Understanding alternative medicine, a rising global trend

An e-poster of the event on alternative medicine. The summit delved into alternative approaches to medication, healthcare and wellness. E-POSTER/Courtesy.
An e-poster of the event on alternative medicine. The summit delved into alternative approaches to medication, healthcare and wellness. E-POSTER/Courtesy.
  • Alternative medicine involves several therapies and practices that do not take the form of orthodox Western medicine.
  • Connecting more with your loved ones improves your nervous system regulation.
  • Parents using herbs on their children should seek herbalists’ guidance.

The 2023 Alternative Medicine Summit was held on 4th May and saw the attendance of researchers, alternative medicine practitioners, and advocates who shared their experience and knowledge on the vast field of alternative medicine.

The summit, which was the second summit of its kind, hosted more than 20 speakers and over 1300 attendees from 136 countries.

What is Alternative Medicine?

During the summit, Dellna Illavia, a registered Medical Herbalist with a wealth of 25 years of experience, delved into the topic of alternative medicine.

Ms. Illavia explained about the concept, indicating that it is a range of therapies and practices that do not take the form of orthodox Western medicine.

There are plenty of alternative medicine practices, from traditional herbal remedies to chiropractic, acupuncture, and naturopathy.

She narrated how at seventeen, she was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, an autoimmune condition of the colon where the first two layers of the colon become ulcerated and bleed, and inflamed.

The disease, which has no known cure, threatened to affect her quality of life since she was in and out of hospital all the time.

Her doctors informed her that her course of treatment would be limited to steroids and immunosuppressive drugs.

At twenty-two, her doctors could not control her colitis and advised that she would need surgery to cut her colon out. A surgery that would leave her with a colostomy bag.

“It was at this point that I decided that something wasn’t right and this wasn’t going to be my life and thus began my search for health. That is how I found herbal medicine,” she recounts.

She confessed that herbal medicine turned her life around.

Dellna Illavia explained in detail about what alternative medicine is. PHOTO/Courtesy.

Ms. Illavia regularly visited a registered medical herbalist, changed her diet, adjusted her stress and her health began to improve.

At the time, Illavia was studying Western Orthodox medicine to become a doctor. However, after seeing the tremendous effect of herbs on her life, she decided to change her career and become a medical herbalist instead.

She says that today, she does not take any Western medicine, has had no surgery and barely needs any herbs. Her health is improved and all she does is watch her diet.

A glaring difference

Ms. Illavia believes that while orthodox Western medicine focuses on healing the symptoms, herbal medicine focuses on healing the whole body and being of a patient, including their mental health.

Herbal medicine uses natural plant-based remedies to support the body’s natural healing process and addresses the root cause of the diseases.

Western medicine uses pharmaceuticals and surgery to treat a particular area that is ailing from disease.

“Herbal medicine allows you to take responsibility for your health rather than fully rely on medical experts. It helps empower you,” she explains.

While most of the herbs that herbalists use can be bought from the stores, Illavia advises against it, saying that herbs grown by herbalists contain a level of concentration that is different from the herbs sold at the stores grown for daily use.

A herbalist’s herbs, she said, are grown and groomed specifically for medicinal purposes, making them potent to fight diseases. They have been harvested at a specific time and processed in a particular way to ensure their effectiveness.

However, she recommends the use of garden herbs such as turmeric and ginger in everyday cooking to improve health and keep diseases at bay altogether.

While most parents can use herbs on their children as medication, they need to seek the guidance of a certified herbalist to ensure their children suffer no adverse side effects.

Artificial Intelligence

Jaime Iredale, Founder of Biovibe, spoke about the importance of artificial intelligence and its impact on medical futurism.

He recalled how the Covid-19 pandemic affected the healthcare system. With the world going into extreme lockdowns and many services being limited, the healthcare sector took the brunt of the lockdowns.

The lockdown situation called for the use of technology, for healthcare services.

He believes that the world should embrace the use of AI in the medical world to improve the efficiency of healthcare systems.

Quoting the World Health Organization (WHO), Iredale highlighted that there will be a shortage of 10 to 18 million healthcare workers by 2030.

Jaime Iredale spoke of the importance of technology in medicine. PHOTO/Courtesy.

This expected shortage will be due to burnout, an ageing population, a lack of nurses and a loss of trust in the system.

“In a world where the healthcare system is failing us each day, some apps are rising to the occasion and providing solutions for health, particularly mental health,” explained Iredale.

He emphasized that while some of the alternative medicine methods are fluff, there are plenty of deep-rooted methods that have proven useful.

Digital therapeutics, for instance, has been a game changer because patients and healthcare workers reap plenty of benefits from having technology at their fingertips.

“The world of healthcare is going through a major revolution. With the use of technology, it is getting easier for patients to get their diagnosis and even treat some of their diseases through alternative medicine methods. The use of software applications makes it easy to seek treatment on technology equipment,” he said.

A rich, healthy world

“In 2017, WHO reported that half of the world lacks access to essential health services. This pushes 100 million plus people into extreme poverty because of health care expenses. We can’t imagine that it has gotten any better since,” said Iredale.

He suggested that if impoverished countries were given access to technology, they would be able to pull themselves out of poverty and get to the levels of advanced, richer countries in the world.

Such empowerment, he said, would lead to “more competition in the global market, global trade increases, lower costs of production and goods. There will be less poverty, crime and addiction and more creativity and innovation. Because of this, society stops to just survive and thrives instead.”

On-time diagnosis

While giving his address, Dr. Latif Ullah Khattak, a Medical Research Scientist, highlighted the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the healthcare system.

He explained that the use of AI can increase the efficiency of the healthcare system by detecting diseases on time.

Dr. Latif Ullah Khattak. He highlighted the importance of AI in the medical world. PHOTO/Courtesy.

He pointed out that fields such as radiology are already reaping great benefits from the use of AI in their procedures. In most cases, he explained, AI helps radiologists take more images than the use of human health experts.

According to Dr. Khattak, if used in the pharmaceutical industries, AI could lead to accelerated drug development and reduce the costs related to producing drugs.

“AI can help improve patient safety through error reduction. When AI is used, there is minimal chance of error,” said Dr. Khattak.

He also emphasized that health personnel need to be trained on how to use AI to improve their service delivery.

“AI is a blessing to humans in the healthcare system. The rise of robotic surgery attests to the benefits of AI in medical science,” he said.

Nervous system regulation

Dawn Pensack, during her session, advised that the key to attaining good body health lies in regulating the nervous system.

She said that how one thinks, moves and the emotional stability and mental balance of an individual is pegged on their nervous system. “This calls for everyone to pay more attention to their nervous system regulation.”

Ms. Pensack believes that people today get stressed so often that they ‘become addicted to stress’ over time. When that happens, people may fail to realize when the stress levels in their bodies become high.

Dawn Pensack addressed the participants on the importance of regulating the nervous system. PHOTO/Courtesy.

Pensack also urged everyone to connect more with their loved ones to improve their nervous system regulation. “Your nervous system thrives on physical movement. Play and social connection are very important for nervous system regulation…,” she said.

The nervous system also caves stillness to improve its health and strength.

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“20% of the nerves go down from the brain to the body… So by starting your activities in the brain, the body will fall in line. For instance, if you solve the mental stress in your brain, then you will soon heal your body,” she explained.

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Ms Ogutu is a Multimedia journalist with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and Media Studies. Her major interests lie in education, environment and climate change reporting. Email address: kemuntoogutu@gmail.com


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