worthily this day so that when I lie down at night I will not be ashamed.” Thanks are given to the Great Power who makes all things possible. People give thanks, not only for the good events but also for the bad things that happen throughout the day, because they believe that the more they show their appreciation, the more blessings they will receive.

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Hooray For Home Births

Two highly influential bodies of the Orthodox medical world seems to be at odds over this recommendation though, The Department of health is actually plans to actually encourage home births whereas the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) wants to issue the warnings the hazards involved in home births, they were later blamed for scaremongering. NICE says that the DoHs request that women should be given more choice as to where they give birth, means that they should also informed of the dangers involved with home births. What dangers? I hear you ask. Well, if during the birth your babies heart stops or there are serious breathing problems, or the mother cant stop bleeding and there are no qualified doctors around, then the mother and the baby are put at grave danger, so they say.

However, what they fail to mention is that once you tell your GP you want a home birth, they tell you that if you and your baby are in very good physical health at 37 of pregnancy, that is when they will allow you to have a home birth, (they cant really stop you, but would you really go ahead if there were a real risk, women arent silly you know). Once you are assigned a midwife to assist you in giving birth, you are normally informed of the nearest hospital should anything go wrong and you will normally be check every few weeks commencing your due date.

Now, with all these precautions in place, the risk of a problem at the birth are dramatically reduced to few percent of births.

The other major factor that isnt even considered by NICE and many other orthodox medical professionals is that the whole business of labour and child birth is a major psychological event for the mother, and what she goes through mentally, will physiologically effect the baby.

Basically, when a women goes into labour, either by contraction starting or her waters breaking, she will immediately be very weary and possibly anxious about the impending birth. Therefore it is of utmost importance that her whole environment, including the people in it are set up to relax and reassure the mother as much as possible. Now consider these 2 situations.

1.The mother goes into labour, call the hospital, is told to come in to hospital. They gather their hospital bag, get in the car, endure a possible bumpy ride while having contractions, possibly get stressed by traffic or their drivers driving, arrive at the hospital stressed and then introduced to possibly 4 different midwives and maybe a few doctors before being allow to relax and get into a hospital gown.

Then the internal examinations are carried out periodically, their maybe strangers (midwives and doctors) popping in and out to check on you. The mother is in the most pain she is even likely to be in, in a strange place with no real personal thing around her, unable to really roam freely about, with normally bright lights and artificially sound around her and people who she may have never met before telling her what to do. How relaxed would you be?

2. The mother goes into labour at home. She calls the midwife to come to the house. At home with all her personal things around her, she is able to roam freely around her house, knowing where all her comforters are (bed, bath, food), able to play all her own music, or do what ever she wants to in her own environment. The mother is totally in control of her environment, surrounded with only those she wants there (bar the midwife). There are still periodic internal examinations, but apart from this, the mother has every opportunity to be as ease in her own surroundings, relaxed and in control. How relaxed would you be?

In situation 1 all the stress felt by the mother will be passed on to the baby, which frequently leads to longer harder labour.

Doulas or the more natural alternative to a midwife, are trained on how the mother body actually works and the best way to create an environment conducive to the health of the baby and the mother, before during and after birth. It has been found that things like the trip to the hospital, being taken out of the home environment, being bombarded with questions, lights and noises at hospitals can effect the condition of the mother very negatively. Contact one of our doulas for more information.

The article however ends with a quote form the chief executive Belinda Phipps from The National Childbirth Trust, which is a well accomplished pregnancy charity, say that NICE does not have any firm evidence that home pregnancies are riskier. If it were anymore dangerous there would be statistic the prove it. On the contrary, home births were up 7% last year (2005) from the year before (2004) with no increase in incidences.

She continues There is no anecdotal or otherwise screaming evidence that says that it is dangerous. There just isnt concrete evidence that it is safe It is safe to say that there are many procedures that orthodox medicine do which are admittedly unsafe.

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