Tincture? What is a tincture? This was a common question I was asked while working at the farmer’s market in Senoia. Customers often thought my tincture bottles were essential oils, and their curiosity often led to an informative conversation about Integrative Health. As an herbalist, I am approached with many questions regarding Integrative Health—an amazing way to improve your well-being using various complementary and alternative therapies.
WHAT IS INTEGRATIVE HEALTH?
Integrative Health is a fusion between Western (modern) medicine and complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). While modern medicine treats the illness or disease, CAM focuses on improving a person’s quality of life. Integrative Health focuses on overall health, including diet, lifestyle, genetics, mental health, and more. In a nutshell? Integrative Health treats the whole person, intending to get to the root of the problem while incorporating modern medicine and CAM practices.
There are various CAM methods recommended for Integrative Health use. These methods are used in conjunction with medications and treatments or as a preventative. Many CAM modalities fall into a few general categories. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), these five categories are biologically based treatments, mind-body therapies, alternative medical systems, manipulative and bodybased methods, and energy therapies.
Biologically Based Treatments
Biologically based treatments, or natural products, are gaining popularity in the U.S. These products have been used for decades in other countries. Before the birth of modern medicine, humans used natural products to treat illness and prevent disease. Natural products are the most commonly recommended CAM method by physicians, and many Americans use natural products in their daily lives such as tinctures, teas, vitamins, probiotics, and herbal supplements.
Mind-body therapies use methods to boost the mind. These therapies increase the health of the body by strengthening the mind. Our mentality is a powerful tool and can significantly assist with prevention and healing. Some examples of mind-body therapies are prayer, hypnotherapy, meditation, yoga, music therapy, art therapy, and guided imagery.
Alternative Medical Systems
Many practitioners of complementary and alternative medicine use therapies and healing methods derived from alternative medical systems. Homeopathy and Naturopathy are popular forms of these particular systems. A few more alternative medical systems include those derived from other countries. These systems are considered traditional medical systems in these countries and include Ayurveda from India and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). TCM has a wide range of therapies, from acupuncture and acupressure to herbal medicine.
Manipulative and Body-Based Methods
Manipulative and body-based methods focus on manipulating or moving the body. Some examples of manipulative and body-based methods are reflexology, osteopathy, chiropractic therapy, massage therapy, and rolfing. There are specific manipulative and bodybased therapies that require you to participate in classes or individual sessions, such as the Alexander Technique. The Alexander Technique is designed to improve mobility and posture through specific relearning exercises. Another technique called the Feldenkrais Method uses gentle, mindful movement to re-establish the mind-body connection.
Energy therapy is based on the belief that energy fields are surrounding the body and can enter the body. Energy therapy practitioners work on manipulating the energy field around a person. Energy therapy is typically performed by placing hands in the energy field and applying pressure or movement to clear or shift this energy. The traditional Chinese practice of movement called qigong is a form of energy therapy. Qigong may help lower blood pressure and anxiety while increasing activity in the body. Another form of energy therapy is Reiki, a Japanese form of healing. Reiki may help improve a person’s quality of life by relieving pain, anxiety, and fatigue.
INCORPORATING CAM INTO YOUR LIFE
There are many ways to incorporate CAM into your life. Buy a tincture from your local herbalist or drink herbal tea throughout your day. You can join a yoga class, visit an acupuncturist, or get a massage. Schedule an appointment with a chiropractor or sit in meditation at the start of your day. Integrative Health can be a marvelous way to improve the quality of your life. Just make sure to consult your practitioner before taking the leap! There are potential interactions and risks that should be addressed before starting a new CAM treatment. And many modern health practitioners may be unaware of risks, benefits, and usage. It can be uncomfortable speaking to your doctor about unconventional methods, however, here are some tips on helping bridge the gap:
Research, research, research! I always tell my clients that peer-reviewed medical studies are their best source of information. Google Scholar is a great way to research. Gather your sources from respected resources and print off valuable material to hand over for review.
Make a list of questions to go over and a list of any supplements you are taking.
Come to your appointment ready to discuss and answer questions about your alternative therapy thoroughly. This includes listening to your doctor’s concerns and trying to understand their point of view.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, ask about any risks of incorporating CAM into your life. Never give herbal medications to children without consulting their doctor first.
Most importantly, never stop a medication without consulting with your medical professional.
Jessica Clark is a lifelong herbalist, writer, forager, and farmHer. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Complementary and Alternative Health and a certificate in herbal medicine, botany, and ethical foraging. Jessica is a certified mushroom forager and continues to further work in alternative medicine. She resides in Fayette County with her family on a small homestead. Jessica is the owner of Wicked Mushrooms and the blog, The Mushroom Witch. She has an online herbal shop where you can purchase dried mushrooms, herbs, and herbal products. Learn more about Jessica and visit her shop at themushroomwitch.com.