Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils from plants for healing. Although the word “aroma” makes it sound as if the oils are inhaled, they can also be massaged into the skin or — rarely — taken by mouth. You should never take essential oils by mouth without specific instruction from a trained and qualified specialist. Whether inhaled or applied on the skin, essential oils are gaining new attention as an alternative treatment for infections, stress, and other health problems.
Massage is a “hands on” treatment in which a therapist manipulates muscles and other soft tissues of the body to improve health and well-being. Varieties of massage range from gentle stroking and kneading of muscles and other soft tissues to deeper manual techniques. Massage has been practiced as a healing therapy for centuries in nearly every culture around the world. It helps relieve muscle tension, reduce stress, and evoke feelings of calmness. Although massage affects the body as a whole, it particularly influences the activity of the musculoskeletal, circulatory, lymphatic, and nervous systems.
The Reiki technique uses the basis of qi (life force or energy flow) in its therapies to harness the positive energy of the practitioner to pass it on to the client so their body can harness their own power of self-healing. Massage can be incorporated into Reiki therapy and many massage therapists receive training to combine the two practices to promote spiritual and physical well-being.
Reflexology is a natural healing art based on the principle that there are reflex areas in the feet and hands which correspond to all of the glands, organs and parts of the body. Stimulating these reflexes properly by the application of pressure can help many health problems in a natural way as well as a way of preventative maintenance.
Yoga can be practiced to enhance overall health, to improve balance, to heal and prevent injuries, to strengthen muscles and to open the body for meditation. Yoga creates balance in the body through promoting both strength and flexibility. This is done through the performance of poses or postures, each of which has specific physical benefits. The poses can be done quickly in succession, creating heat in the body through movement (vinyasa-style yoga) or more slowly to increase stamina and perfect the alignment of the pose.
Herbs have a variety of uses including culinary, medicinal, and in some cases spiritual usage. General usage of the term “herb” differs between culinary herbs and medicinal herbs. In medicinal or spiritual use any of the parts of the plant might be considered “herbs”, including leaves, roots, flowers, seeds, resin, root bark, inner bark (and cambium), berries and sometimes the pericarp or other portions of the plant. The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease.
A distinct trend toward the integration of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies with the practice of conventional medicine is occurring. Hospitals are offering CAM therapies, health maintenance organizations (HMOs) are covering such therapies, a growing number of physicians use CAM therapies in their practices, insurance coverage for CAM therapies is increasing, and integrative medicine centers and clinics are being established, many with close ties to medical schools and teaching hospitals.
These researchers investigated the issue of which CAM therapies benefit which health conditions as reflected in the opinions of 223 professional organizations. Here are the results:
Aromatherapy, Bach flower remedies, hypnotherapy, massage, nutrition, reflexology, Reiki and yoga were all recommended as suitable treatments for stress/anxiety.
Aromatherapy, Bowen technique, chiropractic, hypnotherapy, massage, nutrition, reflexology, Reiki and yoga were all recommended for headache/migraine.
Bowen technique, chiropractic, magnet therapy, massage, reflexology and yoga were recommended for back pain.
The authors concluded “The recommendations by CAM organizations responding to this survey may provide guidance to health care professionals wishing to advise or refer patients interested in using CAM.”