Natural Health Care Terms

This is a wide and deep field, and what follows is by no means an inclusive list of options available on this subject.


Acupressure – This technique stimulates specific acupuncture points through applying pressure with the fingers or hands.

Acupuncture – Acupuncturists insert specially made needles into specific points to stimulate the body’s natural energy. Licensed in more than 30 states in the U.S., acupuncturists work as independent providers of health care for a range of conditions from pain management to women’s health problems. In 1997, the National Institutes of Health officially recognized acupuncture as an effective treatment for pain and nausea.

Aikido – This is a Japanese name of a martial art. It means “the way of spiritual harmony”. Like Tai Chi, Aikido exercises emphasize harmony and grace of movement.

Applied Kinesiology – Developed by a chiropractor in the late 1960’s, George Goodheart. This technique evaluates an individuals structural, chemical and mental health through a form of muscle testing. Practitioners use a variety of therapeutic techniques, including nutritional counseling, manipulation, acupressure, and exercise.

Aromatherapy – Rene Gattefosse, a French chemist, experimented with pure essential oils, derived from aromatic plants. “Aromatherapy” describes the physical and psychological benefits of the powerful scents given off by these oils. Today, aromatherapy remains a specific and specialized branch of herbal medicine.

Ayurvedic Medicine – In this ancient medical system from India, patients are classified into three metabolic body types: vata, pitta, and kapha. Natural means of disease prevention including herbs, oils, minerals, message, heat, water, yoga, meditation, elimination therapy, and counseling are recommended according to body type. Some practitioners use Maharishi Ayur-Ved, a modern interpretation inspired by the teachings of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the creator of Transcendental Meditation.

Bioenergetics – As a bodywork approach, Bioenergetics focuses on the pattern of muscular tension in a person and how that tension directly relates to the person’s emotional history and childhood relationships. Bioenergetics exercises such as breathing techniques seek to open blocked or tense areas of the body.

Biofeedback – Using a biofeedback machine, practitioners teach patients how to control and change such autonomic body functions as blood pressure, heart rate, circulations, digestion, and perspiration. Through monitoring “feedback” using auditory or visual cues, users extend their understanding of physiological functioning far beyond the normal five senses.

Buteyko – (pronounced Bew-tay-ko) This technique was founded in Russia in the 1950’s. Its a breathing therapy consisting of breathing exercises which normalize dysfunctional breathing patterns. It’s used to treat asthma, sinusitis, emphysema, panic attacks and chronic hyperventilation.

Chelation Therapy – First developed as a treatment for lead poisoning, chelation therapy removes toxins and heavy metal from the blood stream through intravenous drips of EDTA, a synthetic amino acid. Today, specially trained physicians use chelation as a method to improve blood circulation for sufferers of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and other degenerative diseases.

Chinese (Oriental) Medicine – Traditional Chinese medicine encompasses a vast range of therapies including acupuncture, herbs, bodywork, exercise, and diet. From the ancient art of Tai Chi Balancing, the Chinese view of the body as an interrelated system of energy and physical matter permeates many different forms of alternative medicine.

Chiropractic – Chiropractic Physicians address the physiological and biochemical aspects of body, and the inter-relationships between structural, spinal, musculoskeletal, neurological, vascular, nutritional, mental, emotional, and environmental factors. They use spinal, cranial, and extremity adjustments to remove misalignments, called subluxations. They may also give dietary advice and recommend, when necessary, nutritional supplements, herbs and botanicals. Many chiropractic physicians are primary health care providers.

Colon Hydrotherapy – A therapy which cleanses the colon through gentle water infusions. This specific form of hydrotherapy first gained wide-spread popularity in the great health spas of the Edwardian age.

CranioSacral Therapy – By gently manipulating the bones of the skull, practitioners seek to enhance the functioning of the CranioSacral system, a fluid circulatory system that surrounds and protects the brain and spinal cord.

Deep Tissue Bodywork – This term covers a range of therapies such as myofascial release, Bonnie Prudden method, Hellerwork and Rolfing. All these techniques go deeper than the standard Swedish massage applying deep pressure to the actual muscle tissue itself to open and release tension.

Dentistry (Holistic, Biological or Natural) – Natural dentistry may include such innovative treatments as dental acupuncture, homeopathic remedies, and non-toxic mercury free fillings. Holistic dentists aim to help prevent tooth decay and gum disease while minimizing the use of drugs or surgery.

Detoxification Therapy – Found in almost all alternative medical systems, from Ayurveda to naturopathic, detoxification techniques seek to cleanse the body of chemicals, pollutants, and other toxins to improve overall health.

Empathology – Remedies in empathology include affirmations, exercise and dietary changes. Practitioners emphasize a body/mind approach, using applied kinesiology and other means to assess physical and emotional imbalances in a person.

Environmental Therapy – Through environment therapy, practitioners seek to identify significant factors and probable causes of illness or allergy in the individuals life, home, and work. They then work with the individual to lessen or eliminate the impact of toxins and allergens.

Enzyme Therapy – By using natural plant and pancreative enzymes as supplements, practitioners seek to improve digestion and correct potential problems created by the malabsorption of essential nutrients.

Flower Essences/Bach Flower Remedies – A specific cross between homeopathy and herbal medicine developed by English practitioner Dr. Edward Bach, the 38 Bach Flower remedies derived from English wildflowers serve as catalysts to alleviate the underlying causes of stress. Since then, many practitioners have gone beyond Bach to develop a whole range of Flower Essences from a wide variety of American, European and Australian wildflowers.

Hands of Light Healing – Practitioners are trained by author and physicist Barbara Brennan in her four year New York program. The techniques form a hands-on healing system that works with an individual’s energy/consciousness field. The objective is to restore health.

Healing Touch – A biofield therapy that is an energy-based approach to health and healing utilizing the hands to clear, energize and balance the human energy field for self healing.

Hellerwork – Developed by Joseph Heller, an early student of Ida Rolf, Hellerwork fuses movement education, deep tissue bodywork and voice dialogue into a specific sequence designed to realign the body and release chronic pain or stress.

Herbalism/Herbal Medicine – The use of plants to treat disease can be found in every known human culture and period of history. Today, many holistic practitioners, ranging from acupuncturists to medical doctors to naturopathic physicians, benefit from an explosion of new knowledge and research into the effects of whole plants and botanical extracts on the human body. From St. Johns Wort to treat depression to new scientific research from Germany on silymarin’s effect on the liver, Western herbalism is entering a new period of intensive activity, interest and growth.

Holistic Medicine – The philosophy of holistic medicine states that the practitioner must use safe methods of diagnosis and treatment while emphasizing the care of the whole person, including physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects. Most forms of natural medicine adhere to this basic definition of holistic medicine.

Homeopathy – Based on the hypothesis of “like cures like” and a deep emphasis on the principles of holistic medicine (treat the whole person), homeopathy first flourished in North America and Europe during the mid-19th century, when many physicians believed it to be effective treatment for cholera. Homeopathic remedies work by stimulating the body’s own healing power by introducing tiny doses of natural substances that should trigger a person’s body to correct itself naturally. Extrememly popular throughout the world today, naturopathic physicians and other trained homeopaths have led a resurgence of this therapy in the United States in the last decade.

Hydrotherapy – Hydrotherapy techniques can range from Russian baths, steam inhalation, Sitz baths, ice packs to hot compresses. For all, its the application of hot or cold water that creates the benefit to the patient.

Infant Message – Infant Message seeks to enhance the bonding between parents and infant, improve digestion and establish good sleeping patterns. Practitioners can use a wide variety of techniques derived from Swedish massage, reflexology, yoga and other bodywork forms.

Iridology – Based on the theory that each organ of the body can be matched to a corresponding section of the iris, irridologists have mapped 90 specific areas and 180 zones thought to reveal important information about the condition of the body.

Martial Arts – While the West often thinks of the martial arts as a sport or form of self defense, these techniques originally developed in the East to increase mental acuity, health, and spiritual development through intense physical training. The many forms range from more externally-oriented types, such as Karate and Tae Kwan Do, which emphasize muscle and endurance, to the internally-oriented Tai Chi and Aikido, which seek to restore harmony and balance to the body.

Massage Therapy – Popular around the world, massage incorporates the use of touch to stimulate circulation, relax muscles and promote a sense of well-being. In Washington State, for example, licensed message therapists can combine a variety of techniques for their clients benefit.

Midwifery – Midwives work with women so they can experience a healthy pregnancy and a safe natural childbirth as well as providing necessary education and follow-up care. Licensed midwives or nurse-midwives (depending on individual state law requirements for certification) receive extensive training in gynecology, fetus development, obstetrical complications, nutritional assessment, counseling, community health, family planning, various forms of delivery management and other issues surrounding pregnancy and birth.

Myotherapy – Myotherapists apply pressure to trigger points (tender spots in the muscle or other soft tissue) to relieve tension. While similar to acupressure, myotherapy relies on Western view of anatomy.

Naturopathic Medicine – Adhering to the principles of holistic medicine, naturopathic doctors can use various natural methods to treat patients, including nutritional supplements, herbal medicine, homeopathy and lifestyle counseling. In the state of Washington, naturopathic doctors (ND) are legally defined as physicians licensed to diagnose and treat in a general family practice. Some ND’s are also licensed midwives or licensed acupuncturists. This, of course, varies from state to state.

Network Chiropractic – Network Spinal Analysis is a system of assessment and low force applications that are applied at Spinal Gateways to assist the brain to connect more effectively with the spine and body. A person can utilize the tension stored along the spine as fuel for the healing process. Two healing waves develop spontaneously along the spine to help regulate spinal tension and advance overall wellness.

Neuromuscular Therapy – This form of deep tissue massage seeks to balance the central nervous system with the structure and form of the musculoskeletal system.

Nursing, Holistic – Trained in regular nursing programs, practitioners apply the principles of holistic medicine (see above) to their care of patients, incorporating many natural therapeutic techniques along with standard nursing practices.

Nutritional Counseling – Nutritionists counsel clients on a wide variety of issues ranging from proper levels of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients to weight loss, food allergies and optimal health. Many follow a “whole foods” approach to proper diet.

Optometry & Vision Care, Holistic – Holistic vision therapists use exercises, nutrition and relaxation techniques to help patients improve vision, and avoid the use of artificial aids, like glasses and contacts, as much as possible.

Osteopathic Medicine – Most osteopathic doctors (DO’s) work as primary care physicians, combining conventional Western medicine (drugs/surgery) with specific manipulative techniques taught in the osteopathic medical colleges. Osteopathic medical training focuses on preventive care with a special emphasis on the musculoskeletal system. Because their medical degree and license is legally recognized as the equivalent of a MD in the United States, DO’s can utilize all recognized diagnostic and therapeutic methods in their practices.

Oxygen Therapy – This type of therapy dates back over a hundred years to Germany. It includes hydrogen peroxide therapy, ozone therapy (HBOT) all intended to increase the supply of oxygen to the body. Used to treat a wide range of disorders. Stabilized liquid oxygen is now also available.

Pain Management – Several kinds of practitioners offer pain management, including medical doctors, dentists, chiropractors, psychologists, dietitians, acupuncturists, biofeedback therapists, myotherapist, physical therapists and others. Techniques vary widely depending on the practitioners training.

Pediatric Medicine, Holistic – The use of a range of natural and holistic therapies to prevent or treat the health problems of infants and children.

Physical Therapy – Physical therapists use a variety of techniques to help patients gain or regain better control of their physical bodies following injury or illness.

Pilates – The Pilates Method of body conditioning uses special equipment and individualized instruction to promote physical harmony, balance and conditioning.

Polarity Therapy – Practitioners of this type of therapy seek to establish a balanced flow of energy through the body through gentle touch, diet counseling and exercise.

Qi Gong – Practiced by nearly 200 million people every day, Qi Gong (also known as Chi-Kung) combines movement, meditation and breathwork to increase the flow of vital “Qi” energy in the body, improve blood circulation and strengthen the immune system.

Reflexology – Like acupressure, reflexology utilizes pressure on certain points to stimulate the organs and glands. Foot reflexology links specific points on the foot to these organs and glands.

Reiki – Although Reiki takes its name from Japanese words meaning “transcendental spirit” and “vital life force energy,” teachers link this energy technique to traditional Tibetan medicine. It is a hands-on, non-evasive healing technique that means to restore and balance life force energy throughout the body. Used for mental, emotional, physical and spiritual balancing, as well as chronic physical problems.

Rolfing – Developed by Ida Rolf, this system of body restructuring and movement education works with gravity to realign the body. Rolfers often focus bodywork on the myofascia, the connective tissue that surrounds the muscles to release tension. SHEN Therapy – SHEN (Specific Human Emotional Nexus) Therapy is a non invasive biofield therapy that releases constricted emotional and physical pain and its holding patterns. By applying qi energy through intentional pattern of gentle hand placements, a SHEN practitioner lifts emotional pain and resolves it.

Shiatsu – The Japanese form of massage combines the application of pressure on specific points with massage. Traditional practitioners may have the patient rest on a pad on the floor for the performance of certain stretches.

Sports Medicine – This branch of medicine began as a special focus on the athletic injuries caused by competition or participation in organized sports, but many of the techniques have been adapted to treat other types of physical injuries.

Stillpoint Therapy – This non-evasive emotional release energy work combines light sustained touch with meditative techniques that focus the mind on the quiet dissipation of held emotion. Based on the principle that suppressed emotion is retained in the body.

Swedish Massage – The best known form of massage in the United States uses five basic strokes, including soothing, tapping, rubbing, pummeling and kneading, to relieve sore muscles and joints.

Tai Chi – This Chinese Taoist martial art form combines mental concentration, coordinated breathing and slow, graceful body movements to increase well-being, lessen stress, and strengthen the body.

Therapeutic Touch – Therapeutic Touch, a specific method of healing touch developed by Delores Krieger, is taught in many nursing colleges throughout the United States. Used for relaxation and reducing anxiety, the assumption that a human energy field extends slightly beyond the skin.

Touch for Health – Dr. John F. Thie developed this version of applied kinesiology (see above) in the 1970’s. Touch for Health attempts to balance the body’s energy by applying gentle pressure to contracted muscles.

Veterinary & Holistic Animal Services – Holistic veterinarians adhere to the principles of holistic medicine, choosing to emphasize the use of safe natural methods when treating animals.

Watsu (Water Shiatsu) – This specific form of bodywork developed by Harold Dull combines traditional shiatsu pulls and stretches while floating the patient in a pool of warm water. Because of the support of the water, practitioners can often work with the patients whose physical disabilities may preclude the use of normal shiatsu.

Women’s Holistic Health – This field includes practitioners and clinics offering a range of services addressing women’s health concerns, from PMS to breast health to infertility.

Yoga Therapy – Some yoga teachers emphasize yoga exercises that relieve stress, improve circulation or boost the immune system. This gentle form of low impact exercise can often be tailored to help people with limited mobility due to stroke, arthritis or other chronic diseases.

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