Popular Alternative Complementary Therapies

By Val Silver

Alternative complementary therapies may seem mysterious and 'out there', but chances are you or someone you know has used one or more alternative healing methods without even realizing it!

Have you ever done yoga or gotten a massage? Have you ever taken a cold lozenger with zinc, rubbed menthol cream on achy joints, or sipped a cup of herbal tea to soothe your nerves? If so, you have sampled alternative therapy. 

Basically, alternative complementary therapies are techniques and remedies, other than pharmaceutical drugs and medical procedures.  They are used to maintain or improve physical, mental, emotional, and/or spiritual well being as part of a holistic approach to healing and wellness

There are more alternative healing methods than you could number. It would be nearly impossible to sample them all, let alone use them all effectively. Nor would you have any need to.

Alternative therapies are varied in their approach, technique and philosophy.

Some modalities have been around for thousands of years, others are in the process of being created. Some are backed by considerable anecdotal evidence and research, others have little or no reliable support behind them. Several require the help of a healer or teacher. Others can be learned by reading or using videos.

5 Alternative Complementary Therapies

These five alternative complementary therapies are featured because they have a reliable track record, have been popular for ages, are useful for maintaining and improving health, and are easily accessible. Some are even free.


alternative complementary therapies

Yoga is comprised of different traditions and practices that are much more than stretching exercises. Different styles of yoga offer something for everyone. A friend of mine is a laughing yoga instructor who shares at nursing homes and veterans groups. Hatha yoga is perfect for beginners. Other types, such as Bikram yoga, are more demanding.

If you want to be more relaxed, stronger and more flexible physically and mentally, give yoga a try. With its emphasis on the mind body connection, and facilitating a deeper, lasting harmony between them, yoga is truly a holistic practice.


alternative therapies

Massage may well be the number one favorite modality among alternative complementary therapies. It is absolutely lovely to just lay there while a massage therapist or loved one pampers you and soothes your muscles. Even if you are alone, you can do a fairly good job on some of your own muscles using tools or your hands. Thumbs work particularly well when a little pressure is needed.

Here's one of my favorite techniques: Grab hold of your trapezius muscle halfway between your neck and shoulder. Squeeze as much of it as you can with the opposite hand. Inhale and hold your breath or breathe naturally (your choice). Drop your shoulder and slowly turn your head both ways. Release your grip and exhale. Repeat on the other side. Heavenly!

Not only does massage feel good, it helps bring oxygenated blood and nutrients into tight muscles and helps get toxins out of the cells. Relaxed muscles move better and feel better. You may also be surprised by an emotional release and greater feelings of ease and well-being in connection with your body.

Some therapists are trained in rolfing and other body work that help realign the musculo-skeletal system to improve posture and relieve pain. Trigger point therapy unwinds muscle knots and their accompanying pains.


alternative therapies

Herbs in all their various forms for all their various uses, make them another top holistic alternative complementary therapy. The plant kingdom offers some kind of healing help for just about everyone.

When whole parts of herbs are used to make remedies, they have holistic as well as intended  specific effects on the physical body.

Aromatherapy and herbal oils are used topically for pain relief, relaxation and massage. Tension taming teas are sipped for stress relief. Infusions are drunk for their nutritional value and other health benefits. Roots are boiled for their immune and energy enhancing qualities. Herbal steam inhalations are used for bronchial and sinus relief. Syrups and extracts are taken to break fevers and soothe congestion and so much more.

Herbs are also made into vibrational remedies for healing the mental, emotional and spiritual energy bodies. 

Energy Healing

alternative medicine

Energy healing has been around for millenniums, but has only regained popularity in the west over the last few decades. 

Energy healing methods may use different techniques, but the basic idea of most of them is that the healer or facilitator channels or offers universal energy to the energetic field of the receiver for relaxation and healing purposes. Touch may or may not be used. 

You can do some energy work for yourself, too.

Reiki is one of the more popular and well known forms of energy healing. Other methods are laying on of hands, quantum touch, therapeutic touch, bio-energy healing, touch for health, qigong healing, and distance healing.  

Some types of energy medicine use body or hand movement, such as qigong and other simple ways to positively affect meridian energy flow

Energy Flow Techniques

alternative complementary therapies

Energy flow techniques, or emotional release and meridian tapping techniques, are relative newcomers as alternative complementary therapies. They are included here because they have exploded in popularity over the last twenty years as people experience amazing mental and emotional shifts, and sometimes resolution of physical problems in a relatively short time. 

Of these methods, the Emotional Freedom Technique and its variants are by far the most popular and most studied. Other techniques include the Tapas Acupressure Technique and ZPoint. Neuro Linguistic Programming is a close cousin of EFT and some other meridian tapping and energy flow techniques. Its influence can be seen in some of the reframes and shifting statements used by advanced practitioners.

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Alternative healing methods offer much as simple, accessible ways to promote and maintain wellness. As types of holistic medicine, alternative complementary therapies contribute greatly to our ability to restore balance to our bodies and minds. When used alongside conventional medicine, they offer us a way to take responsibility and control of our health and fill in important holistic health care gaps that the modern medical system does not address.

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