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Healing the body through alternative medicine and therapies

Published: Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Updated: Friday, May 17, 2013 13:05

Herbs

Justin Stene / The Prospector

Many have turned to alternative medicine for healing purposes rather than allopathic or western drugs.

Alternative medicine and therapies are terms that encompass numerous kinds of treatments. Some are hundreds of years old, others are relatively new, and all are natural ways of healing the body or preventing certain ailments. Employing these natural remedies into a lifestyle requires some research and a little knowledge about how the human body works.

According to Mahesh Narayan, associate professor and assistant chair in the Chemistry Department who has studied alternative medicine in research procedures, western society is accustomed to what is called allopathic medicine. This type of treatment is the western form of medicine that has been tested by reproducing experiments to models and clinical trials.

Narayan said that although the allopathic field is relatively new, traditional medicines have been known to mankind for centuries in several different regions of the world, but have been shunned greatly by the west.

“The main problem that alternative medicines face today is the lack of knowledge and so-called advertising using mainstream media,” Narayan said.

Mata Gallardo, junior nursing major, said that she was introduced to alternative therapies through a class that UTEP offered as a nursing elective. She found out about different methods such as acupuncture, acupressure and meditation.

“We actually had a class, (my professor) brought in a professional who does reiki, and we did it in class and it was nice just to relax, let it go and it does help clear your mind and your inner spirit,” Gallardo said.

Gallardo said she thought the use of alternative therapies really depend on a person’s condition and state of mind.

“If you have back pain, instead of taking medication you could just take some sort of alternative medicine, because medication in the long-term has a lot of side effects, but it does depend on your condition like chronic illness, I think it would just be best to go with the western medicine,” Gallardo said.

Narayan said that alternative medicine’s big seller is the lack of side effects compared to what allopathic medicines could cause.

“Because these are products from plants, they are physical manipulations which have been known for centuries in a hand-me-down procedure, so they have been tested through time,” Narayan said.

But in comparison with allopathic or western drugs, natural medicine and therapies are more concerned with prevention rather than cure. This may be why prescriptions are better for genetically based diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease.

“If you compare the traditional allopathic medicine, western medicine, for headache, what western medicines do is they don’t cure the cause, they suppress a lot of the side effects, also seated with the disease,” Narayan said.

According to Narayan, the main drawback to alternative medicines is that there is no rigorous and reproducible data or body of literature telling people what exactly needs to be done.

Jim Pettit works as an overseer at The Herb Garden on Lee Trevino Drive, a business that has been in his family for 15 years. While admitting he was skeptical about herbal treatments and alternative therapies at first, personal issues helped change his perspective on these types of treatments.

“Watching with my mom and sister opening the store and seeing what it did for their health,” Pettit said. “For my mom’s health, the doctor’s at the time had given her about a year to live and she lived probably about eight more years and it was all natural health.”

Pettit said alternative medicine is fascinating to him, as it helped him cope with stress from work with the help of his sister and mother. He has also tried acupuncture and has seen a difference.

As for the biggest sellers at the store, ear candles and various amount of inventory from Natural Sunshine regarding stress and anxiety tablets are asked for the most.

“Our biggest seller, Nature Sun Nutri-Calm, we have to keep these pretty stocked. They’re great for the nerves,” Pettit said.

According to Pettit, Natural Sunshine has been around for about 40 years and started in Utah by a man that was having heart issues.

“The doctors had done pretty much everything they could for him, he started taking capsicum, which he’d heard it helps the heart, and it helped him improve and start feeling better, so that opened his eyes to the idea of natural supplements,” Pettit said.

The Herb Garden has posters above the shelves that represent which herbs help a particular part of the body. Pettit said that by having a broad inventory, they do not just have one product for the nerves, they have various supplements.

“Sometimes people feel like they want to make a change so we supply that,” Pettit said. “I’ve used pharmaceutical drugs before and I guess when I learned and read of the side effects like cholesterol and things like that, stuff that some doctor wanted me to try, I just decided for me, personally, I wanted to try a natural way without the side effects.”

Narayan said that the side effects are almost non-existent with alternative medicine and people can actually take more than the recommended dose with no side effects. He stated that students should come to know this and learn that allopathic medicine is not the only school of medicine.

“I think that it all plays a role (concerning alternative treatments and western medicine), and it’s just up to people to make the choice and decide what’s best for them,” Pettit said.

Amber Watts may be reached at prospector@utep.edu.

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