Alternative Nutrition Therapies (Lesson 12)

Karen Overstreet, Roy, Heli J.  |  1/29/2010 4:18:20 AM

Introduction

Alternative/Complementary Nutrition Therapies – Plants as Medicines

The use of herbs as alternative medicine is not just for healers anymore. Approximately 16 million adults seek alternative medicine practitioners and use herbal products. Increased interest among consumers is causing doctors and scientific researchers to take a closer look at the herbal trend.

What You Will Learn

 In this lesson, you will learn:

  • What the terms alternative and complementary medicine mean.
  • What are some types of alternative/complementary medicine?
  • Which agency regulates alternative medicine?
  • What are some popular herbal remedies?
  • What is the best advice regarding herbal remedies?
  • What is the basis for recommending what foods we should eat each day for good health?

What Is Alternative/Complementary Medicine?

Complementary and alternative medicine covers a broad range of healing philosophies, approaches and therapies. It generally is defined as those treatments and health care practices not taught widely in medical schools, not generally used in hospitals and not usually reimbursed by medical insurance companies. Therapies are alternative when they are taken instead of treatments offered by orthodox medicine. Therapies are complementary when taken with conventional medical therapies.

Many therapies are termed holistic, which generally means that the health care practitioner considers the whole person, including physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects. Some approaches are consistent with physiological principles of Western medicine, while others constitute healing systems with a different origin. While some therapies are far outside the realm of accepted Western medical theory and practice, others are becoming established in mainstream medicine.

What Are Some Types of Alternative/Complementary Medicine?

There are many different kinds of alternative/complementary therapies. They include:

  • Aroma therapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Chiropractic therapy
  • Massage therapy
  • Traditional Chinese medicine
  • Bioelectromagnetic therapy
  • Herbal medicine

Is It Regulated?

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) established The Office of Alternative Medicine in 1992 to:

  • Evaluate alternative medicines that are currently being used – which ones are worthy
  • Develop a clearinghouse for the public
  • Educate health professionals

What Are Some of the Popular Herbal Remedies?

St. John's Wort
St. John's Wort, a yellow-flowered weed, has been used for over a thousand years in the treatment of several conditions including kidney and lung disorders and has been used widely in Germany for the treatment of anxiety, depression and sleep disorders.

It may cause photosensitization, fatigue, dizziness, itching and mild gastro-intestinal distress.

Gingko Biloba
Gingko biloba comes from the Chinese maidenhair tree that is over 200 million years old. The plant is the most widely prescribed herbal remedy in Europe. One of the first studies of Gingko biloba in the United States documented its effectiveness in treating Alzheimer's disease. It has also been found to have some positive effects on some types of deafness and damage to the eye. It may also have an antidepressant effect. It is sold in the U.S. mainly as a memory booster. It may cause nausea, headache or rash.

Ginseng
Ginseng that is sold in the stores is the extract of the ginseng root. It has been said that ginseng enhances physical capacity, alertness and concentration and combats feelings of lethargy. It may protect against tissue damage and increase a person's sex drive. Ginseng should not be used if a person has hypertension. Not all supplements contain the same amount of the root nor are they always the pure root.

Echinacea
The purple coneflower is thought to stimulate the immune system and enhance the effectiveness of white blood cells in fighting viruses and bacteria. It has been used since the 1800s as an antibiotic. It may prevent or relieve cold symptoms. It should not be used to treat a specific condition nor used every day. Those who have lupus or who test positive for HIV should not use echinacea.

Website Activities

Go to the National Center for Alternative and Complementary Medicine website. Also the Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Integrative Medicine Service to find information about herbal products and their uses.

What Should You Tell Homemakers?

Some herbal remedies have been shown to be beneficial, either used alone or with conventional medicine. Some also have been shown to have adverse effects. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lists the following as risky supplements: ephedra, chaparral, comfrey, DHEA, dieter's teas with senna, aloe, rhubarb root, castor oil and sassafras.

More research needs to be done before recommending herbal remedies to homemakers. Reliable information needs to come from physicians, pharmacists, dietitians and nurses. The best recommendation to give the public is for them to follow the guidelines of MyPlate.

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