Why resort to pill-popping when you can banish health niggles with gentle natural therapies?
Do you suffer from annoying headaches or maybe you’re having trouble getting to sleep at night? Complementary therapies are a great way to fix many common ailments because, unlike most conventional treatments, they treat the root of the problem rather than just the symptoms. Designed do what they say on the packet – that is to ‘complement’ your health – they heal your mind, body and spirit on every level. So try one of these brilliant natural healers to supercharge your health today!
An ancient Chinese practice, acupuncture is based on the principle that vital energy (known as ‘qi’, pronounced ‘chee’) runs throughout the body along channels know as meridians, with each meridian named after a corresponding organ. Jane Long, executive director of the Federation of Holistic Therapists (fht.org.uk) explains that acupuncture aims to restore the balance of qi and promote self-healing by inserting fine, sterile needles into the skin to stimulate specific ‘acupoints’ along the meridians.
Acupressure works on a similar idea to acupuncture, but instead of inserting needles into acupoints, it involves applying pressure to them. If you’re feeling a tension headache coming on, press the acupoint in the middle of the palm of your hand. This point (known as lao gong) is located on one of the most important meridians (or energy channels), which affects the heart, liver and pancreas, where stress is often stored.
Got a sore back? Why not give yoga a go? This ancient practice is a great way to relieve back soreness and improve function as it works on your body’s strength and flexibility. Be sure to discuss it with a qualified health professional before trying it though, as severe back pain may need medical attention.
The plank pose (where you lie on the ground and then hold your body up on your elbows, wrists and toes in the shape of, you guessed it, a plank), strengthens your core muscles to support your spine. To do it, lie on your tummy and then push your chest up with your elbows and wrists on the floor, with your elbows placed directly beneath your shoulders. Then push your body up into your upper back and hold your chin close to your neck. Brace your abdominal muscles and hold this pose for at least 20 seconds. Rest and repeat three to five times.
This therapy treats illness with highly diluted substances that in larger amounts would produce symptoms of the ailment itself, explains Mani Norland, principal of The School Of Homeopathy (homeopathyschool.com). “There are many homeopathic remedies in pill form or liquids that are helpful for painful periods and PMT. They not only treat the physical symptoms but the frequent accompanying emotional symptoms.” While you can buy many of these in health food shops, for the best results you should consult a homeopath.
Mani suggests trying the remedies sepia, which is useful for the typical dragged down feeling in the uterine region with pains into the legs, lachesis for PMT symptoms which are relieved the moment the flow begins; pulsatilla, if you have changeable wandering pains and feel tearful with each cycle, and chamomilla for intolerable pains and heavy bleeding.
Numerous studies have shown that meditation can help to reduce anxiety and depression and lower blood pressure and research published recently in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology found that people who practised mindfulness meditation had reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol. What’s more, you can practise it wherever you are — whether you’re out for a walk, on the bus to work or even waiting in the supermarket queue!
Mindfulness is one of the easiest types of meditations to master. All you do is concentrate on what you’re doing in the moment, such as focusing on your breath as you breathe deeply in and out; or on the steps of your feet, one in front of the other, as you’re out walking. This allows you to clear your mind and banish anxious thoughts.
This gentle therapy uses essential oils from plants, herbs and flowers to bring about emotional and physical change in the body. Aromatherapy oils trigger certain neural pathways in the brain which can, in turn, have an effect on your hormone levels, helping you to drift off to the land of nod.
For a soothing sleep treat, scatter a few drops of lavender essential oil onto your pillow at night or give yourself a relaxing massage with essential oils of lavender, chamomile, vetiver, ylang ylang and bergamot in carrier oil such as jojoba or grapeseed oil.
This healing holistic treatment is based on the theory that different points on the feet, lower leg, hands, face or ears correspond with different areas of the body. By massaging certain points aligned with different organs you can help to boost energy and vitality in your body.
Since a dip in energy can often be a result of low blood sugar, try massaging your pancreas reflex area and also the adrenal gland reflex to regulate blood sugar levels and increase the production of adrenaline and thereby increase energy levels. Alternatively, giving yourself a gentle foot rub triggers reflexology points in your feet to bring about energetic balance and harmony.
Bloating is often caused by poor digestion, an imbalance of good bacteria in your gut or the result of an intolerance to a specific food group such as wheat, dairy or fructose, which is where nutritional healing comes in handy. Michelle Wood, nutrition teacher at The School Of Health (schoolofhealth.com) explains that after taking a detailed case history a nutritional therapist will create a personalised diet plan to target your key concerns.
Digestion begins in the mouth so you should aim to chew each mouthful of food 40 times before swallowing, says Michelle. This will help the digestive enzymes break down the food efficiently. Make time for meals and avoid eating while stressed, since stress can reduce the production of hydrochloric acid, thus reducing the efficiency of digestion. Also watch your portion sizes and make sure you are not overloading your digestion by eating more than necessary.