What is complementary medicine

Complementary medicine is a generic name for a group of treatment methods sharing one common denominator: they are not taught in regular medical schools. Most methods differ from conventional medicine and are similar to each other in their treatment of the individual and his/her illness. While conventional medicine treats every problem as a local problem, belonging to a particular organ or organ system, most complementary medical professions approach every problem, even a local one, as a problem relating to the entire person, incorporating body and soul. Thus the treatment too also addresses body and soul together. Every person suffers from a disease particular to him or her and different from that of another person, even if conventional medicine labels them both with the same name.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the US Department of Health (NCCAM) divides complementary medicine into five groups:

  1. Whole medical systems – medical professions that include not only therapeutic techniques but also a related theory and philosophy (e.g. Chinese medicine, herbal medicine and homeopathy).

  2. Mind-body medicine – methods that assume that to be healthy it is necessary to deal with the interaction between body and soul, and to strengthen the influence of the mind and the emotions on the body (e.g. meditation, relaxation and art therapy).

  3. Biologically based practices – methods that use natural substances such as food supplements, nutrition, vitamins and medicinal herbs.

  4. Manipulative and Body-Based Practices treatment methods that use contact and movement of certain body parts (e.g., chiropractic, osteopathy and massage).

  5. Energy therapies – methods that assume the body has an energy flow. If this is stopped or not balanced, a disease will occur. The same "energy" is afforded different names in different methods, such as prana, chi, vital energy and others (e.g., qigong, reiki and magnet therapy). 

What is homeopathy?
Homeopathy is a medical system developed in the late 18th century by German physician Samuel Christian Hahnemann. The method is based on the so-called "Law of Similars." According to this law, a substance able to cause a series of specific symptoms in a healthy person, could, in its diluted form, then cure a disease with symptoms similar to those appearing in such a person. Homeopathic medicines are highly diluted and have no side effects (except for some deterioration at the beginning of a successful treatment, called "initial homeopathic aggravation").

What is Chinese medicine?
Chinese medicine is a 3,000-year-old treatment method originating in China. It includes a series of sub-disciplines – acupuncture, medicinal herbs, Tui na, nutrition and education for a healthy lifestyle. The diagnosis is made with all the therapist's senses – questioning, touching (e.g. pulse), observing.