What Is Alternative Medicine?

The field of alternative medicine (sometimes called complementary and alternative medicine, or CAM) comprises a wide range of holistic, nature-based wellness practices. Roughly 38% of American adults report using some form of CAM, whether it’s fish oil supplements, echinacea tea, guided meditation, or chiropractic adjustments.

Many people choose to pursue alternative treatment in tandem with standard medical care; in fact, many doctors now provide what’s called “integrative medicine,” recommending both mainstream medical treatments and complementary holistic practices.

Common Areas of Practice

Dozens of disciplines fall under the umbrella of alternative medicine, such as Holistic Medicine & Healing Nutrition, running the gamut from natural supplements to more spiritual options like reiki energy healing. The following are just a few examples of common practices.

Massage Therapy

Massage Therapy

Perhaps the most well-known form of alternative medicine is massage therapy. Massage therapists carefully rub, knead, and stretch a client’s muscles with their hands to provide relief from things like muscle knots, stiffness, and nerve entrapment. Some therapists also employ techniques designed to assist with lymph node drainage.


Acupuncture is the traditional Chinese practice of inserting thin, sterile needles into specific points on the body to relieve numerous symptoms (most often some type of pain). Acupuncture needles don’t cause much discomfort, if any, even when gently manipulated. Traditionally, acupuncture is thought to balance the flow of chi in the body, but modern practitioners commonly view it as a process of stimulating important nerves and tissues.

Naturopathy and Herbalism

Naturopathy combines various holistic practices in an effort to treat or prevent disease without the use of mainstream pharmaceuticals. Practitioners focus primarily on supporting overall health and wellness with things like massage, exercise, and a healthy diet.

Often used as part of naturopathic care, herbalism is the use of naturally derived, plant-based supplements for various therapeutic purposes. Herbal supplements may not be as effective as pharmaceuticals for certain major medical conditions, but they can still be beneficial. For example, herbal supplements can’t yet cure cancer, but they may help with related symptoms like nausea or headaches.

Holistic Nutrition

Alternative Medicine

Much like other nutrition practices, the core of holistic nutrition is the creation of a balanced, nourishing diet plan that fuels the body’s needs and supports the client’s health and fitness goals. Holistic nutrition goes beyond this, considering a person’s overall wellness, lifestyle, stress levels, and other factors. A holistic nutrition professional might even receive information from the client’s other healthcare providers to help them identify any beneficial supplements.

Starting a Career in Complementary and Integrative Health

If you’re interested in becoming an alternative medicine coach, consultant, or practitioner, your first step is to pursue the right education and any credentials required by your state. Fortunately, online certification programs like ours have made this process easier than ever before.

The University of Natural Health is a post-secondary school offering Natural Holistic Medicine & Healing Nutrition Degree & Certification Programs that can be completed through distance learning. To start earning your Degrees & Certifications Online from the comfort of your own home, enroll online or call us today at (888) 397-9394.

Source: https://nccih.nih.gov/research/statistics/2007/camsurvey_fs1.htm