Alternative medicine

From Naturopathy to Unani, 5 Popular Alternative Medicine Systems Around the World

Alternative medicine systems were on the agenda long before modern medicines gained popularity across the world.

Ayurveda – which originated in the Indian subcontinent – is believed to be over 3,000 years old. The word is a coat rack Ayus (Life and Veda (science) — which translates to the “science of life.”

Ayurveda takes a holistic approach via herbs, exercise, meditation, massage, sun exposure, and controlled breathing to maintain balance in body, mind, and spirit.

People use this treatment to cure several ailments, including diabetes and heart and neurological diseases.

While skepticism surrounds the benefits of alternative medicine, people around the world are still choosing traditional holistic healing systems.

From Asian medicines to Native American medicines, SocialStory looks at five traditional systems believed to benefit people.


Originating in Europe, naturopathy diagnoses ailments as an indication that the body’s natural ability to heal itself is compromised. It goes beyond treating disease to restoring the natural processes by which the body heals itself.

Naturopathy, which translates to “disease of nature”, is practiced throughout Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States.

In North America, naturopathic practices are based on six principles, including the healing power of nature, the identification and treatment of disease, the concept of “doing no harm”, seeing the doctor as a teacher, holistic treatment of an individual and prevention.

The holistic system combines alternative systems like homeopathy, acupuncture, and herbal medicine, and often using more modern practices like bio-resonance, ozone therapy, and colonic irrigation.

Acupuncture is derived from ancient Chinese medicine and is based on the release of energy in the body


Acupuncture is a treatment derived from ancient Chinese medicine, where fine needles are inserted into certain areas of the body for therapeutic or preventive purposes.

The practice involves the stimulation of subcutaneous sensory nerves and muscles, which leads the body to produce natural stimulants such as pain-relieving endorphins.

Practitioners and patients believe that the use of acupuncture is energy or “Qi” (pronounced chi that flows through channels called meridians in the body), and disease is caused when Qi is not not allowed to circulate freely in the body.

The release of Qi leads to the restoration of good health. Acupuncture is thought to relieve chronic pain, tension-related migraines, and headaches. Also, it is used in the treatment of joint pain, toothache, insomnia, anxiety, depression, and infertility.

Most people say the treatment causes little or no pain, with only mild pain after the session.


Unani or Tibb medicine is a traditional Arabic system that dates back to the texts of ancient Greek physicians like Hippocrates and Galenlater refined by Arab physicians like Avicenna.

Unani medicine is based on harmony and balance between body, mind and soul. The system believes that a healthy body has a balance between seven principles – Arkan (elements), mizaj (temperament), akhlat (body humor), aaza (organs and systems), arwah (vital spirit), whatwa (faculties or powers), and afaal (functions).

Treatment consists of balancing the external factors, for example, air, water and food involved in ailments and diseases. If this fails, treatment with natural medicines is prescribed, and diet is also an important part of the system.

Tibetan medicine

Tibetan Medicine or Sowa Rigpa (the science of healing) is an ancient Tibetan healing practice based on the principle that the fundamental purpose of life is happiness.

Practitioners analyze the patient’s unique innate nature or constitution and recommend supportive lifestyle choices. The system goes to the source of the problem to help restore health by finding a balance. He believes that the mind is the source of suffering and that a healthy mind will lead to a healthy body.

Based on “Four Tantras” which keep the three bodily humors—vent rlung, bile mkhris pa, and phlegm bad kan—in balance, these tantras are—

  • Root Tantra: Uses visual observation to diagnose primarily pulse, tongue, and urine
  • Exegetical Tantra: Covers topics such as physiology, anatomy, embryology, psychopathology and treatment
  • Pedagogical Tantra: It is the longest tantra, which describes illnesses that cause humoral imbalance and how to treat them.
  • Tantra following: Describes diagnosis and therapies, how medicines should be prepared, how the body is cleansed through massage, moxibustion (burning mugwort on points on the body), and even minor surgeries

Tibetan medicine treats an individual according to his nature and constitution

Japanese medicine

Japanese system of medicine or Kampo is over 1500 years old and has its roots in Chinese medicine. Based on herbal formulations, Japanese medicine has about 148 Kampo formulas, officially approved as prescription drugs.

In fact, some doctors use Kampo medicine along with chemotherapy in the treatment of cancer. It is a popular choice for people with gastrointestinal tract disorders and inflammatory bowel disease. Kampo also prescribes acupuncture and moxibustion but mostly relies on herbal formulas.

During the Meiji period in the 19th century, the system went into decline with rapid modernization. But in 2006, it saw a revival when the Japan Board of Medical Specialties appointed physicians who are members of the Japan Society of Oriental Medicine (JSOM) as Kampo specialists.

In addition, several universities have started research on Kampo medicine.