How herbalism works

Most modern herbalists reject the mysticism, astrological connections and ideas such as the doctrine of signatures, that early practitioners often attached to their remedies. Herbalism aims to strengthen the body’s ability to resist disease and to make its own recovery, rather than to destroy the cause of the illness. Remedies are chosen according to the … Read more

Manipulation and massage

Alternative therapies based on manipulation and massage can be grouped under three headings: osteopathy, chiropractic and massage. The latter includes techniques such as Shiatsu and reflexology as well as classical massage. Osteopathy and chiropractic are related therapies with similarities but they are not the same. Differences are to be found, for example, in the actual … Read more


Chiropractic is a system of therapy based on manipulation of the joints, particularly those of the spine. It emphasizes the role of the nervous system in good health and the system’s malfunction as a cause of disease. In this it differs from the theory behind osteopathy which concentrates more on the role of the circulatory … Read more


Massage is one form of remedy which everybody, consciously or unconsciously, resorts to at some time. Quite often when people feel a pain somewhere, they instinctively take hold of the place and press or rub the sore area in the hope that the pain will subside. For instance, if someone has a bad headache it … Read more


Reflexology is similar to Shiatsu in that it is another form of pressure-point massage but, unlike Shiatsu, the points that are massaged are all on the sole of the foot. Sometimes also known as foot-zone therapy, or the Ingham reflex method (after one of its main proponents, Eunice Ingham, 1889-1974), reflexology assumes that the whole … Read more

Neuromuscular massage

This is a form of massage in which specific motor-points on the muscles (trigger-points) are massaged deeply with the fingertips, ultimately aiming to relieve muscular tension. Although orthodox medical practitioners are generally sceptical about the claims made by therapists using the special forms of massage described above, most agree that the classical Swedish form of … Read more

Medicinal baths

Virtually everybody would acknowledge the general feeling of well-being that a warm bath gives after a tiring day or strenuous exercise. The advocates of medicinal baths would claim that their therapeutic value is even more wide-ranging. Medicinal baths nowadays are usually water-based, although substances such as herbs and minerals are often added. The use of … Read more

Neural, cell and enzyme therapy

Despite great differences in their backgrounds, neural, cell and enzyme therapy closely resemble each other as regards the method of treatment. All three involve administering substances by means of an injection and the purpose of the substances is to help the body to combat disorders. Of the three, neural therapy is the one most accepted … Read more

Paranormal therapy

The existence of certain phenomena that cannot be explained in terms of known scientific principles is quite widely acknowledged. Paranormal healing recognizes that there is another dimension to life which, although not commonly experienced, has great potential, particularly for diagnosing and treating diseases. People who practise paranormal healing methods believe that all our ideas and … Read more

Faith healing

Healing through an interpersonal relationship is a concept which goes back to the hand-healing used in ancient Oriental therapy and in the Egyptian temples over 3,000 years ago. It is possible that many of the apparent miracles performed by Jesus were the result of faith healing. However, in some cases it was spiritual healing, the … Read more


Hypnosis is essentially a state of effective communication between the conscious and subconscious parts of the mind. It is a very simple and natural mental state, something similar to which we all experience when lying quietly in bed on waking, before going to sleep, or even while sitting in a chair day-dreaming. Meditation and states … Read more

Yoga and transcendental meditation

Western interest in Eastern thought, including ideas about sickness and (physical and mental) health, was stimulated enormously by the visit of the Beatles in 1968 to the Indian Maharishi Mahesh Yogi to be initiated in the doctrine of transcendental meditation. It is now practised by millions of people throughout the world. The practice of yoga … Read more

Biofeedback and autogenous training

Biofeedback and autogenic training are sophisticated techniques aimed at helping people to become more aware of certain body functions of which they are normally unaware and at teaching control of such functions. To a large extent the techniques are concerned with teaching people to induce relaxation and thus cope with anxiety, tension and stress. The … Read more

Tooth extraction

Dental extractions may be necessary for a number of reasons. Most common is gum disease and widespread decay. Teeth are often extracted for orthodontic purposes, to make room for the correct alignment of other teeth. Injury may result in loose or shattered teeth; occasionally these can be saved but often extraction is the best course. … Read more

Nutritional therapy

Gone are the days when you could eat almost any foods – however fatty, salty or sugary – without experiencing some doubts as to whether you might be damaging your health. Faulty nutrition, it is said, is a cause of disease and, conversely, healthy eating can lead to improved health and even to a cure … Read more

Apicectomy and root resection

An apicectomy is sometimes carried out to save a tooth where root canal therapy has been unsucessful or difficult. The procedure involves the removal of the infected root tip, or apex, and sealing of the nerve canal by a direct surgical approach, as described for surgical extraction. By extracting a single infected or heavily-decayed root … Read more

Medicinal herbs

Herbal medicine, sometimes known as phytotherapy, is based on the cumulative knowledge acquired by herbalists over thousands of years. Many modern drugs originally derived from plants, for example Digitalis purpurea (foxglove), the value of which in medicine has never been completely dismissed, even by orthodox practitioners. Today herbalism is making something of a comeback in … Read more


Orthodontics is a branch of dentistry dealing with the relationship of teeth to each other, how they form the dental arch, how they bite together and their appearance. Adult teeth start forming soon after birth; they grow and erupt into the mouth to replace the primary or milk teeth from the age of about six … Read more

Alternative medicine

Somebody who seeks the advice of a practitioner of alternative medicine is clearly not content with orthodox medical science. Indeed, a number of objections are often raised against establishment medicine. Patients sometimes complain that they are treated not as individuals but merely as collections of symptoms. Another reason for dissatisfaction is that the medical profession … Read more

Traditional versus orthodox treatment

Orthodox medical treatments have achieved a well-deserved reputation in the areas of surgical procedures and emergency treatments. However, the sustained use of drugs in certain cases has been criticised by practitioners of traditional medicine. On the other hand, the absence of scientific evidence to confirm the way in which the natural therapies work has prevented … Read more

Types of traditional therapies

The new-found interest in natural therapies in the West was focused on six healing techniques during the late 1960s. Homoeopathy and hypnotherapy already had a history of practice within the medical profession, but acupuncture, chiropractic, osteopathy. Herbalism and healing were, and still are, practised largely by lay people. Meditation has always been used by groups … Read more

Scientific testing of traditional therapies

Another reason why there are so many therapies is that there is no scientific model for the way in which life energies work. Indeed, science has not yet found an instrument that can measure their effectiveness. An experiment performed in 1975 by two British researchers, Maxwell Cade and Geoffrey Blundell, which aimed to show the … Read more


Acupuncture therapy involves the insertion of fine needles into specific parts of the body for the relief of pain and the treatment of illness. It is now practised in many parts of the world but was first developed in China where records date back to about 3,000 BC. (It is also known that doctors in … Read more

The modernization of acupuncture

Since the 1950s, major innovations in acupuncture have been made mainly in Europe. These innovations have allowed acupuncture to develop, be taught and practised as an objective, technical discipline. Recognition has also been made of the many factors affecting health in the twentieth century that did not exist when traditional acupuncture came into being. How … Read more

How is acupuncture practised?

The job of the acupuncturist is to assess his patient and ensure that the life-giving force Qi flows in a balanced way around the body. The first phase is the examination and diagnosis. A fundamental part of acupuncture therapy is to regard the patient as a whole and treat the underlying causes ^f the symptoms … Read more

Does acupuncture really work?

Acupuncture’s beneficial effects have often been attributed to the so-called ‘placebo’ effect, in which the very fact that something is being done about a complaint causes it to get better. However, there is no evidence to suggest that the placebo effect is any more significant a part in acupuncture than in conventional Western medicine. In … Read more

Which conditions is acupuncture used for?

Leaving aside the more exotic claims made for acupuncture, in the West it is used for the treatment (either on its own or in conjunction with other therapies) of a wide range of musculoskeletal problems such as ‘frozen’ shoulder, problems occurring in the small of the back and generalized aches and pains often with no … Read more

Anthroposophical medicine

Anthroposophical medicine is an extension of the medical thinking and practice based on, and inspired by, the work of the Austrian Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). Its aim is to be an extension of orthodox medicine, to complement and develop it rather than to set up an alternative. It is practised exclusively by conventionally qualified doctors who … Read more


Homoeopathy is based on the idea that ‘like cures like’. Thus the patient is given minute doses of a natural substance which, in a healthy person, would produce symptoms similar to those of the disease being treated. Symptoms, then, are not suppressed as in orthodox medicine but reinforced, in the belief that this will stimulate … Read more


Water, air, sunlight and food are all essential for life and greatly influence our health. Naturopaths believe that by promoting health, rather than preventing disorders, and by removing obstacles to the normal functioning of the body, it is possible to overcome most disorders. They are not, however, simply concerned with the intricacies of body chemistry … Read more


By looking at a person’s eyes you can usually tell a great deal about their general state of health. Bright, sparkling eyes are a sign of good health and vigour; dull, opaque eyes can indicate poor health or illness. Iridologists have taken this form of diagnosis much further. They believe that particular markings of sites … Read more

Transplant surgery

In December 1967 the world was amazed to hear that the South African surgeon Christian Barnard (1922) had performed the first heart transplant. By transferring the heart of a young woman donor, who had died from brain injury after a car accident, he enabled recipient Louis Washkanskey to live for a further 18 days before … Read more

Organ donation and determining death

Every day otherwise fit people are dying in hospital as a result of accidental head injury or spontaneous bleeding into the brain. These people can often be resuscitated and temporarily placed on breathing machines. Because the machines are keeping their respiration going – usually a function of the brain – the heart receives oxygen and … Read more

Radiation treatment

For many years we have known that radiation and radioactivity can seriously harm health and even kill. Yet in controlled doses, and when concentrated on a specific site of the body, radiation can also cure or bring temporary relief. The trick is to kill the diseased cells or tissues without doing too much harm to … Read more


Following a major health problem, rehabilitation is the process by which an individual is helped to achieve his or her fullest physical potential. It is not tacked on to the recovery phase but begins with immediate preventative care in the first stage of an injury or illness. It is continued throughout the recovery or restorative … Read more

Diets for Medical Conditions

Much potassium in the blood can be dangerous, and damaged kidneys are often unable to regulate the amount of potassium in the blood. A low-calcium diet is used for patients with kidney stones and also for patients who have raised blood calcium levels as a result of, for example, hormonal imbalance. In all these diets … Read more

Speech training

Many animals communicate with each other through sounds. Creatures such as whales and birds have a large repertoire of noises and calls, some with specific meanings. But in human beings our vocal facility has enabled us to develop a complex language, capable of not only straightforward communication but also of expressing abstract ideas and being … Read more


Many patients treated in hospital wards pass literally through the hands of the physiotherapist. The very young in the Special Care Baby Unit, the very old in the Geriatric Rehabilitation Ward, the teenage motorcyclist with a fractured thigh, the middle-aged housewife with a broken wrist or ‘slipped’ disc, the stroke victim, the paraplegic, the patient … Read more


By the eighteenth century, dentistry had become a recognized discipline in most European countries with organized lecture courses at teaching hospitals and legislation governing its practice. Before that time, the main dental ‘qualification’ needed by a practitioner was a strong arm to draw out decayed teeth. Itinerant toothdrawers could earn a lucrative living plying their … Read more

Scaling and polishing

When teeth are not cleaned properly they become coated with a sticky substance called plaque. This consists of food remains, the bacteria that feed on them, and the bacterial waste products such as acids. Plaque and enamel staining are usually removed with a rotary polisher and polishing paste. Calculus (scale) is a hard deposit which … Read more

Dental decay

Dental decay is the result of bacteria which produce acids which attack and erode the tooth surface. Following a meal or snack containing sugar the acidity in the mouth is raised. If this is high enough and remains for long enough, the enamel surface begins to demi-neralize and soften to form a minute cavity – … Read more


Dental crowns are used when substantial tooth structure has been lost through decay or injury, but the root is still firm enough to anchor a protective coating. Crowns can also be used to improve the appearance of a tooth. In dental bridgework – a method employed to fill gaps left by extracted teeth – a … Read more


Dental bridges are advanced dental work employing crowns to flank and support a false tooth which acts as a replacement for a lost or missing tooth. Preparation of the supporting or “abutment’ teeth is carried out by the dentist as for a crown, and following construction of the bridge by a dental technician, the crowns … Read more


Surgery can be broadly classified into three groups according to the time scale involved. First, there is the routine operation, for which there is no desperate urgency, for example a hernia repair; second is the urgent operation, such as a cancer operation, involving a condition which needs to be dealt with quickly; third is the … Read more

Some common operations

There are literally hundreds of operations that can be performed on each part of the body, and new operations are constantly being devised. Even so, often the most frequently performed are some of the most traditional with a long history of proven success. Appendicectomy A significant number of people in the Western world develop appendicitis … Read more

Breathing difficulties

Respiration is one of the most important vital functions for human beings. During respiration, oxygen combines with the circulation to provide all the tissues in the body with the fuel necessary to produce energy. Breathing is so vital that someone who has stopped breathing needs first aid fast. Unless oxygenated blood reaches the brain within … Read more

Post-operative care

After surgery people usually wake up in some discomfort and often with tubes coming from seemingly everywhere. What are these tubes, and what do they do? One of the commonest is the ‘drip’ tube, carrying an intravenous infusion which may be a clear fluid containing sugar and body salts, or blood, and quite often drugs. … Read more


Choking is usually caused by a piece of food that has lodged in the throat. Children sometimes choke on small toys or other objects that they put in their mouths. Someone who is choking is unable to speak or breathe and will asphyxiate within four to six minutes unless the obstruction in their airway is … Read more


A common cause of breathing difficulty, particularly in children, is asthma. An attack can be frightening both for the sufferer and for an observer. It usually comes on suddenly and may last for minutes, hours or even days. Symptoms include a whistling sound when breathing in and wheezing when breathing out, accompanied by a dry … Read more