Complimentary Medicine Not Alternative
If you happen to look through my interests you'd have noticed the first one listed is complimentary medicine. I thought this was a fairly normal way of describing an interest in different modalities used in compliment to the more standard health care practised in North America today. A catch all phrase within which to encompass things like the use of herbal remedies and energy work like Reiki, both of which I practice with varying degrees of authority. Imagine my surprise when I searched out others who shared that interest and found no one but myself. How do other people categories these practices I wonder?
Most likely people are using the appellate of Alternative Medicine to describe these practices, a name I believe misinterprets the philosophy of these practices. The use of the word Alternative perpetrates a misrepresentation. Alternative used as an adjective implies the replacement of one thing with another, a dismissal of the usefulness, and these days, the implied judgement, that what is being offered is somehow not just different but healthier. It also implies abilities that are not truly available. Whilst it is true that many practices can alleviate similar problems that so called conventional medicine deals with, there are instances, no matter what people claim, where one needs to utilize the abilities and technology that accompanies that practice. Nothing I do could replace a surgeon removing a tumour, setting a bone, performing a vein graft, or replacing a hip joint.
To me offering oneself as an alternative is dangerous and we have to be careful with our usage of that word. Some herbals, golden seal, and other anti-microbials for instance, work as antibiotics for certain types of infection, but to say that they can be used in all instances of decease instead of prescription drugs is not only false but dangerous. Or Reiki can be an excellent method to help people deal with emotional, and spiritual trauma, but to offer it as a replacement for psychological therapy is nonsense.
The other notion that must be dismissed, this is a mild digression, is that our practices are somehow safer then others. While it is true that most herbals and energy modalities offer less risk of contradiction then pharmaceuticals they can not be said to be risk free. The worst danger is to believe the myth that because it's natural it's harmless.
HERBS ARE DRUGS. I don't care if it's flower, a leaf, or a root it's a drug that changes the chemistry of your body and misuse can hurt you as bad if not worse then pharmaceuticals. In fact the misuse of herbals is responsible for all the problems and health warnings one reads about. The two biggest examples of misused herbs are the ones most often read about, Ephedra, and Echinacea. In the case of the former we hear about it being pulled off the market because of causing strokes and other problems from being used in weight loss products. Opening my herbal book I find a big warning saying it should never used in cases of high blood pressure or anxiety, and that its primary function is to relieve asthma and associated conditions due to ability to relieve spasms in the bronchial tubes. It may also be use in cases of low blood pressure and circulatory insufficiency. That's it, that's all. Son the deaths and damage caused by it have by people using it for the wrong purposes. Just as worrying for different reasons is the use of Echinacea as a preventive. It is an anti-microbial to be taken in instances of infection only. To take it in when one is health is equivalent to taking antibiotics when one isn't sick. Who knows what long term damage is being done to people's immune system because of this application(as a side not: because what is being used for medicinal purposes is the root of the plant, the over use of echinacea has resulted in its virtual extinction as a native wild flower in North America)
The risks involved with energy modalities are not as severe but still worth noting. Any instance of energy work is accompanied by what is known as a healing crises. This is where one initially feels the effects of the trauma being treated to a high degree while the body clears itself. These contradictions could include an increase in emotional distress, physical pain, and mental anguish. If a client is not prepared for this eventuality it could cause them needless anguish as they will have no understanding as to what is happening to them.(I have experienced this when undergoing acupuncture treatment for nerve damage in my left leg, and as the nerves healed the pain increased a hundred fold and emotional blocks were broken) As practitioners we must prepare our clients for the fact that this is not a pain free process no matter how organic and natural it is.
So what is my point anyway after all this. Well it's simple really, I don't believe we are an alternative in the complete sense of the word to the more mainstream practices of medicine, or actually any safer. We can supply alternative treatments to some things offered in the way of drugs and additional methods of helping people deal with trauma, but we can not replace the role of the surgeon or family doctor. As more doctors are beginning to recognize the legitimacy of complimenting their practices with other modalities, we must also draw in our horns of arrogance around the idea that we are somehow better then they are. By offering ourselves as an alternative we not only mislead people but we defeat the very purpose that we share with all practitioners, which is to help people cope with whatever trauma they are dealing with. Lets compliment each other, not antagonise.
For those who are wondering I'm a Reiki master in the Usi-Tibetan system and am a registered Karuna Reiki master through the International Reiki Centre of William Rand. I've been studying and working with herbal remedies for the past ten years but have no certification and thus do not consult, supply remedies, or prescribe any treatments.