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Although there seems to be no end to different types of weight-loss therapies touted as sure winners, for an effective approach, you need to be discriminating. How it's performed: In acupressure, strategic points on the body are stimulated with finger pressure.
What it is: Weight-loss supplements are typically pills or powders that contain one or more dietary ingredients, such as vitamins, minerals, herbs or other botanicals, amino acids, and other substances used as part of your diet.
How they work: Supplements are a multi-billion-dollar business, and the weight-loss industry is a large part of that, with many different types of supplements on the market. From our SponsorsEveryday Solutions are created by Everyday Health on behalf of our sponsors. Discuss the major categories of complementary and alternative medicine and provide evidence for effectiveness and safety. Complementary and alternative medicineTreatments that are not considered part of conventional medicine. In 1992, an increase in the public’s use of CAM led to the establishment of the Office of Alternative Medicine (OAM) within the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the government’s medical research agency. While one of NCCAM’s missions is to fund CAM research, those available funds are relatively small.
Nevertheless, nearly 4 out of 10 American adults regularly use CAM, according to a 2007 National Health Interview Survey. The popularity of CAM treatments seemed to plateau in about 2008, around the time of the economic recession.
NCCAM divides CAM therapies into several broad categories: mind-body medicine, manipulative and body-based practices, natural products, and whole medicine systems.
This type of medicine fits the holistic paradigm: mental, emotional, and physical states all interact. Some meditation practices involve thinking compassionate thoughts and feeling a sense of gratitude or love. Much credit goes to Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, for introducing Americans to the benefits of mindfulness. Gradually, you become mindful of everything you’re doing—cooking, cleaning, playing music, exercising—which increases your enjoyment and performance.
A regular meditation practice can also reduce high blood pressureManikonda JP, Stork S, Togel S, et al. Benefits of breathing exercises include the reduction of hot flashes associated with menopause,Sood R, Sood A, Wolf SL, et al. A qualified yoga teacher can help students learn to do the postures correctly and without exceeding any one individual’s limits.
Both of these ancient Chinese practices are moving meditations designed to improve the flow of qi (pronounced “chee”), the life energy that is thought to move through our bodies.
T’ai chi ch’uan (tai chi for short) is derived from the martial arts, though the practice is nonviolent. This five-part video from NCCAM introduces you to tai chi and qigong and allows you to experience some of the forms. AcupunctureThe insertion of fine needles into points along meridians (energy channels) to restore balance and promote healing. Regardless of how it works, acupuncture has been shown to reduce back pain, labor pains, arthritis pain, headache, menstrual cramps, tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, and other painful conditions.Manheimer E, White A, Berman B, Forys K, Ernst E.
This video briefly explains the Chinese medicine theory behind acupuncture and demonstrates a typical acupuncture session. In addition to deep breathing and mediation, a number of other mind-body practices improve relaxation. Progressive relaxation, also called progressive muscle relaxation, involves sequentially tightening and relaxing each muscle group. Biofeedback requires electronic devices to teach you how to gain conscious control over the relaxation response. Manipulative practices are hands-on practices that address the proper alignment and function for bones, joints, muscles, and other soft tissues. In spinal manipulation, the practitioner uses hands or other devices to apply gentle force to the spine to improve alignment and physical function and to relieve pain. Professionals who employ manipulation techniques include chiropractors, osteopathic physicians, naturopathic physicians, some medical doctors, and physical therapists. Therapeutic massage relaxes tight muscles and improves the local circulation of blood and lymph (tissue fluid and white blood cells that circulate in the lymphatic system).
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates dietary supplements under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), passed by the US Congress in 1994. Chapter 8 "Nutrition: Eating Right for Life" further discusses vitamins, minerals, and oils from plants and fish. Humans have probably always relied upon herbal medicinesPreparations derived from medicinal plants., the use of medicinal plants for health and healing.
The World Health Organization (WHO) notes, “In some Asian and African countries, 80% of the population depend on traditional medicine for primary health care.”Traditional medicine. Medicinal plants may be sold fresh or dried (fresh ginger and garlic, dried herbs and spices in grocery stores, natural food stores, herb stores) and as teas, tinctures (extractions in water and alcohol), syrups, tablets, and capsules. With the exception of some weight-loss and sports-endurance products, most herbal products made and sold in the United States are safe when taken within recommended dosage guidelines by otherwise healthy adults. In addition, some otherwise safe herbs—as well as vitamins, minerals, and foods—can interact with prescription and over-the-counter medications. Higher doses cause headache, intestinal distress, anxiety, agitation, nervousness, tremors, and insomnia. Can increase side effects when combined with stimulant drugs and the asthma drug theophylline.
Research supports use for preventing premenstrual syndrome, premenstrual dysphoric disorder (depression around the time of menstruation), and possibly menstrual cycle irregularity.
Requires daily use (a tincture or standardized extract) for three or more consecutive cycles. Most studies using high-quality product and adequate dosing show modest reduction in cold symptom duration and severity. Two preparations consistently show benefit: the preserved juice of the above-ground parts and root extracts.
Due to effects on blood clotting, medicinal doses should be discontinued two weeks before surgery. Research-backed uses include age-related memory impairment, dementia, and peripheral arterial disease. Research shows that regular consumption of tea enhances mental alertness and is associated with a lower risk of some cancers and heart disease.
Acupuncture’s underlying theory is that blockages in this energy flow cause imbalances that materialize as health problems such as obesity. It’s recognized as an effective therapy for many ills, including pain relief, headache, stroke rehabilitation, and even addiction, but little has been published on acupuncture and weight loss. As with acupuncture, the majority of research done on acupressure has been on its ability to relieve chronic pain, but evidence regarding weight loss is scant.
During each session, the clinical hypnotist, or hypnotherapist, uses techniques such as guided imagery and post-hypnotic suggestion to encourage you to make beneficial changes, such as to enjoy healthful eating. Jean Fritz, a self-described yo-yo dieter, tried hypnosis for weight loss when she hit menopause and gained 40 pounds in two years.
Rather, Ayurveda is considered a holistic approach tailored to the individual, with a wide range of therapies including specialized diets, massage, and herbs. As with most alternative therapies for weight loss, clinical research is lacking, but Aryurveda has staunch supporters like Denise Baron of New Mexico, who was so impressed with her nearly 25-pound drop that she became an Ayurveda wellness coach. Over-the-counter dietary supplements are usually marketed with the goal of suppressing hunger or increasing metabolism and lean body mass. According to a recent review of a wide variety of diet supplements done at the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State University, there’s no research to support that any product, whether one designed to speed up metabolism or to suppress your appetite, to name just two examples, leads to a significant or a sustained weight loss.
View all.ConnectDon't miss out on breaking news, live chats, lively debates, and inspiring stories. Some hope to improve their health, prevent illness, and take a more active role in their health care. The OAM’s mission was “to investigate and evaluate promising unconventional medical practices.”Important events in NCCAM history.
More precisely, 38 percent of adults and 12 percent of children had used CAM within the previous year.Barnes PM, Bloom B, Nahin RL. While insurance plans cover some CAM services, many people must pay for products and services out of pocket.Davis MA, Martin BI, Coulter ID, Weeks WB. Some people find that slipping into the flow of jogging, walking, swimming, or cycling creates a focused, relaxed state.
A certified TM instructor assigns an individual a mantra, a sound derived from the Vedas (ancient Indian texts) that, while meaningless, is thought capable of creating spiritual transformation.
Kabat-Zinn is an author, researcher, and founding director of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
In a detached, objective manner, you notice your emotions, thoughts (always bringing them back in a nonjudgmental way to the moment at hand), and physical sensations.
For instance, you could mindfully examine, peel, and eat an orange, all the while appreciating the sensory input.

Because energized focus and complete immersion in an activity can make it seem effortless, professionals sometimes refer to this mental state as “flow.” Many athletes, musicians, and artists talk about performing their best when in a state of flow.
People become more adept at switching from an alert state (as indicated by alpha waves on electroencephalograms) to a relaxed state (as indicated by theta waves).
Contemplative meditation reduces ambulatory blood pressure and stress-induced hypertension: a randomized pilot trial.
Examples include vinyasa (flowing postures linked to rhythmic breathing), ashtanga (a relatively fast-paced series of postures), and Iyengar (a slower, deeper exploration of postures with or without the use of props). It includes research-documented information on how people move their muscles and joints in yoga and some of the benefits of yoga. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), blockages or imbalances of qi are thought to cause disease. For instance, you might say to yourself, “With each breath, I feel myself become more deeply relaxed.
NCCAM divides body-based practices into spinal manipulation, massage therapy, and movement therapies. Tight muscles are tender, impair blood flow, and pull on bones and joints to affect postural alignment.
These movement-based therapies include the Feldenkrais method, Alexander technique, and Trager psychophysical integration.
Research shows that high-quality products taken as recommended modestly shorten cold symptom severity and duration. They include vitamins, minerals, medical herbs, plant and fish oils, amino acids, enzymes, organ tissues, and even some hormones. This act defined dietary supplements as products taken by mouth that contain a “dietary ingredient.” These ingredients include vitamins, minerals, enzymes, amino acids, certain hormones, organ tissues, and botanicals (medicinal plants, algae, and fungi).What is a dietary supplement? Because references to medicinal plants are scattered throughout the book, more explanation is provided here.
Interactions can be beneficial (enhancing the effectiveness of the drug) or undesirable (lowering blood levels of the drug, increasing the risk of side effects).
Before then, much of the research occurred in Europe, as well as Asia and the former Soviet Union. Chamomile and other intestinal herbs used in combination have been shown to relieve colic and dyspepsia (indigestion). May reduce the risk of colon cancer, type 2 diabetes, gallbladder disease, and Parkinson’s disease. Active forms are raw (minced) garlic, enteric-coated (acid-resistant) garlic tablets, and aged garlic extracts.
John’s wort extracts more effective than placebo and possibly as effective as commonly prescribed antidepressants. Thanks to acupuncture, some people can experience reduced hunger and weight loss, a meta-analysis of seven studies that was published in the journal Obesity.
The author of the review did suggest that green tea, fiber, and calcium supplements or dairy products may play a positive role in an overall healthy approach to weight loss, whereas products considered stimulants seem to have more negative than positive effects. Join the conversation!Free NewslettersPersonalized tips and information to get and stay healthier every day.
US spending on complementary and alternative medicine during 2002–08 plateaued, suggesting role in reformed health system.
This category includes meditation, breathing exercises, yoga, t’ai chi, chi gong, acupuncture, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided imagery. He defined mindfulness as “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment.”Kabat-Zinn J. With practice, you become aware of thought patterns, which allows you to question and rephrase them. The exercises are designed to open the meridians (energy channels) through which qi travels. All can release muscle and mental tension, slow breathing and heart rate, lower blood pressure, and enhance well-being. If you’re having trouble falling asleep, start with your feet, pointing your toes as hard as you can and then releasing. I feel my arms and legs growing heavy.” Or you might close your eyes and imagine that you are walking down a flight of steps. A display shows you how these variables change while using relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or guided imagery.
A number of studies show that such treatment can reduce low back pain on par with conventional medical treatment.Goertz CM, Pohlman KA, Vining RD, Brantingham JW, Long CR.
Massage has been shown to relieve pain and tension, relax body and mind, and heighten well-being.Massage. The therapist may use a combination of gentle manipulation, massage, and education about proper movements to avoid misalignment and unnecessary tension in performing everyday activities. Some are so often recommended by conventional practitioners that they’re not considered CAM. The Iceman, a 5,300-year-old mummified body discovered in the Italian Alps in 1991, carried a fungi with antimicrobial properties, which he may have used against the intestinal parasite he was carrying.Wilford JN.
Examples include morphine and codeine (opium poppy), aspirin (willow bark and meadowsweet), quinine (cinchona), digitalis (foxglove), and menthol (peppermint). Herbs contain a complex blend of chemicals, some of which act to together to achieve the desired effect, others of which buffer potential toxic effects. Other countries may have different standards for contamination with pesticides, microbes, and heavy metals. Dietary supplements that inhibit blood clotting (fish oil and herbs such as ginger, garlic, and ginkgo) should not be taken within two weeks of surgery.
Chamomile extracts reduce anxiety and depression.Amsterdam JD, Li Y, Soeller I, Rockwell K, Mao JJ, Shults J.
People taking prescription medications should check with their health practitioners before using St.
But the authors point out that none of the studies conformed to the gold standards for accuracy, so more research is needed before acupuncture can be deemed effective. She says she experienced a sense of peace and well-being and was able to change her diet effortlessly. Their goal is to quiet the “monkey mind” (the Buddhist term for an unsettled, restless, worried mental state), relax the entire body, and achieve a focused and calm but alert mental state (making it different from a nap).
The focus of concentration could be visual (staring at a candle flame, lava lamp, ocean waves) or auditory (listening to a rhythmic sound like rain, drums, a heartbeat). To practice TM, the person sits in a comfortable position with eyes closed and silently repeats the mantra for about 15 minutes twice a day. You start to accept rather than run away from uncomfortable thoughts and bodily sensations. On the other hand, conscious awareness and control of breath provide great tools for managing stress, anxiety, pain, and insomnia. People young and old can learn the basic movements, which require low to moderate amounts of exertion. Patient-centered outcomes of high-velocity, low-amplitude spinal manipulation for low back pain: a systematic review.
Pilates instructors use machines and mat exercises to train people in motions that improve alignment, balance, and strength. For instance, doctors might recommend multivitamin and mineral formulas, calcium supplements, and fish oil.
However, herbalists also make use of shrubs and trees (bark, berries, leaves, nuts, seeds)—plants that aren’t, technically speaking, “herbs.” They also use fungi (usually mushrooms) and algae (usually seaweeds), which don’t belong to the plant kingdom.
Even now, about 40 percent of drugs on the market are either natural products or derived from plants. Some herbs used medicinally can be toxic in larger amounts or aren’t safe in pregnant women and children. According to the WHO, “Counterfeit, poor quality, or adulterated herbal products in international markets are serious patient safety threats.”Traditional medicine. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of oral Matricaria recutita (chamomile) extract therapy for generalized anxiety disorder. Has anticancer and antimicrobial activity against numerous bacteria, viruses, fungi, and intestinal parasites. For instance, you might add therapeutic massage to treatment recommended by your doctor and physical therapist for a shoulder injury. People lacking health insurance may use CAM because many of these therapies are relatively inexpensive.
If you deliberately slow and deepen your breath, you calm other bodily functions that might be otherwise overstimulated.
Studies in older adults indicate that tai chi and qigong may improve balance and strength, reduce falls, lower blood pressure, improve sleep, ease depression, relieve arthritis pain, and enhance immune response.Taylor D, Hale L, Schluter P, et al. It’s how we make ourselves miserable and tense and also how we manufacture happiness and contentment. In addition to managing stress, biofeedback can help people reduce high blood pressure and migraine headaches.Tsai PS, Chang NC, Chang WY, et al.
In the United States, massage therapists must complete a training program and pass an exam before receiving a license to practice.

For purposes of simplicity, the word “herb” will refer to all the living organisms discussed here. European settlers, many of whom sailed to the New World carrying seeds of their favorite herbs, learned the native plants from Native Americans. Adding in synthetic drugs inspired by active plant chemicals, the percentage rises to over 60.Haffner SM. Some can’t be taken by people with chronic diseases (especially those involving the liver and kidneys). Chapter 2, Section 4 "Recommended Resources" contains recommendations for books and organizations. John’s wort hastens enzymes that clear many medications (including oral contraceptives, thereby lowering blood levels). Food and Drug Administration the same way that medications are, so getting your vitamins and minerals from whole foods, rather than supplements, is really the best way to go. As the name suggests, the term alternative therapiesHealth practices that are used instead of conventional medicine.
In 1998, Congress established the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), which replaced the OAM and elevated its status.
Pharmaceutical and other private industries are not likely to fund CAM research because, unlike pharmaceuticals, CAM therapies such as herbal medicines, acupuncture, and yoga can’t be patented.Frequently asked questions.
Mindfulness meditation for the treatment of chronic low back pain in older adults: a randomized controlled pilot study. More specifically, your heart rate slows, blood pressure is reduced,Tharion E, Samuel P, Rajalakshmi R, Gnanasenthil G, Subramanian RK. Effectiveness of tai chi as a community-based falls prevention intervention: a randomized controlled trial.
Blood pressure biofeedback exerts intermediate-term effects on blood pressure and pressure reactivity in individuals with mild hypertension: a randomized controlled study. In 1820, the first edition of the United States Pharmacopeia (the official authoritative listing of drugs) listed 425 botanical substances, which constituted 67 percent of the entries.Blumenthal M. Only some herbal products have been standardized to ensure similar potency from batch to batch. The mission was similar: facilitate research on CAM, evaluate the effectiveness and safety of CAM, and disseminate accurate, authoritative information to the public. We drive, walk, eat, shower, or sit through a lecture while our minds are preoccupied with other things.
Influence of deep breathing exercise on spontaneous respiratory rate and heart rate variability: a randomised controlled trial in healthy subjects.
The effects of deep breathing on “tension-anxiety” and fatigue in cancer patients undergoing adjuvant chemotherapy. Acupuncturists insert fine, sterile needles into points along the meridians to restore the normal flow of qi and thereby facilitate healing. If it’s the beach, picture the sky and the expanse of water, feel the sand warm beneath you, smell the seaweed, hear the lapping of waves, the calling of seagulls, the clack of palm fronds moving in the breeze. Training sessions, which can be conducted online, last eight weeks and involve meditation, stretching, yoga poses, body scans, and discussions.Woods-Giscombe CL, Black AR.
Benefits at the cellular level show that regular meditation has the potential to promote healthy longevity.Eppel E, Daubenmier J, Moskowitz JT, Folkman S, Blackburn E. Hatha yoga, the form most often practiced in the Western world, emphasizes only three of those limbs: asanas (physical postures), pranayama (breath control), and dhyana (meditation).
If you find yourself expecting a bleak outcome, try to visualize the event turning out more positively. Manipulative therapy may also reduce crying in infantile colic.Dobson D, Lucassen PL, Miller JJ, Vlieger AM, Prescott P, Lewith G.
Giving massage to infants born prematurely enhances immune function, improves weight gain, and shortens hospital stays.Ang JY, Lua JL, Mathur A, et al. Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) may provide antidepressant activity in anxious, depressed humans: an exploratory study.
They spent nearly $34 billion out of pocket on CAM products, classes, and practitioners’ fees.Nahin RL, Barnes PM, Stussman BJ, Bloom B.
Mind-body interventions to reduce risk for health disparities related to stress and strength among African American women: the potential of mindfulness-based stress reduction, loving-kindness, and the NTU therapeutic framework.
Often, the meditation involves awareness of breathing and concentration on physical postures.
Studies show it enhances overall well-being, reduces feelings of stress and anxiety,Alexander GK, Innes KE, Selfe TK, Brown CJ. One theory is that the needles release natural pain relievers called endorphins or otherwise act to relieve pain. A randomized placebo-controlled trial of massage therapy on the immune system of preterm infants. In 2012, researchers discovered medical plants such as yarrow and chamomile in the tooth scrapings of Neanderthals.Hardy K, Buckley S, Collins MJ, et al. The WHO notes that herbs such as Chinese wormwood (Artemisia annua) are traditional remedies against malaria and also the source for the antimalarial drug artemisinin. Costs of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and frequency of visits to CAM practitioners: United States, 2007. Effects of level of meditation experience on attentional focus: is the efficiency of executive or orientation networks improved?
For example, you can breathe in for a slow count of four, hold four seconds, and exhale to a count of six. The effect of deep and slow breathing on pain perception, autonomic activity, and mood processing—an experimental study. Weight gain in preterm infants following parent-administered Vimala massage: a randomized controlled trial. Most people used these therapies as a complement rather than an alternative to conventional care. Improving sleep quality in older adults with moderate sleep complaints: a randomized controlled trial of Tai Chi Chih. The conditions most often treated were musculoskeletal problems such as neck and back pain.
Meditation helps relieve emotional distress and improve quality of life in people with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart failure, rheumatoid arthritis, and fibromyalgia.Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. A longitudinal study of students’ perceptions of using deep breathing meditation to reduce testing stresses. In adults who have undergone heart surgery, massage can reduce pain, anxiety, and muscular tension.Braun LA, Stanguts C, Casanelia L, et al.
Studies show that MBSR and TM relieve stress and mild anxiety.Chen Y, Yang X, Wang L, Zhang X. A randomized controlled trial of the effects of brief mindfulness meditation on anxiety symptoms and systolic blood pressure in Chinese nursing students. Comparing yoga, exercise, and a self-care book for chronic low back pain: a randomized, controlled trial. Effects of a Taiji and Qigong intervention on the antibody response to influenza vaccine in older adults. MBSR can act as a useful complement to conventional treatment for anxiety disorders, depression, substance abuse, and eating disorders.Lee SH, Ahn SC, Lee YJ, et al.
Effectiveness of a meditation-based stress management program as an adjunct to pharmacotherapy in patients with anxiety disorder. In addition, tai chi has been shown to improve exercise capacity in people with chronic obstructive lung disease.Leung R, McKeough ZJ, Peters MJ, Alison JA. Argentine tango dance compared to mindfulness meditation and a waiting-list control: a randomised trial for treating depression. Qigong has been shown to improve sleep and reduce symptoms associated with menopause.Yeh SC, Chang MY. The effect of Qigong on menopausal symptoms and quality of sleep for perimenopausal women: a preliminary observational study.
Mindfulness-based stress reduction, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, and Zen meditation for depression, anxiety, pain, and psychological distress. Effect of Sahaj Yoga on neuro-cognitive functions in patients suffering from major depression. In people with fibromyalgia (a condition characterized by fatigue, pain, and multiple tender areas), qigong can reduce pain and improve sleep, physical function, and mental function.Lynch M, Sawynok J, Hiew C, Marcon D. Dealing with problematic eating behaviour: the effects of a mindfulness-based intervention on eating behaviour, food cravings, dichotomous thinking and body image concern. Therapeutic potential of yoga practices in modifying cardiovascular risk profile in middle aged men and women.

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