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What Are the Benefits of Alternative Medicines?

author image Amber Keefer
Amber Keefer has more than 25 years of experience working in the fields of human services and health care administration. Writing professionally since 1997, she has written articles covering business and finance, health, fitness, parenting and senior living issues for both print and online publications. Keefer holds a B.A. from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and an M.B.A. in health care management from Baker College.
What Are the Benefits of Alternative Medicines?
A practitioner treating a client using reflexology. Photo Credit KatarzynaBialasiewicz/iStock/Getty Images


According to Johns Hopkins University, more than 40 percent of Americans report using alternative medicine therapies for pain control when prescribed medications prove to be ineffective. Alternative medicine offers an integrated approach to healing and may include interventions such as herbal remedies, reflexology, chiropractic, nutritional supplements, massage therapy and acupuncture. With more medical professionals beginning to suggest the use of alternative therapies in combination with conventional medical treatments, many more studies are underway to examine both the usefulness and safety of these nonstandard treatments.


Many people turn to alternative medicine therapies for pain relief when traditional treatments fail to work. Alternative medicine also offers treatment options to individuals who do not have access to pain clinics under their health insurance plans. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan Health System found that older individuals, who are more likely to suffer chronic pain conditions, use alternative therapies more frequently. Results of the study are published in the January 2010 issue of the journal Pain Medicine. The study takes a look at the increasing use of alternative treatment modalities as a way to manage chronic pain.


Alternative medicine therapies used together with conventional medical treatments can alleviate some of the symptoms of cancer, as well as lessen the negative side effects of conventional medical treatments. Chemotherapy, although effective in increasing the survival rate of many cancer patients, can produce unpleasant side effects. Some cancer patients are able to tolerate chemotherapy treatments better when using an alternative treatment such as acupuncture to control side effects like fatigue, headache, nausea, vomiting, night sweats and aching.


Alternative medicine therapies can be less expensive than conventional medical treatments. Although some alternative therapies are not cheap, many herbal remedies and other natural treatments still cost less than prescription medications and treatments. Acupuncture and chiropractic sessions can cost significantly less than conventional pain therapy treatments.

Side Effects

In most cases, effective alternative therapies have fewer or no side effects as opposed to the frequent and sometimes severe effects of many prescription medications and other conventional medical treatments. But depending on what medical conditions a person might have, even natural remedies and other alternative therapies can sometimes cause adverse side effects. Not all natural remedies have been scientifically tested, nor does the FDA regulate them. Treatment modalities such as therapeutic massage and acupuncture are generally considered to be safe, but always talk to your doctor before using any alternative medicine therapies.

Mental Health

Alternative medicine can be beneficial to a person’s overall well being, as the approach focuses on healing the mind, body and spirit. Treatment methods such as massage therapy, biofeedback, meditation and visual imagery help a person to relax and reduce stress. Art and music therapies are used to relieve symptoms of depression and schizophrenia by stimulating the natural release of endorphins and opiates in the body, in addition to helping individuals let go of deeply repressed emotions. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration points out that other alternative approaches to mental health, such as diet and nutrition, animal-assisted therapies and self-help groups can be valuable resources for improving mental health.

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