Natural therapies encompass a broad range of disciplines, all of which aim to treat the physical and emotional wellbeing of the client or patient without recourse to conventional drugs or medication. The majority of these therapies operate outside of the medical arena, though there are exceptions to this – most notably physiotherapists, who often operate out of hospitals and provide important remedial treatment for patients. There is also growing acceptance of many other natural therapies by the medical community, which is reflected in the growth of practices offering an integrated approach to healthcare - with natural therapists working alongside GPs. Private health funds are also increasingly offering cover for a range of natural therapies, including chiropractic, acupuncture and massage treatments amongst others.
One of the primary attractions of natural therapies is that the vast majority of them have few or no discernible side effects, and are drug-free. This is in contrast to conventional medications, which frequently have consequences for the duration they are prescribed. For many this makes natural therapies an attractive alternative, though they are increasingly practised alongside established medical treatments. This is perhaps why the term complementary medicine is gaining in popularity, which reflects its growing presence as a counterpart to conventional medical treatments. Pharmaceutical companies are also keen to benefit from the extensive knowledge base of traditional medicine, which is increasingly studied to try identify the underlying chemical components that provide the healing effect.
While medical advances are impressive and often provide effective treatment for a wide range of serious conditions, they do not have all the answers. The most obvious example is the inability of modern medicine to treat viruses such as HIV, or the common cold for that matter. While natural therapies cannot offer a cure, they can often make an individual feel empowered, as they have more control over their treatment – an option not associated with seeing your local GP. Another motivator is the growing need for a release from the stress associated with our modern fast paced lifestyle. Stress has been shown to lead to weight gain, and also lowers our resistance to illness and disease. Many natural therapies offer therapeutic benefits, which are often linked to enhanced relaxation and a decline in stress and tension. The popularity of yoga, reflexology and massage are all testament to this.
Many natural therapies also take a holistic and non-invasive approach to health and healing. The holistic approach takes account of the physical and emotional aspects of an individual’s health, with a view to preventing negative impacts, such as disease and illness taking hold. Perhaps the most widely used natural therapy is Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), a healing tradition that goes back many centuries and is still in widespread use today. This approaches health and healing from a perspective largely based on the yin and yang concept, which is informed and inspired by nature. This philosophy attempts to maintain harmony and balance in the mind and body, while trying to understand the complex relationships that exist in human biology.
While not dismissing the many benefits of conventional medicine, advocates of natural therapies only ask that sceptics keep an open mind, and perhaps acknowledge the value of exploring other avenues of healing. The inherent paradox is that science and ongoing technological innovation will ultimately throw new light on the benefit of many natural therapies, which can only be a good thing for us all...