Sunday, June 26, 2011
I lie on a narrow bed as I anxiously await thin needles to be pierced all over my body. Right before my acupuncturist put the first one in to my foot, she said, “This one will hurt the worst.” A tiny pinch later, and it was in. A wave of relief flushed through me as I realized this was going to be no big deal. Being an acupuncture virgin, I slowly started to feel more relaxed as the kind acupuncturist made small talk and the thin needles were sending me into a tranquil haze. Call me crazy. But in my quest for alternative medicine, I’m not alone.
The National Health Interview Survey defines alternative, or complimentary medicine as “a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are generally not considered part of conventional medicine.”
This includes many different remedies and practices, such as homeopathy, herbs, acupuncture, yoga, meditation, hypnotherapy and massage. Eastern cultures have been using complimentary medicine for centuries and the trend has been increasing in United States since 1990.
In 1997, researchers found that alternative medicine use had increased 50 percent since 1990. That number has remained steady until 2002, however yoga and herbal remedy use have increased. According to a 2007 survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 38 percent of adults use alternative medicine; the most popular being acupuncture, yoga, massage, meditation, and herbal remedies such as echinacea, flaxseed oil and ginseng.
Austin Swick, a junior from Claremont, Calif., said that he rides his bike to work and school every day. He cooks healthy food and uses herbal and homeopathic medicine for his allergies. He lives what he calls a “holistic lifestyle.” Swick said after his allergy shots did not help him, he looked elsewhere. “Bee pollen is more condensed than honey and is great for combating allergies,” Swick said. “Holistic remedies and herbs are way more budget-friendly than going to the doctor. I occasionally use pain relievers, but mostly stick to herbal remedies.” But living holistically not only involves herbal remedies, it involves a lifestyle change. “Our society’s perception of time is a key reason why so many people are unhealthy. They want to grab food on-the-go when people don’t realize how inexpensive and easy it is to eat healthy. I buy common food staples in bulk and cook,” he said. When eating on campus, Swick avoids processed foods and sticks to fresh produce and sushi. Swick also mentioned in order to receive nature’s benefits, people have to be willing to change their diets and habits.“You can’t just take a Vitamin C when you’re sick, you have to take it every day. People don’t want to cross over and experiment with a new kind of lifestyle, but you have to take that risk.”
Acupuncture has been around for centuries and is still practiced today. Originating in China, acupuncture involves placing thin needles in the skin at certain pressure points that increases the body’s chi, or energy flow.Gina Halsey, Lawrence acupuncturist, said that acupuncture is great for treating pain and enhancing the immune system. “Acupuncture can work as a replacement for pain medication. It works in a different way; it doesn’t just mask the pain, it resolves it.” Acupuncture treats many different ailments, the most common being headaches, chronic pain, asthma, and surgery and injury recovery. Acupuncture also helps other things such as insomnia, anxiety, fertility, and irritable bowel syndrome.
Hypnotherapy doesn’t involve needles, medication or herbs — it involves the mind. According to the International Medical and Dental Hypnotherapy Association, hypnosis involves the subconscious mind to remain awake while the body and conscious mind are in a relaxed neutral state. This “awake” subconscious mind is able to receive suggestions to make changes. Stephen L. Griffeth, Ph.D, said that hypnotherapy is great for quitting smoking, insomnia, anxiety, acute pain and fibromalygia, among numerous other complications. Griffeth said hypnosis is great for smokers wanting to quit because it has a 90 percent success rate, where as gums and patches only have a five to 10 percent success rate.