• Alternative Medicine
    Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)

    Alternative Medicine

    Healthy body

    Buying and using meds

    Managing your mood

    Medical treatments

Culturally Based Healing Arts for mental health care

Beyond pills and couches

Traditional Oriental medicine (such as acupuncture, shiatsu, and reiki), Indian systems of health care (such as Ayurveda and yoga), and Native American healing practices (such as the Sweat Lodge and Talking Circles) all incorporate the beliefs that:

Wellness is a state of balance between the spiritual, physical, and mental/emotional "selves." An imbalance of forces within the body is the cause of illness. Herbal/natural remedies, combined with sound nutrition, exercise, and meditation/prayer, will correct this imbalance.

  • Acupuncture:The Chinese practice of inserting needles into the body at specific points manipulates the body's flow of energy to balance the endocrine system. This manipulation regulates functions such as heart rate, body temperature, and respiration, as well as sleep patterns and emotional changes. Acupuncture has been used in clinics to relieve stress and anxiety, to reduce symptoms of depression and to help people with physical ailments.

  • Ayurveda: Ayurvedic medicine is described as "knowledge of how to live." It incorporates an individualized regimen-such as diet, meditation, herbal preparations, or other techniques-to treat a variety of conditions, including depression, to facilitate lifestyle changes, and to teach people how to release stress and tension through yoga or transcendental meditation.

  • Yoga/meditation: Practitioners of this ancient Indian system of health care use breathing exercises, posture, stretches, and meditation to balance the body's energy centers. Yoga is used in combination with other treatment for depression, anxiety, and stress-related disorders.

Native American traditional practices: Ceremonial dances, chants, and cleansing rituals are part of Indian Health Service programs to heal depression, stress, trauma and substance abuse.

Herbal therapy is an alternative to traditional drug treatment for depression, anxiety, mood swings and insomnia.

The right flowers, stems and leaves can help relieve mood symptoms, anxiety and insomnia, naturally and with few side effects. Most authorities agree that herbal therapy may be effective for mild or moderate depression or anxiety, but not severe forms of these conditions.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn't test herbal remedies for safety or effectiveness and they are not approved as medicines. To gain FDA approval for their drugs, drug companies invest millions of dollars in studies, but herbal therapies cannot be patented and profited from so they do not undergo this expensive process.

The FDA classifies herbs as dietary supplements. Because they are not regulated, dosages, strength and purity can be inconsistent. Obtain herbal products from a trusted source.

Be sure to talk with your doctor if you are considering adding herbal therapy to your traditional drug regimen because herbs can interfere and interact with traditional medications. Call your doctor immediately if you experience side effects.

Herbal remedies are sold as tablets, capsules, powders, teas, extracts and fresh or dried plants. Some can be grown in your own herb garden.

"I was being treated for physical and mental problems associated with menopause," said Mary L, a Denver elementary school teacher., "and the herbal therapy really helped. Oriental medicine appealed to me because it treated the whole person. And my overall health improved."

For more information about individual herbs, including safety and side effects, go to MedlinePlus, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health | Department of Health & Human Services or the University of Maryland Medical Center

Ayurveda and yoga