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Alternative & Complementary Medicine
Alternative & Complementary Medicine Articles
Acupuncture is a technique that involves inserting very thin metal needles into the skin at precise points on the body to clear energy channels, with the aim of restoring and maintaining health. The spots of insertion are picked based on a complex network of lines of energy, termed meridians. Meridians are thought to encircle the body like global lines of longitude and latitude.
Acupuncture is a mainstay of traditional Chinese medicine, which has been practiced for thousands of years. The Chinese healing tradition sees the body as a delicate balance of yin and yang. These are two opposing, but inseparable forces. According to traditional Chinese medicine, disease occurs when the forces of yin and yang are out of balance.
Imbalance, it is believed, blocks the flow of qi, a vital energy that regulates spiritual, emotional, mental and physical balance, along meridians. By inserting needles at specific points on the body that connect with these meridians, acupuncture is believed to unblock the flow of qi, restoring health to the body and mind.
Western medicine explains acupuncture's effects within a different framework. Some Western scientists believe that acupuncture stimulates the central nervous system, signaling the body to release various substances including endorphins, immune system cells, opioids, neurotransmitters, and neurohormones. These may help control pain, change how the body experiences pain, and promote physical and emotional well-being. Some research also indicates that acupuncture influences involuntary central nervous functions, such as blood pressure, blood flow, and body temperature regulation.
According to the National Comorbidity Survey Replication, only about 40% of people with major depression receive adequate conventional treatment, so it's important to get a better understanding of the other measures depressed patients are taking. A survey of American women indicates that a high proportion of them use alternative and complementary medicines for depression.
Researchers analyzed a national telephone survey of more than 3,000 women, with Mexican Americans, Chinese Americans, and African Americans somewhat over-represented in order to get a picture of ethnic differences. Of these women, 220 said they had been medically diagnosed with depression in the previous year, and 54% of them had used alternative medicine to treat the symptoms. The authors point out that the percentage would have been even higher if they had been able to include depressed women who never received a medical diagnosis.
The most popular alternatives were manual therapies, including chiropractic, massage, and acupressure, used by 26%; medicinal herbs and teas, used by 20%; and vitamins and nutritional supplements, used by 16%. Other unconventional remedies were yoga, meditation, tai chi, Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, and Native American healing.
Syrup of Ipecac is on its way out the door. Although ipecac is commonly considered a staple in households with young children, the American Academy of Pediatrics no longer recommends the routine use of this remedy for accidental poisonings.
There are a number of reasons that ipecac has fallen out of favor. Studies have shown the sooner ipecac is taken after accidental ingestion of a poison, the greater the amount of the poison removed from the stomach through vomiting. But even when ipecac is taken immediately after ingestion of a poison, not all of the toxin is removed. So the potential for harm from the poison may still exist despite the use of ipecac. The persistent vomiting caused by ipecac can also reduce the effectiveness of other oral treatments for poisoning, such as activated charcoal — the most effective way of drawing poison out of the body. In addition to causing vomiting, the syrup can also produce diarrhea and lethargy. These symptoms, especially lethargy, can be confused with the effects of some drugs that a child may have accidentally ingested. Furthermore, when syrup of ipecac is readily available in the home, it is easily and likely used at inappropriate times and without the advice of a physician or poison control center.
One of the original justifications for having syrup of ipecac readily on hand was for the treatment of people at risk of some symptoms worse than vomiting but not at risk of life-threatening symptoms requiring medical attention. This idea is thrown out the window, though, by the results of a recent study. Results based on data gathered from several poison centers around the country show the use of syrup of ipecac does not reduce the number of emergency department visits. The study also showed children who received the syrup after an accidental ingestion of a medication fared no better than children who did not receive ipecac in a similar situation. This is not to say syrup of ipecac is not effective in some circumstances, but rather its limited benefit does not justify the position it has had as the primary safety net in cases of accidental poisonings at home.