What’s the Alternative

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Chinese Herbal Medicine

There is a growing body of research which indicates that traditional uses of plant remedies and the known pharmacological activity of plant constituents often coincide. However, herbal medicine is distinct from medicine based on pharmaceutical drugs. Firstly, because of the complexity of plant materials it is far more balanced than medicine based on isolated active ingredients and is far less likely to cause side-effects. Secondly, because herbs are typically prescribed in combination, the different components of a formulae balance each other, and they undergo a mutual synergy which increases efficacy and enhances safety. Thirdly, herbal medicine seeks primarily to correct internal imbalances rather than to treat symptoms alone, and therapeutic intervention is designed to encourage this self-healing process.

Chinese Herbal Medicine, along with the other components of Chinese medicine, is based on the concepts of Yin and Yang. It aims to understand and treat the many ways in which the fundamental balance and harmony between the two may be undermined and the ways in which a person's Qi or vitality may be depleted or blocked. Clinical strategies are based upon diagnosis of patterns of signs and symptoms that reflect an imbalance.  

However, the tradition as a whole places great emphasis on lifestyle management in order to prevent disease before it occurs. Chinese medicine recognises that health is more than just the absence of disease and it has a unique capacity to maintain and enhance our capacity for well being and happiness.


Chiropractice is a health care approach and profession that emphasizes diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system, especially the spine, under the hypothesis that these disorders affect general health via the nervous system. It is generally considered to be complementary and alternative medicine, a characterization that many chiropractors reject. The main treatment involves manual therapy including manipulation of the spine, other joints, and soft tissue; treatment also includes exercises and health and lifestyle counseling. Traditionally, chiropractic assumes that a vertebral subluxation or spinal joint dysfunction interferes with the body's function and its innate intelligence, a notion that brings ridicule from mainstream science and medicine.

D.D. Palmer founded chiropractic in the 1890s and his son B.J. Palmer helped to expand it in the early 20th century. It has two main groups: "straights", now the minority, emphasize vitalism, innate intelligence and spinal adjustments, and consider subluxations to be the leading cause of all disease; "mixers" are more open to mainstream and alternative medical techniques such as exercise, massage, nutritional supplements, and acupuncture. Chiropractic is well established in the U.S., Canada and Australia.

For most of its existence, chiropractic has battled with mainstream medicine, sustained by ideas such as subluxation that are not based on solid science. Vaccination remains controversial among chiropractors. The American Medical Association called chiropractic an "unscientific cult" and boycotted it until losing a 1987 antitrust case. Chiropractic has had a strong political base and sustained demand for services; in recent decades, it has gained more legitimacy and greater acceptance among medical physicians and health plans, and evidence-based medicine has been used to review research studies and generate practice guidelines. Many studies of treatments used by chiropractors have been conducted, with conflicting results. Collectively, systematic reviews of this research have not demonstrated that spinal manipulation is effective, with the possible exception of treatment of back pain. The efficacy and cost-effectiveness of maintenance chiropractic care are unknown. Although spinal manipulation can have serious complications in rare cases, chiropractic care is generally safe when employed skillfully and appropriately.

Colonic Irrigation

Colon cleansing (colon therapy) encompasses a number of alternative medical therapies intended to remove fecal waste and unidentified toxins from the colon and intestinal tract. Colon cleansing may take the form of colon hydrotherapy (also called colonics or colonic irrigation) or oral cleansing regimens.

Colon hydrotherapy uses enemas to inject water, sometimes mixed with herbs, or other liquids, into the colon using special equipment. Oral cleaning uses dietary fiber, herbs, dietary supplements, or laxatives. Practitioners believe that accumulations of putrefied feces line the walls of the large intestine. These accumulations are said to harbour parasites or pathogenic gut flora and to cause nonspecific symptoms and general ill-health. This "auto-intoxication" hypothesis is based on medical beliefs of the Ancient Egyptians and Greeks, and was discredited in the early 20th century.

No scientific evidence supports the alleged benefits of colon cleansing. The bowel itself is not dirty and barring drugs or disease, cleans itself naturally without need for assistance. Some types of colon cleansing present potential hazards; the equipment used during colon cleansing has caused damage to the rectum in a small number of individuals, and caused amoebiasis when improperly sterilized. Certain enema preparations have been associated with heart attacks and electrolyte imbalances. Frequent colon cleansing may interfere with the proper functioning of the colon and can lead to dependence on laxatives or enemas to defecate. Some herbs used may also interact with or reduce the effectiveness of prescription drugs.

Chinese Herbal Medicine