History of Alternative Medicine

By | January 30, 2014
Alternative Medicine

The history of alternative medicine is probably much older than most people suspect. While its origination is difficult to pinpoint in time, historical records show that methods of alternative healing can be found up to and over 6000 years ago.

Ayurvedic Medicine

When reviewing the history of alternative medicine, some historians think that Ayurvedic medicine is one of the first medical systems ever recorded. Ayurvedic medicine is an approach to health that has its roots in the Indian and southeast Asian cultures. Ayurvedic medicine combines the philosophy of longevity and science and provides a holistic approach to evaluating and treating health problems. This type approach to medicine can be traced back to over 6,000 years ago and is linked strongly to Buddhism.

Chinese Alternative Medicine

When reviewing the history of alternative medicine, historians say that some of the earliest evidence of alternative medicine can be found in the Chinese culture. Much of the roots of Chinese alternative medicine can be traced to Buddhist and Taoist beliefs. There are two core beliefs that are derived from these belief systems:

  • Humans and their environment are closely linked
  • The human body has an inherent balance that needs maintained for optimum health

Many of the practices of Chinese alternative medicine are still used to in China alongside common western medical techniques.

Common Methods of Chinese Alternative Medicine

Those that practice see a harmony that must be maintained between a human and nature and an internal harmony that must remain balanced. The balance is commonly referred to as Yin and Yang. When examined, a patient has their life force evaluated. This life force is called the “Qi.” If a person has their life force out of balance, then their could be negative health consequences.

Those that practice alternative Chinese methods commonly use these methods and tools:

  • Breathing and movement
  • Dietary review and changes
  • Herbal medicine

Greek and Roman Medical Traditions

When tracing back the history of alternative medicine, it’s difficult to ignore the influences of the Greek and Roman cultures. Over 3,000 years ago, historical records show that both of these cultures used medicinal herbs to treat health conditions. In the Roman culture, hydrotherapy was one treatment for improving injured muscles and other health maladies.

Alternative Medicine in the Middle Ages

Healing methods showed some maturity by the Middle Ages and many of the herbal medicine practices from the previous cultures were passed down to those that treated injury and diseases during this time. When historians reviewed old records, they can see that Monks had a systematic approach to medicine which employed master healers down to apprentices. The masters did extensive evaluation with healing herbs and passed down their knowledge to their apprentices and these lessons built over time creating a foundation for much of what is known about herbal medicine today.

From Alternative to Modern Medical Practice

While not widely acknowledged, much of what has been learned over the centuries in the circles of alternative medicine has informed traditional western medical practice. While modern science-based medicine did break from many of the home remedies and some of these methods were even ridiculed by modern physicians and researchers embracing in the newest scientific method, there seems to have been an opening of minds of modern doctors. Many modern physicians and researchers are looking back at ancient alternative medicine techniques and re-evaluating them.

The history of alternative medicine is a long and storied history with breakthroughs that still affect medical practices today. Some feel that both modern science-based medicine and alternative medical methods will complement each other and provide ways to improve treatments for patients and increase their life-spans and quality of life.