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Types of Traditional Medicine and Complimentary /Alternative Medicine (TM/CAM)

Traditional Medicine/Complimentary Alternative medicine (TM/CAM) practices are often grouped into broad categories, such as natural products, mind and body medicine, and manipulative and body-based practices. Although these categories are not formally defined, they are useful for discussing TM/CAM practices. Some TM/CAM practices may fit into more than one category. Traditional healers & TM/CAM practitioners use methods based on indigenous theories, beliefs, and experiences handed down from generation to generation.

Natural Products

This area includes use of a variety of herbal medicines (also known as botanicals), vitamins, minerals, and other "natural products." Many are sold over the counter as dietary supplements. (Some uses of dietary supplements—e.g., taking a multivitamin to meet minimum daily nutritional requirements or taking calcium to promote bone health—are not thought of as TM/CAM.)

Herbal or botanical medicines reflect some of the first attempts to improve the human condition. The personal effects of the mummified prehistoric "ice man" found in the Italian Alps in 1991 included medicinal herbs. By the Middle Ages, thousands of botanical products had been inventoried for their medicinal effects.

Mind and Body Medicine

Mind and body practices focus on the interactions among the brain, mind, body, and behavior, with the intent to use the mind to affect physical functioning and promote health. Many TM/CAM practices embody this concept—in different ways.

Meditation techniques include specific postures, focused attention, or an open attitude toward distractions. The various styles of yoga used for health purposes typically combine physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation or relaxation. Other examples of mind and body practices include deep-breathing exercises, guided imagery, hypnotherapy, progressive relaxation, qi gong, and tai chi.

The concept that the mind is important in the treatment of illness is integral to the healing approaches of traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine, dating back more than 2,000 years. Hippocrates also noted the moral and spiritual aspects of healing and believed that treatment could occur only with consideration of attitude, environmental influences, and natural remedies.

Acupuncture is considered to be a part of mind and body medicine, but it is also a component of energy medicine, manipulative and body-based practices, and traditional Chinese medicine.

Manipulative and Body-Based Practices

Manipulative and body-based practices focus primarily on the structures and systems of the body, including the bones and joints, soft tissues, and circulatory and lymphatic systems. Two commonly used therapies fall within this category:

Spinal manipulation is performed by chiropractors and by other health care professionals such as physical therapists, osteopathic physicians, and some conventional medical doctors. Spinal manipulation is among the treatment options used by people with low-back pain—a very common condition that can be difficult to treat. The term massage therapy encompasses many different techniques. In general, therapists press, rub, and otherwise manipulate the muscles and other soft tissues of the body. People use massage for a variety of health-related purposes, including to relieve pain, rehabilitate sports injuries, reduce stress, increase relaxation, address anxiety and depression, and aid general well-being.

Spinal manipulation has been used since the time of the ancient Greeks and was incorporated into chiropractic and osteopathic medicine in the late 19th century. Massage therapy dates back thousands of years. References to massage appear in writings from ancient China, Japan, India, Arabic nations, Egypt, Greece (Hippocrates defined medicine as "the art of rubbing"), and Rome.

Other TM/CAM Practices

TM/CAM also encompasses movement therapies—a broad range of Eastern and Western movement-based approaches used to promote physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Examples include Feldenkrais method, Alexander technique, Pilates, Rolfing Structural Integration, and Trager psychophysical integration.

Finally, whole medical systems, which are complete systems of theory and practice that have evolved over time in different cultures and apart from conventional or Western medicine, may be considered TM/CAM. Examples of ancient whole medical systems include Ayurvedic medicine and traditional Chinese medicine. More modern systems that have developed in the past few centuries include homeopathy and naturopathy.

Sidebar: Facts & figures on use of TM/CAM

In Africa and Asia , 80 % of the population uses traditional medicine and modern medicine for primary health care

Kenya has a total of 46 tribes with different diverse cultures, cultures that have over years believed in the healing nature of herbs or use of plants surrounding them. The belief in herbs is so entrenched that the usage and properties related to it is passed from generation to generation to the effect that there is a nationally recognized proverb in Swahili that articulates “miti ni dawa” meaning in English ‘herbs or trees are medicine’.

Traditional medicine is not the same for everyone. A particular herb can be classified as food, dietary supplement or herbal drug, depending on location In recent times most affluent people in the society have turned to the use of Traditional & complementary therapies and as a result it has become a multibillion sector

In 2005, sales of traditional medicines in China amounted to 14,000 million dollars in USA

In 2007, Brazil generated revenues of 160 million dollars from traditional therapies

Acupuncture is one of the key components of traditional Chinese medicine, and is among the oldest healing practices in the world.

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Traditional Medicine/Complimentary Alternative medicine (TM/CAM) practices are often grouped into broad categories, such as natural products, mind and body medicine, and manipulative and body-based practices. Although these categories are not formally defined, they are useful for discussing TM/CAM practices.

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