Complementary alternative health care is here to stay. Or maybe it never left. When our grandmothers insisted upon drinking chamomile tea for an upset stomach, or warm milk with honey for a good night’s rest, did they know something we didn’t, or have we just forgotten the simple and natural approach to good healthcare?

Pick up a magazine at any bookstore or supermarket and you will see, flashing before your eyes, every healthcare topic imaginable: Amazing New Discovery Stops Arthritis; Rebuild Your Joints With Glucosamine; Use Antioxidant Vitamin C, E and Beta Carotene to Combat the Effects of Aging; Natural Remedies That Restore Lung Power; or Green Tea Prevents Cancer and Heart Disease.

The reality is that consumers are using alternative therapies, holistic and integrative health care, homeopathics, herbal remedies and mind/body practices in overwhelming numbers. The consumption of organic foods, and the use of some grassroot therapies such as Bach flowers, aromatherapy and essential oils have reached an all-time high.

The increased use of complementary and alternative healthcare practices, I am sure, is not just a passing fancy. In essence, they work, and there are no invasive side effects involved. Complementary and alternative healthcare along with alternative medical techniques will reshape healthcare in the 21st century.

On July 13, President Clinton announced the appointment of Dr. James Gordon, director of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine, as the chairperson of the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) Policy. This commission will provide a report to the president on legislative and administrative initiatives, in order to maximize CAM healthcare to all Americans.

“Almost half of all Americans implement some form of complementary and alternative medicine as part of their healthcare” said Gordon. He noted that 69 percent of cancer patients are using these therapies, and 74 percent of cancer patients are interested in learning more about them, He added that within five to 10 years, complementary

therapies will be part of the care in every major hospital and clinic across the country, and our definition of medicine will be larger than it is today.

Imagine, for a moment, coming out of a surgery with soft harp music being piped into the recovery room, vitamin C being added to the intravenous drip while your massage therapist or your polarity practitioner begins slowly working specific points on your sore feet. Add a gentle aromatherapy scent, designed to help you wake up, without feeling nauseous, and you may have an idea of what is coming in the future.

Another group concerned about understanding the wide use of CAM therapies was the

11th International Conference on Women’s Health issues. Surveys and research project, presented at this congress pointed out that most women who have breast cancer seek alternative therapies. One study found that more than 70 percent of breast cancer patients combine traditional medicine treatments with alternative therapies like acupuncture, herbs, bodywork, prayer and nutritional supplements.

The study also found that only about a third of the women surveyed shared their alternative treatment choices with their physicians. But, almost all the women discussed their medical treatment with their alternative practitioners. Women said they felt that either their doctors weren’t interested in their alternative treatment choices or they were afraid that their doctors would respond negatively.

As we look into the future of our total healthcare system, we can predict, without question, that more centers will emerge that are completely dedicated to a complementary and integrative approach to wellness and healing. More organizations such as the Center for Mind-Body Medicine will surface, providing educational tools dedicated to reviving the spirit and transforming the practice of medicine. Programs that combine the best of modern science and ancient wisdom–many of which are currently in place–will emphasize self-help care, empowering people to understand their own capacity for healing, encouraging them to look to more natural healing choices, and teaching how to use non-invasive therapies as a preventive tool. Yes, complementary alternative healthcare is here to stay.

In upcoming installments of this column, we will explore topics like herbal therapies, homeopathic medicine, traditional bodywork therapies such as Thai massage, shiatsu, polarity therapy, acupressure and acupuncture and others. Time will also be devoted to understanding the widespread use of energy medicine and the science of energy healing, the basis for traditional Chinese medicine, reiki, polarity, feng shui, chakra

balancing, ayurveda and yoga. We’ll talk about practical tools to enhance the quality of your life, such as reducing stress, healing through song and sound, bringing your life into balance and how drugs can rob your body of vital nutrients.

Reconnect and join us weekly on our journey of healing, as we build healthy bridges and rediscover that within every human heart and mind lies the seed of consciousness–the quality of true healing.

May the longtime sun shine upon you.