From Reiki To Neti Pots: 5 Popular ‘Alternative’ Health Practices

You’ve probably heard about some of the alternatives to traditional Western health practices: applied kinesiology, Angel therapy, allopathy, acupuncture, chiropractic, detoxification therapies, holistic medicine, healing touch, homeopathy, Reiki, Rolfing, and more.

But do they really work, and how popular are they? Let’s check out just five of them.

1. Reiki

Reiki is the hottest new Eastern healing practice making its way into the Western health industry. A spiritual touch practice based on the notion that human hands can redirect one’s life-force energy to heal stress and disease, Reiki is seen by many as an effective, accepted alternative practice. At least 1.2 million adults have tried this energy healing therapy.

“Reiki saved my life,” says Sandra Delgado, a lawyer with Bank of America in California’s San Fernando Valley. “I cannot live without it and I don’t want to know what would have happened to me if I hadn’t found it.”

Not everyone agrees with this statement, but energy healing is being woven into patient services and treatment programs for people with cancer, fibromyalgia, pain and depression. More than 60 U.S. hospitals have adopted Reiki as part of patient services, and Reiki education is offered at 800 hospitals.

Still, many medical experts question Reiki’s lack of regulation, especially in a hospital setting. Critics call the practice “quackery” that is unable to ameliorate symptoms of serious diseases. According to a 2009 article in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, “The serious methodological and reporting limitations of limited existing Reiki studies preclude a definitive conclusion on its effectiveness.”

For Delgado, it’s the touching that’s important: “We live in an electronic environment with no touching,” she says. “Reiki takes us back to the basics of humanity.”

2. Acupuncture

Another Eastern medical practice, acupuncture is far more popular than Reiki. A 2012 study found that six percent of Americans are using or have used acupuncture as part of their health care—over 14 million users, up from 8 million in 2002.

Traditionally, acupuncture has been used as a complementary or alternative treatment, but this report revealed that a growing number of people were using acupuncture to promote general health.

Acupuncture dates back more than 2,500 years to Chinese doctors who believed that illness was due to imbalances in energy. Acupuncture was thought to stimulate the body’s meridians, or energy-carrying channels, to correct these imbalances. Some doctors believe that these benefits are derived from the proximity of acupoints with nerves. Stimulation of these points causes nearby nerves to release signal molecules, called endorphins, well known to suppress the sensation of pain.

3. Yoga

The number of Americans who practice yoga has shot up by nearly 30 percent in the past four years, according to the latest Yoga in America study. The group’s 2008 survey suggested the U.S. had 15.8 million yoga practitioners, but the latest figure shows that 20.4 million Americans are now practicing–about 8.7 percent of U.S. adults.

There are numerous forms of yoga but, overall, the practice has come to be seen as something of a panacea for the ailments of modern society: tech overload, disconnection and alienation, insomnia, stress and anxiety. Yoga has been shown to help fight everything from addiction and lower back pain, to diabetes and the symptoms of aging, as well as boosting overall well-being and stress relief.

It’s also become a popular staple in middle and high school P.E. programs.

4. Chiropractic

Chiropractic is an approach to health care that uses spinal manipulation to relieve pain. It is most often used for back or neck pain, but can also address headaches or pain in the arms or legs.

Most chiropractors take a natural approach to promoting health and also advocate lifestyle changes, nutrition, and exercise.

Chiropractic occupies a unique position in the United States health care system. It is the most widely disseminated indigenous American system of healing and the most frequently used type of alternative health care in the United States, and is so popular that it is often not considered “alternative” at all.

As a result of its steadily increasing acceptance and use by the public, it is no longer the marginal practice it was once considered to be.

5. Neti Pots

To find an alternative medicine that has truly rocketed into popularity recently, you have to turn to Neti Pots, another import from Eastern medical traditions.

You may be wondering what on earth I am referring to, but if you are one of the millions of Americans dealing with sinus problems, there’s a good chance you have already turned to nasal saline irrigation, a therapy that uses a salt and water solution to flush out the nasal passages.

Several methods of nasal irrigation exist, but the Neti Pot is one of the most popular: a ceramic or plastic pot that looks like a cross between a small teapot and Aladdin’s magic lamp. The Neti Pot originally comes from the Ayurvedic/yoga medical tradition, so it’s been around a long time, but has gained phenomenal popularity in the U.S. recently, and many people swear by it as a means to help them breathe more easily.

It seems that the best of Eastern and Western medical practices, used together, can work miracles.

Photo Credit: thinkstock

115 comments

Jeanne R
Jeanne R1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Dianne D.
Dianne D3 years ago

I've done all except Reiki and have had some success with them. I will start with these methods and if they don't work, go to more aggressive methods.

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Vicky P.
Vicky P3 years ago

Alternative medicine that works is called actual medicine that is embraced by doctors/scientists, etc, there is a lot of fake stuff around that only works for small things and is all in the mind..Placebo effect in other words. Yoga and meditation can be calming to some people, Yoga can be a healthy exercise, it won't cure anything though.

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Mary B.
Mary B3 years ago

To those who are worried about 'charletons' in the alternative health field, keep in mind, there are charletons in any profession but when you're dealing with surgery and powerful drugs, their mistakes can kill you at worst and leave you bankrupt at least, so get some perspective here. Trying some non-invasive therapies first could give your body time to reballance it's self and start healing. We need Universal single payer government insurence that will cover what ever people want to try to regain their health.

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Laura M.
Laura M3 years ago

Chiropractics aren't that alternative if you ask me, most insurance will cover it. And yet other very logical 'alternative' therapies aren't covered, go figure. It's frustrating to think that someone gets to decide for me what's acceptable treatment like I'm a little child who can't make her own informed decisions. Especially when the 'alternative' therapies are actually the original therapies and 'traditional medicine' is not the traditional form! Completely backwards. Ugh. I'm going to find some puppy or kitty videos now to improve my mood, LOL (Laughter: Still the best medicine!!)

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