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10 Alternate Medicines That People Swear By

by Andrew Gestalt
fact checked by Rachel Jones

When it comes to medicine, everybody seems to have an opinion. Regardless of background, status, or financial situation, everybody has to worry about their health, so the shared interest makes a lot of sense. With so much information out there, it can be easy to get lost in the chaos, particularly debates around conventional and alternative medicines.

What is alternative medicine, anyway? It depends on who you ask, but when you boil it down, it’s just any sort of treatment you wouldn’t normally expect to undergo in your family doctor’s office. It might be an herbal supplement that’s still being studied or just an option that’s not practiced a whole lot in some parts of the world. While complementary medicine refers to something done in addition to traditional treatment, alternate medicine is done instead of the conventional method. Regardless, people can get pretty emotional when you challenge their medical claims. Always speak to your medical provider before trying any alternative medicine regimen. Without further ado, here are ten alternative medicines people swear by.

Related: Top 10 Bizarre Things Doctors Prescribe Instead of Medicine

10 Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy: How Essential are Essential Oils?

Ah, can you smell the healing? You’d be hard-pressed these days to find somebody who has never heard of essential oils or aromatherapy. According to the National Institute of Health, aromatherapy is a type of alternative medicine that uses plant oils to promote healing, stress relief, and a sense of well-being.

So, does it work? Well, again, it seems to depend on who you ask, but there does seem to be research confirming the effectiveness of essential oils when it comes to treating specific mild ailments like stress or trouble falling asleep.

Aromatherapy can involve a long list of essential oils, from the pleasantly-scented peppermint oil to oregano oil, which can supposedly help with digestion.

9 Ghost Peppers

Topical Capsaicin (Active Ingredient in Peppers) to Treat Joint Pain

You might know an elderly member in your family who struggles with arthritis or joint pain. Maybe you personally experience aches and pains in your joints and wonder if there are any dietary changes you might be able to make to help yourself feel better. As it turns out, maybe you can!

The key is a substance called capsaicin. It is found not only in ghost peppers but in all chili peppers, so if you need a milder solution, you could just pour yourself a nice big bowl of jalapenos or perhaps add a little hot sauce to your morning oatmeal (Okay, please don’t do that last one). Capsaicin seems to have the benefit of relieving joint pain due to the body’s reaction to the substance when used as a topical solution, so just eating a bunch of these peppers might not actually be effective, but the research is in the works. It seems to work by a unique interaction with pain receptors, or maybe if you eat enough of them, your mouth will be so on fire that you just won’t notice the joint pain anymore.

In any case, some people swear by the health benefits of chili peppers, often crediting it with pain relief. I suppose if you like spicy food, it won’t hurt much to give this alternate medicine a go, even if it lands you spending a little extra time in the bathroom.

8 Green Tea Extract

The Truth About Green Tea extract

The weight-loss industry is a multi-billion dollar market. There could be a variety of reasons for this, from the fact that people decide to prioritize their health but then want to take shortcuts to the fact that a lot of supplements and routines on the market don’t necessarily do what they say they’re going to do.

In any case, while there are plenty of ridiculous diet fads out there, there does seem to be some promising information and research on the effect of green tea extract on the body, at least in combination with a good diet and moderate exercise. Which does sort of put it in the “complementary” category, but enough people swear by it that it made the list. Does it burn fat? Maybe. Even if you’re not looking to burn fat, many claim green tea extract also helps with gut inflammation, which could potentially give the appearance of burning fat.

The claims about green tea go beyond mere fat burning, with some people making some pretty miraculous claims about its ability to help with an upset stomach, sore throat, and quicker healing. Some people have questioned the amount of green tea extract you ought to have before it’s dangerous. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend taking the whole bottle, and it does have caffeine, so be careful if you decide to test this one yourself.

7 Chelation Therapy

Chelation therapy used to be considered a traditional medicinal treatment process. However, there is also a sort of “alternative” approach with a different view of toxins. The idea behind chelation therapy is that the body deals with pollutants that need to be removed. Traditionally, chelation therapy was used to “pull out” (as chelation means) toxins in the body, such as to treat a child who has swallowed lead. The idea that people might use this preventatively is what’s controversial.

6 Acupuncture

The Science Behind How Acupuncture Helps Relieve Pain: A Doctor Of Chinese Medicine Explains

Though acupuncture is a perfectly acceptable, traditional medicine in Eastern cultures and has been around for a long time, it is still not a well-known “mainstream” treatment in the West. Chinese practitioners say the human body has more than 2,000 acupuncture points connected throughout the body via the bloodstream. The practice of acupuncture in Chinese medicine aims to allow something called the Qi to flow more efficiently throughout the body.

The idea behind why and how acupuncture works seems a bit more philosophical than logical to our Western-trained ear. Still, it has certainly become more prevalent in places like the United States, as there are plenty of specialized centers you can go to for that type of treatment.

It seems to have gained popularity in recent years, particularly for athletes who need to recover after a hard day at the gym. According to a Fox News report, it has been popular among celebrities for quite a while but was reportedly growing in popularity among everyday Americans in recent years, increasing by approximately 6 million users between 2002 and 2007. One reason for the increase in popularity and availability today might be that, even if there continues to be debate over its efficacy, it is a relatively safe treatment, having very few side effects.

5 Ashwagandha

5 Brilliant Benefits of Ashwagandha

If you’ve never heard of Ashwagandha or knew how to spell it, here you are: a brand new medicine people swear by. Okay, so it’s not exactly new, but its use is trending.

Ashwagandha, also called the winter cherry, is a fruit from an evergreen shrub growing in India, the Middle East, and Africa. The claims about this plant are no small feat for a little shrub, ranging from better sleep to a regulated heart rate. The idea is that it works by reducing inflammation, so it might even be a promising solution for healing from infection.

You can pick it up in capsule form, gummy form, or even mixed in a mushroom-based tea in the western world, all likely available at your local supermarket. Watch the video to learn how to take it properly and in the most cost-effective dose.

4 CBD Oil

Thought you could make it through an article on alternate medicine without encountering CBD oil? You thought wrong. The fact is, CBD products have gained popularity in recent years, with the rise of attention to medical marijuana. To be clear, this is not the same thing; CBD oil does not have the same components as medical marijuana. It can be taken as a pill or as a topical medicine.

As for the actual benefits of CBD, it is hard to say. It is still under scrutiny by medical researchers at institutions like Harvard to determine how it compares to traditional medicine. Still, the benefits do seem to include pain relief, better sleep, decreased anxiety, and possibly even better results with addiction treatment from other substances. Listen to a podcast or two for long enough, and you’ll realize how popular this particular remedy is. As medical marijuana and CBD products gain more popularity across the country, perhaps their use will become more widespread as we learn more.

3 “Natural” Male-Enhancement Drugs/Herbal Viagra

Alternative Medicine for ED | Erection Problems

The category of alternate male enhancement treatments, including herbal supplements, can be a little embarrassing to talk about. Maybe that’s why so many guys search for natural remedies rather than talking to their doctor about these personal problems. However, erectile dysfunction, or ED, is an incredibly common problem and nothing to be ashamed of. According to this Verywell health article, the condition affects approximately 30 million men in the U.S.

As with any other medical usage, you should ask your doctor before simply deciding to treat yourself “naturally.” Why? While many consider natural treatments and herbal products safer, that is not necessarily the case. Be aware of the scams out there just looking to take advantage of you, but hey, if you can treat the problem naturally and get back to a more fulfilling bedroom experience while saving some money on medication in the process, why not? In addition to these natural supplements, there is plenty of evidence that basic self-care can also help to decrease instances of ED.

2 Hydrotherapy

Spa Benefits: How Hydrotherapy Works

You might have noticed a theme in this list: Almost every treatment solves problems related to stress, whether directly or indirectly. Hydrotherapy is yet another example, which appears to decrease cortisol.

Hydrotherapy can involve hot or cold water to promote healing. Water takes your body weight off your skeleton, so water exercises can be a great way to work out without putting excess pressure on your bones and joints. Although hydrotherapy has been around for centuries, it has evolved with the healthcare industry introducing new hydrotherapy-promoting products all the time, like the Jacuzzi solution.

The good thing is, you can do some hydrotherapy on your own without going to any special clinic. For example, an ice bath after a workout is one form of hydrotherapy.

1 Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy: Mayo Clinic Radio

Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment (HBOT) involves the treatment of tissue damage by helping the body take in a greater amount of oxygen. The air that we normally inhale is about 20% oxygen. Inside something called a hyperbaric chamber, a patient takes in 100% pure oxygen.

This treatment is currently limited to about ten to fifteen conditions, depending on who is speaking. This treatment has been studied and verified to show statistically superior results over those patients who did not receive hyperbaric treatment.

The treatment seems to work well for athletes recovering from a lot of strain on the body or those with physically demanding jobs who need faster healing.

fact checked by Rachel Jones