Transwiki:Glossary of alternative medicine

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Template:Refimprove This is a glossary for terms and concepts being used in Alternative Medicine, an umbrella term for a large number of practices that fall outside the scope of conventional medicine.

Contents: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Template:Alternative medical systems



Acupuncture is the practice of inserting very thin needles in specific acupuncture points or combinations of points on the body.

Alternative medical systems[edit]

Alternative medical systems is the name of a NCCAM[1] classification for those forms of alternative medicine that are built upon a complete system of ideas and practice.

Anthroposophical medicine[edit]

Anthroposophical medicine is a holistic and salutogenic approach to healing developed in the early twentieth century by Rudolf Steiner and Ita Wegman. Practitioners supplement the uniquely anthroposophical approach with conventional and homeopathic therapies and remedies. Anthroposophical doctors must have a recognized medical degree (M.D. or equivalent).

Anthroposophic Pharmacy[edit]

Anthroposophic Pharmacy is the discipline related to conceiving, developing and producing medicinal products according to the anthroposophic understanding of man, nature, substance and pharmaceutical processing. Anthroposophic medicinal products are used within anthroposophic medicine but not only.


Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils and other aromatic compounds from plants to affect someone's mood or health.

Attachment therapy[edit]

Attachment therapy is a form of therapy aimed at children with alleged 'attachment disorders', usually fostered or adopted children. It is substantially based on outdated notions of suppressed rage due to early adverse experiences. Traditionally it uses a variety of confrontational and physically coercive techniques of which the most common form is holding therapy, accompanied by parenting methods which emphasize obedience. Following implication in a number of child death and maltreatment cases in the USA there has been a recent move away from coercion by some leading theorists and practitioners. It is largely unvalidated.[2]


Bates method[edit]

The Bates method is an alternative approach to eyesight improvement and maintenance. It is based on the belief that errors in visual accommodation are due to mental strain, and that vision may be improved by appropriate relaxation techniques.

Biologically based therapies[edit]

Biologically based therapies, is the precise name of a NCCAM] classification, for alternative treatments that use substances found in nature and/or some other natural therapy.

Biomedical model[edit]

The Biomedical model of health is a conceptual model of illness that excludes psychological and social factors and includes only biological factors in an attempt to understand a person's illness. According to this model, health constitutes the freedom from disease, pain, or defect, thus making the normal human condition health. The model's focus on the physical processes, such as the pathology, the biochemistry and the physiology of a disease, does not take into account the role of social factors or individual subjectivity. The model also overlooks the fact that the diagnosis (that will effect treatment of the patient) is a result of negotiation between doctor and patient.[3]

Body work[edit]

Body work is a term used to describe any therapeutic, healing or personal development work which involves some form of touching, energetic work or the physical manipulation of a practically oriented physical and somatic understanding of the body.Template:Citation needed



CAM is an acronym for complementary and alternative medicine, an umbrella term for a large range of treatments and of theories on the nature of health and illness, many of them unrelated, which have in common that they are not commonly employed by the conventional medical establishment.

While some scientific evidence exists for or against some CAM therapies, for most there are key questions that are yet to be answered through well-designed studies, including whether these therapies are safe, whether they work for the diseases or medical conditions for which they are used, and whether the explanations proponents offer for them are correct.

The list of therapies included under CAM changes gradually. If and when CAM therapies that are proven to be safe and effective become adopted into conventional health care, they gradually cease to be considered CAM.

Chelation therapy[edit]

Chelation therapy is the use of chelating agents such as EDTA to remove heavy metals from the body. While in conventional medicine, chelation therapy is used only to treat heavy metal poisoning, some alternative practitioners advocate the use of chelation therapy to treat coronary artery disease.

Chinese medicine[edit]

The group of philosophies embodied by Chinese medicine are, more accurately, referred to as Oriental Medicine with roots in many different Asian countries. This millennia-old Asian medical tradition works to bring balance to the body through acupuncture, massage, Eastern herbalism, diet; and lifestyle changes such as martial arts and meditation.


The practice of Chiropractic is a manual therapy involving the manipulation of the vertebral subluxation to restore proper, motion, biomechanics, and nerve flow from the brain to the body.

Christian Science[edit]

Christian Science is a small denomination that teaches that Christian healing as practiced by Jesus of Nazareth and his followers for several centuries after him, was in fact not a short-term dispensation to induce faith but had an underlying principle (specifically God) and method. While its practice is regarded within the denomination as incompatible with medical care, it also respects the philanthropy of the medical faculty and is uncondemningly non-compulsory. Resort to Christian Science may be private or involve the care of a Christian Science practitioner.


Colorpuncture is an alternative medicine practice asserting that light can be used to stimulate acupuncture points for the purpose of balancing energy in the body and promoting healing and better health. It is also called color light acupuncture in North America. It is a form of color therapy.[4]

Complementary medicine[edit]

Complementary medicine refers to treatments that are used alongside ("complementary to") conventional medicine.


Diet-based therapy[edit]

Diet-based therapy uses a variety of diets in order to improve health and longevity, to control weight, as well as to treat specific health conditions like high cholesterol.

A survey released in May 2004 by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine focused on who used complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), what was used, and why it was used in the United States by adults age 18 years and over during 2002. According to this recent survey, Diet-based therapy as a form of CAM was to treat 3.5% of the adult population in the United States during 2002.[5]

Doctrine of signatures[edit]

The Doctrine of signatures was developed around 1500 and claims that a plant's physical appearance reveals its medical value. The Doctrine of Signatures is often associated with Western herbalism.


Eclectic medicine[edit]

Eclectic medicine was a nineteenth-century system of medicine used in North America that treated diseases by the application of single herbal remedies to effect specific cures of certain signs and symptoms.

Energy medicine[edit]

Energy medicine is the name of a NCCAM[1] classification, for alternative treatments that involve the use of veritable (i.e., that which can be measured) and putative (i.e., that which have yet to be measured) energy fields.[6]

Exercise-based therapy[edit]

Exercise-based therapy uses a variety of traditional forms of physical movement, in order to improve health and longevity, to increase, lengthen & tone muscle mass, gain flexibility, as well as to treat specific health conditions and to relieve stress.


Feldenkrais Method[edit]

Feldenkrais Method is an educational system centered on movement, aiming to expand and refine the use of the self through awareness.

Flower essence therapy[edit]

Flower essence therapy is regarded by some as a sub-category of homeopathy which uses homeopathic dilutions of flowers. This practice was begun by Edward Bach with the Bach flower remedies but is now practiced much more widely.

Folk medicine[edit]

Folk medicine is the collection of procedures traditionally used for treatment of illness and injury, aid to childbirth, and maintenance of wellness.

Floatation therapy[edit]

Floatation therapy is floating in warm salt solution for at least twenty minutes, either in a private float tank or in a commercial float centre.



Grahamism, named for Sylvester Graham, recommended hard mattresses, open bedroom windows, chastity, cold showers, loose clothing, pure water and vigorous exercise.Template:Citation needed

Group modalities[edit]

Group modalities are forms of CAM that an individual must seek out and perform with a group of like minded people.



Herbalism is the practice of making or prescribing herbal remedies for medical conditions.

Heroic medicine[edit]

Heroic medicine is any medicine or method of treatment that is aggressive or daring in a dangerously ill patient. It is generally used to refer to the pre-scientific treatments of 18th-century doctors, such as bloodletting.


Holism is the study and advocacy of wholeness in health, science, politics, or any other area of life.


Main article: Homeopathy


Hydrotherapy is the external use of water in the medical treatment of disease, such as through the use of baths, the application of hot and cold compresses or sheet packs, and shower sprays. These applications typically use water as a medium for delivery of heat and cold to the body, capitalising on the thermoregulatory properties of the body for therapeutic effect.[8][9][10]


Integrative medicine[edit]

Integrative medicine as defined by National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine combines conventional medical treatments and CAM treatments for which there is some claimed scientific evidence of their safety and effectiveness.[1] Integrative medicine also adopts the term "integrative health" which incorporates mental, spiritual and community wellness with personal health.[11]


Interventions are any attempt to modify a medical or health condition.


Iridology (also known as iridodiagnosis[12]) is an alternative medicine technique whose proponents believe that patterns, colors, and other characteristics of the iris can be examined to determine information about a patient's systemic health. Practitioners match their observations to iris charts which divide the iris into zones corresponding to specific parts of the human body.


Life extension[edit]

Life extension is a movement the goal of which is to live longer through intervention, and to increase maximum lifespan or average lifespan, especially in mammals. Researchers of life extension are a subclass of biogerontologists known as "biomedical gerontologists". See also the List of life extension related topics.


Lifestyle describes the particular attitudes, habits or behaviors associated with an individual.

Lifestyle diseases[edit]

Lifestyle diseases are diseases that appear to increase in frequency as countries become more industrialized and people live longer.


Manipulative and body-based methods[edit]

Manipulative and body-based methods, is the precise name of a NCCAM[1] classification, for alternative treatments that are based on manipulation and/or movement of one or more parts of the body (See also Manipulative therapy).

Manual lymphatic drainage[edit]

Manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) is a type of gentle massage which is believed by proponents to encourage the natural circulation of the lymph through the body.

Mind-body connection[edit]

The mind-body connection says that the causes, development, and outcomes of an illness are determined as much from the interaction of psychological and social factors as they are due to the biological factors of health.

Mind-body interventions[edit]

Mind-body interventions, is the precise name of a NCCAM classification, that covers a variety of techniques designed to enhance the mind's capacity to affect bodily function and symptoms.

Modality classifications[edit]

This is a classification by who is performing the CAM treatments.Template:Citation needed

  1. Professionalized Modalities
  2. Self-care Modalities
  3. Group Modalities


Nature cure[edit]

Nature cure is the progenitor of naturopathy in Europe. It postulates that all disease is due to violations of nature's laws, and that true healing consists in a return to natural habits.

Natural health[edit]

Natural health is an eclectic self-care system of natural therapies that purports to build and restore health by working with the natural recuperative powers of the human body.

Naturopathic medicine[edit]

Naturopathy is the eclectic practice of Naturopathic Doctors (N.D.) using many different natural therapies as treatment. The original method of treatment of Naturopathy was the water cure.

Natural therapy[edit]

Natural therapy is the treatment method used by advocates of natural health.

NCCAM classifications[edit]

NCCAM[1] has classified complementary and alternative therapies into five different categories, or domains.

  1. Whole Medical Systems
  2. Mind-Body Intervention
  3. Biologically Based Therapy
  4. Manipulative and body-based methods
  5. Energy Therapy


Professionalized modalities[edit]

A professional used in this context is referring to a person engaging in a given activity as a source of livelihood or as a career. It is a provider-based therapy where someone who is knowledgeable about a specific alternative health therapy provides care or gives advice about its use. It refers to all doctor - patient relationships where the professional is functioning in the role of a doctor, whether licensed or not. The professional is providing some type of treatment or therapy which the patient cannot perform on themselves.


Prolotherapy is "the rehabilitation of an incompetent structure such as a ligament or tendon, by the induced proliferation of new cells". It was first utilized as a treatment by Dr. George S. Hackett. He realized that many cases of back pain were caused by loose ligaments. He decided that the best way to strengthen the ligaments (or tendons) was by injecting a solution that would induce proliferation of the cells. The treatment was successful, and he called it Prolotherapy. He started a practice that specialized in Prolotherapy in Oak Park, Illinois. His practice was succeeded by Gustav Hemwall, who was then succeeded by Dr. Ross Hauser.



Qigong is an increasingly popular exercise aspect of Chinese medicine. Qigong is mostly taught for health maintenance purposes, but there are also some who teach it, especially in China, for therapeutic interventions. There are hundreds of different schools, and it is also an adjunct training of many East Asian martial arts.



A form of treatment developed by Mikao Usui in Japan around 1922. Practitioners use their hands on or above the patient in order to control, increase or open up a postulated energy, "ki", in the body. Training is usually through short courses, after which one can become certified as a "Reiki master".


Self-care modalities[edit]

Self-care modalities are forms of CAM that an individual can perform by themselves, even if they need to be trained to do so. These cover techniques that can be self-taught with the aid of books or instructional videos, or can be learned from an experienced practitioner. Although some initial training is needed, once these techniques are learned, you will need no additional outside assistance unless you want to improve your skills.Template:Citation needed



The use of seawater as a form of therapy.[13] Thalassotherapy was popular in England during the second half of the eighteenth century, with Doctor Richard Russell credited as playing a significant role in its popularity.[14]

Therapeutic music[edit]

Therapeutic music is music played live at the bedside of persons who are faced with physical, emotional, and spiritual challenges, generally in the person’s home, a hospice or in a clinical setting.Template:Citation needed Therapeutic musicians are accredited professionals.Template:Citation needed

Tibettan eye-chart[edit]

A mandala-like chart claimed to improve eyesight through exercise.Template:Citation needed

Traditional Chinese medicine[edit]

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is a system of health care which is based on the Chinese notion of harmony and balance inside the human body as well as harmony between the body and its outside environment.

Traditional Japanese medicine[edit]

Pre-Western Japanese medicine was strongly influenced by traditional Chinese medicine and is often seen as a sub-category of TCM. It includes the following practices:




A specialized branch of alternative medicine, including any sort of oral or external application of urine for medicinal or cosmetic purposes, see urine therapy.


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Water Cure[edit]

A water cure in the therapeutic sense is a course of medical treatment by hydrotherapy.[15]

In the nineteenth century, the term Water Cure was used synonymously with hydropathy, which itself is the 19th century term for hydrotherapy.[16][17] Conceptually, water cures include a broad range of practices - essentially any therapeutic uses of water. See Water cure (therapy) and Hydrotherapy for further discussion and links.


Wellness has been used in CAM contexts since Halbert L. Dunn began using the phrase "high level wellness" in the 1950s, based on a series of lectures at a Unitarian Universalist Church in Arlington, VA.[18] Wellness is generally used to mean a healthy balance of the mind-body and spirit that results in an overall feeling of well-being.

Whole medical systems[edit]

  • See "alternative medical systems".


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Yoga is a diverse and ancient East Indian practise. There are many different styles and schools of yoga. It is generally a combination of breathing exercises, physical postures, and meditation, that calms the nervous system and balances body, mind, and spirit. It is thought to prevent specific diseases and maladies by relaxing the body, deepening respiration and calming the mind. Yoga has been used to lower blood pressure, reduce stress, and improve flexibility, concentration, sleep, and digestion. It has also been used as supplementary therapy for such diverse conditions as cancer, diabetes, asthma, and AIDS.


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Notes and references[edit]

| 2 || (cites) || OneLook || g.books || g.groups || g.scholar || pedia |-

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. What is CAM?
  2. ^ 2006, Chaffin M, “Report of the APSAC task force on attachment therapy, reactive attachment disorder, and attachment problems”, Child Maltreat, volume 11, number 1, DOI:10.1177/1077559505283699, PMID 16382093, pages 76–89: 
  3. ^ Annandale, The Sociology of Health and Medicine: A Critical Introduction, Polity Press, 1998
  4. ^ 1999, A Cocilovo, “Colored light therapy: overview of its history, theory, recent developments and clinical applications combined with acupuncture”, Am J Acupunct, volume 27, number 1–2, PMID 10513100, pages 71–83: 
  5. ^ Barnes, Patricia, et al., p. 8, table 1
  6. ^ NCCAM Energy Medicine Overview
  7. ^ Feinstein, PhD, Eden: Six Pillars of Energy Medicine: Clinical Strengths of a Complementary Paradigm , Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine 2008, 14(1), 44-54, accessed 1/27/08; also pdf version of the article
  8. ^ 2006, {{{author}}}, Textbook of Medical Physiology, ISBN 0-7216-0240-1:
  9. ^ Template:Cite document
  10. ^ Template:Cite book
  11. ^ California Institute of Integral Studies. (2009). Integrative Health Studies Program Guide: Glossary of Terms. San Francisco: California Institute of Integral Studies.
  12. ^ Cline D; Hofstetter HW; Griffin JR. Dictionary of Visual Science. 4th ed. Butterworth-Heinemann, Boston 1997. ISBN 0-7506-9895-0
  13. ^ 2007, {{{author}}}, Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, ISBN 978-0-19-920687-2, page 3225:
    Note: Thalasso therapy is a sub-definition under the listing for Thalasso.
  14. ^ 2006, {{{author}}}, Designing the Seaside: Architecture, Society and Nature, ISBN 1-86189-274-8:
  15. ^ 2007, {{{author}}}, Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, ISBN 978-0-19-920687-2, page 3586:
    Note: Definition is under the general listing for water (noun), alphabetically in the sub-listing for phrases. This section begins on p.3585, but the definition for Water Cure is found in the top part of the first column on p.3586. The phrases are in alphabetical order, so it's just a matter of going down the list.
  16. ^ 1910, Unsigned article, The Encyclopaedia Britannica:
  17. ^ Template:Cite web
  18. ^ 1959, DUNN HL, “High-Level Wellness for Man and Society”, (Scanned & PDF), Am J Public Health Nations Health, volume 49, number 6, DOI:10.2105/AJPH.49.6.786, PMID 13661471, pages 786–92: