Naturopathy, Holistic Medicine and Allopathy

Naturopathy is a catch-all term that covers the various forms of alternative therapy, including homeopathy, acupuncture and herbal medicine which are all promoted as natural and able to allow the body to heal itself. These are all forms of ‘Holistic medicine’ which purport to take the whole mind, body and soul of the patient into account when treating an illness. Naturopathy can in addition include lifestyle counselling.

This is in contrast to Allopathic medicine, which was a term first used by the originator of homeopathic medicine, Samuel Hahnemann, to describe what we would call mainstream, ‘western’, or modern medicine, which uses active components to treat the symptoms and biological processes that cause illness and disease. It is often perceived to be a pejorative term.

There is no scientific evidence that any form of holistic therapy works and are dismissed by most in the medical profession as ‘pseudoscience’.

Alternative therapies are used instead of mainstream medicine, but many people use them alongside conventional treatments, which is why you so often hear them described as ‘complementary’ medicines.

Details of a few of the most prominent forms of alternative medicine are listed below.

Acupuncture

A practice first used in Chinese medicine, acupuncture involves the use of fine needles to penetrate the surface of the skin at ‘acupressure points’. These needles can stimulate the creation of endorphins in muscle tissue and nerves, relieving pain. It is only recommended by the government body NICE to treat migraines and tension headaches, but it also used for other chronic pain disorders. Some believe that it can be utilised for conditions with psychological elements such as anxiety, insomnia and addiction.

Often used as a complementary treatment alongside medication and lifestyle changes, Its availability on the NHS is limited, and most acupuncture is administered privately.

At the moment, there is no conclusive scientific proof that acupuncture is an effective method of treating illness.

Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese medicine tends to be used as a complementary therapy and covers herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage, martial arts, diet and exercise.

One of the central ideas of Chinese medicine is that energy (or ‘chi’) runs through the body in channels called meridians, connecting all organs and processes. Another is the philosophy of Yin and Yang, two opposite yet interdependent elements of the universe which should be balanced in our bodies to achieve perfect health.

Despite calls in recent years for it to become available, you cannot currently receive Chinese medicine in the NHS. The principles of this form of therapy have no basis in medical science, and its efficacy remains unproven.

Ayurveda

An ancient Indian form of holistic therapy which believes your health is dependent on the equal balance of your mind, body and spirit with the universe. It is said that your body is controlled by three ‘doshas’; Vata dosha, Pitta dosha and Kapha Dosha and when these are unbalanced you become ill.

As well as herbal medication, Ayurveda encompasses yoga, meditation, massage and detoxification, in addition to diet and exercise. Ayurveda is not available on the NHS, and there is no scientific basis for the claims its advocates make. Dangerous levels of toxic metal have also been found in a significant proportion of Ayurvedic herbal medicine.