General, Research, Technology

What is traditional medicine and is it safe?

No matter how strange they seem,alternative medical practices are incredibly popular. The term "alternative therapy" itself refers to any medical treatment that is not standard in Western medical practice. However, it is often difficult to distinguish alternative therapies from evidence-based medicine, mainly because the field is incredibly diverse. Alternative medicine (aka traditional medicine) includes hypnosis, diet, chiropractic, acupuncture (acupuncture), osteopathy, herbal medicine, etc. At the same time, the benefits of alternative methods of treatment are hotly contested by representatives of the scientific community. Moreover, among adherents of alternative medicine, the five-year survival rate for cancer is 2.5 times lower, according to oncologists. But why?

The effectiveness of traditional medicine and alternative methods of treatment is disputed by many scientists

On the website of the World Health Organization(WHO) provides the following definition of traditional medicine: “Traditional medicine is the sum total of accumulated knowledge, beliefs and skills based on the theory, beliefs and experiences of indigenous peoples and representatives of different cultures, regardless of whether we can explain them or not, which are used to maintain health, as well as to prevent, diagnose and improve the condition of physical and mental disorders. " Scientists are pushing for more research to determine the effectiveness of alternative therapies, but this does not prevent a huge number of people around the world from testing these methods for themselves.


  • 1 Acupuncture
  • 2 Aromatherapy
  • 3 Ayurveda
  • 4 Manual therapy


Despite the fact that the word "acupuncture"Associated with sharp needles, this traditional Chinese medicine practice is incredibly popular. The term acupuncture or acupuncture describes the stimulation of specific points on the body. The most famous type of acupuncture is the penetration of thin needles into the skin, the process is under the supervision of the attending physician, but electrical stimulation can also be used.

In fact, scientists have long known thatacupuncture can be effective for insomnia, PMS, and many types of chronic pain such as neck pain and osteoarthritis. New research also looks promising. For example, a 2016 study of 2,349 subjects showed that acupuncture may be effective for stress or chronic headaches, although more research is needed for that.

An acupuncture session might look like this

But what is it, the placebo effect? Not really. A 2017 meta-analysis confirmed that the positive results of acupuncture cannot be explained solely by the placebo effect, and therefore it is a reasonable treatment option for those who regularly face chronic pain.

See also: Pharmaceutical Boom: What's Wrong with Antivirals?


Aromatherapy uses essential oils - highly concentrated extracts from the roots, leaves, seeds or flowers of plants. Aromatherapy is believed to promote wound healing. It is noteworthy that The roots of this practice can be traced back to 4001 BC.

Oils are inhaled with a diffuser or dilutedwith base oil and rubbed into the skin. Some oils are used to treat inflammation or infections, while others are used to promote relaxation and calmness. In a clinical setting, researchers have focused on aromatherapy for treating anxiety, depression, pain relief, nausea, and insomnia. For example, results from a 2017 study showed that lavender aromatherapy can help normalize sleep and reduce anxiety in patients with cardiovascular disease.

The subjects in the study tookparticipation of nurses working on the night shifts. The scientists wanted to find out if aromatherapy massage would help their sleep. It turns out that after a massage with sweet essential oil of marjoram and a glass of warm water, the quality of the subjects' sleep improved. However, more research is needed in this area.

You need to be very careful with aromatherapy, especially for people with allergies and upper respiratory tract diseases.

Moreover, when using aromatherapy, it is important to remember that some essential oils can be harmful to pregnant women, children, or pets. Do not apply them directly to the skin and avoid prolonged exposure without ventilation.


This technique originated in India and already existsthousands years. Ayurveda practitioners use a variety of techniques including herbs, massage and special diets to balance the body, mind and spirit. All this is for the overall health of the body. There are several studies showing positive results for specific Ayurvedic practices, such as taking turmeric for inflammation and clearing the sinuses (called nasal irrigation). Nevertheless, Ayurvedic practices are often used in conjunction with pseudoscientific teachings about chakras, astrology and special, often hazardous diets.

Chakras and special diets - this is what pseudoscience looks like, be careful

However, speaking about Ayurveda, one should not forget about yoga,which is often mentioned in Ayurvedic texts. Recent research results show that yoga has an effect on a range of mental and physical health problems such as anxiety, depression, high blood pressure and insomnia.

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Manual therapy

Chiropractic is widely recognized in medicalcommunity, and therefore qualifies more as a "complementary" medicine, and not as an alternative. Manual therapy focuses on the musculoskeletal system and the nervous system and is used for pain in the back, neck, joints, arms, legs and head. The most common procedure performed by chiropractors is spine manipulation, aka "adjustment," which involves applying controlled force (usually the hands of a chiropractor) to joints that have become hypomobile.

Manual therapy can be effective in treating neck and lower back pain

Chiropractic appliances are designed forrestoring mobility and relaxing muscles, allowing tissues to heal while reducing pain. Research generally supports the effectiveness of manual therapy, and scientists suggest that this practice can be effective for neck pain or low back pain.